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Vermiculture 972003 4 13 10


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Vermiculture 972003 4 13 10

  1. 1. Vermiculture Dee Krasnansky POAC Affinity Group AGREEN Meeting April 30, 2010 What is Vermiculture? It is composting using special worms. Why Vermiculture? One can compost throughout the year by placing the worm bin in your house. One can make their own worm bin inexpensively and fairly easily. The worms make castings (solid wastes) and worm tea (liquid wastes), both of which are desirable and very effective organic fertilizers. One can use nightcrawlers in vermiculture and then, when the adults are mature and not reproducing, use for fish bait or simply place in outdoor gardens. They like to tunnel through deep soil, thus benefiting the garden through this aeration process. Main Types of Worms Used in Vermiculture If you discuss worms with an expert or want to buy them from a grower, it’s important to use the Latin names because each type of worm has a variety of common names, sometimes the exact same name for different species. Redworms (Lumbricus rebellus) Color: dark red to maroon, no striping between segments and has a light yellow underbelly Adult length: Up to 3 inches with 95-120 segments Food Preferences: Rich compost and decaying plant and animal material Temperatures: 64-72 degrees Cocoon hatching: 12-16 weeks Great wigglers, another great source of fish bait, also aerate the soil. Found in animal pastures and compost piles. Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida) Also known as tiger worms Color: Rust brown. Alternating bands of yellow and maroon Adult length: Up to 3 inches Habitat: Just under the soil surface Food Preferences: Very rich compost, manure piles, decaying plant and animal material Temperatures: 59-77 degrees Cocoon hatching: 35-77 days Excellent vermicomposting worm. Can eat its weight in food each day—a major accomplishment! Prolific reproducer. Can tolerate fluctuations in temperature, acidity and moisture levels, unlike other species. Some regenerative ability. S1
  2. 2. Red Tigers (Eisenia Andrei) Also known as tiger worms (see above) Color: Dark red or purple. Some have yellow bands and some don’t. Adult length: Up to 3 inches Habitat: Just under the soil surface and under mulch Food preferences: Manure, rich compost and decaying plant and animal material Great for composting; close relative of the Eisenia fetida—therefore, can eat quite a lot very quickly. Also used for bait. Nightcrawlers (Lumbricus terrestris) Color: Red, brown or a combination of these colors, some may be greenish. Adult length: Up to 12 inches Habitat:Vertical tunnels that can be up to 6 feet deep Food preferences: Leaf litter and mulch Temperature: @50 degrees Cocoon incubation time: 14-21 days Some regenerative ability but if cut closer to the end, then can end up with 2 heads or 2 tails. Not good for indoor vermicomposting because they want their tunnels to stay undisturbed. They appear on the surface at night to get food to bring down into the soil. Unco Industries manufactures them for vermicomposting and then promotes them for fish bait. Worm Bins Commercial Advantages Come with directions, less time and planning in the creation Multi-layered Automated Inserts Homemade for individual use Advantages Inexpensive Easily adaptable for varying household members Types Coolers, Styrofoam chests, old refrigerators, plastic storage bins, wooden bins Construction: Drill holes on each side near the top. Drill holes on the bottom. Suspend a shelf of chicken wire or similar material a few inches from the bottom. Either place a bin in another bin with no holes in the bottom or on top of a piece of plastic or wood with some edging to trap the worm tea. Between the bin with holes and the solid bottom, place items to hold up bin and keep out of the liquid. Take landscape fabric or something similar that breathes and cover the holes to discourage flies. S2
  3. 3. Other needed things: Long thermometer to gauge temp of compost Thermometer to gauge room temp pH meter Newspaper strips, straw, rock dust, animal manures, plant compost, coconut fiber, wood chips, worm food How many worms do I need? Collect kitchen scraps for one week. Weigh them. The ratio of worms to food is 2 to 1. If your scraps weigh one pound, then get two pounds of worms—appr. 2000. Feeding the worms Why buy worm food when I want to compost my kitchen scraps? Because problems will occur since you’re dealing with living beings. If you start off your effort by feeding proven worm food, then you can eliminate food as a source of difficulty. Foods to Avoid or Limit Citrus Meats and bones Garlic Heavily spiced foods like Mexican and Indian Hair Dairy products Eggs Fresh green wastes and manures Poisonous plants (like many houseplants) Oils Salt Wood ashes Pet feces Absolutely no metals, foils, plastics, chemicals (including solvents and insecticides), or soaps Problems Bad odor Too many food wastes, not enough air, too wet, too acidic, wrong food Be aware that foods in broccoli family are naturally stinky. If this bothers you, don’t put the food in the bin. Escaping worms Be sure of the exact type of worms in your bin (use the scientific name when ordering). Then check the moisture levels, temp and acidic conditions needed by that type. Use light to keep them in the bin. Dying worms Move living worms to another bin right away. Too wet, too dry, not enough food, temp, light levels, chlorinated water, wrong pH Flies Lid on bin, fly trap (vinegar + dishwashing liquid), bury food, vacuum bin with small hand-held vacuum Large grubs Came with grass clippings. Not hurting but competing with worms for food. Bait with melon rind. Mushrooms OK but do not eat Mold on food OK if not allergic. If allergic, then put bin outdoors and bury food well. S3
  4. 4. Other animals found in bin Ants—nuisance but no harm to worms. Use organic bait Centipedes—worm predators. Kill or take outside immediately. Enchytraeid worms (pot worms or white worms)—no harm Flies—see above and check book for more details on eliminating them Grubs—not a major problem but to eliminate, use melon rind Millipedes—OK Mites—many varieties. Red mites eat worms. Can’t eliminate entirely. Several ways to reduce this population: Sunlight, decrease water and food, bait of melon rinds, potato slices, change bedding. Water bin heavily but do not flood or place moist newspaper or heavy cloth on top of the bedding overnight. Mites will gravitate. Nematodes—some problems but basically OK Slugs—Ok but to eliminate: handpick, bait with bowl of beer nearby, use diatomaceous earth around legs of bin To avoid: bury food well Sow bugs: OK but to eliminate—sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top of bedding, handpick Springtails—OK but to eliminate--use little vacuum Commercial Worm Growing Unco Industries: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (Spring Grove, PA) Both have information and supplies, including the ability to ship worms. However, be aware that living beings can die, as you can read in the reviews. I had read an article about Uncle Jim by a master gardener in Carroll County. His order of 2000 worms arrived quickly with very healthy worms. Later, he visited the farm and wrote of a great experience. However, in reading reviews by customers, I saw more than one situation where the worms had died and customer service was not handled well. Start small, just for yourself. Experience the problems in dealing with these creatures. Then, think about expanding. Have a good business plan. More details are found in The Worm Book: The Complete Guide to Worms in Your Garden by Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA: 1998. This book is the basis for this handout and PPT. S4