Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – Red Wigglers – The Cadillac of Worms!

Cornwall ON – We have new permanent house guests who are going to help our household compost our kitchen scraps, newsprint, dryer lint, pet hair and floor sweepings.  Our new house guests are red wigglers (eisenia foetida); they are voracious garbage-eaters who eat and expel their own weight every day. The “black gold” that they expel each day is nutrient rich vermicompost.  This byproduct material builds soil structure, will help the soil around our plants retain moisture, can be used as top dressing for your lawn and house plants and can serve as organic fertilizer for our perennials, trees and shrubs.

A small container of red worms can yield pounds of sweet smelling compost within two months.  These worms reproduce quickly.  It takes about three weeks for the fertilized eggs to develop in a cocoon.  Two or more worms will hatch from this cocoon.  Within a year you will have a large population of worms some of which you can give to friends to start their own vermicomposting project or you can plant them in your garden, flower bed or put them to work in your outdoor compost pile.

It is recommended that the worm bin be kept at room temperature, out of direct light and in an environment that allows air to circulate around it.  Red worms will eat just about any kitchen scrap including vegetables, fruit, stale bread, rice, pasta, peelings, leaves, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells.  Meats, oils, salt, vinegar, dairy products, onions garlic should be avoided.

Vermicomposting is an aerobic process (with oxygen) which is essentially odourless.  The trick apparently is to maintain the right combination of moisture, air circulation and the right combination of dry bedding over the added scraps for the worms to feel secure and to discourage fruit flies and house flies from frequenting the worm bedding.  Under ideal conditions the worms will produce an egg each 21 days which will result in a troop of worms which will be able to consume all your organic waste.  The worms do like their privacy so it has been recommended that I only disturb them every few days to feed.

I’m very excited about this new project.  This small step can eliminate good organic material wasting away in our landfill sites thereby eliminating green house gases and can replenish vital nutrients to our indoor and outdoor plants.  I look forward to giving an update on this new project down the road.  My kit was purchased at the Eco-farm Day Gala evening silent auction.  The kit was donated by Gerrie Baker who is known around Eastern Ontario as the Worm Lady. Gerrie operates The Worm Factory; Gerrie’s glowing happy self clearly reflects her passion for sustainable agriculture and vermicomposting.  Gerrie also operates an 8,000 square foot greenhouse on Foley Mountain in Westport, Ontario where she cultivates organic herbs and gourmet greens with the help of her red wigglers.  She is available for speaking engagements and welcomes volunteers to her premises by the day, week-end or month should they wish to learn vermicomposting first hand.  For more information contact or 888.299.6266

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  1. We have had our red wigglers for about 6 months now. The one thing we have learned is that you have to keep a light on otherwise the worms like to crawl out of their bin and end up as dried curly cues on your floor. The red wigglers are light sensitive so if you leave a light on they stay put in their bins. A small fluorescent bulb works just fine.

  2. It is my understanding that if Red Wigglers are fleeing the bin it indicates an environment too acidic, too wet, not moist enough or not enough food or no food. I might add that plastic tubs can go toxic quite easily.

    African Nighcrawlers are notorious for crawling out for no reason whatever, but not Red Wigglers.

  3. Thanks for the information Carolyn & Reg…note taken.

  4. So far my troop is doing fine. The people who I got my kit from no longer sell plastic bins and they discourage the use of plastic…I admire that. My worms are still in the triple paper bag that I received them in…they will eventually eat their way through the bag. The bag in resting in a card board box with a deep bed of shredded newsprint. I fed them their second meal this evening…I was advised to feed them every 3 days to begin with. This evening they received a meal of chopped up banana peels, potatoe peels, egg shells, apple peels and cucumber. I will check them again in a few days. So far so good, no smell except for clean earth aroma, no worms trying to escape.

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