Worms will not eat fresh food, and wait until it is well rotted before eating the vegetable matter. I have found that the best way to feed them so they process quicker, is to blend the kitchen scraps, because the smaller food particles then rot down faster due to the increased surface area and broken up fibrous structures. However, I have had to stop blending because our food processor is on its last legs and Kim thinks I had something to do with it! Here is a quick video of my worm farm and some of my slimy friends.
One thing that particularly has interested me is the way they reproduce. You see, they are hermaphrodites, so they have both male and female organs and produce both sperm and eggs. Many times I have caught them at it, entwined in a passionate affair, lining up their sexual organs and attempting to produce their cocoons that contain the embryonic worms. The baby worms are born without sexual structures, which take about 60 to 90 days to develop. They reach full maturity at about one year. To better understand the mating process of the earthworm, have a look at the video below. It is one of a series about insect mating habits, made by Isabella Rossellini. You can find the rest of the series called Green Porn, on Youtube if you search for “Isabella Rossellini Green”
The best thing I appreciate about the earthworm is that they make fertiliser for me in the form of worm wee and castings. Wikipedia states that;
“fresh earthworm casts are 5 times richer in available nitrogen, 7 times richer in available phosphates and 11 times richer in available potash than the surrounding upper 6 inches (150 mm) of soil. In conditions where there is plenty of available humus, the weight of casts produced may be greater than 4.5 kg (10 lb) per worm per year, in itself an indicator of why it pays the gardener or farmer to keep worm populations high.”
Other than in my worm farm, which is populated by compost worms, I have noticed a considerable increase in the normal earthworm population around my garden since I began organic gardening techniques. I have found them virtually anywhere where there are thick layers of mulch and rotted material, and where the soil is constantly moist. They even turn up in the older type compost bins in small numbers because these bins don’t heat up. Even though we have a very compact clay based soil where we live, there are worms present everywhere. They are increasing in large number around the hen house, mainly because of the extra nutrients around this area and partly because I sheet mulched with cardboard before I put the house in position. When I find a big fat worm on the surface, I throw it into the chicken run and laugh at the antics. The chooks all go crazy over these tasty morsels!
In conclusion, worms are an integral part of any home waste management system and organic garden. Between the worms, the chickens, the dog, and the bacteria in the compost bins, all of my organic waste is processed here on-site at TGOG’s home farm. Now if I can just get rid of plastic packaging, we would have no non-recyclable waste at all….
“The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly plowed, and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”