ANZ's Farms

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vermicompost: Nature's Organic Fertilizer

As the buckets of composted horse manure were dumped into the bed of our little red truck last week, I noticed a bonus -- lots of worms! I mean, LOTS of worms. The value of my $25 purchase of compost quadrupled instantly in my mind as I recalled seeing red wigglers offered for $25/lb. There were several pounds of worms in the multiple bucketfuls that followed us home on I-540. Granted, these were "common earthworms", not specialized red wigglers, but I knew they would speed the process of turning kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer just the same. So while my wonderful husband shoveled the compost from the truck bed to the garden, I sifted through the dirt still in the truck, rescuing earthworms from the slice of the shovel and beheading by the tiller blades. Some worms needed to go into the garden, so I let them pass and said a little prayer for their safety.

Vermicomposting is one of those homesteading to-do's that kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list. It should be easy to maintain a "worm farm", as my wonderful husband termed it, but I hesitated because I didn't want my ignorance to cause the demise of any creature, even worms. And I have many questions about their care and feeding. But this windfall has brought them to the top of the list ... so here goes.

A Worm Home. In what type of container do worms live best? Height, depth, material, etc. Two years ago, I watched a clip from the Martha Stewart show about vermicomposting. Soon after, I spoke with a local woman who sells worms and told her what I had learned. She quickly informed me that Martha was wrong about using a clear container; worms prefer darkness, so an opaque container is the best choice. I had an old blue Rubbermaid storage container on hand that I used. Holes for air at the top and drainage on the bottom need to be big enough to work but not so large that the worms can escape. The ideal depth of material in which they live is 8-12 inches. I used the compost they were already in for starters. A key factor is moisture ... keeping a good balance between wet enough and not drowning them. The moisture content of a wrung-out sponge is the goal.

Worm Food. has a list of proper worm foods. They love pumpkin, left over corn cobs (rinsed), watermelon and cantaloupe rinds. They like coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetables, fruits, crushed egg shells and banana peels. I had some of these, so I chopped them into small pieces and mixed them into the soil. Worms tolerate citrus, onions and garlic. I had some of these too, but left them in the compost crock by the sink. It helps to know not to put grass clippings into their home; the clippings get too hot. I had at first thought to add the worms to my fresh goat manure / grass clipping compost pile to speed the process there, but realize now I would have sent them to their deaths.

So they are sequestered in the shade on my screen porch, near the kitchen where the food scraps are. I will need to keep feeding them and spray them with water every now and then to keep the soil appropriately moist. I figure sometime down the road the worms and their castings (poop!) will go into the garden. When that time comes, I'll hold out some worms and start the process all over again.

No comments:

Post a Comment