Worm Ranching!

So I have pasture acres and hay acres that need to have their soils improved.  Turning the soil with amendments over via a harrow device would help in the short term, but turning the soil over can kill beneficial insects and critters and expose the soil to wind and water erosion.  No till drilling will work to place new seed in amongst the existing foliage, but how do I improve the soil without turning it over?

A Berkley graduate came up with the answer, worms.  Of course this answer is what was used by many generations past to turn their undesirable soil into productive farmlands.  In fact New York State’s entire worm population is not indigenous to New York, they were brought here by farmers and fishermen in years past.  Why no worms?  The glaciers forced them out of the area. (for those Creationists reading this: God corralled the worms and sent them to Ireland where St. Patrick thought they were little snakes)

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Worm Ranching, Free Range or Captive.  Free Range generally happens outside in a selected spot that stays moist and is easy to access.  Captive, uses a set number of worms in a small box where food scraps are added, the end result is wonderful mulch for your garden.  

A good garden soil can hold as many as 100 worms per cubic foot. The worms can be placed directly into existing compost piles, as long as they are added after the pile has reached it’s 150 degree temperature mark and cooled off.  The little ones multiply quickly and can be added to any spot on your property that needs better soil.

I plan on using the Free Range Method and adding them to each field throughout the summer.  I’ll take photos of the fields before and after and fill you in on any tricks I learn along the way.  Red Wrigglers and Super Jumpin’ Reds are most often used for this purpose.  

Interested?  Check out http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/

Farm Update:

I spread the manure clumps by hand that had accumulated over the winter, it was easy to do and will fertilize the first field nicely.  For the back fields I am looking into a small tow-behind manure spreader.

Moved two large gates into position by the barn and will be digging the holes for their posts this week.

Trimmed up the apple trees.

Set up a wireless pet fence system for Jasper, he’s a quick learner and is already understanding that the area around the house is now his space.

Picked up some hay hooks and a log lifter to make chores a little easier.

Sharpened the chain saw and did some more work on the dead trees.

Took down a bunch of things that could cause harm to the horses, exposed nails, screws, etc.

Started charging up the solar electric fence, will be switching to solar power tomorrow on the fence.

Talked with the solar home builder, he’ll be coming out to locate the new house in the next week or two!

That’s about it from my end…peace.


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  1. If you are planning on doing the Free Range method remember to keep the area covered with damp newspaper of wet leaves, this will keep the birds from making off with your little rototillers.

  2. It’s interesting that earthworms can be controversial. Growing up in Minnesota, I learned in biology class that every earthworm in our soil was an invasive species. Something that nearly every kid in my class used as bait was causing destruction to Minnesota’s forest lands.

    At Minnesota’s Dept. of Natural Resources, there’s a page telling Minnesotans to Contain Those Crawlers! I’m not sure what the scoop is in New York state, but it’s something to consider whether or not you want to encourage an invasive species.

    In the parts of North America that escaped the glaciers, such as the Pacific NW, there are native earthworms such as  Palouse earthworm, a 3-foot long earthworm that is incredibly rare and possibly extinct and its equally rare cousin, the Oregon giant earthworm.

    • Alma on March 25, 2008 at 14:43

    Keep them coming.

    I remember in one, you said you were planting hay.  What kind of hay are you going to plant?

  3. you need to borrow some ponies come round up time.

  4. about worm ranching that I’ve read all day.  Well done!

    And Ebay has lots of good deals on manure spreaders.

  5. Picked up some hay hooks and a log lifter to make chores a little easier

    We also call ’em log wrenches. Back in the day, a peavy, foot adze, and a slick (Giant wood chisel) were used to build log structures-Docks, Wharves, Houses, etc.

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