Q&A with Pauly Piccirillo, Author of “The Worm Farming Revolution”

By Shelley Pierce | November 27, 2016
Image by nalin chanthorn
by Shelley Pierce
November 27, 2016

As a kid, Pauly Piccirillo grew up on a one acre garden tended by his father and uncle. When he grew up, he became a prodigal son so-to-speak. He returned to his roots, but used many chemicals with no success. He searched for a better chemical-free way and found success with worm farming. He hasn’t looked back since and has been a worm farming evangelist since 2010. His latest book, “The Worm Farming Revolution,” tells you everything you need to know to raise worms for healthy plants. Read on for more information about this book and enter to win one of 3 hard copies or 1 of 5 digital eBooks of The Worm Farming Revolution or other eBooks.  You can join Pauly’s worm farming revolution on his website, Facebook, YouTube or Google+.

1. Why is it important that we become a part of the worm farming revolution? Why did you join the revolution?

Gardeners have always known that worms were good for the soil. Earthworms dig burrows that increase oxygen flow to the plant roots, loosen soil compaction, and bring water to the roots and surrounding soil.

Over the past few decades certain soil, plant, and worm biologists have been pioneering discoveries (under a microscopic lens) concerning the symbiotic relationship between plants and organisms. The results have been profoundly evident and now many have been seeing the beneficial outcomes of certain applications of “The Worm” in their gardens, including me.

So what’s the science behind this? Everyone wants to grow the biggest fruit, the greenest plant, or have the most beautiful garden or lawn during (and at the end of) the growing season, only to be met with disappointment. In order to control something, we must first understand it.

So many people put their time and energy into the plant rather than where the plant came from. This was my situation many years ago. I simply applied chemical fertilizers to the soil and spent the rest of the season focusing on my plants. It wasn’t until several disappointing years that I discovered a better way. In nature, there’s only one thing that roots feed on…microorganisms.

Soil is more than just dirt. One teaspoon of soil will contain billions and trillions of microbes in the form of bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and fungi. Along with that can be some arthropods which make up what’s called the “Soil Food Web.” Nature already provides what it needs. All we have to do is understand what it wants and implement this into our gardens.

Worms are dependent on certain microbes to break down plant matter. They also feed on them, excreting additional microbes in the soil called worm castings. Worm castings to a plant is as natural as breast milk to a newborn baby. The soil is teaming with life and when we use synthetic chemicals, it kills the beneficial microbes, robbing the soil of its life and causing it to become hard and compact. There’s a reason worms are found at the base of plants moving in and out of the root system.

So why join the Revolution? The world is truly changing, and with the advent of the Internet, we become more informed. I can now share my practical discoveries with you and scientists can easily share their findings with us. The worm used to be looked at as 1 dimensional. It’s good for bait. Now we look at it as 3 dimensional.

Due to high food prices, unstable economics, pollution, climate change, green living, loss of jobs, self-sustainability, recycling, chemicals, GMO’s, inflation, organics, etc., the only person you can really trust is you. This has led to a revolutionary phenomenon sweeping the globe!

Worms are amazing and efficient for many reasons. Many are turning to the “composting worm” to consume (recycle) their kitchen scraps, paper products, manure, etc. Worms can perform this so much faster than traditional composting. This is dimension #1.

The 2nd dimension is the waste that’s cast from the worms (worm castings) and used for plant nourishment. It can be mixed with other natural fertilizers too, though in many cases, you only need 20% worm castings or less. So for someone living in an apartment with only a few plants, or a lot, it’s still possible to compost indoors (without any smell) with a worm bin. Those with a large garden only need to incorporate worms in a mid-sized to a large worm bin or even compost piles containing large amounts of worms.

The 3rd dimension is with the worm itself. It can be used for fishing, pet food, and sold to budding worm farmers all across the country.

So this is why I joined The Worm Farming Revolution. I will no longer be dependent on a synthetic compound but know that nature has already provided what we need. If you think you can’t grow bigger, tastier, & healthier produce than what the BIG industrial companies do, then please take a look at my garden pictures.

2. How does your book help us to grow amazing plants?

I teach you the science along with the practical aspect of worm farming. There are many books out there, and good ones too. I don’t want anyone thinking that this is just another how-to book. I’ve written the book in a way that doesn’t seem geeky or too scientific. It mixes in humor, facts, inspiration, science, a personal manifesto, user guides & charts, several outbound quality links, videos & documents, plus, much of my own experience in the field.

I’ve also incorporated other worm farmers, gardeners, and business owners so that you don’t just get my perspective, especially if you want to start your own business.

I don’t only teach you, I mentor you through the entire process. I explain what soil really is and what plants really want. I don’t want you to know what you’re doing without knowing WHY you are doing it. Some say they don’t need to know how it works, but that it works. That’s true, and is acceptable in some areas. However, if you DO understand the how’s and why’s, then you’ll be able to tweak and experiment on your own in order to make it more effective and efficient.

You’ll learn my techniques and ingredients to make a healthy, pest-resistant plant with large fruit and yields through the use of worm castings and aerated worm tea. I put my money where my mouth is. Remember to see my pics.

3. What are some cool little-known facts about worms that we should know?

Worms don’t have eyes, lungs, or teeth. They have receptor cells that are sensitive to light. They feel around with their skin and sensitive tiny hairs called “setae.”

They breathe through their skin through the transfer of oxygen absorbed by their skin. Since they don’t inhale, they must remain wet at all times so the transfer of dissolved oxygen can take place. They coat themselves in mucous, especially in drier conditions to keep from suffocating.

Since they don’t have teeth, they suck food through their mouths by the use of a powerful pharynx. They have a gizzard much like a chicken and it helps them grind their food. This is why it’s important for them to swallow minerals made from stone to help grind the food.

They have 5 hearts. One thing I joke about is, when it comes to pets, a worm has the ability to love you 5 times more than any other pet.

A common myth is that if you cut a worm in half, it will grow back. This depends on the species and where it’s cut. If it’s cut towards the posterior end, it’s more likely to live, but if cut towards the anterior end (which is closer to the mouth, hearts, and reproductive organ), it’s a big, fat NO CHANCE it will survive.

The thick band or ring around the worm is called the clitellum. This is its reproductive organ. It’s nearly impossible to tell the species of a worm until they possess a clitellum. This is also an indicator that it’s an adult, as juveniles won’t have one.

Probably the absolute most important fact you need to know is that you cannot raise just any type of worm in a bin. They must be composting worms. A beginner should never collect worms from their background and assume they can raise them in a worm bin. Those will most likely be deep burrowing worms. Likewise, don’t assume that composting worms will thrive in your garden either. These are surface dwelling worms and will die come winter time, save for their cocoons. This is why I wrote the book.

4. How does your book assist beginners to get involved in worm farming? Is there a huge learning curve?

Another thing I joke about is, there’s no pet easier to take care of than a pet rock. Seriously, though, I want the reader to know that as long as they are informed and understand what the needs of worms are, they’ll do just fine.

I have a chart that shows the behaviors and characteristics of 6 different species of worms. It’s possible to choose the wrong specie if they’re not well informed. I also show them a worm that is the most popular (the red wiggler, Eisenia fetida) and allow them to choose the best worm bin based on their needs, whether outdoor or indoor. If they don’t choose to purchase any worms or bins, then I also lead them to my website where I walk them through ways to use what already may be in their house or property.

There’s a glossary in the back of the book so they get an understanding of the need-to-know terms. I walk them through the steps of:

“¢Â Â   Choosing or making a worm bin
“¢Â Â   Setting up a bin for the first time
“¢Â Â   Choosing the right composting worm
“¢Â Â   Harvesting worm castings
“¢Â Â   Using castings on plants
“¢Â Â   Making & using worm tea and
“¢Â Â   Storing worm castings for the next growing season and more

5.  What are some of your best tips and advice for successful worm farming?

Most people that fail their first time is due to overfeeding. I cover that in detail. Many newbies get stuck on the word “food” and don’t realize that the carbon bedding should be looked at as food too. The misconception is that worms eat their weight in “food’ (kitchen scraps) daily and place all manner of things into the worm bin with disastrous outcomes. 1 pound of red wiggler worms (about 1,000) will not eat 7 pounds of kitchen scraps in a week. It just isn’t happening.

The best advice, for feeding, is to mimic a worm’s natural habitat and provide the worms with plenty of carbon material with the occasional kitchen scrap until you can work your way up to other forms of rationing and materials. In the worm farming community, we call this a 20:1, C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio.

I already talked about using the proper species for your composting needs, but just like everything in life, do things in moderation. If it doesn’t work, then you haven’t ruined the whole batch.

Don’t let anyone try to complicate the process, even you. It’s so easy to over think the process that you begin to question the simplest of things. I help people to slow down and understand the process in a nutshell. I call it the 5 Fundamentals of Worm Farming or The 5-Step Success. (https://www.wormfarmingrevealed.com/five-step-success-to-worm-composting.html) This is perhaps the best advice and you can print it out to keep near your worm system. These principles are what make a worm bin thrive.

6. In your journey to becoming a successful worm farmer, what was the biggest lesson that you had to learn?

Patience & Persistence. We live in an age of “NOW” and unless you go to the nursery to buy your own worm castings, it’s going to take some time. The vermicomposting process can’t be rushed. It can only be given the best environment to have the best outcome for quality of content. If a good environment isn’t given,  then the desired outcome will take much longer. This is why I recommend getting into vermicomposting in the fall. Actually, any time one wants to do it is the best time, but fall is the perfect time in order to have some worm castings for the spring.

Another thing I’ve learned (and probably the biggest) is a great understanding of the way nature works. Gardening has taught me a lot of spiritual applications with the way a seed grows, needs nourishment, and protection from weeds.

Worm farming has taught me a lot of physical applications, such as harmonizing with others and working together as a community for a common goal. A worm bin can contain more than just worms. It’s a complete ecosystem of other beneficial organisms. When they all work together, in unity, the system thrives and is teaming with life and life-giving vermicompost. If one particular organism starts to “take over,” the system gets out of balance, so-to-speak.

Now, there can be problems from time to time, but when caught early, is easily remedied. Sometimes it’s too easy. I once left my worm bin alone for two months, never checking on it and it was business as usual. However, I do not recommend this. The worm population will die off a little, but not to the point of losing your squirm (a mass of worms).

WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES OF “The Worm Farming Revolution”
or 1 of 5 digital eBooks of The Worm Farming Revolution or other eBooks!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, December 4, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Why do you want to join the worm farming revolution?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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