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Worm Composting and Organic Gardening

Worm Composting and Organic Gardening

Worm Composting and Organic Gardening 

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting or vermiculture, refers to the use of worms to recycle organic material such as vegetable peelings and other food scraps into nutrient-rich compost. In addition to creating a good soil conditioner for your garden, worm composting saves space in the landfill, and thus it helps you conserve the environment. Whether you have a garden or live in an apartment, you could practice worm composting and organic gardening. And reap numerous benefits that you can practice both indoors and outdoors. This article outlines the basics of vermiculture, how it can help your organic gardening and its importance to the environment. So, let’s learn about worm composting.

 

The following are some advantages of worm composting:

  • It requires very little space
  • It doesn’t produce odors when done correctly 
  • It can be done both indoors and outdoors
  • It takes only a short time to process organic waste 
  • It helps save money that would have been used to buy fertilizers, pesticides, and soil conditioners 
  • It produces the best organic fertilizer known to man – Worm Castings 
  • It increases the population of earthworms, which can improve your garden’s soil 
  • It helps create a steady supply of big, fat worms that are ideal for fishing 
  • It needs very little maintenance – 10 minutes per week is enough 
  • You can turn it into a worm composting business

 

How to go about Worm Composting and Organic Gardening 

Worm composting is usually done in a bin, as it creates the perfect environment for worms to transform organic waste into fertilizer. It’s imperative that you set up and maintain proper living conditions for worms to ensure their survival. These conditions include the following:

  • Climate control
  • Adequate airflow
  • Enough moisture
  • Adequate food

The worms digest the food scraps, and then they release castings, which are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus. The castings are highly concentrated in nutrients, and so you can use them sparingly, a little goes a long way. 

 

Where to do Worm Composting and Organic Gardening 

You can practice worm composting both indoors and outdoors. Are you wondering how apartment dwellers can do worm composting? Well, they may not have a backyard, but they may own houseplants, which would benefit a lot from fertilizers. Fortunately, vermiculture doesn’t need a lot of space. In fact, a depth of eight inches and a surface area of one square foot is enough. 

Since you can do in your house, it means that you can practice worm composting all year round.

 

Dealing with Odor

In case you live in an apartment, you may have concerns with regard to odor. Luckily, when done correctly, vermicomposting does not produce odor. To prevent the production of bad smell, don’t overload the bin with food. Then, ensure that the container gets good ventilation and make sure the bin does not get too wet. 

 

The Cost of Vermiculture

Vermiculture is all about recycling, and as such, it’s very affordable. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to practice worm composting without spending a penny. However, it would be good to consider purchasing the worms, as this would eliminate the trouble of finding enough of them to process your organic waste. 

 

Where to Buy Worms

You can get your worms right here at RAWkin Worm Farm, just check out our products here.

When fed well and kept in suitable conditions, worms can double their population every two to three months. Therefore, it would good to consider starting out with few worms, around two pounds and expect their population to increase with time. 

 

Feeding Your Worms

Worms typically feed on most food scraps, including the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetable peelings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Pulverized egg shells
  • Grains 
  • Tea bags

Avoid tossing the following food wastes into the bin:

  • Meat scraps
  • Fish
  • Bones
  • Oily food
  • Dairy products

This is because they may produce a foul smell and attract rodents and flies. 

 

On the other hand, there are certain materials that you shouldn’t place in the bin, and they include the following:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Aluminum foil
  • Metal
  • Paper with colored printing 
  • Colored ink
  • Rubber bands
  • Sponges

 

Consider feeding the worms once per week in little amounts. If you feed them excessively, they may not be able to process all the waste, which may result in the creation of odor.

Note, worm compost doesn’t smell. The bad smell comes from decaying food that the worms are yet to eat. If you give them just enough for them to process, they will eat it before it starts rotting, and thus there will be no smell. You could also chop up the food scraps to make it easier for the worms to eat. 

 

Harvesting the Compost

As the worms process your organic waste, they reduce the contents of the bin, until all that is left is brown, earthy-looking worm compost. When your bin reaches this point, it’s now time to harvest the compost and grant your worm’s new bedding. You can do the harvesting anywhere between every two months and every six months. This depends on the number of worms you have and the amount of food you give them. 

To do the harvesting, dump the worm castings onto a big plastic sheet and separate the worms from the castings; remember to wear gloves when doing the separation. Once you’ve removed all the casts, consider keeping aside some of it and mix it with the new bedding of the next cycle. 

 

Final Word

Whether you live in an apartment decorated with potted plants or you own a backyard garden, worm composting and organic gardening will prove to be very useful. Utilize the compost to enrich your soil and ensure your plants are healthy. Did you know that worm compost also makes excellent mulch? 

Worm composting and organic gardening is hassle-free, and it not only improves your plants but also helps you conserve the environment. 

Are you considering starting some worm composting and organic gardening? Feel free to let us know. Your feedback is always appreciated. 

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Our Worm Composting Beginning (continued) – Worm Composting Problems

RAWkin Worm Farm - Composting Worms

Worm Composting Problems

Although our beginning was smooth sailing, it was not long before a few worm composting problems began to arise.  Having decided to make a business out of raising and selling worms we decided to branch out a little more.  We started this website which was a significant challenge, not a techy guy, lol. 

European Nightcrawlers

Because things had been going so well with the Red Wigglers, we decided to get some European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia Hortensis).  Since we decided to make a business selling composting worms, Euro’s would be the next best worm to sell.  Euro’s, being possibly the best bait worm in the world would appeal to the bait market.  And Euro’s may actually be the best all around worm, being a fantastic bait worm, and a good composting worm too. 

We purchased five pounds of “bed-run” euro’s and split them between 2 large plastic bins.  Our worm composting problems began with these Euros.  They were very restless and we began to find them out of the bin, on the floor, every morning.  We tried to pick up as many as we could find and put them back into their bin.  It seemed like the numbers were dwindling, so obviously more were getting away than we were finding.  We learned that they are more sensitive to acidic conditions, and vibration. So we added some crushed eggshells, and quit running the compressor in that shop.

Worm Composting ProblemsEuropean Worm Bins

The CFT (Continuous Flow Through) Bed

The CFT with Red’s that I mentioned in the previous post began to progress nicely but we had made it a bit too shallow.  As a result, a bunch of Red’s ended up falling through onto the floor.  Red’s and Euro’s ended up mixed together in those “Euro bins”.  Red’s and Euro’s look quite a bit alike except for size so it was difficult to tell the difference.  We really were not sure if we had any Euro’s left, or if those 2 large bins were predominantly Red’s.  Those bins have been split into 4 even larger bins, but are still contaminated, having both Reds and Euros in them.  If we decide to sell a blend of both worms, they will become another product.  For now, they are compost producing bins only.

The CFT had been progressing very well, the population had multiplied many times over.  We had finally built up the depth enough that the worms were no longer falling out of the bottom.  After arriving home from a trip we found that the CFT had collapsed and all the vermicompost and worms were on the floor.  We figured out where the flaws were in the construction of this worm bed and made plans to either repair or rebuild it. 

The Worm Trench

Winter was on its way and we had to figure out how we were going to protect the worms from the cold.  The most cost effective way seemed to be an in-ground trench.  We had approximately 25 to 35 pounds of Red Wigglers we had to protect.  So a trench 4 feet by 8 feet we figured would be the minimum.  Not knowing how well they would multiply during the winter we wanted some growing room.  The final decision was to make the trench 5 feet wide, 12 feet long, and 2 feet deep.

It was all dug by hand, no power equipment available, hard work!  The details of how the worm trench was built will be in an upcoming post.  A thick layer of leaves was put in first for bedding then all the Red Wigglers we had were added to half the trench.  The other half was left empty at this point.  We added a layer of leaves, then a layer of rabbit manure, then a layer of spent coffee grounds on top for food. 

At first, it became a bit hotter than we wanted, around 90 degrees F but then cooled down to 60 degrees F.  A few weeks later I tried to warm it up by adding more rabbit manure and coffee grounds but got it over a 100 degrees F in about 1/3rd of the worm area.  Balancing the temps are still a bit challenging and will require more experience.

Then, all of a sudden, it rained a ton overnight and the trench was flooded.  There were approximately 1.5 feet of water in the 2 feet deep trench.  Another rookie mistake, not having a tarp over it.  I used a 5-gallon bucket to scoop it out at the end that wasn’t being used yet.

Worm Trench

Learning Lessons

These worm composting problems have taught us some valuable lessons this year.  We know that there are many more lessons we will learn in the future.  But it has been fun also, and we would not have it any other way.  I goal is to pass on all that we learn and help as many as we can to learn how to compost with worms successfully.  If you would like to follow us on this journey please leave us a reply below requesting to be added to our e-mailing list.  If you would like to get started on the worm composting journey with us please check out our products here.

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Our Worm Composting Beginning – “A Crazy Idea”

Worm Composting Beginning

Our Worm Composting Beginning

I’m not sure if our worm composting beginning is different than most. I had been composting (hot/thermophilic composting) for several years now. Any food scraps we obtained in addition to grass clippings and fall leaves when into the compost bin. When we got chickens that reduced a lot of food waste going into the compost bin. This composting was a slow process, taking a year or more. My wife mentioned to me once about worm composting, I just dismissed it as another one of her “crazy idea’s”. A few weeks later she sent me a link via text or email, I cannot remember now, about worm composting. I think it was an article from “Mother Earth News”. I read it and was surprisingly amazed and impressed with the whole process. As I often do, I buckled my seatbelt and began my extreme research on the topic.

The Research

As I searched the web, I discovered a website that stood out among the rest.  It was redwormcomposting.com, published by Bentley Christie, a wealth of information about composting with worms.  I can’t say I did everything exactly the way he recommended, but I trudged along, learning all along the way.  Wanting to start as soon as I could with little or no cost, we purchased a couple of bins. See the pic above.  They were clear, a no-no, but they were cheap.  I figured it would be fine as long as I kept them in a fairly dark place. I learned a lot from redwormcomposting.com and still do.  Eventually, I ordered his audio course “Easy Vermicomposting” which was great.  I listened to all of it twice and some of it even more.

Our First Worms

Before I realized the difference between common earthworms and composting worms I had gone down to my local creek and dug up a bunch of worms in the moist ground.  I put them in that container with some ground leaves, a hand full of dirt, and a little cut up cardboard.  I then added some chopped up squash for a food source.  Then I decided I wanted some more worms for the other bin but wanted to get actual red wigglers.  I did some searching for a local supplier, Midwest Worms, and found a guy named Lonnie, who gave me about half a coffee can of red wigglers for free.  He told me those worms I dug up would probably not work.  He also gave me about 2 gallons of aged horse manure for free.  I eventually ordered another pound of worms to “get the ball rolling faster” you might say.

Upgrading My System

Stackable Worm Bin

I learned about stacking systems and flow through systems (CFT’s) and decided to build my own.  The first homemade system I built was a stackable system with 2×4’s. I will say that the worms really flourished in this system, they seemed to multiply very fast.  Over the next few months, I ended up with  trays on it and had pulled worms out of it several times to start 2 more 10-gallon Rubbermaid type systems.  Then I built a 3.5 by 5-foot CFT ( continuous flow through) bin and populated it with Red Wigglers from the stackable system mentioned earlier.

As you can see our worm composting beginning started out pretty easy and smooth.  We studied and learned fairly quickly and are eager to keep learning.  No real problems at this point with the worms and they progressed and multiplied very quickly.  With such a smooth beginning we started looking at the idea of raising composting worms to sell.  But that is the next part of the story so stay tuned it will be coming soon…

If you have started to consider getting into worm composting take a look at our products page, we would love to help you get going and are here to answer any questions you might have.

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How Much Can I Feed My Composting Worms?

How Much Can I Feed My Composting Worms?

How Much Can I Feed My Composting Worms?

How much can I feed my composting worms?  Feeding composting worms is really simple.  Unfortunately, there is so much confusing information online about how much composting worms can eat.  One of the first things I remember reading was that they can eat their weight in food scraps each day.  Then I saw on another website that they can eat half their weight each day in food scraps.  So what is the real truth?  The quantity composting worms can eat varies greatly and is affected by several factors, food type, environmental conditions, and bin conditions.

Food Type

Some foods contain a lot of water like melons and worms can eat their weight each day if not more.  Some foods take longer to break down and start to rot, and it takes worms much longer to process these foods.  Worms also eat their bedding which is usually not going to break down as fast as some foods but will be processed faster than others.

Environmental Conditions

Worms have an ideal temperature range at which they eat and reproduce quicker.  If the temperature is below or above that ideal range the rate at which they process food and bedding decreases.  If we want them to process food quickly we will have to maintain that optimal temperature range.  The Red Wiggler and European Nightcrawler’s optimal range is approximately 60-80 degrees F.  The tropical composting worms such as the African Nightcrawler’s optimal temperature range is 70-85 degrees F.

Bin Conditions

There are several factors in the worm bin that can have a significant effect on how much I can feed my composting worms.  If the aeration is very good as with a CFT (Continuous Flow Through) bin, which may be the most efficient of all for vermicompost production then processing the food waste will be very fast.  Stacking systems can also work very good if they have good ventilation holes.  Plastic bins with the lids on and holes drilled for air are usually the worst for air flow but can be improved quite a bit if the lids are left off and they are not allowed to get too deep.

Maintaining the correct moisture content is also crucial.  Too much moisture decreases aeration of the worm habitat.  Too little moisture decreases the worm’s ability to breath since they breathe through their skin.

An acidic worm bin also negatively affects the worm’s ability to process food as quickly.  There are some foods that are much more acidic or have high ammonia content that can create severe problems and can even kill the worms.  But this is usually a consequence more than a problem.  When we feed the worms more food than they can process under the given conditions it will cause the worm bin to become acidic.

The Easy Solution

First, make sure they have plenty of good bedding.  Then, in the beginning only feed them about 1/4 of their body weight in food scraps.  In a few days check and see if it is gone.  If it is, feed them a little more, if not feed them less.  Whether you feed them every few days or only once a week, base the amount you feed them on how fast they have been eating up to that point.  If you increase the amount incrementally you will never feed too much and you will find the optimal amount based on the conditions you are providing.

As you can see it really is simple.  With a little knowledge, common sense, and some patience you will have answered for yourself “How much can I feed my composting worms?” If you are looking at getting some composting worms and being more responsible with your food waste we have the composting systems and worms to help you get started, just check out our products here.

 

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Which Earthworms can be used for Composting?

Which Earthworms can be used for Composting

Which Earthworms Can Be Used For Composting?

Which earthworms can be used for composting?  Can any type of earthworm be used for vermicomposting? Only epigeic species are suitable for vermicomposting. 

Epigeic earthworms live on the surface of the soil in leaf litter. These species tend not to make burrows but live in and feed on the leaf litter. Epigeic earthworms are also often bright red or reddy-brown, but they are not stripy.

The most commonly used epigeic worms used for composting are Eisenia Fetida ( Red Wiggler), Eisenia Hortensis (European Nightcrawler), and Eudrilus Eugeniae (African Nightcrawler).

 

 

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The Average Life Span of an Earthworm

Vermiculture

The Average Life Span of an Earthworm

When you were young, for instance, you never may have never imagined how awesome the earthworm really was.  On the other hand, maybe you still do not understand how awesome they are. The earthworm, “nature’s plow”, as they have been called, aerate and inject the soil with life.  They provide such an amazing benefit for the soil, which makes that soil amazing for the plants that grow in it.  For more info about how they affect the soil click here.  Did you ever wonder how long they live?  Check out this article and see.

http://animals.mom.me/average-life-span-earthworms-8270.html

Composting Worms

Red Wigglers, European Nightcrawlers, African Nightcrawlers, Blue Worms, and Alabama Jumpers are all earthworms that are used for composting today.  They can turn your household food waste, paper waste, and farm animal manures into an amazing soil amendment called Vermicompost.  It’s easy, fun, and extremely beneficial for your garden.  You should give it a try.

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Worm Compost, The New and Improved Organic Miracle Grow

Red Wigglers

Vermicompost is the New and Improved Miracle Grow

It is a soil amendment, better than any chemical fertilizer, farming animal manure or standard, thermophilic compost.  It can reverse the damage done to yards and gardens by chemical fertilizers.  Chemical fertilizers have damaged or destroyed the natural fertility and health of what used to be a living thing.  Vermicompost, also called Worm Compost, can revitalize and restore that life and fertility better and faster than anything else.  It has more NPK than any other compost or manmade fertilizers. Worm Compost has approx. 2-3% nitrogen, 1.55-2.25% phosphorus, and 1.85-2.25% potassium, along with micronutrients, beneficial soil microbes and has been proven to contain “plant growth hormones and enzymes”.  The NPK and micronutrients have availability quality than any other compost and the natural growth hormones and enzymes function as a natural pesticide and herbicide.  It truly is an all-natural “Miracle Grow”.

 

Chemical Fertilizers and the Damage They Have Done

 

In the 1950’s and 60’s, we saw the invention of chemical fertilizers.  It was looked at as an amazing product that stimulated the growth of plants and increased food productivity.  But it decreased the nutritional quality of the food being produced.  These chemical fertilizers started damaging our soil by killing the microorganisms and earthworms that produced the vitality within the soil.  With the decrease of these microorganisms and earthworms, the natural hormones and enzymes diminished in our soil. The result, plants had little to no resistance to pests and diseases.  Again, industries answer was chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.  These chemicals, also damage our soil and are killing the pollinators which so many of our food crops depend on. 

 

Thermophilic Composting the Organic Waste going to the Landfills

 

Today, many believe the answer is the combination of reclaiming the organic wastes that have been going to the landfills through thermophilic composting combined with Organic Farming.  An estimate of 60-70% of the material going to the landfills is organic waste that can be composted.  This would provide plenty of NPK, micro and macro nutrients, and soil microbes.  This compost also helps promote natural resistance to pests and diseases. Composts are aerobically decomposed products of organic wastes such as cattle dung and other herbivore animal droppings. As well as farm and forest wastes and the municipal solid wastes (MSW).  All composts work as a slow release fertilizer, whereas chemical fertilizers release the NPK quickly.

 

Vermicompost vs Thermophilic Compost

 

So which is better, standard (thermophilic) composting, or vermicomposting (worm composting)? 

  • First, let’s look at speed.  Thermophilic composting takes about twice as long as worm composting, aka vermicomposting.
  • Second, vermicompost has a larger and more diverse population of microorganisms. And has plant growth regulators that other composts do not have.  Vermicompost has been proven to have more of all the vitally needed nutrients than other composts. And it provides them to the plants for a longer period of time. 
  • Third, the increase in microbes, organic matter, and other nutrients attracts native worms increasing the future vitality of that soil. 
  • Forth, worm compost has better water holding properties and decreases topsoil loss from water run-off over other composts. 
  • Finally, in growth trials, worm compost has shown an increase in crop production yields over other composts. 

Studies show that vermicompost works even better when it is covered with mulch.  This provides the microbes and earthworms a moist environment promoting an increase in the population of the microbes and earthworms.  Worm Composting is easy, fun, and so beneficial.  With a pound of Red Wigglers, or Compost Worm Mix, a container, and some knowledge you’ll be making a difference.

 

Based on: Earthworms Vermicompost: A Powerful Crop Nutrient over the Conventional Compost & Protective Soil Conditioner against the Destructive Chemical Fertilizers for Food Safety and Security Am-Euras. J. Agric. & Environ. Sci., 5 (S): 01-55, 2009
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Who should Compost with Worms? Who Can Compost with Worms?

Our Mission

Who should Compost with Worms?

Vermicomposting is a way to take the food waste, paper waste, and even yard waste and recycle it.  The result is a soil amendment that far exceeds any fertilizer that can be bought at the store.  But farmers, on farms compost with worms, right?  Not when we compost with worms, anyone in almost any situation can do it.

Anyone Who Grows A Garden or Potted Plants

If you grow your own food garden and/or flower garden you will love the benefits you get from composting with worms.  You will never need to buy fertilizer again because the worm compost is better than any fertilizer you can buy.  If you keep a few potted plants around the house, the worm compost (aka Vermicompost) can be used to make the best potting soil around.  One of the advantages of using Vermicompost is you can’t overfeed your plants, and it will not burn they like too much fertilizer or “hot manure”. 

For your potted plants, we recommend a 1 part Vermicompost, 3 parts Peat Moss, and 1 part Perlite or Vermiculite.  This is an awesome Potting Soil.  Most studies show that there is little to no benefit from more than 20% Vermicompost.

For your food or flower garden, we recommend 2-3 inches of Vermicompost placed on the surface and worked into the soil.  A more efficient way to use Vermicompost in the garden is to place about 2 tablespoons into soil, with the seeds when planting.  After this feed each plant about ½ a cup every 2 months.

 

Anyone Who Desires to Help Reduce The Waste Going to Landfills

When Organic Material such as food scraps and green waste is put in landfills, it is generally compacted down and covered. This removes the oxygen and causes it to break down in an anaerobic process. Eventually, this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Worm composting your food scraps and green waste eliminates many of these problems.  Vermicompost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away and should be composted with worms instead.  In addition, you can also compost with worms most of your paper products, adding to the total percentage of recoverable material.

 

Anyone Who Wants to Help Reduce the Problem of Topsoil Erosion

Soil erosion is a naturally occurring process. In agriculture, soil erosion refers to the wearing away of a field’s topsoil by water, wind as well as farming activities such as tillage. Topsoil, which is high in organic matter, plant nutrients and microorganisms is of tremendous value and is necessary to grow our food.  Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years.  A rough calculation of current rates of topsoil loss suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Approximately 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded.  Degraded soil means we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years.  Seriously degraded soil means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone.

Worm Composting, which produces a material that is loaded with organic matter, plant nutrients and microorganisms, can increase both the quantity and quality of our topsoil.  When we add vermicompost to our existing soil instead of using man-made fertilizers we enhance the soil in all the ways it needs.  Also, other earthworms thrive in this enhanced soil and help maintain its quality.

Anyone Who Wants to Grow Their Food Organically

Vermicompost is far superior to conventional compost. It has nutrients that are 97% utilizable by your plants and the castings have a mucous coating which allows the nutrients to have a “time release” effect.  Vermicompost is 100% organic, is produced on your own farm, at a much faster rate than hot composting.  And without all the work of turning the compost piles to aerate them typically required with hot composting.  This worm compost gives your organic crops the best fertilizer available.

 

Anyone Who Always Wanted to Compost But Never Had Enough Space

It is typically recommended that for effective hot composting you need a bin at least 3 feet by 3 feet.  This is because it requires a large enough quantity of material to generate and maintain the heat needed.  Therefore, to effectively hot compost you have to have a sizeable quantity of compostable material.  And you have to have the space for the bin as well as additional space to turn the material for aeration.  This would be near impossible to do indoors.  And it also is often not allowed or at least undesirable in residential areas.

Worm Composting, on the other hand, can be done just about anywhere.  It can be done easily indoors, as well as outdoors.  We can compost with worms in a classroom, or even in a business office.  It can be done in a simple plastic or rubber storage bin.  Or it can be done in a more attractive commercially available stacking system.  Probably the most efficient system for indoor use is a system like the Worm Inn or the Worm Inn Mega.

So, as you can see, almost everyone would benefit from composting with worms.  The versatility, ease, and benefits make it an option for anyone, even someone living in a small apartment.  Why not give it a try.  With a pound of Red Wigglers, a container, and some knowledge you’ll have “black gold” before you know it.