Colorful California Landscape: A Water-Friendly Garden
Colorful California Landscape:  A Water-Friendly Garden

Vermiculture

Vermicompost is the final product from utilizing various species of worms, usually red wrigglers (Eisenia foetida or Eisenia andrei), white worms, and earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposed vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.  Vermicast, also known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter.  Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.  

 

Worm tea is the liquid that drains or "leaches" from the worm bedding and castings.  The end result is a plant and soil enhancer that can be used as a supplement to a complete fertilization program for application on flowers, trees, shrubs, turf, fruits, and vegetables.  It can be sprayed directly on plants or applied to the surrounding soil.  Worm tea is a natural white fly, aphid, and spider mite repellant. 

A worm bin is surpisingly simple to make.  Fine Gardening has a video by Jodie Colon of the New York Botanical Garden demonstrating how to turn your kitchen scraps into vermicompost.  Give your worms a dark, cozy home with plenty of food, moisture, oxygen, and a comfortable temperature and you'll be rewarded with piles of vermicompost.

Vermiculture vs Composting:

  • Worms create a compost material that is far superior than any compost that is produced without their assistance
  • The compost material that is created by worms is smaller than 2 microns
  • Vermicompost added to soil creates a material that has better water retention, aeration, drainage and stability
  • Vermicompost contains more antibiotic properties against pathogens than regular compost and higher amounts of natural plant growth hormones
  • Worms have the ability to reduce all bacteria that is pathogenic to animals and people

Benefits of Vermicomposting:

  • Improves the physical structure of the soil
  • Enriches soils with micro-organisms
  • Microbial activity in worm castings is 10 to 20 times higher than in the soil and organic matter that the worm ingests
  • Improves water holding capacity
  • Enhances germination, plant growth, and crop yield
  • Improves root growth and structure
  • Reduces amount of waste going into landfills

Resources

Worm castings, worm tea, vermiculture equipment, including the worms themselves, can be purchased on the internet.  See the Fine Gardening link above as well as the Resources section for a list of vendors and additional information.

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Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. We must balance the impacts of today's decisions with the needs of future generations. - The Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development (1998)