Category Archives: savage worms

Pear Tree Worms – Let’s Try This Again

An adventure in vermicomposting…round two.

It has been just over a year since the unfortunate death of our Savage Worms and the mourning period is over.  Now that our apartment has begun to thaw from the winter chill, I have had a hankering for a new herd of worms.  I know that Pear Tree Worms does not have quite the same ring to it as Savage Worms, but I feel like calling the project Savage Worms II is a little like naming a new pet after a recently deceased one.  Fido II?  Sad!  Besides which, Andrea, founder of the original vermicomposting adventure, has moved across the globe to Papua New Guinea (and has also been on a mission to find a Melanesian breed of food-loving worms!).  Feeding the worms will not be quite the same with out A though.  Remember this?

So anyway, here we go again with the worms!

First things first, I had to gather the equipment.  I couldn’t find a bin quite as good as our original (A, where the heck did you find that bin?), but I settled for a standard Rubermaid.  I spent a couple frustrating hours drilling holes – lots on the top and upper sides, fewer and smaller on the lower sides and bottom.  Several stuck-in-plastic drill bits and one snapped-in-two drill bit later, I finished (obviously, I am a novice with the power drill).

Next, order worms!  After perusing a couple vermicomposting sites and not feeling strongly about any of them, I remembered having read and referenced Red Worm Composting several times during the Savage Worms days.  Vermiculture enthusiast & blogger Bentley has oodles of great vermicomposting advice on his site, so I figured I might find some worm-buying recommendations.  Well, as it turns out, Bentley actually sells worms!  And at a cheaper rate than the other two sites I was considering!  So that made my choice easy.  So far, the choice has proven to be an excellent one – great customer attention and a nice full sack of healthy worms.



Step 3, food & bedding.  I started collecting food scraps & setting up the worm bin about a week and a half before the worms were to arrive.  For bedding I used a mix of shredded newspaper, egg carton and trimmings off one dead & one dying branch from one of our palm plants.  I mixed the materials together and wet them so they were damp but not dripping.  By the time I got all of that in order it was Tuesday.  Then I waited for the post!  The worms arrived, as promised, on Thursday.  I was a little concerned that I had not given the bin enough time to equilibrate, and i wanted to give the worms some time to settle after their cross-border journey (Red Worm is located in Canada), so i left the worms in their sack, left the sack in the opened box, and left the box sitting in the worm bin over night.  Overcautious, perhaps, but so far there have been no casualties.  I had wondered if any of the worms might crawl out of the sack during the night – it was tightly sealed, but there were a few worms peeking out when I opened the box.  Sure enough, Friday morning as I parted some bedding to leave a pile of food, there was a lone worm squirming around in the bedding.  Anyway, I opened the sack and burrowed it into the bedding, with the opening facing a nice pile of ripe food scraps so that the worms could venture out at their leisure.

Can you spot the adventuresome wiggler?

So far, so good.  I have checked on the worms a couple times, trying not to be over-disruptive.  They seem to be adjusting well and have a healthy appetite.  Not one left in the sack, a few wanderers crawling up the sides, but no escapees.  I’ll do a full-on check up and feeding later this week, so stay tuned.

Savage Worms: Weeks 8 & 9


Brrrrr! Welcome to winter (or is it still Fall?). Whatever the official season, it is getting cold outside and in our laundry room too. As you may or may not remember, we have been keeping Andrea’s worms out in the laundry room because we had an outbreak of fruit flies (sidenote – it was brought to my attention by a certain h.n.i.c. that the fruit fly invasion was Mass-wide, and may not have been purely rotten-food-bin driven). So, how are the vermies handling the sub-tropical temperatures? Well, they are a little chilly. And sadly, we’ve had a few casualties. But for the most part, they are thriving and eating like fiends. The bin has been licked clean the past couple of times we have checked it, save for the monsterly acidic tomato and bits of twigs from our plants. Also, the castings (poo) continue to pile up. Interestingly though, Andrea noticed that the castings look rather different from the castings showed to her at her vermicomposting workshop. They are grayer and less moist. Most likely, the worms have been grubbin up all the nasty food we’ve been feeding them and then continuing to feast on the newspaper bedding. Not sure if you tell from the photo below, but it’s pretty clear, looking in the bin, that this is the case. So, what can we do but try to satiate them with more nitrogen-rich nastiness. Equipped with nose plugs, Andrea left the worms three juicy piles of grub, about a cupful each, which is quite a step up from the two 1/2 cup piles we had been feeding them. The flies should be less of a problem now that it is colder out, and so far, the smell has not permeated outside of the worm bin (thank god. have i mentioned how bad it smells??).
On another note, I was doing a bit of vermi-blog reading (who knew this was such a popular endeavor?) and came across a post by Canadian vermi-ninja Bentley who has set up an outdoor WINTER worm bin. In CANADA. If we think our worms are roughing it in our 50-degree laundry room, these Canadian worms are straight igloo-ing it. I will be interested to check up on Bentley’s worms as we get deeper into the season. This is his second attempt at winter-worming; the first one did not end too well. Our Savage Worms will be sending warm thoughts to their vermi-brethren up north!




Check in next Monday, and until then, read up on the Savage Worms archives. Actually, you should probably just stop in at green.mnp every day for more green goodness.

Savage Worms: Weeks 6 & 7

Welcome to another Savage Monday! So, not only did we not feed our worms twice a week, like we said we would in Week 5, but we did not even feed them once in the two weeks following Week 5. What is worse, we left the worms out in the laundry room with the porch door wide open all night (oops) during the first night of really cold weather this season. But let me tell you, we have some gangster worms! They are still going strong and pooping up a storm (this won’t be that surprising to seasoned vermicomposters). There is about 1/2″ to 1″ of castings lining the bottom of our worm bin, and growing. Speaking of growing, there are sprouts of some kind popping up in the poo, despite the coldness. I can’t wait to see what the bin will look like during the summer.


And yes, the food bin still smells like s&!#. But the worms love it, so what can we do. Andrea came up with a new defensive method, until we start afresh with our scraps.


Savage Worms Archive, check it out.

Savage Worms: Week 5 (post Red Sox mania)

We have happy worms this week. Not a one of ‘em was crawling up the side trying to escape. We even found a little baby worm (in the foreground). Cutie.


And an ever-more disgusting scrap bin. If you did not believe me about the smell, maybe the fungal growth will convince you:


We’re going to try feeding the worms more frequently, since they seem healthy (for the most part…) and happy. Hopefully they will eat more and help us get rid of all the crap, i mean scraps. Their appetites seem hearty, as you can see by the avocado pit below that they have been licking clean:


Alas, we found another dead worm. This time the little guy was in the bin and looked strangely dehydrated:

If you’re new to green.mnp, read up on the (brief but fascinating) history of our Savage Worms!

So you’re apartment smells like…


This one goes out to the worms I love…..

This is a notice to our friendly Ninjas in the green department trying to compost in their apartment. Though Vermicomposting is a great way to reduce kitchen and yard waste as is hot/cold composting; it can often lead to unwanted odors. In this article I’m going to try to explain how to cut down on the smell.

I’ve been composting my kitchen and yard waste for over a year now. I’m using a combination of Active and Passive style (no induced worming). While using worms for composting you can still create an active mixture of compost for your worms to live in, which at the same time will help break down the food into the ‘black gold’ faster and will also cut down on the foul smells.

An active system is basically a system which heats up due to the break down of the carbon rich fuels (i.e. food waste). The breakdown occurs when aerobic bacteria eat and multiply giving off heat. The key to an active aerobic compost is the mixture. Think of it like making a fine beer. You don’t want too much hops, you don’t want too much barley and you want the right amount of fizz. With composting you need moisture, carbons (which come from cellulose material), and nitrogen (protein based material). Never use meat, dairy products, or eggs (These require a much higher temperature to decompose). Lots of different materials are key to a healthy compost.

To get good quality compost quickly, you need to turn the the heap every few weeks with a fork or shovel. If your heap is wet and smelly – turning will help it dry out. If it’s too dry, turn it and then water it. If you are using worms the rotation of the pile will not disturb the worms, they will figure out which way is up.

A compost heap needs air or it will start to smell. Remember, more air means less smell!

Turning your compost heap lets in more air. But don’t turn more than once a week as you will let too much air in the heap and it will get too cool. Compost heaps need to be hot to make the ingredients break down faster.

If your compost smells its probably over watered or not enough air. It may also get smelly if you put in too much food waste and not enough dry ingredients.

Fix it by:

  • Forking in dry leaves, garden mulch or soil.
  • Adding two or three handfuls of garden lime, dolomite or woodfire ash.
  • Turning the compost to get more air in.
  • Mixing food or grass clippings with sawdust or shredded newspaper before adding to the heap.
  • Adding lime and turning the heap will discourage ants and cockroaches.

Don’t worry if you have a few compost flies. However, if your heap becomes smelly it may have too many flies. You can remedy this by following the same steps for a smelly compost.

::read the ongoing Green.MNP Savage Worms series here::

[[post by Austin – who’s posts can normally be found over at architecture.MNP]]

Savage Worms: Week 4

We are one month into our vermicomposting adventure and our little savages are thriving. We had a bit of drama last week, what with the worms trying to escape en masse (not to mention the fruit flies taking over our kitchen), but this week when we opened up the worm bin all but a few were happily burrowed beneath the newspapers munching away on their food. They had eaten everything except a few bits of tomato, so it seems the two piles (~1/2 cup each) is just the right amount of food to last them a week. Feeding zones this week: 1 & 8.


We tried keeping the worm bin out in the laundry room to help with the fly situation, but Andrea noticed after a couple days the worms seemed rather lethargic, indicating it was too cold out there for them (food scrap bin is still nasty and outside though, and we feed outside). Fortunately, bringing the worms back into the kitchen did not exacerbate the fly infestation. In fact, the flies have thinned out a bit. We have two fly catcher contraptions set up, one filled with vinegar, one with red wine.


The volume of castings (i.e. poop) is definitely accumulating, as is to be expected. Only 2 months to go until we have our first harvestable batch of fertilizer for our plants! It will be just in time for the long, cold, darkness of winter (ugh…) when the plants usually loose some of their luster (if not their lives). The nutrients will do a body good.


Another interesting thing about the castings we noticed is that there is quite a bit on one side of the walls of the bin, but not the other. After thinking about it, we came to the conclusion that the reason is that the nook where we keep the worm bin leaves only one side of the bin exposed to light. Since we know that the worms try their best to avoid light, it is most likely that when they were on their mission to escape they were also on a mission to find darkness.


In a bit if sad news, we found this lone worm dead under our couch. I guess this little one was successful in his escape. R.I.P. wormey.


Savage Worms archive

Savage Worms: Week 3 (and 2/7ths)

Apologies for the tardiness of this week’s Savage Worm Journal. I was on an island with no internet access for the long weekend. Anywhoo, get excited for an eventful week here in the land of worms. Here you can see the little savages trying to escape (the brown specks are poo):


Why are they trying to run, you might ask? We don’t know. There is conflicting evidence because one hypothesis is that they are hungry (possible, since it has been 9 days since last they were fed), however, we have also developed quite the infestation of fruit flies (which implies that there is an excess of food). Most likely the fruit flies are attracted to our food scrap bin, which, as you can see (but lucky you, not smell), has developed a lovely pungent juice:


Dan, looking as if he is about to vom from the smell:



Please note: the scrap bin only smells when Andrea scoops up scraps from the bottom that have had time to decompose and ferment – it doesn’t stink up the kitchen. The worm bin itself doesn’t smell in the least. Strong evidence that the fruit flies like our scrap bin:


Maggots. Or rather, pupae. I was not around to see the maggot stage of the fruit fly life cycle, but I hear they were big and gross. Here is Andrea, trying to dump the pupae outside so they don’t eclose in our home:


Just in case they do: we have this little contraption to lure in the flies and catch them. It is filled with vinegar at the moment, but we might up the ante with a bit of red wine, if we can bring ourselves to spare any. We have also decided to cut back on the amount of food we send to the scrap bin for a while. And we fed the worms only two piles of food this week, in zones 3 & 6.

So ninjas, this week has brought us a bit of the grimy side of vermicomposting, but hopefully soon we will master the artful balance of scrap to food to worm to fly ratio to keep our worms and home happy.

Peep the archives for the rest of the Savage Worms posts.

Savage Worms: Week 2

It’s Monday, and that means worms here at green.mnp! The Savage Worms have settled into their comfortable home underneath our kitchen sink. After a few days of inactivity, they picked up on the fact that there were two mountains of delicious food waiting for them. We refrained from checking in on them every day (despite our curiosity) so as not to disturb them too much, but on Thursday night Andrea took a peek. The worms had devoured one of the two piles of food we left them and were working their way through the second. By Sunday they had eaten every last scrap (except the egg shells, but this is normal) and it was time to feed them more. This is our food scrap bin – looks yummy, right?


Below, you will see that Andrea has demarcated 8 regions in the worm bin. This will help us keep track of where we have fed them and what kinds of food mixtures they particularly like or dislike. Week 1 we fed them in zones 2 and 7. This week we fed them in zones 1, 4 and 8.



Another sign of healthy life: Andrea caught a couple of the worms getting it on. That’s right my ninjas – worms have sex too. Now, it is not the same kind of mammalian sex that we are used to; for a nice G-rated explanation of the worm reproduction process, here is an excerpt from FOSSWEB, a site for children’s science-based education:

Reproduction. Like all animals earthworms have effective strategies for begetting their own kind. With earthworms it is not a matter of boy meets girl, but rather a simpler matter of worm meets worm. All worms carry two sets of sexual organs, but they cannot fertilize their own eggs—mating is still a necessary part of reproduction. Mature earthworms have an enlarged band some distance from the head. This enlarged clitellum plays an important role in reproduction.

In mating, two worms approach each other nose to nose. With their bodies touching, they slide past each other until their heads are a bit past the clitellum. Both worms pass sperm through an opening located between the head and the clitellum, into a temporary holding receptacle in the other worm. The two worms separate. The clitellum secretes a liquid that solidifies into a flexible tube. As the tube lengthens, the worm backs out of it. Soon the tube covers the front part of the worm. The worm lays a few eggs inside the tube, deposits some of the stored sperm, and withdraws from the tube, leaving the eggs and sperm inside the tube. The ends of the tube pinch off to form a cocoon, and the whole thing shrinks to a tidy package about the size of a fat grain of rice. The cocoon is left alone sitting on or just under the surface of the soil. The worm continues to produce cocoons until the sperm is used up. Cocoons are durable, can overwinter in cold climates, and can wait out hot dry spells in arid environments. After 3 weeks (ideal conditions) or longer the cocoon opens, and out sallies the next generation.

Unfortunately, we did not catch the worm mating on camera – though that might have been a violation of our worms’ private space anyway. Here are a couple diagrams of the act:



If you are new to the series, check the previous installations in the Savage Worms archive.
Thanks for tuning in!

Savage Worms: Week 1

OK ninjas – Monday is going to be the official the Savage Worms Journal Day on green.mnp. Every Monday I will fill you in on the progress of our vermicomposting adventure. Here is the first installation:

Wednesday, 7/19/07
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Andrea’s worms! This evening Andrea picked up a stack of (free) newspapers at the T stop to cut up as bedding for the bin. She filled the bin about half way with strips of the papers. Now all our vermicompost needs is worms…


Thursday, 7/20/07
The worms have arrived! Courtney was the first home today and noticed the small package addressed to Andrea waiting out on our porch in the sun. She was concerned that the worms were baking in their little box. I thought for sure the package was too small to hold 1,000 worms. Both of us were wrong. When Andrea (finally!) got home she opened the box and there they were – 1,000 squirmy worms. Andrea then sprayed the newspaper in the worm bin with water until it was the dampness of ‘a wrung out sponge,’ and carefully transferred the worms (which she said felt like ground-meat…) from the paper bag they came in to the bin. We have to give them a few days to settle in before we start feeding them. Goodnight wormies!


Friday, 7/21/07
We peeked at the worms today to see how they were doing. Though most of them were burrowed beneath the strips of paper, there were a few crawling up to the lid of the bin. Andrea explained that this is a sign the worms might not be happy. They could be unhappy if there is too much moisture in their bedding, if they are hungry, or it may just be that they need more time to settle into their new home. One good sign though – they are actively pooping!

Saturday, 7/22/07
Today we decided to feed the worms a bit to see if that would make them happier. Andrea dug two little holes in the newspaper on opposite corners from each other and filled them with about 1/2 a cup of of the food scraps we have been saving up. They got a good mix of fruits, veggies, tea leaves, fallen leaves from our plants and some crunchy egg shells.

Sunday, 7/23/07
We don’t want to disturb the worms too much, but it seems like they have calmed down a bit – at least they are not trying to escape anymore.


That is all for this week. Check here to see the first Savage Worms vermicomposting post with links to a bunch of good vermicomposting resources.