Posted by: cris | March 14, 2008

Vermicomposting at home

Haha! Now I can say proudly that I’ve been successful in my goal to visit my african night crawlers (composting earthworms) in the garden shed. And I was able to harvest the contents of one box. Separated the worms and the compost, placed the compost in a container, then returned the worms to the same box with new food. Hubby and I also transfered the worm bin near the Apple mango tree which is starting to flower again.

I actually attempted to separate also the compost and the worms in the other box, however, I saw that they haven’t fully consumed their food, therefore, the vermicompost is not ripe(?) yet.

BUtttttttt, I made a decision to also transfer this second worm bin to another place. In fact I transfered first the contents to pails and basins, asked the hubby for help, then we carried the second worm bin next to the Carabao Mango tree.

The transfer is not just an afterthought. It’s a decision I made because of what I discovered. I found out that the banana plant of my neighbor, which I really admire since the mother plant is always so healthy, is actually eating the nutrients of my vermicompost. The root system has crossed the hollowblocked wall and has reached the wormbins which are just one meter away from the wall. I found large roots around the bins.

For a year now, the bins are placed in that area, and the bananas were planted just behind our perimeter wall. There is only one pile of hollowblocks below the ground area (because I am saving on construction costs) that’s why it’s easy for the roots of the bananas to reach the worm bins. Anyway, at least my neighbor always makes it a point to share with me a bunch or two of these bananas every time there is a harvest.

Okay. Since I mentioned in the previous post that I started this vermi-passion with just 15 pcs of worms, I will try my best to relay to you what I did to increase their population, at least up to this level of non-extinction.

First: from the pack i bought from SM North Cebu (horticulture exhibit, held every feb-march), I placed them in a corrugated carton box for about a week. Actually, before I bought the worms, I started to prepare their food. That’s a combination of 1 part nitrogen to 3 parts carbon.

Nitrogen sources can be kitchen wastes, all green garden wastes, or kakawate (madre cacao) leaves, even kamote leaves. For carbon, sawdust, waste papers, corrugated carton will do. For starter I used cartons and kitchen and garden wastes.

I cut the cartons into small pieces (No precise size, just bits and pieces) and soak them into water. mixed them with the green wastes and placed them in sack, and tied it. This is composting anaerobically (meaning, no air). after three weeks, its ready and I transfered the pre-cooked compost to a cracked basin (plangana, batya will do). Covered the basin because ants will wipe out my worms. The crack will let the excess water drip.

That’s how I started. Of course, its a trial and error. Just don’t let your worms drown or get too dried up. When you see the worms trying to get away, please try to add more carton to soak the excess water. But this is just the beginning.

When I became a little ( I repeat, a little) adept in composting, I started to use 3 parts sawdust mixed with 1 part nitrogen (madre cacao leaves or cow manure). Make sure it’s coconut sawdust because those from hardwood takes time to decompost. Or maybe, never. For instant food, when I don’t have time to prepare pre-cooked compost, I harvest old leaves of malunggay and throw them inside the bin.

Place about 6 to 8 inches of food in the container. After a few days, check if they have consumed all and if the moisture is okay. Sprinkle with enough water if its drying up. Again, its trial and error. The vermicompost is ready for harvest when all the compost has turn granulated.

By this time, its okay to add another 6-8 inches of food if you want and doesn’t need compost immediately. But if you want to use compost to your plants right away, you may sieve the compost and separate the worms. However, if you do this, you also, run the risk of losing the eggs that were not hatched yet.

So what you can do is place a net (even a mosquito net will do or onion bag) on top of the compost and put pre-cooked compost in the net. After a week or so, most of the worms will transfer to this new food, and you may transfer the contents of the net to a new container/wormbin. And you may add fresh worm food again. Then you may harvest your vermicompost.

Harvesting is done by laying a big plastic or tarp on the ground or table. Pile the vermicompost like small Mayon volcanoes on the tarp/table and let it stay that way for a while (few hours). The worms are sunlight sensitive so they would try to go to the bottom of the pile. Start sifting the top part, paying attention to baby worms that you will see. Remove and place them in a container. When you reach the bottom of each pile, you will see the bigger earthworms. Harvest manually and keep in your worm container. Do the same to the rest of the Mayon Volcanoes look alike.

When you’re done, transfer the harvested worms to your wormbin so that they can also partake of the food you prepared for them.

I usually keep my harvested vermicompost in a container, sealed lightly to allow air in, and keep in the shade. Don’t be surprised to see baby worms in that container when you use the vermicompost. These are the worms you missed collecting and the remaining eggs that were not hatched yet during harvest. Collect them and place in your worm bin.


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