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Fatten redworms on vacuum cleaner dust and last night's pizza boxes

Resident Expert

Q. i would like information on raising worms - outside - for my own personal use for gardening and fishing.

- D.M., Texas

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A. Two types of worms should be considered says S. Zorba Frankel, managing editor of Worm Digest, a quarterly worm newsletter in Eugene, Ore. Earthworms (such as night crawlers) are used for fishing and, he believes, can't be reared in pens. Redworms (Eisenia fetida) - or compost worms - work in groups to break down organic matter into castings. Castings are decomposed organic matter. Redworms will munch on the organic matter and within a few months a rich humus will develop, which is excellent fertilizer and holds water well in the soil. Mr. Frankel says worms eat anything that was once living including such things as vacuum cleaner dust, used tea bags, and nail and hairclippings (both people and pet). They even eat torn up newspapers, and egg and pizza cartons that have been soaked in water. But they do not like acidic waste such as onion and citrus peels. Frankel says you can use any type of container to house worms as long as holes are drilled in the bottom and sides. Only a small amount of garden soil should be used when raising redworms. The majority of the matter should be organic, which will provide enough moisture for the worms. Worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day and can double their population every few months. They will, however, regulate their population to the container in which they are grown. Worms can tolerate a range of temperatures, but 75 degrees F. is optimal. Garden stores often sell composting worms. For more information, visit the Internet sites and

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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