Monthly Archives: January 2011

Soil Bacteria Can Increase Serotonin Levels

It seems crazy that soil bacteria can increase serotonin levels.  Dirt!  We, as a society, are less exposed to dirt and the garden soil than we were 50 years ago.  Our children and homes are hyper clean.  How many of our kids make mud pies anymore?  We, ourselves, are hyper clean using hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soap to protect us.  We have a fear of bacteria, though many bacteria are highly beneficial to us.Soil Bacteria Can Increase Serotonin Levels

Lawn services are everywhere taking care of our lawns.  We have lost that contact with our garden soil.  Many of us have potted plants and do indoor gardening.  A lot of potting soil is sterile so we lose that exposure to living bacteria in the soil.  On the positive side I do believe that more people are interested in growing their own vegetables.  This trend of backyard vegetable and flower gardening is growing.

Now here is another reason for getting out there and digging in the dirt and making mud pies!  New research is showing that a particular bacteria, Mycobacterium Vaccae, in garden soil can increase serotonin levels and improve learning.  Naomi Sachs has an excellent, detailed discussion of this research and how it came about on her blog:  Bacteria in the Dirt Can Make us Happier and Smarter.

Hollyhocks from Flower Garden

This gives us another plus for creating our backyard vegetable or front yard flower gardens.  It also gives us a great reason for letting our children play in the dirt. There are so many advantages to gardening ourselves instead of hiring landscaping companies to do it for us.  Gardening gives us:

  • exercise
  • a meditative experience
  • a sense of accomplishment
  • beautiful flowers and landscapes
  • fresh, tasty, nutritious vegetables
  •  saves money
  • reduces stress

Now there is evidence of the bacteria in the soil providing us with an increase in serotonin levels.  Mycobacterium vaccae is just one of the numerous bacteria in the soil.  I am sure there are other advantages that soil bacteria provide that haven’t been discovered yet.

Dry Shredded Newspaper to Make a Worm Bin

Results of Worm Bin Experiment Using Dry Newspaper

In December I saw a YouTube video on how to prepare a worm bin using dry shredded newpaper.  I had never heard of this before so I decided to try it.  You can read that post here:  Worm Bedding-Using Shredded Newspaper.  After a little more than a month all the worm bedding is now moist from the worm’s excretions and the food scraps.  And the newspaper that I put in under the worms to keep them from going into the dry shredded newspaper has deteriorated so that the worms can make their way down into the rest of the bin.  The one thing I did notice is that the moist paper covering the worms dried out much more quickly so I had to spray that with water every day or so.

Once the worm bedding was all moist I went in and mixed it up and found that it was somewhat matted.  So I pulled it apart to aerate the worm bin.  As in all vermicompost bins, the bedding gets compacted and “shrinks” as the worms do their work.  As they eat the food scraps and the bedding, the volume of the bedding gets smaller.  So to maintain the volume in the bin during the worm composting process I will continue to add bedding until it gets to a point where I decide that is enough. 

So when all the newspaper became moist I decided to add more.  I shredded up more newspaper and tucked it in underneath what is already there.  I will continue to add it dry so that it can become moist naturally from the worm composting process.  The great thing about this process of using dry newspaper is that as the worm bin matures it won’t be as moist and wet.  I will keep you posted as to how it goes as this worm bin matures.  I am thinking that because I started with less moisture in the beginning that it won’t get to that point where it is “too” wet and I am frantically adding newspaper or cardboard to soak up the excess moisture. 

Remember To Keep a Moist Area for the Red Worms

If you are new to worm composting you need to remember that the worms need to be in a moist environment to live.  So if you use dry newspaper bedding you need to do one of two things:

1.  You need to add a lot of worms at once, with the bedding that they came in with a lot of food scraps to create the moist environment for them to live.  In the YouTube video she added 3 lbs of worms.

2.  If you are adding fewer worms put down a layer of several sheets of moistened newspaper first and then add worms and food scraps.  The moistened newspaper is like a ledge for them to live on until the shredded newspaper underneath becomes moistened.

Always cover the worms with a layer of moist newspaper.  This can be a couple of sheets thick. You need to spray it every day or so to keep it moist.

Too Many Worms Can Make a Worm Bin Too Wet

It became very clear to me that when a worm bin gets too wet, it can possibly be because the worms have multiplied so much. Then there are just too many red wigglers for that amount of space.  With my last bin that was too wet, it stabilized very nicely when I removed some of the worms and put them into a new bin.  After I transferred the worms to a new bin,  the old bin didn’t have the problem anymore of getting too wet.