Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Earthworm Farming in a Bucket

Earthworm Farming in a Bucket to Harvest Black Gold

Childhood memories stay with you. When I was a child, our neighbor turned his long chicken house into an earthworm farm. Today earthworms are grown for fishing bait, bird food and compost/fertilizer. Worm Castings around a plant's root ball, or applied as a mulch, makes plants grow unbelievably well. This is the kind of stuff giant pumpkin farmers use to grow world record crops.

Dictionary.Com defines Vermiculture as "The raising and production of earthworms and their by-products". Some would consider Vermiculture a 4-syllable word for poop! Earthworms are masters at turning landfill waste vegetation into an all natural, nutrient filled soil amendment. The technical name for this soil amendment is Worm Casts, and considered by those in the know as the best soil amendment available, bar none.

Worm Casts can be applied around a plants drip line; mixed directly into the plants roots, or applied as a mulch, adding valuable nutrients to strenthen the root system, thus making plants grow unbelievably well. This is the kind of stuff giant pumpkin farmers use to grow WORLD record crops.

Earth worms come in several varieties, the most popular being Red Wigglers, with African Night Crawlers coming close behind. Don't those names just get you excited about the underground world?

We raise our African Nightcrawlers in buckets, with tiny airholes drilled around the neck of the bucket (Also in raised beds). They are so active, I can put protein feed on top of the peat bedding, and within an hour they are actually "Swarming" the food. They make a run for the top, grab a bit of food, and drop back down into the bedding. They actually remind me of is an amazing sight.
There are two things that will slow African Nightcrawlers down.

1. Cold temps (below 70 or so)

2. Excess water

Strategies for Composting with Earthworms

"If the worms are getting fat, you are doing things basically right. We raise ours in buckets, and drill small air holes in the NECK of the bucket," Jerry explained. This does two things:
1. Nightcrawlers cannot crawl out.

2. Allows us to stack our buckets.

Buckets allows you to keep your black gold worms under the kitchen sink if you want to. Makes garbage disposal easy.

City and County Vermiculture Composting Programs
Jerry Gach of Blue Ridge Vermiculture has worked with a number of cities and counties to adopt worm composting programs such as the City of San Jose, Alameda County and the State of California worm composting program.
"I'm trying to spread the word that there are options for worm composting, and African Nightcrawlers can do the same job as Red Wigglers faster, plus they are great for fishing, reptiles, birds when they get big!"

Carolyn's Worm Tub
It was with great glee that I nestled my first batch of African Nightcrawlers into my compost tub...and watched them devour my organic veggie scraps. I get a weekly delivery of organic fruit and vegetables from a local service and wanted to find an alternative to putting the scraps into the trash or the food disposal -- (both very non-green options). I've started putting odd scraps into a plastic bag in the freezer and taking out just enough to feed my new pets when they need it.
I now have a light, fluffy soil amendment to add to all my house and patio plants. No giant pumpkins...but some gorgeous flowers!

Vermiculture in Office Settings
Vermiculture is a wonderful way to bring composting into a business setting. The process is clean, silent, and helps people get over the "uhhh!" reaction to natural soil processes.
Jerry Gach
Managing Partner of Blue Ridge Vermiculture

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