Vermiculture (Worms) – Vermiculture Composting

Honestly, I’m not an expert on vermiculture but I do have an immense appreciation for these type soil dwellers and understand that they play a critical role in keeping our soils healthy.  Yet, I can’t claim to have purposely managed these critters accept through generous contributions of compost to my garden.  For this reason, I am borrowing the following text from…. for our collective enlightenment.

Vermiculture composting, also known as vermicomposting or worm composting, is the procedure of using worms and micro-organisms to recycle food scraps and other household waste into a nutrient-rich black soil.  This rich soil (worm castings) is the product of the worm’s digestion.  Worms are capable of eating between half to their full weight in waste each day. The worm castings are a natural fertilizer that provides a wonderful source of nutrients to plants, flower beds and gardens.  The castings are extremely valuable to the texture and fertility of the soil and can add 10 times the nutrients back into the soil that have been taken out during harvests.  Vermicompost increases the water-holding capacity of the soil and improves the overall soil structure. Your plants will grow stronger and have deeper root systems for better drought tolerance and disease resistance.

Red wigglers, manure worms, tiger worms, blue worms and red hybrid worms are used in  the vermiculture business and the vermicompost process.  These worms can be purchased on the internet, in a bait store or from your local worm farmer.  A pound of worms is all that is needed to start a worm farm.  These worms will reproduce quickly.  They have big appetites so expect them to eat their weight in waste every day.
Vermiculture bins can be basically a box with a lid.  They can be made of wood or plastic.  A loosely fitted lid will allow the worms the proper oxygen they need.  Always have drainage holes in the bottom of the vermiculture bin.  Vermicomposting worms like moist, dark and cool places.  Without the proper conditions and temperature the worms will try to escape the worm bin. Building a worm farm is easy and anyone can set up a worm farm.
Commercial vermiculture is the breeding of worms for re-sale. For many years worms were raised solely to sell in bait stores. Now with the new shift to commercial vermicast composting in the past two decades, the demand for worms has greatly increased.
A vermicomposting business solves two very important problems.  It takes care of organic waste and it produces an enriched soil that is extremely helpful for plants, gardens and lawns. Vermicomposting, through the use of worms, changes organic waste into a product that can be harvested regularly and sold.  The need for more vermicomposting sites around the world will continue to grow. Schools, institutions, military bases, prisons and other facilities can set-up vermicomposting bins right on their site to recycle food waste.
Vermiculture is an easy way to recycle food waste, help the environment, put nutrients back into the soil and make money, too. One third of household waste can be recycled through a worm farm. The environment is helped by keeping tons of waste out of landfills and vermicompost is an all-natural fertilizer that eliminates the need for harmful chemicals.  The worm castings add important nutrients back into the soil. This aids in stimulating healthy root growth, control erosion and enhance soil fertility. Worm composting can even be turned into a business with the right vermiculture technology.
 Since writing this piece on Vermiculture I have initiated a humble vermi-
composter. It is a 10-gallon plastic tub containing compost, 200 – 300 red wigglers and food scraps.  The system is kept in my basement where the air temperature stays between 55 – 65 F.    The plastic tub remains covered with a plastic lid.  So that a fresh supply of oxygen is available I drilled 1/4 inch holes around the sides of the container.  The holes are located approximately 1 to 2 inches below the top of the tub.
I monitor the moisture level within the system so that it doesn’t dry out or become too moist.   By the way,  I elected not to make drain holes for this system.   Regarding the addition (1 lb/sq. ft. of system’s soil surface area per week) of food scraps, it is important to keep these covered with soil to reduce the fruit fly (FF) population.  Additionally, I have introduced a FF trap which is a plastic cup, plastic lid, and plastic straw.  By placing a small amount of wine in the cup the FFs will make the long journey to nirvana and not return.  This system, created by John Allan, a well-known vermiculturalist, provides for a zero FF zone.  By the way, red wigglers sourced from California prefer Zinfadel while NY worms seem to enjoy Pinot Noir.
I am happy to be reducing our contribution of waste to the landfill while manufacturing a useful bi-product destined for the garden.  I will also conduct an experiment or two to study the effects vermicompost tea (liquid fertilizer) on plant growth and productivity.
More to come!!!

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