Vermicompost Casting

Written by Michael McMahon and Daniel Nowell

Vermicompost

Vermicompost has revolutionized vegetable growing and home gardening. When compared to other fertilizers, it has delivered the best results in organic farming.

All sorts of fruiting, underground, and leafy vegetables, whether grown in containers or raised beds, benefit from vermicompost as a primary nutrient.

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to transform organic materials (typically trash) into vermicompost, a humus-likesubstance. The objective is to process the material as soon as feasible.

Advantages of Vermicompost

Vermicompost, like conventional compost, provides many benefits to agricultural soil, including increased ability to retain moisture, better nutrient-holding capacity, better soil structure, and higher levels of microbial activity. A search of the literature, however, indicates that Vermicompost may be superior to conventional aerobic compost in several areas. These include the level of plant-available nutrients, the level of beneficial microorganisms, the ability to stimulate plant growth, the ability to suppress disease, and the ability to repel pests.

The Vermicomposting Process

1. Line up worms embedded in pit run (their initial feedstock with bedding material) with 70-80% moisture content.

2. Feed 6” of feedstock (animal manure compost, molasses, food waste, carbon from yard waste or paper) to one side of the windrow which gets between 3-4’ tall at center creating a wedged slope.

3. Water the slope face keeping water content 70-80%

4. After the pile gets roughly 6’ wide in 3 months start feeding and watering the other side of the windrow while reducing water on the original side. This results in the worm population migrating from one side of the windrow to the other which is termed “continuous worm farming”.

5. Within a week or so when the worms appear to be migrated excavate out the original wedged slope from the first side of the windrow.

6. Dry and screen this material separating out any remaining worms and cocoons and the feedstock from the worm castings.

7. The final product “worm castings can be used as direct fertilizer or blended into compost and soil mixes or can be processed through a digester to create a liquid worm tea.

8. Vermicomposting requires screening equipment to separate the worms from the castings. This last issue is inconsequential when you consider that all composting methods require screening to produce the highest quality products.

The Purpose of Vermicompost

At Soil Seed and Water, LLC. we use the Eisenia Fetida worm, which we believe is the most resilient to harsh conditions.

The Eisenia Fetida is commonly known as the "compost worm", "manure worm", "redworm", and "red wiggler". This extremely tough and adaptable worm is indigenous to most parts of the world. It can handle a wide temperature range (between 0° and 35° C) and can survive for some time almost completely encased in frozen organic material. It can take a lot of handling and rough treatment.

Perhaps most importantly. like most if not all litter-dwelling worms, the compost worm has the capacity for very rapid reproduction. This is an evolutionary necessity for a creature whose natural environment is extremely changeable and hazardous and whose natural supplies of food are of the "boom or bust" variety. We also see that these worms handle the harsh heat of the desert when we have them in our commodity building protected from sunlight and kept cool with fans and water.

We Vermicompost because we can use our compost manure product as a primary feedstock for the worms and because Vermicompost is superior to most composts as an inoculant in the production of compost teas. Worms have several other possible uses on farms, including value as a high-quality animal feed.