Even if I classify last ENC breeding experiment as a success, there were couple of aspects that were a failure, mainly the way I prepared the bedding/food mix in the non-manure trays. To me this invalidates the results of the experiment which was to compare horse manure to food scraps with various bedding material. The second, less critical, aspects was bedding temperature, although it was indoors, doing this during winter time wasn't a great idea.
So with spring coming, I think I will take a second shot at this experiment with some changes.
With the new experiment I will be using only two trays:
- The first will be coco coir as bedding and fresh hot composted horse manure as food.
- The second tray will be coco coir as bedding and vegetable/fruit scraps as food.
The reason why I won't be using different bedding materials this time is because I have the feeling it won't make much difference. Except that the corrugated cardboard I used previously would help more than the coco coir in terms of aeration of the bedding, however because I will do a monthly count, the counting process will aerate the bedding well enough additionally to the fact that the trays are shallow and to my weekly maintenance (moisture check mainly) during which I fluff around quickly).
I'm choosing coco coir this time, because it is more neutral than the cardboard (which contains corn based glue) and also because it was easier for me to spot the cocoons in it during previous experiment.
Note: I expect to have more cocoons than previously as worms tend to breed more during Spring. This would not be due to the change of the type of bedding material.
The horse manure The horse manure will be hot composted for two heat cycles and will be harvested ASAP in order to preserve as much nutrient as possible for the worms.
The food scraps The major failure last time was I was trying not to overfeed the 10 mature ENC worms in each tray instead of supplying them with safe but enough food to last the experiment. What I mean by this is I could prepare the food in such a way that I can add 500gr (1 lb) of food scraps to feed those 10 ENC without killing them while providing enough food that I won't need to add more for the whole duration of the experiment (3 to 4 months). In a nutshell, I will mix the food scraps to the bedding (adding some pH buffer) 2 to 4 weeks before adding the worms, this will allow the food to go past the heating stage to be safe to the worms and give plenty of time for bacteria to colonise the mix. I also expect that I might potentially be adding more food only once near the end of the experiment because food scraps can compost without worms. More details will be given along the way.
The worms Again, I will add 10 hand picked sexually mature European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia Hortensis) to each tray. This number gave pretty good results in the horse manure tray in last experiment, so I'm sticking with it.
Related articles: ENC breeding experiment take 1
A day in a worm farm on Sep 05, 2016
by Quoc-Huy Nguyen Dinh