Worm Catastrophe

April 24, 2007

It’s been a very stressful week for my worms and me. Everything seemed to be going well for a couple of days after setting up my worm bin. I’d check on them and they seemed like they were having a good time wriggling through the food that I’d buried. After the third day, I noticed a rank odour when I lifted the lid.I knew that the only time a worm bin smells is when you are doing something wrong, either it’s too wet, too dry, too much food or not enough food. After looking at the top bedding, I decided that it was too dry. I got my spray bottle and went to work, spraying all the way down to the bottom layer. Then all hell broke loose.There was a mass exodus. For days I couldn’t figure out what to do – worms were leaving, crawling up towards the strong light. I’d find them dried up and crispy within a two-foot radius of the bin or sadly dying in the bottom bin. I felt terrible. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I thought I had it all figured out, however, my worms would rather crawl out of their bin and die rather than stay in the home I made for them.

I added more dry bedding – they didn’t stay. I’d scoop them back up and put them back in – they kept leaving. I dumped them out and started again and I’m pretty sure some died just to spite me. My dad and my sister, who both started at the same time I did, had perfectly happy worms. What was I doing wrong?

My dad had bought the book, Worms Eat My Garbage, by Mary Appelhof. In it, he had read that the best bedding was created using 1 pound of newspaper to 3 pounds of water and to mix it all in the bathtub. Desperate, I zero-scaled the mailroom scale at work, measured out 3 pounds of water (1 pound of water is 500 ml, btw) and 1 pound of shredded newspaper. I even triple measured just to be sure. I went home, mixed it in my bathtub and was disturbed at how wet it was.

Most of my Internet reading about other people’s worm problems insisted that the bedding should be moist, like a wrung-out sponge. What the heck does that mean? My idea of a wringing out a sponge may be different than someone else’s. There was no science to it; it was all too variable, too touchy-feely. Now, 3 pounds of water and 1 pound of newspaper I can do. Sitting on the bathroom floor, my hands and tub all black with ink, I was surprised at the soppiness of the newspaper. I had my doubts but soldiered on.

Nothing speaks of love more than having your boyfriend help you pick through dead and dying worms, rotting food and worm poop on a cold basement floor a Friday night. We figured that I had lost almost half a pound of worms. I dumped the new bedding into the top bin; put the worms in; squished up some rotting grapes, melon, cantaloupe and strawberries into the four corners; put the lid on and brought them upstairs into the kitchen.

I left them there for four days, not even checking to see if there were worms in the bottom bin. I had pretty much given up on them.

This morning I decided to check on them and found about twenty dead ones in the bottom bin and no worms trying to climb out of the top bin. I poked around some melon and found a clump of worms wriggling and trying to get away from the light. After a week of despair, my worms finally seem happy.

One Response to “Worm Catastrophe”

  1. Beverly Says:

    Great blog! Glad your worms are doing better, I’ve been wanting to try vermicomposting, thanks for the info:) I hope you don’t mind if I link with you.

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