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One of the great benefits of having worm compost is being able to make worm compost tea. Worm compost tea is a wonderful product for your plants. Studies have clearly shown how beneficial it is for plants health (Edwards, Vermiculture Technology). Not only does it increase their vigor, but it also helps the plant’s natural defenses against diseases and insects. It’s also great to know that worm casting tea is very easy to make.
To make worm casting tea you’ll obviously need worm castings. The worm castings are added to water which is then aerated for 24 hours. A common way of aerating the water is with a fish aquarium bubbler pump and stone. Commonly the worm castings are contained in a cloth bag. This is so the particles will be separated from the liquid, and then the worm tea can be spread on the plant leaves much easier. On my webpage you will find worm castings sold already packaged in cloth breathable worm teabags. Or you can buy worm castings in bulk and use your own tea bags.
For a container I use a 5 gallon bucket. I fill the 5 gallon bucket 3/4 full with water, then I add a worm casting teabag. I then drop the aquarium bubbler stone into the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket and let it bubble for 24 hours. After the worm casting tea has aerated for 24 hours, it is ready for use. Use the worm tea to water your plants, but also be sure to get as much of it on the foliage of the plants as possible. It does not take long at all to see your plant’s health improve. Within 2 to 3 weeks any aphids should be gone. After 3 weeks most fungus spots on the plants will begin to disappear. On fruits and vegetable much higher yields will be obtained. I was skeptical myself and then I started using worm tea on my plants and the difference is astounding.
Even though we have had terrible weather, hot then cold, dry then soaking wet, the worms are multiplying well. Red wiggler worms are very tough and this just goes to prove it. Today it is over a hundred, but the worms are still eating away and multiplying even in the heat. Now the worms are in a shade and have adequate water. This water helps keep them cool as the water evaporates off of the top of the beds.
Summer time often brings lots of ants. I have had several people recenlty ask me what I do to keep ants out of the red worm beds. I really don’t do anything, the ants just don’t seem to like my worm beds. I think this is because I keep the top of the worm beds wet. Ants don’t really seem to like getting wet.
Worms reproduce by a fascinating method which also helps ensure their future existence. Earthworms lay egg capsules in the soil usually near a good source of food. The neat thing about these egg capsules is their ability to survive harsh conditions that would kill adult earthworms. Earthworm egg capsules can survive freezing, and dry conditions for extended periods of time. The egg capsules will wait for more favorable conditions to hatch.
Adult worms in favorable conditions will lay between 2-4 egg capsules per month. Worms are hermaphrodites and must mate before laying. I have never seen a worm “blowing” an egg capsule, but a colleague of mine tells me it looks like someone blowing a bubble out their mouth. Each egg capsule can hatch from 3-7 worms (Eisenia fetida). The worm egg capsules are bright golden yellow when first laid and progressively turn brownish red before hatching. Eisenia fetida egg capsules will hatch in about 21 days under ideal conditions and at about 80 degrees. The eggs hatch faster at warmer temperatures than what adult worms prefer.
I never had any idea how much I would learn by being a worm farmer. Starting and running a small business with little money means that I have had to do most of the work myself. Although sometimes I do use part-time help, most of the work is done by myself. Often I find myself doing carpentry work to build worm beds. Other times I will be welding and bending pipe to make greenhouses. Currently I am working on the computer obviously, kind of basic, but two days ago I was working on a programing issue with the website. Eventually I gave up on that and hired a programmer, but I didn’t really want to. Many of my customers are gardeners so I try to keep up to date on the latest gardening buzz like the square foot gardening. Often I am running a skid steer loader, other times I am wiring lights or plumbing a sprinkler system.
Sometime though I do find myself actually feeding, harvesting, shipping worms. Actually this is a lot of my time of course. I am learning a lot about red wiggler worms. It’s been a real adventure figuring out the best things to feed them, how much water they need, and other things like how often to aerate the beds.
In order to be able to sell more worms I am constantly expanding the size of the worm farm.
Here you can see the worm beds that are in construction. The one on the left is finished and the one on the right is partially done. I stock them simply by adding the worm castings that come straight out of harvester. The worm castings that come out of the harvester will always have enough baby worms and eggs to repopulate the worm bed. It takes quite a while before the new beds have enough worms to be harvested though.
I am so excited, today I got a great deal on a green house. Can’t wait to construct it on the property, but I’m still finishing another greenhouse on the property as it is, but it was a good deal so I snatched it while I could. More room to grow worms in!
One simple and cheap way to grow worms and compost with them is a “sandpit” style worm farm. You just construct a structure that would be similar to a sandpit for children built on the ground. You simply need construct a sandpit, but don’t but sand in it, instead fill it with your compostable materials and then add the worms. As for building the sand pit, there are tons of different ways. Just search Google and you will find tons. Here is an example. Taking care of the worms is the same as in any other bin, like here.
If you live in a hot area be sure to build it where it will get some shade. Also be sure to keep it damp and fed well. A lip of some sort around the top will help keep worms from escaping. Be sure its deep enough to not freeze through during the winter. Check your frost depth and build accordingly.
Compost is the process through which organic matter transforms from an unstable state to a stable state. To understand this, think about an apple that has fallen off of a tree and is left sitting on the ground undisturbed. The apple, although fresh and ready to eat when it falls from the tree, will not stay in this condition for long. Because the apple cannot stay in its present condition it is said to be in an unstable state. The apple has stored energy in the form of sugars, starches, and proteins. These chemical stores of energy came from the sun and were stored through the process of photosynthesis. The apple tree took CO2, water, oxygen, and converted these basic ingredients using sunlight through the process of photosynthesis into the sugars and starches that make up most of the apple. The apple will soon begin a natural and God created process of decomposition called composting. Organisms such as yeast, bacteria, and fungus will begin breakdown of the apple into a more stable form and eventually into a material called humus. Humus has many important functions that whole books could be written on, but for basics its important to know that humus holds nutrients for plant use and acts as a filter and helps prevent contamination of ground water from many chemicals (Miller 148).
It is quite fascinating to see how this natural process keeps everything in balance. If things did not rot (compost) eventually there would be huge piles of leaves in the forest, our uneaten apple cores would soon litter the planet, grass clippings would eventually take over your yard, so on and so forth, but more importantly the soil would soon run out of nutrients because they were not getting replenished. Composting is necessary for new things to come about. Composting is a natural process through which God has allowed for His creation to continually renew itself. Everything that was once living will eventually turn back into the soil. (Genesis 3:19) The complexity of natural cycles is amazing and so vast that scientist cannot completely understand the chemistry involved, yet at the same time somehow they are fascinatingly simple and complete systems.
A large portion of garbage created comes from organic and once living sources. All the food, paper, wood, cotton and much of the other resources we use come from the ground as grown products. These product all can be turned into compost when their usable life is over. Currently we throw much of these materials into landfill when they could be used to enrich our soils. The problems comes from the fact that the natural process of composting is to slow to efficiently handle the huge volumes of organic material currently produced. However through intentional composting and using special methods we can compost large amounts of garbage quickly, producing a valuable soil amendment in the process of reducing waste. This also prevents depletion and waste of agricultural capacity.
Many different compost methods have been devised by people over the years. Some compost methods are suitable for extremely large scale facilities composting hundreds of cubic yards a day and some methods have been developed that can allow for a completely automated compost bin to fit under your kitchen counter. One type of composting called thermophilic composting requires temperatures to climb to over 150 degrees F, compared to vermicomposting which takes place at room temperature. Vermicomposting is of course composting with the use of earthworms. Vermicomposting can also vary in scale from million dollar operations to 15 dollar plastic containers.