MONITORING CONDITIONS IN WORM BEDS
There have been many scientific studies performed on worms concerning their habits, (for example, breeding), and their consumption of various feedstocks. As a result of these investigations worm growers are better able to care for their worms by having accurate information and applying this knowledge to their operations.
KEEPING YOUR WORMS HAPPY
Optimum conditions for worms include the following: Proper temperature, moisture content, soil pH, and proper salt levels.
Scientists have found that worms eat and breed best at a temperature of 25 degrees Centigrade which is about 72 74 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature of their environment either exceeds 80 degrees or becomes less than 55 degrees, worm activity slows down but does not cease altogether.
Because temperature control and monitoring should be important to the commercial grower, a compost thermometer is highly recommended. Compost thermometers have long stems (24″ or longer) that can be inserted in the worm bed to accurately measure the bed’s temperature. The head of the thermometer, normally reading temperatures up to 200 degrees or more, is attached to a metallic shaft that is inserted into the soil. Once the thermometer is inserted in the pile, an accurate measurement is obtained within 45 seconds.
We have found that the Reo Temp compost thermometer is a lasting investment in a quality instrument. When used carefully and in accordance with the instructions, it should serve the user well for a lifetime.
Vermicomposting Compost Thermometer
#601 Compost Thermometer $25 + shipping
2. MOISTURE CONTENT
In general, the moisture content of the worm bed should be crumbly moist. That is, when a handful of the bedding is squeezed, there should be only a drop or two of water that emerges at the most. Earthworms are related to aquatic worms and abundant moisture is critical to the earthworms’ environment. However, worms will not tolerate soggy conditions and will seek to avoid excessively wet bedding. Drainage control is important, particularly when using containers so that water does not accumulate at the bottom.
A moisture meter can be an important aid in monitoring the proper moisture content of the worm bed. Like the compost thermometer which also has a long shaft, the moisture meter is inserted into the worm bed and indicates whether the bed is dry, moist or wet. Having this tool can help in determining the frequency of adding water.
Tells you when your worm bed is dry-moist-or wet. Don’t let your worms dry out or get soggy-Keep it moist!
#602 Moisture Meter $15 + shipping
3. SOIL pH
The pH of soil is an indication of its alkalinity or acidity. The range of pH (which is a chemistry term for “potential hydrogen”) is from 1 to 14 with a reading of 7 showing the soil to be neutral (i.e., neither alkaline nor acid). Acid soils measure from 1 to 6 (the lower the number, the more acidic the soil), while alkalinity ranges from 8 to 14 (higher numbers indicating greater alkalinity). In general, plants and especially redworms do best in the neutral range of pH, somewhere between 6 and 8 on the pH scale.
Fortunately for worm growers there are also ways to measure soil pH of a worm bed or potential bedding. There are pH meters designed that one can place into the desired soil and obtain an accurate reading.
Is your bed too acid?–too alkaline? How will you know? The pH meter tells you where you stand.
#603 pH Meter $24 + shipping
4. SALT CONTENT
Dairy and steer manure are frequently used both for bedding and for feedstock. In some situations these manures contain anywhere from five to eight percent soluble salts which are detrimental to worms. It is helpful to measure your feedstock with a salt meter before introducing it to the worms.
A 5 second test measures concentration of soluble salts in the worm bed.
#604 Salt Meter $25 + shipping
VermiCo is now offering aSpecial Tools Package that includes all the tools for a $30 savings and free shipping
VermiCo suggests the Gro Quick Electric Soil Heating/Warming Cable-ea 24 Ft to keep the worm beds at optimum temperatures.