Home cultivation of earthworms
Home cultivation of earthworms
When producing vermicompost at home, choose earthworms and prepare bedding (compost) carefully. Buy earthworms and bedding only in specialized vermifarms that signed an appropriate license agreement with the corporation Green-PIK. Earthworms should be mobile and of red color. Bedding should contain juvenile worms and cocoons. Genetically resistant population consists of more than 1500 species.
Before you buy earthworms, prepare a room for them. For this purpose use spacious (0.5- 1.0 m3) wooden bins 30-40 cm high, ridges or compost piles. Place bins in the back regions of the house (garages, sheds, basements, attics, etc.), where temperature is 16-24°C.
Maintain the year-round home production of vermicompost feeding earthworms with food wastes in winter.
Four stages of vermicompost production
1. Preparation of worm bedding (nutritious bedding)
Farm animal manure or bird dung, stored in a farm or poultry plant within 6 months is a good raw material for nutritious bedding. The compost quality can be improved by adding pulverized egg shells and other food wastes, fruit and vegetable leaves as well as adding up to 20 kg of lime and peat mixture per 1 ton of the material.
Leaves, hay and food wastes vermicomposting is far rapid if particle size is reduced. Raw material retains moisture, and does not obstruct air movement and air ingression into the bedding at the same time. Earthworms accustom themselves to a particular kind of food and cannot switch to another kind of food at once. Accustom earthworms to a new kind of food little by little adding small amounts of food.
Manure that had not been used for 2 years after composting is not recommended for bedding preparation for it contains very few nutrients necessary for earthworms. Use this manure when composting organic wastes.
Fresh manure is strictly prohibited to be used as food for earthworms, as they may die.
2. Adding earthworms to the bedding
This stage of earthworm cultivation and high-quality vermicompost production demands special attention and preparation. Bury earthworms with the bedding; spread them evenly over the surface. Bury 750-1500 earthworms per each sq.m. of compost.
Earthworms are afraid of bright light. Thus cover the bin or pile with a dark air-permeable material.
3. Maintenance and feeding
Earthworm maintenance includes temperature control, hoeing and watering of piles (bins). Bedding humidity is one of the main living conditions for composting earthworms. They are very sensitive to humidity variations, to humidity decrease in particular. To keep compost humidity level of 75-80%, use a watering can with a spraying cone and settled water (3-5 days) at 20-24°C. Do not water bedding right from a tap. Determine bedding humidity degree in the following way: take a handful of the bedding material from the place full of earthworms, and squeeze. If moisture exudes between fingers, the bedding humidity is adequate, if water drops exude then the bedding is water-logged, if moisture does not exude – the bedding is dry and needs watering.
First feed earthworms several days after burying into the bedding in the following way. Put 3-5cm thick layers of fresh nutritious bedding (food) on ¼ of the pile or bin’s top and spread it evenly over the surface. To feed earthworms at home, use old tea leaves or tea bags, coffee grounds, potato, carrot and beet peels, spoiled vegs and non-dairy cereal. After 2-3 weeks, as earthworms consume food wastes, add the 5-7cm-layer of food on top. During this stage spread food over the surface every week until the bin is full or the pile is 50-60 cm high. Feeding rate depends on the number of earthworms in the bin (pile) and temperature. When temperature is optimal (24°C), earthworms consume more food. Vermicompost production is complete when the nutritious bedding is fully converted. The process takes 3-4 months from the moment earthworms are buried.
Earthworms require oxygen. Thus when the bedding is 20 cm thick and more loosen it regularly with a 2-3 cm wooden stick or special vermicompost fork. Loosen twice a week at a depth where earthworms and cocoons are found, do not mix compost layers.
If earthworms work regularly in the bin (pile), compost is separated into three zones. The first zone is epipedon (5-7 cm) or fresh bedding, which is the food for earthworms. Its amount varies often, as earthworms consume it constantly. This layer is applied from time to time. The middle zone - 10-30 cm thick is a working zone inhibited by the solid mass of earthworms. The third zone is a vermicompost accumulator. As earthworms work the zone height increases constantly.
4. Harvesting earthworms and vermicompost
It is necessary to harvest earthworms when the nutritious bedding is fully converted or when the earthworm density exceeds the optimal occupation density (30-50 thousand earthworms per 1 sq.m.). To harvest earthworms, let them starve for several days. Then apply the 5-7 cm layer of fresh food on 1/3 of the bin (pile). Hungry earthworms move towards food. Remove the layer with earthworms 2-3 days later. To harvest all the earthworms including juvenile worms hatched from cocoons, repeat the process 3 times within 3 weeks. The rest of half-finished vermicompost is a dark sticky mass, collect it with a shovel, dry up to 40% humidity, screen it and pack to store. Store dried vermicompost at ambient temperature, -20°C - +30deg;C for 24 months.
It takes the earthworm Staratel 24 hrs to process its own weight of compost. The earthworm lives 10-16 years. An earthworm Staratel produces 1500 species a year. The working temperature ranges from + 9 to + 32O С.
Buy 1500-3000 earthworms and bury them into the bedding, it is enough to produce vermicompost for fertilizing the 3-4 ha plot of land within a year.
In warm seasons 150 g of earthworms (750 earthworms) produce about 1 ton of vermicompost. The 1500-earthworm population working in 2-3 sq.m. of compost will provide you with 2 tons of the high quality fertilizer.