I was cleaning out one of the bioponics tubs that had held the Tomatoes last season and saw that I had a few helpers.
As I pulled up chunks of the old root mass, I saw a few worms doing their thing deep down in the clay ball and scoria mix. They were quite happily helping me to clean the dead organic material. I shouldn’t anthromorphise, they were living their lives in ignorance of my existence.
I remembered putting a couple in a few years back to see if they would live. Then, characteristically, I forgot about them. These must be their grand-grand-grand-grand babies. Wow!
So, I thought, if they can survive and thrive for that long without any help from me, maybe I can add some more to each tub?
I didn’t want to just add one or two to each tub, I needed a big handful, so I got onto Uncle Rob, our local worm farmer and member of the Gawler Compost Collective and asked if he’d loan me a few (with the promise of returning them if the project didn’t work 😉). Being a nice chap, he agreed and I picked up a couple of handfuls when I was dropping off the scraps from Boost.
Naturally, a lot of oranic material came with them and I didn’t want to mix that in with my media so I worked out a seive arrangement with some large net pots that I had.
Worms are photophobic and would move away from the light, through the openungs in the net pot and down into the media, leaving the straw and vegetable material behind. It worked a treat and soon I had empty net pots and a population of resident worms in each tub.
In the past, I had also found the occasional worm in the net pots from the floating rafts bed but hadn’t thought much about it as I often reuse my media. So I thought, why not add some there too? I placed two worms on every cup and left a few around on the Styrofoam raft so that they could find their own way to somewhere nice.
If you’re worried about the worms drowning, don’t be. In the main media beds, the surface of the media mix sits well above water level, so the worms will always have somewhere to go. The Bell Siphons also periodically empty the beds, removing the water and letting lots of oxygen into the root zone of plants. The system gets turned off at night time, allowing the tubs to drain completely. In short, there’s plenty of air for the worms and chances to get away from the water if they need to.
In the floating raft bed, there is a centimetre or so of media in each cup that is above the water level. Add to this that the water in the tub is very well oxygenated and you can see that the worms should be quite happy. Worms breathe through their skin and are quite used to waterlogged situations so they should be fine.
The worms will happy do their thing, converting fallen leaves, dead roots and fish waste into soluble fertilizer and maybe they will eat some of the excess decaying matter off of the roots of the plants themselves, allowing more oxygen and nutrients into those roots. That all means healthier plants!
If I find too many worms or one or two make it into the drain pipes, that’s a bonus too – fish food!