Worm Composting or Vermicomposting Part II
Once the worms are placed in the vermicomposting container, it takes three to six months before the first worm castings can be harvested. One may inquire, how do you harvest worm castings and the answer is simple, very carefully.
The trick to harvesting worm castings is to remove the fertilizer without removing the worms or eggs. Before one starts the process, a little knowledge about red wiggler worms needs to be learned.
Red wiggler worms have five pairs of hearts, no teeth or bone. They eat continuously and are most active during the night. There is no need to worry about having males and females for reproduction. Red wiggler worms are hermaphrodites and lay golden spheres that are their eggs. They will start reproducing when they are three months old and will live to be a ripe old age of 16.
Worms are light sensitive and this fact makes harvesting worm casting a breeze. To do this, simply remove the lid from the container. Shine a bright light on one end of the container and begin to scoop off the top layer of “soil” on the other end. This is not soil but instead the worm casting or worm fertilizer. Continue with this process until you reach a layer of material that has not been turned into worm castings. Once this layer has been reached, shine the light on the other end. Wait a few minutes and then repeat the process. Since worms dislike the light, they will move away from it. This repulsion way from the light reduces the chances of scooping out a whole bunch of worms with the worm castings.
After both ends have been cleared of the worm castings, it is time to replenish the container. This is done by adding additional premoistened bedding, a scoop or two of garden soil or compost, and food. To aid in their egg formation, add calcium to the bedding material once a week. This can be done by adding lime or using eggshells. If using the eggshells, keep in mind that they will need to be dried and then crushed into a fine powder. This powder is then sprinkle on the surface of the bedding material.
Before using your worm castings, make sure that there are no worms or eggs remaining in the compost. Worms are easily discovered while the eggs may be more of a challenge. Red wiggler worm eggs are shaped like tiny spheres that are a golden yellow color. When either one of these is discovered in the worm castings, simply return them to the vermicomposting container.
Worm casting can be used anywhere. It is best placed on top of the soil and can be used indoors without the smell that is associated with traditional manure. It can be used year round and does not have the tendency to burn since it is not hot. For those who like to know the NPK of their fertilizer, it is naturally balanced with a NPK reading of 3.2, 1.1, and 1.5.
As wonderful as worm casting is there does exist some challenges. Raising worms is just like raising livestock. They have to be tended to and in this case it means mixing bedding, adding bedding and feeding. Red wiggler worms like a temperature of 55 F to 85 F degrees and they do not like sunlight. As a matter of fact, exposure to sunlight is a killer.
While there are some challenges involved when one uses worms to compost, they do provide a service that no other organism does and that is converting toxic material into a safe form. What this means for all of us, is that organic materials that have been contaminated can now be composted safely. An example of this is colored newsprint. In the past, gardeners who used colored newsprint would painstakingly cut away the parts with colored ink. With the help of the red wiggler worm, the toxins used to make colored ink can now be processed safely by red wiggler worms, which in turn create a cleaner, organically friendly environment.