Everything You Need to Know about Vermiculture!
What is Vermiculture?
Vermiculture or vermicomposting is a decomposition process that uses a specific species of worm, typically red wigglers, to break down waste and turn it into fertile soil and natural fertilizer. The waste streams are made up of a mixture of food waste, bedding materials like shredded paper, and vermicast (worm castings). From these ingredients the worms create rich soil and a natural fertilizer. Vermicomposting is one of the easiest ways to create healthy fertile soil and reduce waste while improving your gardens health.
What type of worms?
There are a few varieties of worms that are specifically used for vermicomposting. The most common are red wigglers, Eisenia fetida, or red worms, Lumbricus rubellus. Composting worms are the best varieties because they thrive in a compost environment unlike earthworms. Earthworms, the large worms you see out in the garden, are not the variety for composting. Those guys are for aerating the soil and decomposing materials for your soil on site.
Where do I get the worms?
You will not find red wigglers squirming around in your backyard. You’ll have to import the little creatures. But don’t fret they are super easy to find. You can find these amazing creatures at your local nursery or bait shop. If you absolutely have to supply from outside your local area you can find them online. But always shop local first!
What do I feed the worms?
Ok. So, you are ready to get dirty! Well sorry to disappoint you because your gonna stay clean! Vermicomposting is literally the easiest and cleanest composting method. The worms will need a steady food supply that includes your kitchen scraps, all of them, shredded paper, and if you are feeling like you want to get a little dirty, manure.
**A few things on food**
- All Kitchen scraps are safe for the worms. They will be happy with tons of veggie scraps, bones and left-over meats, dairy, and even citrus. These worms are not picky!
- Shredded paper or bedding is another important ingredient for your worms and is such an easy ingredient to get. In fact, it is mailed directly to you every day, in the form of junk mail. Take all your junk mail, get rid of all the plastic parts, and shred it up for your worms to transform into amazing fertile soil. You can skip the super decorative ones with color all over it.
- IF you decide to use manure please make sure to use manure from grazer animals. Such as cows, horses, rabbits, goats, and chicken. These are safe manures. Do not use manure from you or your dog and/or cat. A little note to be aware of when using poo is ask the farmer when the last time the animal has been fed medicine. You’d want to wait a few days before collecting.
What about Pets and Rodents?
It is ok to see other insects inside of your worm bin. You may see pill bugs, roaches, earwigs, centipedes, mites, flys, maggots, ants, snails, slugs, and others. Don’t worry!! They have a happy home in the worm bin and will not migrate into your sterile home. They are more than happy to be with the worms. These bugs are helping the worms break down the waste and turn it into soil for your plants to thrive in.
For all you insect haters out there it’s time to get over it. Learn to love the bugs. Embrace them. Because they are the hard workers making sure you have all the amazing soil you need to grow hea
lthy nutrient dense food to eat.
Rodents can be a problem sometimes, but only if you are incorrectly covering your bin. Make sure your worm bin has a cover that is breathable and secure. This could be something very simple. For example, I use a burlap sack, an old coffee bag, that is nailed down on one end and tightly tucked all around making it pretty difficult for rodents to enter. So far, outside the neighborhood cat, I’ve had no issues. Another tip to prevent rodents is to cover the top of the bedding with cardboard so that the smell is reduced. This would be under the burlap sack. The cardboard will eventually breakdown, this is good, just replace it with another piece.
Where do I keep the worms?
The first thing you need to do before you buy any worms is to build, or buy, your worm farm. If you choose to buy a farm I do not recommend small box or deep styles. I believe the worms do better with shallower wider styles of bins. I built a super easy style worm bin exemplified to the left. The example below is one I do not recommend but
I’m sure sill works to a degree. Worm bins come in many different styles and sizes so feel free to be creative and try one you like. You can always update at a later time.
**An important note when deciding where to place your worm farm. Make sure to place it in a constantly shaded area where it is out of direct sunlight and is covered so it does not get direct rain. For example, under banana trees or large tree canopy, in a covered patio, on the North side of your house under an eve, or even under your sink.
How do I harvest the soil?
Harvesting the soil is pretty simple. The method I like to use is the bait and remove method. Make sure to plan about a month in advanced when using this method. The first thing you’ll want to do is pile all your food to one side of the bin baiting the majority of the worms to one side. After about a month take a shovel or hand trowel and remove the side with all the bedding. The majority of the worms should be on that side and you’ll notice them all over the place. Another method for
harvesting would be the screen method. This method involves adding the compost to the top of a screen and “sifting” the compost through leaving behind the worms. Sounds good in theory but what really happens is a mass murder of worms. This is because the compost is pretty moist and not super easy to get through the screen without forcing it through. There are other methods as well so find one that works best for you. For me it’s the bait and remove.
Once you have the soil removed let it dry out a little bit and then add to your garden or potted plants. Depending on how big your worm farm is will depend when you harvest. My 27.5 gallon worm farm has been going for about a year and I could have yielded multiple times by now but I’ve chosen to let it be.
Your worms like a moist environment so you’ll have to water them every so often. When you do water your worms make sure you have an outlet for the juice to drain and something for it to drain into. This brown juice is filled with nutrients and is considered a natural fertilizer. Water your plants with this beautiful elixir and your plants will thank you with tons of bounty and health. You do not have to cut the juice with water. You can use it straight up and often.
Vermiculture is the easiest and most efficient way to reduce your waste streams and collect natural fertilizer and amazing soil for your garden. There are tons of ways you can customize your worm farm to fit your needs. So, have fun, embrace the bugs, and you’ll have a happy and productive garden!
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