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Cold Hardy worms  RSS feed

 
Posts: 49
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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I have been putting a lot of effort into finding cold hardy species of worms to introduce into my land and also use for worm composting. And while I have definitely discovered many suitable spieces from my research, I have yet to figure out a way to locate and buy them. Another problem is that some of these species are considered invasive, and if I ever did find out a way to bring them to my land I may get in trouble for it. Any thoughts?
 
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Dylan.

Do you have no worms at all on your land or in the surroundings? Because seriously, the worms best adapted to your place are the ones already nearby. Unless they don't exist.

What I have done in the past is basically to dig a shallow pit, a depression, really, in an area that could possibly sustain worm life, and set that up for vermiculture. If you build it, they will come.

Unless they're nowhere near, in which case this won't work.

But if they are, you might entice them with certain kitchen scraps, like used coffee grounds and curcurbit peelings, along with some of whatever covers the soil-earth interface in your area, wherever organic matter collects on the ground.

What specific species were you looking at, should you have to source them elsewhere?

As to the invasive label, while I wouldn't ignore such a thing, I don't think it's a reason to not look at a species, but rather a warning sign, that care is required, and probably lots of research. I would concentrate on the effect the species' introduction would have on the environment.

If it promotes biodiversity, supporting many additional species through its lifecycle, and is a source of food for something, if even only your chickens, that is a mark in its favour.

If the thing is impalatable, voracious, and promiscuous, and the changes it makes to natural systems decrease biodiversity, and displace extant species, leaving them barren or depopulated, any use of said thing would have to be contained.

Basically, as it sounds like you intend to put them in the ground to thrive on their own, I think you will want very much to make sure it's the first option you're promoting.

With that and all logical cautions in mind, the closer you live to the thawing permafrost, the more rapidly your ecology will be changing. There may well be niches, empty for centuries, that you could fill, encouraging biodiversity and helping the land to adapt to the rapid change. There is a lot of good that can be done, if we are careful about it.

Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
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I can't speak to introducing earthworms, but if you are looking for composting worms that should be no problem. Red Wigglers will do fine, you will just have a very slow / paused compost pile in the winter if is outdoors. I can think of four strategies here:

1. Have an outdoor worm farm and let it freeze over the winter. The worms will die, but their cocoons will not. When the temperature rises again in the summer, the worms will reappear.

2. insulate the outdoor worm farm, either by burying it, or some other insulation method (straw, cob, etc). The small amount of heat left in the compost pile should keep them alive. If you have good snow cover all year, this will help.

3. Add a lot of N heavy materials throughout the winter to create a thermophilic environment (where the compost heats up). Coffee grounds are especially good at this.

4. Keep the bin inside, or at least in a garage.
 
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The Alabama Jumper has a bad reputation with some, and they are the only cold hardy composting worms that I know of.
Because of that I would get an derelict freezer and heat it with a thermostatically controlled a porcelain socket/incandescent bulb.
Put the light inside a c-block, under a paver, for nice even heat.
Use the standard red wrigglers in this set up.
To promote earth worms, consider cardboard. It seems to create an environment that they really love.
Woodchips do as well.

 
master steward
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I'd vote for the red wigglers.  Wisconsin just got the jumping worm and folks are struggling to figure out how to get rid of it.  Only takes one to multiply.  I believe it eats the forest duff so maybe it would compost for you but red wigglers are widely known as good compost worms and are probably legal to import to your state.
 
Dylan Kirsch
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Location: Funny river, Alaska
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Wow thanks guys. Lots of thought provoking things you all have said.

Chris, the species I'm interested in populating my land with are the following

- Denrobaena octaedra
  This worm could definitely be considered a "composting worm" but it is probably the most isvasive out of the species I'm interested in.

- Aporrectodea calignosa
  This worm would be beneficial in aerating the soil and helping to speed up the conversion of wood chips into soil. It is native to the British isles but is also commonly found in Siberia indicating it's cold hardiness.

- Octolasion tyrtaeum
  This worm has basically the same benefits as Aporrectodea calignosa and is also found in Siberia. But this worm has been noted and stuied in relashonship to an agricultural setting.

There are many other species I've investigated, of those which I haven't listed many of them are difficult to find information about but the common denominator of all these worms is that they can be found in Siberia.

I know many people may disagree with my stance on invasive worms, and that is ok, but I will try to describe how I believe their introduction would affect the region that I live.

The main concern of environmentalists is that the worms will eat through and process the thick layer of sponge like moss and leaf litter which is common in some areas, leaving the roots of those trees exposed to dry out and the fear is that the trees will not be able to adjust their root systems fast enough to compensate for this and will die on a mass scale.

Personally I do not believe that will happen on such a mass scale as some environmentalists suggest. At least not in South Central Alaska. I do believe that the worms would increase biodiversity in my region based on numerous observations I've made.

And Chris, you hit the nail on the head, basically I want multiple species of worms each playing their own role in the soil. Another major goal being that they are incorporated into the existing ecosystem and are able to survive without any outside assistance.

My property is part of a an ecosystem that consists of somewhat of a monoculture of black spruce ( roughly 90% or more ) which get consumed by wildfires on a 50 year or so natural cycle. One of the things I've done so far is encouraging other species of plants and trees to grow on the property. I've done this by simply thinning the black spruce especially the diseased and dead ones, and allowing sunlight to get to other species that we're struggling and then adding other native species from my area. Long story short I believe the worms will play a beneficial role in the soil quality and thus the amount of growth on my property
 
Chris Kott
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I don't think cold-hardiness of individuals is of chief concern, but rather the ability of the species to overwinter. Yes, it would help if they could eat through frozen soil, but that will only help to a point.

I think conventional composting species will do fine. They will be easier to get. The adults will die out seasonally, as mentioned, but their eggs won't. And that makes winter your natural barrier to the spread of worms off of your property.

As you are looking at a forest system, perhaps you should look more closely at the fungi in your soils. You might unlock far more fertility by feeding the fungi than you will starting with worms.

-CK
 
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I live in zone2b (subarctic) and all we have is nightcrawlers. My grandpa used to throw his left over bait into his garden beds, that's where I find many of them.

I started vermicomposting last year around this time, with a bin of worms to foster. I'm now up to 3 bins after giving away a few bins full of worms and their castings to others.

I keep mine in my basement to compost for me year round.

Out of everyone who got a free worm bin from the school to foster, mine is the only survivor and is thriving.

You could build an outdoor bin, but would have to insulate it well, if you get a lot of snow like we do and -50c, I would just keep them indoors.

I want to start up a worm composting facility here. Get paid to take people's food "trash" and make it into a great product for them to use in their gardens.
 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 49
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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I know this has been dead almost a year but up here in alaska it's the beginning of the growing season again and after thinking about it a lot I'm going to just do worm bins with red wigglers like some of you suggested. But chris, you really got me thinking with the whole feeding the fungi thing that you mentioned. What do you think are some good ways I could feed and encourage fungal growth? Also I thought I'd mention that I have some Siberian stone pines coming up soon and I'm definitely going to want to  incocculate their soil with the right mycorrhizal fugi, apparently it makes a huge difference weather you do that or not with those trees.
 
Chris Kott
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Just feed the soil. If you have organic matter, make sure it gets on your soil. If it's getting dry, think about how you could keep things from drying out, either with a slow soaker hose, cardboard, woodchips, or really anything you would find on the ground, turn over, and find worms or other critters under. Soil needs to be moist for things to live in it.

If you collect mushrooms from off your property line, you can make a slurry with water in a blender and inoculate newly added mulch material, spreading what's already there and acclimated further. You could also use culinary mushrooms. Many people concerned with historic hydrocarbon pollution use oyster mushrooms.

-CK
 
Dylan Kirsch
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Thanks chris, that sounds like a really good idea.
 
pollinator
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I used to know a gentleman who farmed worms in north central michigan. He did introduce some red wigglers into his in ground compost beds but he reported all kinds of worms populating them once they were going. He would dig down a few feet to make what would ultimately be a 4x8 bed (perfect for covering with one sheet of plywood). Then he would lay down hardware cloth to keep gophers and such at bay, then build up the edges with cinder blocks to create the squared 4x8 frame. 2x4s around the top allowed him to hinge some of the plywood covers but he said he had mixed feelings about the usefullness of that step. After that he would just dump food waste mixed with shredded paper and cardboard starting at one end and moving to the other. He would introduce red wigglers from the isolated boxes he kept (he sold worms as one income stream) each time he started a fresh box. Otherwise he just added more mix as they worked through what was in there. His report was that all kinds of worms would show up and I'd imagine you would find the same thing where you are. He also reported that his beds would freeze later than the soil around them and that he believed the worms would migrate down when the whether got cold
 
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