In Brief: Vermicomposting/Worm Composting
Vermicomposting has been one of the most important subjects in agriculture for ages. It is a great way to introduce aeration while quickly breaking down organic material. But what is vermicomposting and how can you ensure that what you add to your compost pile is right for your worms? Here’s a guide to start and keep your plants healthy with the method.
Worm composting is a good method for growers who choose to feed their plants with organic fertilizers. In this article, we will give you all the relevant information about worm composting and what you need to know to use it correctly.
If you are interested in the subject, continue reading, and discover how to do it step by step.
- In Brief: Vermicomposting/Worm Composting
- What is Worm Composting Method
- History of Worm Composting
- How to Make and Maintain a Worm Compost (Vermiculture Process)
- How to Get the Worms
- The Vermiculture Process
- How to Use Worm Compost
- Troubleshooting Tips
- How to Use Worm Compost
- Benefits of Worm Composting
What is Worm Composting Method
Worms have a fundamental role in agriculture. In fact, they are mentioned in historical documents of Cleopatra, where the earthworm is sanctified as a species of prosperity for crops.
What is the method about?
Vermicomposting, also called worm casting or worm composting, is the term given to the process of conversion of biodegradable matter from worms into vermicompost (as it should be called). According to Eric Vinje, the founder of Planet Natural, you can refer it to as “organic garbage disposal.”
As the organic matter goes through the worm’s digestive tract, it mixes with a resident microflora (such as our intestinal bacteria) and digestive enzymes.
The partially-digested matter finally leaves the worm’s digestive tract as “waste” after which bacteria are responsible for the decomposition process, contributing to its naturalization phase.
This naturalization of organic matter makes it usable by plants, not only at the time of application but also remains over time.
History of Worm Composting
The history of worm composting is traceable to Egypt. The Egyptians had a great admiration for worms, and they knew that these animals are largely responsible for the fertility of the Nile Valley, according to WSU Nature.
But it was Aristotle, in the history of vermiculture, who named the worms as “the intestines of the earth” for their mobility within the soil and for the obvious benefits that they offer to soils.
Queen Cleopatra of ancient Egypt conferred on it the title of “sacred animal”, and people who tried to remove them from her kingdom to other territories were punished with the maximum penalty.
Until 1880, there was no scientific data on this annelid.
Charles Darwin, despite his studies in technology, was interested in worms from an early age.
And he delved a lot into the agricultural benefits of these organisms in his book: “The Formation of Vegetable Mold Through the Action Of Worms” in 1881.
In that book, Darwin indicates that the plow is one of the oldest and most useful inventions of man.
But long before it existed, he mentioned that the earth was plowed regularly and continuously by worms.
How to Make and Maintain a Worm Compost (Vermiculture Process)
How to Get the Worms
Before obtaining worm compost, you definitely have to get the worms first; that’s if you’re not planning to buy already-processed compost.
At this point, one of the most frequently asked questions is: where can I get the worms?
First, you have to get Californian worms. It is necessary to contact the agricultural store and see that they are the red ones. Another way to get them is in fishing stores, where they are often used as bait for fish.
And would you like to collect them yourself? Fredrick Dunn shows us why in this video:
Now, let’s go ahead with the vermiculture process!
The Vermiculture Process
Vermiculture brings with it a process that we will see below.
Step 1: Firstly, you need to get a box with thermal insulation, also called a worm bin or box.
Step 2: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends having holes at both ends of the bin, one for ventilation and the bottom one for liquid drainage. Place a base container without holes to retain the humus liquid (this also works as fertilizer).
Step 3: Place the neck of a plastic bottle with its lid at the bottom of the vermicompost box. This will help you collect the liquid that will release the humus.
Step 4: Place some wooden blocks underneath to make the feet of the vermicomposter. This will, thus, prevent it from being on the ground.
Step 5: Next, place the worms in their new home and cover them with soil.
Step 6: The next thing you will do is place the organic matter from your kitchen or vegetable waste inside. This will be the food of the worms.
Step 7: It is important to bear in mind that the worms’ food must only be organic and vegetable matter. No rotten meat, cigarette butts, or fish scraps.
Step 8: Now that they have their food, cover the box, and pierce it.
Do you need an alternative way of having your vermiculture project setup and running? Watch the video below as the City of Sydney provides a 4-step process:
How to Use Worm Compost
Now is the time to discover how to use worm composts in our plantations or orchards. Check out the steps below:
- At first, sift the humus to separate all the material that has not decomposed and return it to the first box.
- With a sieve and some quick movements, leave the finished humus in the container.
- Then return the top of the sieve back to the worm bin so they can continue their work with it.
- To continue with the use of humus, it will depend on what you need to plant. The first thing will be to open a furrow around the plant. Be very careful not to hurt the roots; all the earth removed will be saved for use later.
- When you see the roots, apply the compost around the plant (approximately 100 grams) and then fill in with the soil that you had previously removed.
Below are a few problems that can occur and how to address them.
My worm farm stinks!
- Too much feed: Too much feed can make a worm farm stink. As soon as there is too much food in a heap, and the worms cannot keep up with the food, anaerobic conditions arise. This means too little or no oxygen is included in the rotting process, and the organic waste rots instead of composting. Either you feed smaller amounts or distribute the feed well within the worm farm and cover it with a little cultivation soil, compost (unfertilized), or pieces of paper/cardboard.
- Wrong feed: Wrong food such as cooked food, dairy products, or meat stinks very quickly and should therefore not be taken to a worm farm. Worms are very reluctant to eat this type of organic waste, if at all, they sometimes may want to flee. If you have fed them incorrectly, the best thing to do is to remove the leftovers and put them in the organics bin. The unpleasant smell will then disappear very quickly.
I have small, white organisms on my worm farm
The small white animals are springtails (pictured above). They also eat organic waste and appear over time in most worm farms, sometimes more, sometimes less.
The little white roommates are not at all harmful to other animals (worms) or humans. Rather, with their presence, they ensure an even faster composting process.
ATTENTION: If there are an extremely large number of springtails, this can be a sign that the pH value in the worm box is too low. To solve this, sprinkle a tablespoon of mineral mix over the earth about once a month. This neutralizes the pH value in the worm farm and supplies it with essential minerals.
My worms want to flee! – what should I do?
If you are just starting a worm farm/worm box/worm bucket, it is quite normal for the worms to want to flee first. The little animals have not yet got used to their new environment.
And in the beginning, there may be a lack of natural microorganisms with which worms feel comfortable.
The whole thing takes some time to get used to. If your worm farm has been in operation for a long time and the worms want to escape all of a sudden, then you have probably fed them with something inappropriate.
Or it is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry in there.
Briefly follow up on these points, consider what you recently fed (check our feeding tips), and determine whether the environmental conditions are right. So you will quickly find the cause and can counteract it.
How to Use Worm Compost
We can apply the worm composts in several ways, but always depending on what we want to do in the garden.
- To fertilize your garden and improve plant growth
If you already have a plantation and want to improve the soil conditions, apply approximately 1 kilo of worm compost on the surface for each square meter.
In this way, you will help the soil to be nourished with the previously made mixture. Spread it over the entire surface and let the nutrients do the rest.
- For sowing
If you are just starting to sow, apply the humus on the root ball or mound of earth where the plant will be.
The recommended amount is approximately 100 grams. This will produce the necessary nutrients for proper seed germination.
- For fruit transplants
In this case, it is advisable to administer at least 4 kilos of worm humus once the ground has been raked in the area to carry out the transplant.
The great advantage of providing nutrients with worm fertilizer to fruit trees is that it increases their flavor and the fruit’s size.
Benefits of Worm Composting
Without a doubt, this compost is one of the most used for its extensive benefits. It is one of the best natural and organic fertilizers, even backed by science.
It is important to recognize what all its properties are and how it acts in our garden.
It protects plants
In addition to providing nutrients to the soil, worm castings also protect plant roots against pathogens and bacteria.
This is mainly because worm castings contain more than billions of microorganisms per gram. These little soldiers can prevent your plants from diseases or fungus.
You get more tasty fruits
Using worm compost makes the fruits larger and better-tasting.
According to The Tasteful Garden, worm compost helps plants assimilate minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, providing a higher sugar index to fruits.
In addition, your fruits will have a longer life span since it slows down the aging of plants.
It improves soil structure
Another great advantage is that it improves the structure of the soil. Through tunnels that transmit more air to the soil, they avoid the roots’ suffocation in very compact soils.
With these tunnels, the worms transform the natural clay of the soil into sand, improving the passage of air.
Does not smell bad
Perhaps one of the best benefits. There are many types of organic fertilizers the particular smell of manure comes to mind.
By their digestive processes, the worms assimilate all the nutrients and discard the humus that has a particular smell of wet earth. By its own natural processes, humus will not cause any rot or decay of any kind.
With this, you can say goodbye forever to the bad fertilizer smells in your garden.
Vermicompost in the bottom tray generally contains many more worms. Place the tray to be harvested under a light source: the worms are photophobic and, therefore, sensitive to light, so they will sink to the bottom of the tray.
Sorry guys, it’s not worm pee! The liquid comes from the moisture in the waste, which seeps through the vermicompost and brings out the nutrients, minerals, and trace elements present as well as the good bacteria. It’s like yogurt… but black! Once the system is turned on, you will harvest between 10cl and 15cl of liquid (worm tea) every day from the tap of your worm farm.
Vermicomposting offers many benefits to plants.
The end result (the worm compost) contains nutrients available to plants such as nitrates, phosphates, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
It is rich in growth hormones and in humic acids.
Worm castings protect plants against pests and diseases, and best of all, do not contain pathogens. Best of all, if you have the patience, you can do the vermiculture yourself.