Vermicomposting (and Insect farming)

Using composting worms it is possible to have a worm farm that produces high quality compost, liquid fertiliser and worms.

In some countries, like Kenya, worm farm kits are sold so that, after some weeks, an income can be made by selling any, or all, of these three items.

This worm technique is little know in many SSA countries so to encourage more use a group has been formed whose members are shown below.


A good guide to vermicomposting of all types is found at;
http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5104e/y5104e08.htm

A video of a Kenyan farmer with worms is at;
external image 306px-Worm_bin.svg.png
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtJrcY0Z7HA

If you want to join our group email Graham at biodesigndiy@gmail.com.



1. Simplest worm farm - in a bin on the right.
This gives an outline of a simple worm farm.
It can be even simpler if you are not interested in collecting the worm "liquid"

external image d2789be32fd249541344a9c83372e836.jpg
Many people start with a plastic container (below) but almost any container will work provided liquid can be drained away

Most people will later want continuous production.
One of the simplest is at http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm
Here is an extract below. Your can manage with one plastic bin or perhaps a steel oil drum cut in half to make two troughs.

Materials Needed to Make an Easy Harvester Worm Bin:

  • Two 8-10 gallon plastic storage boxes (dark, not see through!) as shown in pictures Cost: about $5 each
  • Drill (with 1/4" and 1/16" bits) for making drainage & ventilation holes
  • Newspaper
  • About one pound of redworms

Step 1
Step 1

Step 1Drill about twenty evenly spaced 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of each bin. These holes will provide drainage and allow the worms to crawl into the second bin when you are ready to harvest the castings.
Step 2
Step 2
Step 2
Drill ventilation holes about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart on each side of the bin near the top edge using the 1/16 inch bit. Also drill about 30 small holes in the top ofone of the lids.

Step 3
Step 3
Step 3
Prepare bedding for the worms by shredding Newspaper into 1 inch strips. Worms need bedding that is moist but not soggy. Moisten the newspaper by soaking it in water and then squeezing out the excess water. Cover the bottom of the bin with 3-4 inches of moist newspaper, fluffed up. If you have any old leaves or leaf litter, that can be added also. Throw in a handful of dirt for "grit" to help the worms digest their food.
Step 3 Cont.
Step 3 Cont.


Step 3 Cont.
Step 3 Cont.



Step 4
  • Add your worms to the bedding. One way to gather redworms, is to put out a large piece of wet cardboard on your lawn or garden at night. The redworms live in the top 3 inches of organic material, and like to come up and feast on the wet cardboard! Lift up cardboard to gather the redworms. Or, if you wish to purchase worms, the [[mailto: a.kelley@wsu.edu|Extension]] office can give you names of suppliers in Whatcom County. An earthworm can consume about 1/2 of its weight each day. For example, if your food waste averages 1/2 lb. per day, you will need 1 lb. of worms or a 2:1 ratio. There are roughly 500 worms in one pound. If you start out with less than one pound, don't worry they multiply very quickly. Just adjust the amount that you feed them for your worm population.
Step 5
  • Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding, and get it wet. Then cover the bedding with the
    Step 5
    Step 5
    cardboard. (Worms love cardboard, and it breaks down within months.)






Step 6
Place your bin in a well-ventilated area such as a laundry room, garage, balcony, under the kitchen sink, or outside in the shade. Place the bin on
Step 6
Step 6
top of blocks or bricks or upside down plastic containers to allow for drainage. You can use the lid of the second bin as a tray to catch any moisture that may drain from the bin. This "worm tea" is a great liquid fertilizer.



Step 7
Feed your worms slowly at first. As the worms multiply, you can begin to add more food. Gently bury the food in a different section of the bin each week, under the cardboard. The worms will follow the food scraps around the bin. Burying the food scraps will help to keep fruit flys away.
What do worms like to eat? Feed your worms a vegetarian diet. Most things that would normally go down the garbage disposal can go into your worm bin (see the list below). You will notice that some foods will be eaten faster than others.

http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm


There is more general information if you click on page "Worm Info"


Here is a first email sent out to members in 2016;

Worm Farms – First steps – July 20th

Vermi-composting: is a method of composting using earthworms. Earthworms speed up the composting process, aerate the organic material and enhance the finished compost with nutrients and enzymes from their digestive tracts. Vermicomposting allows you to create compost round the year, indoor during the winter and outdoor during the summer

One excellent guide to vermicomposting is the fao instructions at;
http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/nr/sustainability_pathways/docs/Compilation_techniques_organic_agriculture_rev.pdf


Dear All,
The first phrases below are to introduce us to any newcomers here.

A topic has been raised by Maurice about finding red worms.
It seems to be assumed elsewhere that the right 'red' worms can be bought locally but they are not for sale in most SSA countries. And the right ones vary from place to place!

The only reference I have found to finding your own worms comes from an Indian website; where they have had worm farms for at least a decade;





How to collect native earthworms?

Identify worm-inhabited soils marked by visible earthworm castings on the soil surface.
Dissolve about 500gm jaggery (native sugar) and 500gm fresh cattle dung in 20 litres of water.
Sprinkle on an area 1m x 1m. Cover with straw, leave cattle dung lumps and cover with an old gunny bag.
Keep watering for about 20 to 30 days.
A combination of epigeic and anecic native worms will aggregate here that can be collected and used
http://www.erfindia.org/local.asp






Let me know of any other technique you might come across!

I'm hoping that some of you will send a few words in an email, to give us some guidance as to our next steps!
They can then be inserted below for the next edition.

First Steps
When I 'discovered' vermiculture in Kenya I wanted to tell others of this wonderful technique.
It is used in most countries around the world, especially in India and the USA, and I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before.

So I have for months been sending messages to many NGOs that are involved with helping the rural poor, as I have with other projects. I have found quite a few pushing compost but very few reply to my appeals to consider starting worm farms !

Over many years I've been trying to help by supplying practical information but all too often some expense was involved limiting those who could use it. But vermiculture need cost nothing and has such enormous potential - especially for the poorest farmers!

Vermiculture produces compost ten times better than the ordinary along with many worms (to feed livestock, fish, etc) and worm 'juice' that is a wonderful fertiliser.
If these worms are used in toilets/latrines they not only remove smells and reduce the volume but the residue can serve as compost!

Once you start looking into it there are all sorts of queries that arise! Do let me know where I have gone wrong below!

Finding red worms; there are many worms used for vermiculture but the best vary from country to country.
They can be bought by the kilo in some places but not in SSA countries so it might be best to get the initial local red worms using a technique developed in India using manure, sugar and watering. See above.
Alternatively

What worms eat; composting worms, unlike others, do not consume food but the bacteria growing on rotting food!

Worm farm container; the best farms have a container (like a half drum) raised to allow the worm 'juice' to be collected underneath but it is easier and cheaper to multiply the worms on the ground. But there can be problems in some places with invaders!

Value of compost; it is little understood how noxious weeds are often the result of soils becoming depleted of plant nutrients! There are still well-educated people trying to get poor Africans to use chemical fertilisers on their farms when what they need is lots of compost. See next BioDesign newsletter.

How Is It Different From ‘Normal’ Composting?

Aside from the obvious difference of utilizing worms while regular composting does not, worm composting is also a cooler (mesophilic) type of composting. Not only is a hot composting stage not required, but it is actually something that needs to be avoided in order to keep the worms alive (although, if the system has enough room for the worms to spread out they should be able to move away from the hot zones).
Here are some other differences:
  • Is a ‘continuous’ composting process – materials are generally added on an ongoing basis, unlike the ‘batch composting’ approach used for hot composting
  • Can be done on any scale – both indoors and outdoors
  • Results in an incredible compost (vermicompost / worm castings) with unique plant growth promotion properties – a little goes a long way!
  • Doesn’t require any turning of material – the worms accomplish this themselves
  • Can handle more moisture (again, worm movement helps to keep things aerobic)
http://www.compostguy.com/worm-composting-basics/

Is vermicomposting different in urban and rural situations; there does not seem any with small projects but contamination in towns is often a problem. It is usually only used with organic waste produced by food processing. There are mechanical systems for dealing with large amounts of organic waste.

Worm composting toilets; One recent useful entry I've found is at;
http://divatusaid.tumblr.com/post/129143507492/the-results-are-in-tiger-toilets-field-trial
This refers mostly to developments in India where they are more advanced that most other countries having started worm farms a decade ago!

Below are those who have already shown an interest in using vermicomposting in several SSA countries.
Maybe it would be good to have contributions from you for an extra web page at biodesign.wikispaces.com?

I'm still struggling with this! Do let me have your ideas/suggestions below.
Graham K

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/getting-started/