|5th September 2009||#1 (permalink)|
RaDicaL Soil enThUsiAst
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: the valleys of cali
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worm bin guide
Its been a long long time since i posted so i hope im not posting in the wrong place. I looked around, trying to find a compost or vermicompost thread but i ended up with nothing. So my bad if im doing something some else has done in the past..
Well i wanted to show (educate if you will) others on a very simple method of composting. Its called vermiculture or vermicompost and im sure many have heard of it or know of the end product. Vermicompost end product has a few aliases: worm casting (EWC), worm humus, or worm manure. But there all pretty much the same thing, excellent broken down organic matter, that not only feeds our plants as a nutrient rich organic fertilizer/soil conditioner but also inoculants ( add micros/biology too) our soil and or foliage (leafs), helps build soil structure (humus/ builds arrogates who hold moisture & forms air pockets) & helps prevent soil nutrients from washing away when watering (worm mucus).
Vermiculture is a method of raising worms, usually red worms, in boxes or worm bins & feeding them kitchen waste and organic matter to collect ther pooh. This composted manure is then collected and used to help build potting soil, make water soluble nutrients/inoculants or used as a top dress as a soil conditioner.
Earth worm casting is said to be one of the best known manures sitting up there with the oh so great guano’s.
But unlike most manures EWC can be made just as easy as compost but takes a lot less time then most composting methods to get the goods. Worms can eat their own weight in 24 hours, so a pound of worms could easily turn a pound of waste to one of the best organic composted manures ever!
For those who are interested in this type of composting, then a worm bin is in need. Worms can easily crawl into compost and breed ther but building a worm bin specifically to breed and harvest worm shit, is recommended.
Constructing a worm bin can be as complex as some soil mixes or as simple as a rubber maid with holes drilled in it. Of course I recommend the KIS method and heres a link of a video on constructing a bin, that is very similar to the worm bin I use.
My worm bin is built out of a old rubbermaid that I had sitting in my garage. You can buy these for 5-10$ or you can get them for 2$ or less at a swap meat or yard sell. Once you got your rubber maid you want to drill some holes on the sides of the bin. IMO the more the better but dont get out of hand. These holes will help aerate the bin and prevent excessive water from drowning the worms and depleting oxygen. You want to drill small enough holes that the worms wont be able to crawl out!
From here the worm bin is done! Pretty simple but again you can pimp it out if want. Drilling a nice size hole at the bottom of the bin and covering with a fine mesh screen will also help drain excess moister. This moister that drips out is called leachate or compost leachate, and consist mainly of enzymes, hormones and soluble nutrients that were extracted from the bin. This leachate can be collected and once diluted with water can be used alone or in ACT to boost plant growth by building soil structure, raising nutrients percentage in soil and improve water retention capacity. Again this isn’t needed for a healthy bins/ healthy worms its just an little extra thing I thought Id mention.
Once your satisfied with the bin its time prepare the bin for our friends. Worms prefer to be kept in a moist, cool, shady environment and bedding is recommended for worms to live happily. Bedding can be made by shredding paper and or loose organic matter.
IMO diversity is key to healthy soil/compost and soil/compost biology, that being said I use both organic matter and shredded paper. I do a lot of little things because to me it’s the little things that count; worms prefer that shredded paper to be moist, so damping paper with water is recommended. But if you have some extra compost tea or better aerated compost tea (ACT), then by all means soak the paper in that. For organic matter I like to get creative, I mix my soaked paper with peat moss and or coco coir, finished compost, potting soil and parshley composted organic matter.
I also go the extra mile and add a hand full of dolomite lime, fish meal, kelp meal and moisten the bedding down with ACT. This will bring a more diverse micro heard to my bin and really help the worms break down the kitchen waste and organic matter soon to come.
Once the bedding is complete you can let it sit for a week like when making soil or you can throw the worms right in. You can collect worms from your garden and buy red wigglers from some garden stores or any liquor/ bait store near a lake.
Once the worms are added its time add some food. When doing any kind of composting you must understand that balance is key, when adding the bedding we added mostly browns/carbon when using shredded paper. Now when adding kitchen waste or organic matter the same principles with composting goes for vermicomposting & IMO less is best! Don’t add excess amounts of food especially green waste (nitrogen), try to mix it up and spread it out evenly, try to add the same amount of food as you did bedding.
For small scale worm farming all fruits and vegetables (including citrus and other "high acid" foods), vegetable and fruit peels and ends, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, grains such as bread (caution may attract pest), cracker and cereal (including moldy and stale),crushed egg shells, and leaves and grass clippings (not sprayed with pesticides), dryed manure (small amounts) are all considered worm food.
Like most compost try to avoid meat and dairy producsts!
Worms can be feed every other day to weekly or daily. This usualy depends on how extablished the worms are. If it’s a new bin they I recommend every other day to week, it really depends on what the bin looks like. In simple terms don’t let the worm food pile up.
After a few weeks to a couple of months, you should have a nice amount of composted manure mixed in the bin.
Harvesting the goods can be a little tricky but I use a simple method of speration. What I like to do is make two small piles in my bin. One pile after a week or so stops getting worm food, while the other continues to to be fed and I also sometimes add some bedding materail for balance. The worms arnt dumb, most worms will move to the pile that has food and leave the pile with no food. I then collect the unfed pile, romoving most undecomposed material and worms and that’s my end product. This worm humus is used in soil mixing and top dressing only.
For tea’s I sift my vermicompost to get a finer textured/no worm product for my brewer. I get a mesh screen maybe 1/3 of an inch and place that over the half of bin that I collected from (now empty). I then place the finish product (collected in a bucket) on top of the screen and lightly sift the casting with my hand, threw the screen. The screen collects undecomposed organic matter and chunks on top, while the fine finished vermicompost falls threw the mesh screen and is collected.
well this is how i do it, would enjoy seeing or reading any other methods.
Couple of tips: they love wood chips(untreated). Coffee grounds (not to much), banana peels, and the moist rag on top really brings them to the surface! This composting method does not give a bad ordor when properly done (remember balance) so it can be done indoors with no problem.
Last edited by HASHISH; 5th September 2009 at 05:05 PM. Reason: spelling and added a few links!
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