Frequently Asked Questions
When should I get Earthworms?
If you can’t find any worms in your garden you might want to introduce soil dwelling earthworms or inoculate (technical term) your soil or raised beds with earthworms. When you find only very few worms and you want to have more and different species you can introduce a mix of soil dwelling earthworms.
Please do not introduce compost worms when you need earthworms living in your soil. Compost worms live mostly on top of the soil and eat litter and organic waste.
If you want to, you can place the grass sod upside down which gives a loose and safe place for the earthworms to start their work.
In gardens where you water your plants and beds you can introduce earthworms any time throughout the year. You should not do so when soils are too dry or cold. Soil dwelling earthworms are dormant in summer when soils are getting dry and in winter when soils are cold or even frozen. This means they are digging deeper into the soil and curl up doing nothing but waiting for moist and warm soil conditions. So, when you are looking for earthworms in summer and winter and don’t find many, this is why.
If you have free ranging chicken in your garden, you should keep the chicken locked out for a few hours. Keep the soil moist for the next few days.
Remember that you need to feed your earthworms even if they are living in the soil. Use some mulch, not bark or wood chips, rather leafy material like grass clippings. Leave some organic residues in the soil to decompose in the soil or at least apply compost to your soil.
How do worms eat?
Worms have a simple digestive system. It is basically a tube running from the mouth to the anus with some glands and structures that help to break down the food.
Worms have a mouth, but no teeth so they have to swallow their food without chewing. If their food isn’t ground up or rotting (soft enough to swallow), they won’t be able to eat. Imagine your grandad trying to eat a fresh apple without his false teeth. A worm would struggle too!
When a worm finds some organic matter (food) to eat, it sucks it in using the muscular walls of its pharynx. The food is coated with saliva and swallowed. It passes through the oesophagus and into the crop and gizzard. The gizzard is a little pouch that the worm holds small grains of sand in. When the swallowed food passes through the gizzard, it is ground up by the sand into smaller particles before moving into the intestine. This makes it easier for the digestive juices to break the food particles down even smaller so the worm can absorb the nutrients into its bloodstream and pass out the rest of its food as castings (poop).
Eisenia fetida (tiger worms) can eat up to half their body weight in a day!
How do worms move?
Worms have no bones so they are classed as invertebrates (they have no spine). This makes them very flexible and able to change direction very quickly.
Worm have two types of muscles in their bodies: longitudinal muscles that run the length of their bodies and latitudinal (circular) muscles that run around their bodies. On each segment of the worm, there are setae (fine bristles) that can be extended and retracted to ‘grab’ the soil. Muscles and setae are needed for movement.
First, the circular muscles contract (squeeze) stretching the worm out and pushing it forwards. Then the bristles at the head of the worm grip the soil. Next the long muscles squeeze, pulling the tail towards the head. The bristles at the head let go of the soil while the bristles at the tail grip the soil. Finally the circular muscles squeeze again to lengthen the worm and push the head forwards. The worm repeats this over and over to move forwards (or backwards).
How do worms breathe?
Just like us, worms use oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Unlike us, worms do not have lungs. Instead, they have a special skin that oxygen and carbon dioxide pass through. Worms do not have control over oxygen moving into and carbon dioxide moving out of their bodies. This happens because of an automatic process called diffusion.
Diffusion is the movement of molecules of something (like oxygen or carbon dioxide) from an area of high concentration (where there are lots of molecules) to an area of low concentration (where there are fewer molecules). You can observe diffusion in your morning coffee. Put a spoonful of coffee (highly concentrated molecules) into a cup of hot water (low concentration). The water turns brown as coffee diffuses into the water. Stirring speeds up this diffusion.
There is no stirring when it come to diffusion of gases into and out of the worm. To make sure diffusion happens fast enough for the worm to survive, worms must keep their skin moist. To do this, worms live in a moist environment (underground, safe from the drying wind and sun) and produce a slimy mucus that coats their skin. Too much water is a bad thing though as worms can drown.
How much and when do I apply vermicast?
What's so good about Vermicast - and is it good for all plants?
MyNoke sells only pure vermicast so there are no added chemicals, fertilisers or fillers.
MyNoke Vermicast meets the New Zealand Standards for Composts, Soil Conditioners and Mulches; NZS4454:2005.
What is Vermicast actually?
Vermicast is a technical term for earthworm castings (worm poop). There are approximately 2700 species of earthworms, but our Vermicast is predominantly produced by the earthworms Eisenia Fetida and Eisenia Andrei.
How can I use vermicast when I want to transplant trees?
Our recommended method is to incorporate vermicast into the planting hole rather than applying a layer to the soil surface (which is what we recommend for established trees).
Dig/bore the hole. Some planting hole drills compact the side of the hole which makes it difficult for new roots to penetrate. Rough up the soil on side of the hole, add some vermicast mix to the base of the hole then place the tree in the hole. Fill the gap between the root plug and the wall with the remaining vermicast mix.
Quantity of vermicast
If the soil is low in organic matter, use up to 2/3 of vermicast and 1/3 of loosened soil for packing around the transplanted tree. If the soil is high in organic matter, use up to 1/3 vermicast in the mix.
If the planting edges are not roughed up and vermicast is not mixed with the soil, the vermicast can soak up and hold a lot of water (a good thing), but the soil next to it remains very dry. This can create a barrier to new root development resulting in trees that become root-bound within the planting hole. If water is available, water the root zone well.
How can I use vermicast for established trees?
A 1-2 cm thick layer of vermicast can be applied to the surface of the soil around the rooting zone. Optionally, this can be gently massaged into the top 2 cm of soil by hand/with a small hand fork. If some mulch is available, place this on top of the vermicast. Water well.
How can I use vermicast in potted plants?
If your plants are already potted, you can sprinkle one handful of vermicast around the plant and massage it int the top 2 cm of the potting mix. If the plant is bigger like a shrub, use more vermicast! If you are making up a new pot for planting, combine one scoop of vermicast and four scoops of potting mix before planting.
What volumes of organic resources can be vermicomposted within a year?
At all MyNOKE vermicomposting operations together we are vermicomposting 250,000 tonnes of organic resources per year and are steadily growing. The smallest municipal ‘worm farm’ we are operating is at Maketu with approximately 250 tonnes intake per year.
What range of moisture content of organic waste is suitable for vermicomposting?
Can I use anaerobic digested sludge for vermicomposting?
How much does your service cost?
Do you know if you need pure earthworm castings to apply to the soil or a liquid Vermicast extract to spray onto plants, or put into your irrigation?
Do you know how much you need or would you like us to calculate how much you need?
If you need earthworms, do you need them for composting or for living in the soil?
Is it for your garden or for an orchard or a farm?
Industrial food processing waste, canteen waste?
Does it include napkins, paper towels, office paper or cardboard?
Is it sludge from a wastewater treatment plant? Or other, like lake weeds?
And do you want to bring the waste to us or would you like us to pick it up?