This topic is another from my second and still unpublished book. If your life is half as busy as mine it is hard to find the time to do the research, sit down and type.
Q: What should the correct amount of moisture be in the worm bin?
A: The bedding, which is the shredded and soaked paper, should be 55 to 75% moist. This means that after you have soaked the paper for 24 hours or more, once you have wrung it out, fluffed and pulled it apart, it should not be dripping at all. Since worms breathe through their entire outer body they must have sufficient moisture to be able to breathe, slide by each other to mate and find their food. Imagine this: if your lungs were on the outside of your body and you were in the sunlight, it would not take long before you were unable to breathe at all as the sun’s rays would remove all the moisture from you. The same principle applies to the worm’s need for a damp, moist environment. If you are at all concerned about not knowing if your bin is moist enough for the worms, you can always buy a moisture reading stick at your local gardening center. This will give you an accurate reading of the bin’s moisture content.
Q: How often do I add water to my worm bin?
A. During dry, hot weather it may be necessary to add a few ounces of water to your bin every other day. Checking to be sure the worms have enough moisture in the bin is essential in this type of weather. An old, clean spray bottle of water can be kept handy by the bin so you can spray the top layer of the bedding if it has dried out. You may find it useful to label this worm bin water, so everyone in your household will know what it is for.
You may recall that all the organic waste residuals from the kitchen contain moisture, for the most part. All items like apple cores, lettuce leaves, coffee grounds, banana peels, etc, will all have a water content within them. When you are considering if the bin is damp enough, do take this added water content into consideration. It is always a good idea to look at the overall health of the bin when you are feeding the worms with the moisture of the bin in mind.
Q: Would freezing food scraps for the worm bin be OK?
A: Yes, it is a good idea for more than one reason. When you freeze the organic waste residuals they take up moisture from the act of freezing, just like water expands in the ice cube trays, so it does within those banana peels, etc. When this happens the first real breakdown of the tough fibers in the organic waste residuals is loosened and when they are placed into the worm bin, are already on their way to be consumed at a more rapid rate.
If you plan on going away on a holiday for 2 weeks or a month freezing your organic waste residuals is a exceptionally good idea. Over the time period you are away from your worm bin the frozen organic waste residuals will breakdown slowly and add essential moisture to your bin. Make sure that you have covered the organic waste residuals with plenty of soaked bedding, well wrung out, as this will also be consumed while you are away, along with the food waste. You can now leave your worms safely knowing that they are going to be on holiday from you, too.
Q: I live in the desert and it is very dry year round. How can I make sure the worm’s bin doesn’t dry out too much?
A : Do check the bin frequently for moisture content, add water as you need to maintain the correct amount of dampness for the worms to function well. There are several ways to make sure the worms will survive extremes in temperatures during a heat wave. One is to place the bin in your garage. The floor of the garage seldom will be too hot for the worm’s needs. Another plan is to bury ice cubes into the bedding. As they dissolve they will add the necessary wetness to the bin.
Q: I have seen many worms around the garden after it rains on sides walks, the pool area and they are dead. Why does this happen?
A: The worms you are seeing are most likely the burrowing worms which are bothered by the rain filling their burrows. They leave the burrows for higher ground to avoid drowning. Once they are on flat ground and the sunlight comes into contact with their bodies, it sucks the moisture from them, they suffocate and die.
Q. What about gray water? I have a gray water system for my washing machine and I would like to use that water for the worms. Can they tolerate it?
A. Yes, the worms can and will do well with gray water. I have been using gray water from the washing machine exclusively for the worms I raise, since 1994 without any adverse effects to the worms at all. The soaps I use in the washer are all for cold water and I have changed brands as new eco-friendly ones have become available. The worms are very hardy and have tolerated all the types of soaps I have used without causing them harm. You will recall that the water the worms here: do receive is via the soaked, fluffed and wrung bedding out paper. The only other direct watering they will ever receive is from a spray bottle, should the weather conditions dry out.
> worms can tolerate fluctuations in the moisture in the bin.
> it is best to be ahead of the curve of your temperature region weather wise and make sure the worm’s are moist enough to work well for you.
> a moisture reading stick is a good investment if you are concerned about your abilities to gauge the moisture content of the bin.
My next post will be about how to go away on vacation for more that two weeks and safely leave your worms for up to six weeks!
Until then, I hope you are enjoying your worms and will still be learning from them.