Never Dump Your Fishing Worms in the Forest. Here’s Why

When I was about seven years old we were staying at a campground that sold red wigglers for fishing. Being a rather strange and oversensitive child (who grew into a strange and sensitive adult) I spent the money my parents gave me for chips and a pop on a Styrofoam packet of worms instead. I took the worms to the nearby forest and released them. I had always felt good about saving the worms from the fate of the hook and lure.

That is until now.

I just learned that releasing red wigglers into a forest is a terrible thing to do. For the forest, not the worms.

Red Wigglers can eat an amazing amount of forest litter…leaves, pine cones, bark etc. In fact, they eat so much that the plants that rely on the forest litter to provide them with the shelter, moisture and nutrients they need no longer grow in areas with a high amount of these worms.

You can usually tell there are too many worms simply by noting how little natural forest debris is on the forest floor.

Taking your worms home from your fishing expedition and releasing them in your garden or compost pile is the best option. Unless your garden is actually in the forest, then you might want to consider setting up a worm farm in a closet or basement. For more on that click right here.

 

Cute worm cartoon

 

 

A Bug Munching Plant

Pitcher Plants includes several varieties of carnivorous plants that are cleverly designed to trap insects.

The rim of the pitcher shaped leaf becomes slippery with dew or nectar, causing insects to slide into its tubular cavity. The waxy inside of the leaf make it impossible for the insects to climb back out and they end up drowning in the plant’s digestive fluids. Pitcher Plants then obtain necessary nutrients by slowly absorbing the decaying bodies.

Nepenthes tropical carnivore plant

Nepenthes

 

Carnivorous plants grow in soil too poor to provide any sustenance, which is why the plants have evolved to rely on insects for food instead.

The Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea is the official flower of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

Sarracenia. Exotic flower

Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry, Hungry, Red Wiggler Worms

So just how hungry ARE red wigglers? Hungry enough to consume half their weight in kitchen waste (vegetable scraps, fruit, coffee grounds, oatmeal, egg shells etc.) every single day!

Composting examples.

After consuming the waste the worms produce wonderful, rich, castings that make an awesome organic fertilizer. What are castings? Polite speak for worm poop.

Many urban dwellers are closet worm farmers. A fancy arrangement like the one shown below looks great and produces nutrient rich worm castings for your potted plants or balcony garden. This one is dubbed The Worm Factory and manufactured by Nature’s Footprint. It’s the one I keep in my apartment closet.

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How many worms do you need? Weigh out your daily kitchen waste to get an idea of how much you produce, divide by two and you have your answer. You don’t need to get them all at once, however. Start with a couple pounds of worms and they will rapidly increase (or decrease) their population to match the available food and space.

How many worm castings can one worm farm produce? A tower-type like the one shown above should produce at least one tray-worth of finished compost and castings known as “vermicompost” every three months.

If you want to save money and don’t care about fancy looks, a search on YouTube will show you lots of videos on how to make your own worm farms using Rubbermaid totes.

Fotolia_7662486_XS.jpg

How do you use your compost and castings? As a fertilizer vermicompost can replace commercial products for adding nutrients to your potted plants. Worm castings are rich but will not burn your plants. You can work a few tablespoons into your soil before potting up a plant or add a few tablespoons as a top dressing around your existing plants. When you water the nutrients will be released into the soil and make its way down to the roots. You can also add a few tablespoons to your water to make a liquid fertilizer.

Gardening

Not only do the castings provide nutrients they act as a fantastic soil conditioner. The castings increase the good microbes and stop any toxins from spreading. They also bind with any heavy metals and prevent them from being released too quickly. Worm castings act like a sponge, retaining excess water and releasing it as the plant needs it. Many pests and diseases can be prevented by the consistent application of vermicompost to your pots and garden.

Planting sage

Do you have to use red wigglers? Yes, yes you do! Dew worms and other earthworms found in many gardens will not thrive in the conditions offered by a worm farm or eat as much or produce as many castings.

Group of earthworms

It’s all about the red wiggler.

A Penny for Your Lily

lily

When I was at Canada Blooms (a horticulture trade show in Toronto, Ontario Canada) a few years ago a propieter of lilies gave me this bit of trivia…

Drop a penny in your planting hole when you plant your lily bulbs and deer will no longer eat your lilies! Apparently the copper in the penny taints the taste and keeps deer moving instead of munching.

Very easy and cool idea…the only problem is Canada stopped using pennies on February 4th, 2013. If you live in Canada and are penniless, try dropping other sources of copper in the hole instead. Pieces of pipe or wire should work just as well.

Deer in a cage

And if copper in the hole doesn’t work a tightly woven eight foot fence will!