I have posted here a number of times that I didn't think coffee grounds held much if any food value for worms even though they readily devour them. Well recently on a different site I made a comment about tea grounds and received an interesting feedback which made me stop and think about both of these. Obviously neither of these holds any nutritional value to humans, but that doesn't mean that worms do not derive value from them as food. After all as the responder commented, "How is tea different than leaves?" Man did that turn the light on. Naive doesn't come close to the feeling I had after reading that comment.
I have been vermicomposting for more years than I care to admit, and have made more mistakes than I care to admit. But, I continue to learn from these mistakes, and I intend to make a lot more of them. Vermicomposting is one of the most forgiving exercises I have ever undertaken, and experimenting with new ideas is always fun for me. Fortunately red wigglers are real Conanís, and have managed to overcome a lot of dumb things I have done in the past. Although they can't tell you when theyíre not happy, they can run away from home or hide in a dark corner when something isn't quite right.
My latest experiment which is still ongoing is to add several hundred worms to garden holes for various crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Since I backfill these holes with about 50 percent well aged cow manure the worms pretty much stay in place during the growing season and do what worms do. I haven't any evidence to verify the benefits of adding red wigglers to the garden in this manner, so next season I will do some side by side comparisons to see if there a way to quantify the results.
I have posted this experiment several times and have not received any critiques, so either itís considered another dumb idea, or Iím being Missouried up here. Personally I think it helped last season since I donít have any indigenous worms. If this idea holds any interest at all, I would appreciate some feed back on ways to show that it works.
I used to assume that earthworms, including red wigglers, benefit us by 1) Aerating the soil and 2) converting the vegetative parts of their habitat into waste material which has plant nutrient and compost value.
After reading these vermicomposting threads for several years, I learned that the worms (also) benefit from the microbes which break down the vegetative material in the soil. I think mraider3 is correct with the observations about tea leaves, coffee grounds ( I would add that newspaper is ground up trees with soy ink on it).
I guess horse, cow manure and chicken manure is fine to add in small moderation but not necessary. Chickens (free range) eat bugs but who knows what the large chicken farm chickens eat to max out their growth.
Several times experienced "worm farmers" pointed out that you shouldn't add meat products since the varmints will dig them up. To me all, of these things seemed to make good sense.
The main thing is that simplicity has always worked for me and when I mess up, the worms "tell" me. If you can't find a local source of red worms (red wigglers) and have to buy mail order, I would suggest start two Rubbermaid bins so you can try different things in each. I always used strips on newspaper; some people swear by coir which I might buy if it didn't cost a lot.
BTW, I started a new batch when I moved with 25 red worms from a country store for $2.25. They are used for fish bait throughout the South but probably only available away from the big city.. Don't try to use night crawlers or Canadian earthworms for vermicomposting. They aren't going to stay!
For me the bottom line is that your observation that there were a lot of conflicting opinions just shows that many things work JUST FINE. Don't be afraid of failure. The worms will stay if they like it; if they don't try something different. Under feeding is likely better than overfeeding. Too wet or too hot will run them away. If they are happy they won't run away so you don't have to put screen over the drain holes.
Good luck and keep reading, just take away what you can use.
pbyrley, I though I was reading one of my postings when I read your response. We obviously think a lot alike.
I recently joined another forum on vermicomposting and was surprised by one person who considers himself or herself an expert on this subject. This person recommended using manure for all compost media, regardless of indoors or outdoors. I started to respond in the negative about indoor composting with manure, but decided to give it a rest. I'm still pondering the thought, but there is just too many critters in manures to bring that stuff indoors. So for now I will stick with peat moss.
One thing I like to add to my garden is fish parts. I have been growing pumpkins at the end of several soaker hoses each year and I start with a hole approximately 4 feet square by 2 feet deep. After each fishing trip I add the left over parts to this hole and cover. When full I start another hole. I start pumpkin seeds in a large plastic cottage cheese container and transplant them after about four weeks. Five to seven seeds, thinned to three will produce some monster pumpkins with vines running ten or fifteen feet. I let the vines venture into the neighbors yard so their four kids can keep an eye open for which pumpkin they will claim. We have six grandkids as well, and they each get a pumpkin of their own. And the other thing I do is to transplant red wigglers to these fish filled holes in the spring prior to transplanting the pumpkin seedlings. No additional compost or fertilizer is necessary to grow some monster pumpkins...twice as big as the seed packet claims!
You are correct that I think a lot like you - especially remarkable considering the long distance between us. The farthest West I ever lived was Huntsville, AL and the farthest N. is where I am now, Raleigh, NC.
I like the buried fish idea. I quit keeping fish some time ago but back then I used to bury some in my garden until it got dug up by the varmints. I remember learning in grammar school that the "Indians" taught the early settlers to put one small fish in each hole where they planted a corn kernel.
Also you and I obviously like worms, although I have no good reason to because I am not as vigorous gardener as you are. I just enjoy pushing the earth around (without gloves on) and seeing what is living there.
I am quite sure I learn much much more than I contribute, so thank you!
hey ya morgan!! i dont have any person experience on the adding worms to vegy plantings..
but where i dug in coir with my tropicals.. when i dug them in fall for overwintering..the worm(outdoor kind)
population was huge..and u would have been jealous of the size of some of those nitecrawlers!! :)
worms leave their castings whatever kind they are.. and they do agreat job at aerating the soil..all good stuff!!!
now i will take issue with u on coffee having no human nutritional value..heehehehe.. givin ya #*(%$(&%
if i miss my coffee..i am so wound up.. adhd.. coffee has always chilled me out..even as a kid..
i think my worms though arent adhd.. after givin them coffee grounds..wow.. the bins move.. LOL :)
there is so much to learn in gardening. it encompasses so many things.. weather,soil,chemistry,plant culture,
on and on and on.. probably why many of us love it..theres so much to learn.. is for me...
Paul, the only varmint I have to deal with is a feral cat who likes to dig up my transplanted trout parts. I have learned if I fillet the belly meat from the rib cages and leave it out for her, she will leave my pile alone. As for those monster night crawlers Dave, when you wake up some morning and find a yard full of davits...guess who! I doubt that I will live long enough to establish Canadians in my back yard or garden, but I keep trying. Maybe someday. I think worms must get an adrilin kick out of coffee as well.