Vermicompost is the end result of organic material such as food waste after it has been digested by some species of earth worm. Commonly referred to as worm castings, vermicompost contains water soluble nutrients and bacteria that make a great organic fertilizer for your garden.
The process in which you feed a worm organic material and turn it into vermicompost has an actual name called vermicomposting.
Although every worm produces worm castings, the worm best for the job to produce quality vermicompost for your garden’s soil is called Eisenia foetida or the red wiggler earthworm. Most of North America will use this species of worm, but if you live in a tropical part of the world, look towards Perionyx excavatus (Blue worms) and if you have a more acidic soil then use Eisenia hortensis (night crawlers).
Vermicompost can be used to brew compost tea, a rich elixir that is sprayed on the plant’s leaves and stem as well as added to the soil so the roots of your vegetables can absorb the tea’s nutrients, and vermicompost can be mixed directly in with your soil.
You can buy vermicompost at many nurseries or garden centers, but you can actually make your own with a box, some worms, and a little water and some time.
The easiest way to make your own is to buy a large plastic or rubber container (similar to one you would store household items in), drill holes in the lid, and the sides for air ventilation, and drill holes in the bottom for water drainage. Then put down two inches of shredded newspaper, followed by shredded leaves, grass clippings (in limited quantities) and your food left scraps followed by another two inches of shredded newspaper.
To get some worms just look on your sidewalks or in the street after a heavy rainfall. They will be crawling everywhere. Their homes get flooded and they go to higher ground where it is wet but more tolerable.
You simply put the worms on top of your shredded newspaper and put the lid on. The worms will work their way down through the newspaper and find the food waste. It is very important that you keep the contents of your bin moist. Worms need a moist environment in order to thrive. A simple misting of the contents of the bin on a daily basis should suffice. As a side note, place something underneath the bin to catch any water drainage. Any moisture you capture you should then be dumped back into the bin.
You will know when it is time to retrieve and harvest your vermicompost by simply seeing that very little or no food scraps remain. There are a couple of ways to harvest the vermicompost. The first way is to dump the entire contents out, and remove the worms by hand. The second way is to divide your rubber container in half initially by only placing food scraps on one side of the container. Then when it is time to harvest the vermicompost you add food scraps to the other side. When you do this the worms will move to the side where there is food leaving you with a near wormless side of quality vermicompost.
Vermicompost is a great way to add much needed nutrients to your garden’s soil and the best part is you can do make it right in your own backyard all year round.
About the Author
Bruce is the co-author of the book "Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A guide to vegetable gardening for the rest of us". It is a practical easy to follow book that teaches gardeners everything from composting techniques, aeration and frost conditions, to choosing the right tools and picking the right seeds. To learn more about Mr. Tucker or to inquire about the book you can visit: http://www.averagepersongardening.com/.