Posts tagged composting worms
Alabama Jumpers are actually an earthworm compared to most other worms many are familiar which are composting worms hence making them a better choice for your garden.
Composting worms usually prefer staying towards the top of the garden beds for several reasons, moisture, food availability… Another reason is many cannot take a harsh bedding such as hard packed clay, sand or even heavy dirt. Remember these are composting worms looking to devour breaking down organic matter and not dirt worms.
Now while the Alabama Jumpers also look for decaying organic matter to chow down on the surface areas, they are an earthworm which can burrow down up to 12 feet or so. They can and in fact prefer packed hard clay, packed dirt and even sandy soils to live in.
Since the compost worms basically stay towards the surface, the Alabama Jumpers also perform additional tasks to help your flowers, vegetable gardens and lawn areas grow. As they dig down deep, they leave open burrows which help to aerate the soil, allow for better water penetration through them and help promote better root growth for your plants by allowing roots to access and easily flourish throughout the burrow system.
At the same time many composting worms will not survive colder winter temperatures throughout the continental USA. On the other hand, Alabama Jumpers utilize two techniques to survive cold temperatures. In moderately cold areas they may simply burrow down to warmer soils several feet. In the colder climates the Alabama Jumpers coil up into a slime covered ball which they produce and go into a sleep like state, similar to hibernation.
Introducing your worms to the garden should not be a method of scattering them throughout. Rather using the Alabama Jumpers for instance, releasing in clumps of approximately 500 worms in a pile allowing them to dig down. Once they are down it is important to either have some decaying organic matter for them to eat in the immediate vicinity or place some material on top where you just released them. Another good food source to use if needed is Purina Worm Chow by sprinkling a little on top where you released them as needed.
The reasoning behind this method versus scattering them throughout is the fact that the worms need to be able to find each other to breed. If scattered around they will have difficulty doing so leaving you the option of buying new worms each year. By feeding the worm piles you drop into the garden you are keeping a good number of worms around to breed, lay cocoons and later on hatch.
Down the road as they become more populated the worms will begin to spread out and covering more and more territory in your yard or garden areas.
Alabama Jumpers are a unique worm and are a true earthworm. Rather than mainly stay near the surface they dig out tunnels allowing them to burrow down into the ground.
Most composting worms are not made to be let loose outdoors and will eventually die if not placed in the right environment. For instance European nightcrawlers can survive throughout the United States in garden areas that have a lot of organic material on the surface such as damp layers of leaves for them to go through without having to burrow down deep into hard packed soils.
This is why many people do not see any or only a few worms the following year when released in the yard, vegetable and flower garden areas.
The Alabama Jumper on the other hand can burrow down deep and the harder packed the soil, clay or sandy materials are the better. They can tolerate these harsher conditions due to a tougher outer layer of skin encompassing the worm. This helps them to survive year after year.
The other difference comparing most composting worms to the Alabama Jumper and other earthworms is their ability to burrow down deep to escape the extreme colder surface temperatures and taking advantage of the naturally warmer temperatures a few feet below.
The other method earthworms can use is called estivation, where they coil up into a slime covered ball which they produce and go into a sleep like state, similar to hibernation. Most composting worms such as the red wiggler or nightcrawlers cannot estivate but rather die when it gets too cold.
Of course as with any type of worm the environment needs to be correct, however the Alabama Jumper has proved to be probably one of the most if not the number one worm able to adapt too many conditions. Originating in the tropics of some Asian countries and adapting all the way up to northern New England within the United States that we have found thus far.
The Alabama Jumper aerates plant root systems by generating these burrows which they constantly travel up and down through. As with any other worm, they leave their trail of worm castings further enhancing any type of soil condition.
Previously thought to come up to eat during the evening hours and hunker down below ground during the daytime has been found to be untrue.
In circumstances where one may have mulch or other organic matter in the yard or garden areas which remain damp or heavily shaded areas, the Alabama Jumper worm will eat almost continuously.
In fact, in test bins I set up in controlled environments which were covered so as not to allow any light to penetrate over the past month, I found the Alabama Jumpers constantly eating at all hours of the day. With just 300 worms in each worm bin, I ended up feeding them half a cup of food per day or equivalent to approximately a one gallon container of food per 300 worms over one month’s time.
I ran this experiment only after examining the Alabama Jumpers outside under some pine trees. The Alabama Jumpers would be active all day long in the shade as long as the pine needles on the ground were damp to wet. Once the pine needles were permitted to dry out, the worms would burrow below the surface and come back up only at night once the sun set.
So if you are looking for the perfect worm to release outside in the yard and garden areas to assist in aeration and soil enhancement, the Alabama Jumper is what you want.
After thirty days, my experiment with raising Alabama Jumpers in Michigan peat moss has proven fruitful. The Alabama Jumpers are doing well and keep producing little jumpers.
I checked on the worms this afternoon and noticed I had newly hatched Alabama Jumpers and some up to two inches long in the breeder bin already. It appears they lay cocoons that hatch and grow rapidly to this point thus far.
The bedding material is packed tight again as I already loosened it up with a garden claw two weeks ago. My concern is the amount of oxygen able to penetrate towards the bottom since the deeper I go the more packed the bedding material is. I did not loosen the bedding this time as I plan to screen the worm bin one evening this week.
The Alabama Jumpers are thoroughly enjoying the Purina Worm Chow I have been feeding them daily.
Not only are there little ones in the breeder worm bin, however the adolescent Alabama Jumpers are in great shape, thick and healthy.
Going back to the original experiment with bedding consisting of hardwood sawdust and shavings, the material is over 50% composted now into worm castings. This bedding material does not pack hard as the Michigan black peat moss does hence the oxygen levels appear to be doing well since the Alabama Jumpers congregate throughout the bedding material. In this bin I still continue to feed them the Purina Worm Chow as well as some food scraps every few weeks. I noticed the other evening that this bin was covered with literally a hundred or more new juvenile Alabama Jumpers as I was adding some more feed.
This brings me to another point. I am still noticing that the areas with food scraps contain the larger mature worms and newly hatched juveniles. I am not seeing any of the two inch or so juveniles in the food scrap area as I am only finding them in the surrounding areas.
Contrary to what most web sites state, that one cannot breed Alabama Jumpers in captivity, when it comes to raising them in an environment favorable for reproduction to occur, these two experiments prove otherwise. In fact both experiments have proven to be an effective means by which anyone can raise prolific Alabama Jumpers in a worm bin. The only concern is the Michigan black peat compacting so hard over a two week period which can be eliminated by stirring up the worm bin bedding thoroughly every two weeks.
This is good sign since not only can Alabama Jumpers be raised for composting but they make an awesome live fishing worm. I have fished with them as bait myself in the past and was quite impressed. They remain on the hook apparently due to the tougher skin they have which enables them to borrow through hard packed clay and survive in course sandy soils. The Alabama Jumper lives up to its name as super live bait worm by wiggling more in the water than its relatives.
Alabama Jumpers – Amynthas gracilus also known as the grey wiggler like the one in the picture below are not red worms. They are of a grey color and can be highlighted in fluorescent colors when held up to the light.
There are some websites online offering Alabama Jumpers under the name of Super Red Worms which are actually European nightcrawlers – Eisenia Hortensis.
So what’s the big deal?
First off the Alabama Jumper is a great garden bed or yard composting worm which survives and converts hard packed clay and sandy soils into a fertile loose organic soil matter due to the nature of the outer layer of tough skin. They survive outside and are not prolific in a worm bin.
The European nightcrawler will have a low to zero survival rate when placed in hard packed clay and or sandy soils outside since their skin cannot take the hard abrasions. They are very prolific in a worm bin.
Basically these two worms are opposites and used for different purposes with the exception of fishing. Both the Alabama Jumper and European nightcrawler make excellent fishing worms!
There is another site I recently came across offering a mix of so called red wigglers and Alabama Jumpers. Again, these two worms are incompatible.
The red wiggler is a composting worm which will do well in a controlled environment with a bedding of peat moss, shredded newspaper, cardboard… however will not in soil. The red wiggler also will do well on nitrogen based food scraps or what are referred to as green organic products such as lettuce, bell peppers, banana peels, string beans… mixed in with the bedding.
The Alabama Jumpers prefers a soil base such as clay and or sand and does not do well with the green organic products. It prefers the carbon based or brown organic products such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves, hay, peanut shells…
So before you waste your money, always use a reputable worm dealer or worm farm to purchase your worms to insure you get the right worms for your needs.
A recommended site is Organic Worm Farm which is a reputable worm website offering the lowest prices on Alabama Jumpers. They also offer a toll free telephone number to answer any questions you might have on Alabama Jumpers or any other composting and fishing worms.
I checked on the hay pile containing Alabama Jumpers, excellent composting & fishing worms today. The weather here is South Carolina has turned colder for this part of the country along with a good amount of cold rain.
Currently it is 51.1 degrees Fahrenheit at noon time.
When I removed a couple inches of hay to get a temperature reading of the top area of the Alabama Jumpers pile it read 42 degrees. As I dug down to the ground level as the Alabama Jumper pile is about one and a half feet high I was getting readings of 53 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit. So it appears currently the internal temperature is now holding steady for the past month.
I am happy to report I found the Alabama Jumpers there however they were a little sluggish compared to how they react during the warmer months. They are moving around but not jumping like they will do when they are warmer.
One thing I noticed right away was the size and thickness of these worms. I have been adding Purina Worm Chow weekly to the pile and the girth of the worms shows this. The Alabama Jumpers are now about as thick as a number 2 pencil which for these worms is very thick.
I will post another update on the Alabama Jumpers after the holidays!