Worm Compost

Excessive use of chemicals and pesticide is certainly having adverse effects on nature. Of late I have been reading on vermin-composting and organic farming. I inquired with ‘AREU’ Agricultural research extension unit, to check if it was possible to compost with worms in Mauritius. I was told that AREU they are experimenting on this composting method and are having difficulties in finding enough worms to operate a composting system.

I am stunned to hear that in Mauritius the population of earth worms has gone so low. As a kid I recall that the back yard of my kindergarten school was infested with worms particularly area where the soil was moist.

Methods for Collecting Your Finished Worm Compost

After you have been feeding your worms for three to six months, you may notice the bedding has been eaten, and you can begin harvesting the brown, crumbly worm compost. Harvesting the compost and adding fresh bedding at least twice a year is necessary to keep your worms healthy.

Method 1:

Move the contents of your worm bin to one side, place fresh bedding in the empty space and bury your food wastes there for a month or so. Harvest the other side after the worms have migrated to the new food and bedding.

Method 2:

Remove one-third to one-half of the contents of your bin, worms and all, and add the worm compost to your garden soil. Add fresh bedding and food to your bin.

Method 3:

Spread a sheet of plastic out under a bright light or in the sun. Dump the contents of the worm box into a number of piles on the sheet. The worms will crawl away from the light into the center of each pile and you can brush away the worm compost on the outside by hand. Soon you will have wriggling piles of worms surrounded by donut-shaped piles of worm compost.

Using Your Worm Compost

Worm compost is more concentrated than most other composts because worms are excellent at digesting food wastes and breaking them down into simple plant nutrients. Use it sparingly for best results.

Mulching and Amending Soil

To mulch with worm compost, apply a one-inch layer to the soil around plants. Be sure the worm compost is not piled against plant stems. To amend soil, worm compost can be spread one-half to two inches thick over garden soil and mixed in before planting, or mixed into the bottom of seeding trenches or transplanting holes. You can also mulch your worm compost into:

  1. Houseplants: Sprinkle worm compost around the base of plants to fertilize. Each time you water, plant nutrients will seep into the soil.
  2. Potting Mixes: For healthy seedlings, mix one part worm compost with three parts potting mix or three parts sand and soil combined. Peat moss, pearlite and worm castings are also good ingredients to add.

Warning Signs

Some symptoms that your worm composting is not going as well as it could are:

  • If your worms are dying
  • If your bin smells rotten and/or attracts flies

Worms Dying

If your worms are dying there could be several causes:

  1. It may be that they are not getting enough food, which means you should bury more food into the bedding.
  2. They may be too dry, in which case you should moisten the box until it is slightly damp.
  3. They may be too wet, in which case you should add bedding.
  4. The worms may be too hot, in which case you should put the bin in the shade.
  5. The bedding is eaten, and it is time to add fresh bedding.

Bin Smells

If your bin smells rotten and/or attracts flies, there may be three causes:

  1. First, it may be that there is not enough air circulation. In this case, add dry bedding under and over the worms, and do not feed them for two weeks.
  2. Second, there may be non-compostables present such as meat, pet feces or greasy food. These should be removed.
  3. Third, there may be exposed food in the bin. In this case, secure the lid, cover food scraps with bedding, and cover worms and bedding with a sheet of plastic.



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