Farming 101

Vermicomposting Basics

By Lynette Simango

The most efficient way to make organic manure is through the use of earthworms worms which devour all food wastes. Nutrients in vermicompost are often much higher than traditional garden compost. If one wants to start vermicomposting one should have a worm bin. This can be constructed or brought from a store. Materials differ – can use plastic or wood, depending on which one is available. Some people make use of recycled containers like old bathtubs or trunks. The latter might be easy to find. The bins shouldn’t be that deep to allow for aerobic conditions lest odour develops, the worst part been the death of worms. Each bin should have a cover to conserve moisture and exclude light. Worms prefer darkness

Depending on where one might want to put the bins (indoors/outdoors), it is advisable that they cover with a straw mulch or moist burlap to ensure darkness while providing good air ventilation. Another advantage of covering up bins is that this will protect the worms from predators such as ants, mites and bites. Since cold affects the worms as well and they wont work to their best ability, they is need to insulate the bins during such times.

One area of concern should be bedding. If that is not done perfectly, many things may also go wrong thus affecting the whole vermicomposting process. Bedding can be made from various materials such as shredded newspapers (non-glossy), computer paper, or cardboard, shredded leaves, straw, hay, or dead plants, sawdust, or compost or aged (or composted) manure. For those who do chicken production, some of these materials might be familiar. Bedding materials high in cellulose are best because they help aerate the bin so the worms can breathe.

Earthworms eat all kinds of food and yard wastes, including tea bags, vegetable and fruit waste, pulverized egg shells, grass clippings, manure, and sewage sludge. However one should avoid bones, dairy products, and meats that may attract pests, and garlic, onions, and spicy foods. Limited amounts of citrus can be added, but too much can make the compost too acidic. The composts should be kept at a pH of 6.5 if possible, with upper and lower limits at 7.0 and 6.0, respectively. In the event that the comoost becomes overly acidic, this can be corrected by adding crushed eggshells.

Food scraps can be continually added to the bin for up to 2 to 3 months, or until you notice the bedding material disappear. When the bedding disappears, harvest the worms and finished compost, then refill the bins with new bedding material.Overloading the bin with food wastes can cause foul odours.

Another thing worth taking note is that worms are very sensitive to salts. Many types of manure have high soluble salt contents. This is not usually a problem when the manure is used as a feed, because the material is usually applied on top, where the worms can avoid it until the salts are leached out over time by watering or precipitation. If manures are to be used as bedding, they can be leached first to reduce the salt content. Did you enjoy this article and you would like to learn more about vermicomposting? Give us a signal below.

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