Har­vest­ing the worm poop is not for the squea­mish

The Arizona Republic - - News - Reach Clay at 602-444-8612 or clay.thomp­son@ari­zonare­pub­lic.com

Clay is off to­day. Here’s a col­umn first pub­lished Jan. 11, 2007:

If you are the sort of per­son who doesn’t like worms much or doesn’t much like to think about worm poop while you are hav­ing break­fast and read­ing the pa­per, you might want to skip ahead to the fun­nies or the sports page or the ed­i­to­ri­als just now.

Re­cently, you men­tioned that you got a bag of worm poop as a present. Not long af­ter, I was in a gar­den­ing store and saw bags of worm cast­ings for sale. How do they gather worm cast­ings?

I have not yet put my gift of worm cast­ings to use. I’m wait­ing for the warmer weather of the plant­ing sea­son. Of course, I don’t re­ally have any idea about what ex­actly the sea­son for plant­ing ex­actly what stuff might be, but it seems like a pretty good ex­cuse for not do­ing any ac­tual work.

OK, the most pop­u­lar worms for com­post­ing are red wig­glers. They eat or­ganic ma­te­rial in the soil.

A worm has a kind of lip for grasp­ing its food and a throat that can move for­ward to help get a grip on the food. Worms, of course, don’t have teeth. They process their food in the giz­zard, where lit­tle bits of grit break it up. Then it goes to the in­tes­tine to be fur­ther bro­ken down and dis­trib­uted around the body, and what’s left over is worm poop.

OK, now let’s say you’ve got a worm bin and it’s time to har­vest the cast­ings. There are var­i­ous ways to go about this.

Most of the good stuff will be at the bot­tom of the bin. Just scoop it out, sift it to get rid of any bed­ding or other stuff, mix it with some pot­ting soil and plant your flow­ers.

Or you can start adding food on just one side of the bin. The worms will move over there and you scoop and sift the side they’ve va­cated.

Or you shine a bright light on the bin. Worms hate light, so they’ll bur­row down to get away from it. Scoop and sift un­til you see worms again and then hit them with the light again and take out the next layer.

Val­ley 101 Clay Thomp­son Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

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