Even if you don’t have a garden, you probably have an idea what ‘compost’ or ‘composting’ means. Basically, it’s the process of decomposition which organic matter undergoes resulting in humus or compost which is good fertiliser for plants. Compost is one of the main ingredients to the perfect garden soil for beautiful window boxes and all your planting needs.
However, did you know that there are different ways to create compost? Vermicomposting is one of them, and it’s considered as one of the best and most effective for plants.
Vermicomposting (vermis is the Latin word for worm) is the process of harnessing earthworms to break down organic waste, producing a nutrient-rich, organic fertiliser and compost as a by-product.
Benefits of vermicomposting
Aside from being a very effective compost which your plants are sure to be happy about, vermicomposting has a lot of advantages as well. Here are some of the most notable ones.
It’s more nutritious
Compared to regular compost, vermicompost is far richer in nutrients. The intestinal tract of the earthworms add concentrated nutrients to the resulting compost which contains around 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — everything that your plants need to grow.
It reduces your home’s carbon footprint
It’s not just vermicomposting, but any method used to create compost helps to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. There are other ways to help save the environment but composting is one of the easiest and simplest methods to do so.
The whole world is facing a serious problem regarding food wastage. Vermicomposting is also a great way to help reduce food waste at home since most of your kitchen scraps are suitable food for the worms.
You get healthier plants
Since vermicompost is more nutritious than regular compost, you can also expect it to have better effects on your plants. It also eliminates the need for you to use chemical fertilisers because vermicompost has everything that your plants need to grow healthy and strong.
Nutrition is slowly released
Chemical fertilisers contain huge amounts of nutrients, that’s a fact. However, most of it gets wasted especially when washed away by rain. To make it worse, these chemicals can end up in aquifers and contaminate your drinking water.
On the other hand, worm castings are rich in humic acid. It’s a substance that’s responsible for binding together all the minerals and nutrients in the compost which makes them safe from being washed away by rain and UV damage.
Your plants become resistant to diseases
Not only essential minerals and nutrients but also a diverse range of microbes are present in vermicompost. Because of this, mites, diseases and other pests will find it hard to grow and attack your plants. That’s one less problem for you to worry about in your garden.
Starting your vermicompost
Vermicomposting is not as hard as you might think. As long as you provide the best place for your worms to grow, you’ll be rewarded with healthy food for your plants. The nice thing about vermicomposting is that you can place your worm bin indoors or outdoors.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to start vermicomposting. But before that, here’s a few important reminders before you begin your project.
- Not all types of earthworms are suitable for vermicomposting. Out of the 8000 known species of earthworms, only seven are suited. The best types of worms for vermicomposting are red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and redworms (Lumbricus rubellus).
- The skin of worms is photosensitive which means they need a dark environment to survive. You can place your worm bin outdoors but be sure it’s under the shade.
- Your worms will eat pretty much anything organic you throw at them. However, avoid feeding them meat, dairy products, and other oily and spicy foods as they may cause odour and pest problems. Also, limit or avoid giving them anything with citrus because it can be toxic to the worms.
- When it comes to feeding the worms, you’d want to do it frequently but in small amounts. Additionally, the contents of the bin shouldn’t be too wet or too dry, or your worms may die.
Earthworms really are amazing creatures, they do so much for our soil and plants! pic.twitter.com/QZzRjY7ARc
— Emma Metson (@MetsonEmma) February 22, 2018
How to worm compost: Step by step
Now it’s finally time to make your first vermicompost. What you’ll need are the following:
- A large plastic box with a lid. If it doesn’t have a lid, you can improvise one.
- A drill
- Two bricks or pieces of wood or anything that will serve as stands for your bin.
- Some newspaper or cardboard. An old towel will also do.
- Worms and worm bedding. Since you can’t just put any kind in your bin, it’s advisable that you order this online or get it from stores. If you have neighbours who are into vermicomposting, you can ask them to spare some for you.
And for the steps.
Step 1 – Get the large plastic box, preferably with a lid. Again, you’ll need to improvise if it doesn’t have one. This is important to make sure that your worms are safe from predators and the light. You also don’t want flies buzzing over the leftovers you feed your worms.
Step 2 – Using the drill, create holes on the base of the box. Worms are living creatures, so they need air to breathe. Make sure that the holes are not small enough to get easily blocked nor too big for them to escape. You can also drill additional holes on the sides of the box for added breathability.
Step 3 – Put the box on top of the stands. Make sure that there’s enough space underneath to provide better airflow.
Step 4 – To make it more secure, cover the bottom of the box with newspaper to make sure that the worms will not be able to escape through the bottom holes.
Step 5 – Don’t forget to drill holes on the lid as well. If you plan to place the bin inside your house, you can bore plenty of holes on it. Just drill a few if you’re keeping it outside to avoid waterlogging if it rains.
Step 6 – Add about half a bucket of worm bedding. You can use home made compost, coconut fibres, or compost bought from shops as worm bedding. This is very crucial to help your worms quickly adapt to their new ‘home’.
Step 7 – Add the worms. The number of worms will depend on how large your box is. You don’t need to put too many because under good conditions, your worms will have doubled in just in three months.
Step 8 – Feed your worms. Earthworms don’t have teeth so make sure that you chop up the food you give them into small pieces.
Step 9 – Cover the surface of the worms with cardboard, newspaper, or an old towel. Any one will do the job.
Step 10 – Put on the lid, and you’re done.
Don’t forget to feed the worms while making sure that their home is dark and moist. After about six months, you can now start picking the fruits of your labour. There are different methods to harvest vermicompost so choose one which works best for you.
With all the benefits vermicomposting offers, there’s no reason for you not to do it. Not only is it a great way to reduce your food waste but it’s also an excellent resource for your garden plants. To top it all, the processes involved are 100% eco-friendly so you’re also helping the environment.