The Transylvania Times -

By Joe Robustelli
Transylvania Extension Master Gardener 

Vermiculture Can Be Fun – Brevard NC

 


(This is the second part of a two-part article describing why to consider worm farming, i.e., vermiculture, and how to go about it. This part focuses on the how-to steps; the first part appeared in The Transylvania Times two weeks ago.)

The equipment and supplies needed for your worm farm are simple and inexpensive. I started my vermicomposting adventure with a plastic worm bin, which was thoroughly washed and rinsed to remove manufacturing residues, a very important step. The bin was about two feet long by one foot wide, and one foot deep. This size accommodated more than 1,000 worms and about one pound of food scraps per week.

Red Wiggler worms need oxygen. I drilled a few dozen 1/8 inch holes in the upper sides of the bin near the tight-fitting lid. Don’t drill holes in the lid; worms are averse to light. It is also necessary to drill about a half-dozen ¼ inch holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage.

Use shredded newspaper for bedding, not glossy magazine paper. The bedding should be generously damp but not soaked. Fluff up the bedding as it is added to the container until it is half-way full, and mix in a handful of soil from a healthy garden. You may also include some shredded leaves in the mix. The worms will eat the bedding, so from time to time you will need to add more shredded newspaper. Spray-ing the bedding weekly keeps the bedding moist, much to the liking of the worms. Don’t turn the contents of the worm bin; doing so may kill your worms.

Red Wigglers survive in temperatures from about 39 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with a range of 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit being ideal. So choose the location of your bin carefully. A carport, back porch, deck or apartment balcony may work well, in warmer seasons, but in the cool part of the year your kitchen, a basement or utility room is good alternative. My worms do very well on my shaded deck during the warm months and in our utility room during the cold ones. My wife overruled using our kitchen. Red Wigglers like humidity levels of 60 to 90 percent with around 80 percent being optimal; it’s important to spray frequently with water during heating low-humidity periods. The worms thrive with an acidity level (pH) of 7.0; the newspaper bedding provides the right pH level.

Red Wigglers like moist food, with cantaloupe, watermelon, and pumpkin being their favorites. They can eat most vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, beans, cereals, breads and grains, pasta, pancakes, leaves, tea leaves and bags, and plant clippings. Don’t feed meat, grease, bones, dairy products, citrus fruit and peels, onions, garlic, or foods with high salt or ammonia content. Chop food scraps into small pieces so they break down easily, and cover the scraps with bedding to prevent fruit flies from finding the food. Red Wigglers are not particularly demanding; they can be fed any time of the day, and as seldom as every two weeks. It’s more important to keep the moisture level high.

There are a variety of ways to harvest vermicompost; the most common is called sideway separation. Start by feeding the worms on only one side of the worm bin for several weeks. This will cause the worms to migrate to that side of the bin. Then carefully remove the composted material from the non-feeding side of the bin and add fresh bedding. Repeat this process for the next several weeks for harvesting on the other side of the bin. After harvesting both sides, resume feeding your Red Wigglers using both sides of the bin. Egg capsules will be located throughout the harvested vermicompost; the eggs are the size of a match head and the shape of a lemon. Carefully locate and place the capsules back in the bin where they will hatch and keep your worm growing project up and running.

We are very fortunate in North Carolina to have an expert in vermiculture at North Carolina State Uni-versity, Rhonda Sherman, an Extension Waste Specialist in the Biological and Engineering Depart-ment. Her website is http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/people/professionals/sherman.

I hope I have stimulated your interest in becoming a home worm farmer. I certainly have enjoyed my time with the Red Wigglers and found the subject of vermiculture easily captures the attention of family and friends.

(If you have questions about vermiculture or any other gardening questions, visit the Master Gardener Booth at the Transylvania Farmers Market on the first and third Saturdays from April through October. For more immediate questions or suggestions for future articles, email mmickew@ncsu. edu or call (828) 884-3109.)

 
 

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