We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

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The Great Worm Escapade

So many things to blog about, so little time…

It is my hope to make up for long absence from writing by giving something of real quality—so here goes—I will not attempt to recap all of the exciting things which have happened over the past month and a half, but will focus instead on one…or many, actually:


Yes, this is all about my journey into the realm of the dark and mysterious world of those dirt-workhorses, the worm. You may have heard many things already about worm bins, worm composting, worm tea—I won’t attempt to cover all of these, just a couple: free range worm farming, and what I have found to be the simplest method of keeping worms in a bin.

So, first: why have worms at all (and if you have them—should you share)?

  • Worms are good…no, great little dirt-makers (ok, soil builders—I know—you purists want the right language—I prefer ‘dirt’, but like worms, I like to get down and durty).
  • Worms in your garden mean something is happening the way it should—there is balance.
  • Worms in bins mean you can make worm tea from worm castings: worm castings are GOOD, loaded with all kinds of things our plants need and want.
  • Worms are fun—as I learned in my seventh grade biology class, when we were (unfortunately) dissecting them—great fun to waggle them at lab partners and generally make a nuisance of oneself.

I’ve been studying all of the recommended methods for keeping worms so that you can use the castings and therefore the tea, but it wasn’t until I saw a presentation (see video) in what I dubbed “Free Range Worm Farming” that I realized there are potentially many ways of using worms in our sustainable/regenerative garden systems. One of our greatest tasks to undertake as permaculturists is to rebuild depleted and potentially toxic soil environments as quickly as possible, to obtain untainted yields for healthy consumption, right?

Here is one way of doing that—by creating small, concentrated planting areas, with worms as the centerpiece of the system…

Creating an optimal space within your garden for worms to feed and multiply, well, what could be better than that?

Well, you might ask: “What about the castings…and the tea?”

Ok, not a great system for that—so have two systems—one which rapidly recovers your garden soil, stacking functions right in your planting beds, and another that you can harvest castings, tea, and reproduce wormies to your heart’s content! After great deliberation and many months of research, my method for keeping worms in an enclosed space is simple: an old cooler, with convenient drain plug for harvesting the tea. What could be easier and more portable than that? (Please do not complain when visiting that I have no way to keep your beer cold, though…sorry! Grumble, grumble—can’t leave anything lying around this place—she WILL compost or upcycle it!)

Before I leave you with these ideas, let me tell you a little story about what happened while I went through the process of installing and tweaking my creations—the part that did not make it into the video…the part with the scraping dried worms from the floor, the attempts to reason with the unruly little creatures…and the shrieking. I think the neighbors have recovered by now, so I will share.

Around Day #2, second day I arrive at Casa Seranita, where the bins are stored in preparation for the free-range install—I open the front door to see (yet again), a veritable worm graveyard—a bleak and depressing landscape of kamikaze wormage scattered in a three-foot circumference of the temporary shelter I had hoped to house them in. Clearly, they saw my efforts as being no more than a refugee encampment—surely not the New World they had been promised.

I quickly set myself to adding amendments to the unfit system—gathering a bucket of straw from the half-rotten bale out by the compost bin, I brought it inside, where the water I had added was beginning to leak out of the unplugged drain. Thank goodness no one was home…

It was when I added the straw to the cooler-bin that I saw the REALLY BIG worm scurrying away under the chair nearby. By “really big” I mean: Florida red wigglers do not get that big. I had inadvertently invited a baby snake—mind you, I must have picked it up, not once, but twice, before it attempted it’s getaway in the cool shade of the furniture. “Eek!” you say? I was actually more concerned with saving what kamikaze survivors were not already stuck to the tile, but I did bravely brandish my handy spade to dispatch the critter out the door, once he reappeared. I don’t think it was poisonous—it did not behave as aggressively as the pygmy rattler I saw once at Brooker Creek Preserve–pretty sure it was a rat snake of some sort.  Can’t be too careful, though, right?

I now have a small pitchfork by the compost hay bale…