Worm Compost

Vermiculture. Vermicompost. Vermicast. Vermiwhat?

 

Vermi is from the Latin vermis, meaning worm.  Vermiculture is the cultivation of certain earthworms to harvest a powerful natural, organic fertilizer called vermicompost.   These special earthworms, usually Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida), eat food scraps and break them down with the help of  beneficial microorganisms living in their digestive tracts.  The waste excreted by the worms is the fertilizer known by many names: vermicompost, vermicast, worm castings, & worm compost.   These worm castings are so valuable because they contain high concentrations of plant nutrients, improve soil structure and water-holding capacity, as well as balance soil pH and suppress soil-borne diseases.  Worm castings also contain beneficial microbial life which is responsible for converting nutrients into forms than can be absorbed by plants.

 

Red wigglers enjoying a sprouting peanut

 

How To Use Worm Castings

Soil Amendment:

Add to soil at rate of 1 pound per 12 ft2
Initial Planting:
Mix 1/2 cup in each hole before planting
Continuous Fertilizer:
Indoor Plants:
Add 2 Tablespoons per plant
Container Plants:
Add 1/2 cup to soil around plant, mix, & water
Garden Plants:
Add 1/2 cup to soil around plant, mix, & water
Compost Tea:
Compost tea is a powerful liquid fertilizer that is sprayed on plants or applied by watering into the soil.  It has an enriched microbial life and concentrates the already amazing properties of worm compost.   It is best used within four hours of being made, and fortunately it is VERY easy to make at home:

What You’ll Need
2 cups of worm compost
4 gallons of water
3 Tablespoons of molasses
1 5-gallon bucket
1 aquarium air pump with tubing
1 paint filter
twine or zip tie

Directions

1.  Fill the bucket with 4 gallons of lukewarm water and insert the air pump tubing so the water is aerating.   Let the water aerate for a few hours to remove any chlorine.   It is very important to aerate tap water first to remove chlorine because chlorine kills beneficial organisms.   The goal of compost tea is to create beneficial organisms.

2.  Place the worm compost in the paint filter and secure with twine or a zip tie.

3.  Pour in the molasses, which is a food source for the beneficial bacteria.

4.  Allow the mixture to aerate for 24 hours.   Some people aerate for 36 hours,  but any longer than that will result in a decrease of beneficial bacteria.

5.  Use by pouring into a spray bottle and spraying plants or watering into the soil.

Notes:
Use within 1-4 hours!  Compost tea decreases in microbial activity significantly after 4 hours, so never buy pre-made compost tea.
Some people recommend using pantyhose to contain the compost, but research indicates the mesh is too small for good microbial activity.   The larger mesh of the paint strainer better promotes microbial activity.

Environmental Benefits

Just like us, organic matter such as vegetable scraps or wood chips needs water and air to break down so that nutrients are released and returned to the earth to feed other plants and animals.   When we throw away organic matter in the trash instead of composting it, it goes to a landfill where it is  buried in a pile.   The organic matter tries to break down, but without the presence of oxygen, disastrous things happen.   It starts creating methane and nitrous oxide, nasty greenhouse gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming.   The good news is, a large amount of what we throw away can be composted.   We can redirect those wastes from the landfill to our backyards, local farms, and agriculture.

It helps to think of the world as one big cycle.   We grow the food, eat the food, and instead of throwing the wastes (food scraps) away, we use those to feed the worms.   The worms then create a waste (worm castings).   The worm castings are used to feed the plants that feed us.   Then, instead of throwing the food scraps away, we use those to feed the worms.   The cycle continues.   Wastes become inputs for something else, so they are always reused, never thrown away.   It creates a continuous circle, never ending.  Sustainable.   Suddenly the recycle symbol make so much sense:

Another major environmental benefit of compost relates to stormwater runoff.  Stormwater runoff occurs when it rains and instead of soaking into the ground for filtration, the water runs along roofs, roads, sidewalks, driveways, alleys, and parking lots, picking up motor oil, pesticides, and fertilizers.   These chemicals flow into storm drains and flow with the water to the streams, creeks, and rivers.  These nasty pollutants become concentrated in areas where these streams, creeks, and rivers meet, areas called watersheds.    The Chesapeake Bay watershed is one of these critically affected areas.

Soil containing compost retains fertilizers better than synthetic fertilizers so they stay in the soil instead of following the stormwater runoff.   Compost also helps prevent soil erosion.   Since compost itself contains high nutrient concentrations and suppresses soil borne diseases, it helps eliminate the need for fertilizers altogether!

Can I Do It?

Yes!  Absolutely!  It’s easier than you think!

You can create this wonderful natural organic fertilizer at home and amend it to your garden or container soil for bigger, healthier plants and healthier soil.   All it takes is a plastic tub, a drill, some newspaper, and some worms.   One pound of worms can handle approximately five pounds of food scraps a week.   You can collect and weight your food scraps for a few weeks if you want to get a good estimate of your weekly needs.

To create your worm bin, the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center has a great online publication titled Indoor Redworm Composting.  It tells you everything you need to know including how to make a bed, what you can feed them, and how to harvest the compost.   You can link to the publication here.    We supply finished compost and red wiggler worms for vermicomposting.   Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing compost or red wigglers:

Contact Us

 

Composting Program

We understand.   Worms aren’t for everyone.   You can still help the environment and keep organic food wastes out of the landfills without touching the squirmy little guys.  In our composting program, waste from your kitchen becomes the source material for vermicomposting.   You can help create worm compost, a natural super-fertilizer for local crops.   In this way, you are really closing that recycling circle and helping create true sustainability – turning waste into food for our local community!

How It Works:
We provide a collection bucket and a list of compostable items.   You put food waste in the bucket instead of the trash.     We pick up the bucket weekly, when we drop off your CSA basket of fresh produce if you are a member.   We feed your food waste to the red wigglers and they create worm compost which we use to grow super healthy food.   The cycle continues.  Help be more sustainable!

Interested?