Worms are in my opinion they are one of the most fundamentally important organisms on our planet. Worms create topsoil! Worms build a nutrient dense soil medium, creating an environment that plants can thrive. Worms are easy to keep at home in your backyard and even urban gardens, we can use these special little creatures to recycle our kitchen waste turning it into an organic fertilizer for use on our gardens.
Worms actually use decaying plant and animal remains and they convert it into viable soil in which almost all plant life depends upon.
After reserching for these articles I must say that scientifically speaking, using worm castings, actually is the better than any fertilizer availiable, on the market anywhere. The same can be said about comfrey fertilizer, see my blog on diy comfrey fertilizer. And unlike manufactured fertilizers, you cannot use too much, it will never hurt any part of your plants.
-the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste, turning the waste into a nutrient-rich material called vermicompost.
-(also called worm compost, vermicast, worm castings, worm humus or worm manure) is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer and soil conditioner.
The benifits of using vermicast.
# Vermicompost is the highest grade of organic fertiliser available.
# Research has shown that vermicompost contains
5× the available nitrogen,
7× the available phosphorous,
3× the exchangeable magnesium,
11× the available potash and
1.5 × the calcium found in topsoil.
( those statistics are staggering! )
# Vermicompost is an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilisers.
#It adds benificial organisms, nutrients and minerals to the soil, promoting plant health and growth.
#Micro-organisms in vermicompost convert nutrients into a more bio-available form for plants.
#Plants grow stronger and have deeper root systems for better drought tolerance and disease resistance.
#The vermicompost tea contains micro-organisms that will inoculate the soil against harmful organisms that feed on plant roots.
#Vermicompost added to soil provides a natural organic fertiliser and source of nutrients to the soil dramatically increasing the structure and fertility of the soil.
#Vermicompost tea is invaluable in plant cultivation and production in the organic garden, the urban garden or even farming on a larger scale.
One of the main advantages of composting with a wormery is that when it’s designed vertically it doesn’t take up much space and its a relatively small scale process, and so, can easily be used in an urban garden also, to recycle kitchen waste into ready made fertilizer and liquid worm tea. ( high in nitrogen and phosphates- is a rocket fuel for plants. The simplest way is to buy a ready made worm farm ( see my store page soon for worm farms and worms), they are relatively inexpensive. Alternatively any large plastic bin, or rigid container can be adapted. The bin needs to have a lid, and good drainage, a tap in bottom tray that collects the liquid. And more trays can be added as your diy farm grows. Even old tyres on plastic sheeting can be stacked to contain your worms.
There are several species of worm useful for a wormery, however the most commonly used are the Red Wigglers.You may need to purchase your first batch (look in my store page) and usually 2000 is the amount you would start with.
Now there are five things worms required to be healthy and happy.
# a hospitable living environment.
The right bedding is key to vermiculture success. It should be high in carbon content, and wet like a sponge, it should mimic forest floor leaf matter like in their natural environment. Cardboard and shredded paper, hay and composted horse, sheep and cow manure make excellent bedding. Poultry guano is to strong and is not recommended.I used coconut coir in starting off my worm farm.
# food –
Kitchen scraps can be placed ontop of the trays weekly. Their food consists primarily of decomposing organic matter where Carbon sources (such as dried leaves, shredded paper, cardboard, etc.) are mixed with Nitrogen sources (such as food scraps, grass clippings, manure, etc.)
Worms will eat almost any type of vegetable and fruit scraps, partly decomposed compost, shredded newspaper, small amounts of grass clippings, leaves and even damp cardboard pieces. Add crushed eggshells as the worms need the calcium in the shells.The worms further love potato peelings, carrots and carrot tops, lettuce, cabbage, celery, apple peelings, banana peels, orange rinds, grapefruit and watermelon rinds. They also like cornmeal, oatmeal, coffee grounds with the filter and tea bags.
Do not add onions or garlic or too much acidic food like citrus, pineapples and tomato, strong spices and acid (sour) food such as large amounts of vinegar and salt. Avoid chemicals, for example, sawdust from treated wood. Do not feed them cooked food, meat scraps, bones, oily food and dairy products such as cheese and butter, as these will attract “bad” bugs and cause odours. Never feed them cat or dog poop!
Keep a plastic tub in your refrigerator to hold food scraps so they will still be nice and fresh when you feed the worms. Do not let them rot and become smelly.
The compost worms are low-maintenance, and you can skip two or three weeks without feeding them any longer or you will have dead worms !(www.seasonsindia.com).
Cover the bedding and food with wet newspaper, wool blanketing, or a wet thick pice of fabric like an old sloppy Joe. It is important to keep this covering moist as well.
Worms need oxygen just like all animals, they actually breath through their skin and so it is important that the bedding is well ventilated and porous and keep an eye that the moisture, bedding and also, too much food, isn’t going to create anaerobic conditions. This can be rectified by adding more paper, hay and course manures. Eggshell can help counteract acid conditions.
# enough moisture
Worms will die if conditions get too dry, so keep an eye on the water content of your farm. To little or to much water content is a problem. Keep a wet covering ontop of top tray to keep in moisture in and prevent evaporation. I found if I pour water over the farm once a week and collect the worm tea from the tap in bottom of farm it keeps the moisture content at a suitable level. You do need to have a bottom level that the water drains into. This is your worm tea and can be diluted 1-10 in your watering can to fertilize your plants regularly.
# protection from extremes of temperatures.
A worms ideal habitat is warm, dark, and damp. Place your bin in a frost free sheltered position out of full sunlight, as most of the bins are dark in color and heat up really quickly in the sun. Very hot and very cold temperatures should be avoided.
Collecting your vermicompost.
Depending on how many worms you start of with, after 3 to 6 months, your little worms would have turned the organic matter into rich and dark super vermicompost (the so-called “Black Gold”) – filled with beneficial micro-organisms and concentrated plant nutrition.
Separating your worms from the vermicompost.
There’s a few ways to separate your worms from the worm castings, one method is to migrate them to one side or area or add a new tray with food. Or have part light over the tray, worms will not stay where there is light.
I recently moved all my worms to a new tray with fresh bedding and I’ve kept the worm castings to use in my garden.
Firstly I lift the tray contrasting the worms out from the farm and I tip the castings with the worms onto a sheet of plastic. I spread out the castings and cover a small area with leaves where I want the worms to move to. (Wet newspaper is suitable for this.)
In theory this should work, however, the worms quickly start escaping in all directions, so I sort through it by hand, and after some time, and a second going over, then a final check, I’m sure I have all my worms out of the castings. This is a time when you can access the health of your wormery.
I notice that I have a few large worms, but a lot of younger tiny worms. Which means they are reproducing.
From the bottom reservoir, which to my surprise is full of worm sludge (goodness) I rinse it out collecting the worm mud in a bucket. I’ll use this to make worm tea fertilizer for the next few weeks.
I use a brick of coconut coir which I rehydrate in a bucket of water, I place this in the new tray and I also add a little of the castings to the new tray, for texture and nutrients. I add fruit and veg scraps, not a whole lot. I place a wet covering over it and place the lid on the tray and put the wormery in a sheltered spot.
Using your vermicompost
Use half worm castings half sand as a seedling mix, it drains well.
A liquid application (worm tea) will also give very good results when applying to the soil and to the plant leaves once or twice a month.
Mixing castings with good topsoil, compost, vermiculite or perlite in equal amounts makes great potting mix.
Use as a top dressing for potted plants arms on garden beds, and fruit trees.
Sprinkle in hole or furrows in beds when planting veg.
Add with compost and mulch when building and conditioning garden beds.
You can’t overdose with it, it won’t harm anything. But a little goes a long way!
Check out my store page for worm Composting farms, I would recommend the worm farm that is made from recycled plastic.
I always prefer products that are manufactured with recycled plastic if there is that option.