How to incorporate red worms into your system
Get some red worms!
If you don’t have a local source, there are plenty of places that sell red worms online.
Build or buy a few worm bins.
This can be as simple or complex as you choose. Rubbermaid boxes with holes drilled for circulation work wonderfully and are the least expensive option. You can also buy tiered boxes made specifically for vermicomposting. These are pretty nice because they have a spigot that allows you to drain off excess liquid and the tiers make accessing the finished compost a simple task. Whatever you choose, here are a few quick reminders to help you keep your vermicomposting productive and odor free.
- Optimum temperature for red worms is between 55 and 80 degrees. Any colder and things slow down considerably and if conditions get too much warmer it can be fatal to your red worm population.
- Worms will eat almost anything, but it’s best to avoid adding dairy or meat products.
Harvest the vermicompost and use it to start your seedlings.
When you plant your towers, they will be naturally inoculated with worms from the vermicompost.
Care and feeding of red worms is pretty straightforward. It’s also an incredible process to witness and that makes it kind of fun (no comments on my social life, please) but is it really worthwhile to go to the extra effort to work red worms into your aquaponics system?
Advantages of using red worms and castings
- Red worms take unavailable nutrients and break them down into plant available nutrients.
- According to research at Cornell University and UC Davis, microorganisms found in worm castings improve natural processes in plants that function to repel insect pests. This doesn’t mean you won’t use other methods to control pests, but it does mean that the composition of worm castings can fortify the hardiness of your crops.
- Red worms keep system percolation rates high.
- Increasing biodiversity leads to a more resilient and stable system overall.
- Plants grown in soil composed of at least 20 percent worm castings show better root growth, overall plant size, and yield. This means you can grow robust seedlings and continue to reap the benefits of worm castings when they are incorporated into your towers.
It can be a challenge to establish red worms in new towers. Using castings to start your seedlings is one of the most effective ways to do this and the benefits of using red worms make it worth the relatively small investment of time spent maintaining a vermicomposting set up.
Watch the video with Dr. Nate Storey: