Grow Your Own, Nevada! Fall 2012: Safe Composting and Vermicomposting


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  • The process of utilizing worms and microorganism to consume/convert organic waste into a nutrient-rich humus like material known as vermicompost. Actually it is worm castings or worm poop !
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  • Small woprm bins samples
  • Home made version – drill a few holes for air and drainage Works, inexpensive – a better way would be to drill 2” holes and use 2” soffet vents
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  • Experiments with Compost For many years gardeners and farmers alike have added worm castings to the soil to increase the health of their flowers and crops. Although this does not add a significant amount of nutrients into the soil, it does in fact enhance the microbial activity of the soil. With this in mind, the increase in microbial activity allows for a greater amount of beneficial microbes that aid in plant growth. To understanding the effects of worm castings on plant growth and development, Lisa Wickland of Bellingham, Washington conducted experimental trials on various flowers and vegetables. The first of many experiments involved growing marigolds in 0 to 50% worm castings. Those grown in 20% worm castings had the greatest germination rate as well as increased growth compared to all other treatments. The picture below depicts the marigolds before their true leaves appeared. It seems that past 20% worm castings, the soil will reach a saturation point where as it no longer increases plant growth and can potentially damage the plant. This is especially noticeably during seed germination. Therefore, caution should be used when planting with worm castings.
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  • Grow Your Own, Nevada! Fall 2012: Safe Composting and Vermicomposting

    1. 1. VermicompostingWendy Hanson Mazet
    2. 2. What is Vermicomposting?•Utilizing worms and microorganisms to convertorganic waste into a nutrient-rich humus like materialknown as vermicompost (worm castings).•Vermicompost does not need to be turned becauseworms "turn" the organic matter in their digestive tract,eliminating work for gardeners.
    3. 3. Why do worm composting?• Easy winter composting• Great teaching tool for the family and kids• Manageable size• Great for people with small yards or not yards• New kind of pet….• Worm castings are fantastic compost!• No screening needed and a small amount goes a long way
    4. 4. Earthworms• 3000 species of earthworms worldwide• Common Species for us• Lumbricus terrestis – Night crawler• Lumbricus rubellus – Red worm, Manure Worm• Eisenia fetida - Red Wiggler, Manure Worm, Tiger Worm
    5. 5. The garden worm Knightcrawler or dew worm (Lumbricus terrestris).• Not a composter. – Garden variety worm are soil- dwelling species that tunnel & borrow. – Do not consume large volumes of organic material. – Will not reproduce well while being confined. – Live several feet below surface. – Feed on the surface at night. – Require cool (45 F) temperature.
    6. 6. Vermicomposting Characteristics of the Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida)• Can consume 50 to 80% of it’s weight of food per day• Requires 70% moisture – to breath• Temperature – 60 - 80 Degree F• Acidity – pH 6 – pH 8• Aeration – Good ventilation and drainage• Bedding and Food Pistils Nursery• Surface area• Darkness
    7. 7. Vermi Reproduction• Yes, the are hermaphrodites, but they are not self-fertlizing• Worms are asexual (do not need a partner) but as a rule they do use a partner.• Mutual exchange of sperm• Fertilize in cocoons – 4 eggs per cocoon – Egg incubate about 3 weeks
    8. 8. Worm Bin necessities• Must be convenient• Easily accessed• Well-ventilated• Covered and protected from wind, sun, and animals• Must staff with in the safe temperatures for worm health (60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit)
    9. 9. Worm Bins• Size – What do you need? • Track your food waste for a week • You need 1 square foot of surface per pound of waste• Example: – 5 pounds food waste = 5 square feet of surface needed – Bin should measure 1’ x 2’ x 3’ (6 square feet) Trinity Ranch
    10. 10. Vermicomposting Home Made
    11. 11. The Wald Effect
    12. 12. Queenlee Coupons• YOU’LL NEED:• Red worms – about one pound• Two (2) 8-10 gallon Rubbermaid totes• Power Drill• A couple good size rocks or wood pieces for spacing• Newspaper and cardboard
    13. 13. Can-O-Worms• Most popular• Enclosed tier system• Easily moved• Bottom catch tray and spigot• Stackable mesh trays• Worms migrate vertically• Easy to harvest castings
    14. 14. More BinsWorm Factory Tumbleweed Worm Cafe VermiHut Worm Compost Bin
    15. 15. Vermicomposting OutsideRed wigglers – can not tolerate temperatures below 40degrees Fahrenheit and will die if temperature become hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit
    16. 16. Care…..
    17. 17. Tips• Food – provide a variety• Bury foodstock under bedding• Don’t overload the system• Keep thinking like an outdoor system• maintain a safe Carbon to Nitrogen ration
    18. 18. What to feed worms- (No meat, dairy products or oils and fats)- veggie and fruit scraps- Bread and grains- Coffee grounds and filters- Tea bags- Experiment and monitor what your worms like, they are finicky. Many times they may not eat:- citrus fruits- Eggplant- Avocado skins
    19. 19. The Do’s The Don’ts• Fruit & (non greasy) • Orange peels (can be Vegetable scraps toxic)• Banana peels • Plant cuttings treated with• Grains & cereals, clean herbicides or insecticides pastas • Meats• Tea bags & leaves • Dairy products• Cooked eggs & Shells • Foods coated with oils or• Coffee grounds & filters fatty high acid solutions• Potatoes• Breads• Leaves• Plant clippings
    20. 20. Trouble ShootingSymptoms Problems SolutionWorms are dying Not enough food Bury the food in bedding Too dry Moisten until slightly damp Too wet Add bedding Too hot Put bin in shade Bedding is eaten Harvest worm compost, add fresh beddingBin smells rotten Not enough air circulation Add fresh bedding Non-compostables present Remove rotting materials, etc.Flies in bin Food exposed Secure lid, cover food scraps with bedding, cover worms and bedding with plastic sheet.
    21. 21. Vermicomposting Castings ( worm poop)• Rich in plant nutrients• Contain a high percentage of humus• Biologically active containing thousands of bacteria, and enzymes• 5 times the available nitrogen• 7 times the available potash• 1 ½ times more calcium than found in good top soil Good stuff !!
    22. 22. Thank You As little as 5% worm castingsadded to plants can increase there First with 0% worm castingsvigor and flowering. Plants on left added as well as two additional without. Plants on right with. bins with 10 and 20% worm WormsEct castings. (WSU)
    23. 23. Vermicomposting Resources Adventures of Vermi the Worm Worm Woman – Mary Applehoff – Worms Eat My Garbage’The Eathworm Book: How to Raise and Use Earthworms for Your Farm and Garden, by Jerry Minnich Worm Digest The Compost Resource Page