Earthworms and vermicomposting
For the past 20 years, I have been feeding household food scraps to earthworms. I used to collect them in a compost heap in the garden, adding chopped grass, leaves, manure and earth. And now breeding earthworms at home allows you to get excellent vermicompost all year round without leaving your home.
You can place a vermicomposting container in your pantry, kitchen or even your living space. However, for this it is important to have a container that would serve its purpose. It can also be made on your own.
In this case, wood-shaving materials, in the production of which pressure impregnation was used, as well as those in which chemicals were previously stored, should not be used – they are detrimental to worms.
To make the container last longer, it is better to make it from plywood suitable for outdoor use. In the bottom you need to make holes for aeration, and cover the top with a regular black plastic lid.
Preparing bedding for worms
As a bedding for breeding earthworms at home, it is better to use a material that includes fiber. Its fibrous structure provides moisture retention and aeration. In search of food, earthworms make passages in the litter, while eating it. In its place, a black mass of excrement of worms is formed (in everyday life we call them heaps that worms leave near the passages).
You can make bedding from shredded corrugated cardboard or from old newspapers. To do this, cut them into strips (use only newspapers without color printing) with a width of4 cm.
For a 30x60x90 cm box, it will take approx. 4.5 kgcut newsprint. To this amount must be added4 l garden soil (preferably a type of silty loam), which, due to its coarse grain, is necessary for the digestive system of worms, as well as approximately 16 lwater, which will provide a moisture content of the mass of about 75%, this is exactly what worms prefer. Some people add a little bit of leaf litter to this mass so that the microorganisms contained in it help the decomposition of the litter (and also serve as additional food for the worms).
Choosing the type of worm
Now you should choose the desired type of worms. Of the 3,000 to 4,000 earthworm species, each has a preferred habitat. Some live buried deep in the ground, others prefer garden soil, others live in forests under decaying logs of fallen trees. You only need a red earthworm, which is often called strongylida or dung.
These earthworms are ideal for vermicomposting. They are able to process large amounts of organic material, are well reproduced in culture and are resistant to significant temperature changes. They breed rapidly in a dark box with warm, moist and rich litter. I recommend starting with1 kgred worms (approximately 1200-2400 individuals).
How does vermicomposting work?
Once you have placed the worms in the bedding box, you can immediately start feeding them kitchen waste. These can include vegetable, potato, and apple peels, watermelon rinds, coffee grounds, leftover food off plates, citrus peels, crushed eggshells, etc.
Vermicomposting bins should be kept free of meat, bones, and dairy residues to avoid rotting and bad odors that attract rodents and other animals.
After the worms adapt to the new conditions, they will begin to freely process 2.7-3.6 kgorganic waste per week.
In a new box, I begin this procedure gradually, first dumping about1 kgfood waste, then, a week later, the same amount. To put the waste, you need to make a hole in the bedding and put the garbage into it, then sprinkle it with bedding material and cover the box with a lid. So, gradually adding garbage along the walls of the box, you will avoid accumulating them in one place.
After 2-3 months, the volume of material in the box will decrease. It should be remembered that the worms eat not only decaying food, but also the bacteria and bedding material in the box. Passing all this through their digestive tract, they excrete excrement. So every 2-3 months. it is necessary to pour fresh bedding into the box. When the contents of the box darken, the smell of dampness and earth will appear. The resulting vermicompost is very rich in nutrients and is ready to be applied to the soil for plants in your garden. In addition to nutrients, it contains “cocoons” from which young worms will subsequently appear.
Ready vermicompost should be raked to one wall of the box, and a well-moistened bedding mixed with fresh waste should be placed on the vacated place. It should take a few weeks before the worms crawl into this fresh batch, and only then take the ripe vermicompost out of the box and use it in the garden.
To make a potting mix, sprinkle vermicompost on the ground in a houseplant pot, or mix it with peat moss, sand, garden loam, and/or vermiculite.
When planting seedlings of broccoli, tomatoes in the soil or when sowing seeds, you can add a handful of vermicompost.