Worms are not only useful for food production but they can also be used in various other applications such as making fertilizer, soil conditioner, and even insecticide. Some of them have been known to increase crop yields up to 20%. They are very beneficial to mankind because they provide us with a variety of different products which we cannot obtain from any other source. However, there are some drawbacks associated with using these organisms in agriculture. One drawback is their high cost. Another drawback is their short lifespan. There are many types of worms and it is difficult to choose the right one for your needs. A worm may be suitable for certain purposes, but if its life span does not meet your requirements then you will need to replace it sooner rather than later. If you decide to use worms in agriculture, you must first learn how to properly care for them so that they live long enough to produce the desired results.
There are two main types of worms: earthworms and aquatic worms. Earthworms are the most common type of worm found in nature. They are small, soft-bodied animals that dwell underground. They feed on organic matter (such as dead plants and animal carcasses) and excrete waste through burrows or holes. They also play an important role in soil quality by aerating and mixing it with their secretions and excretions.
Another type of worm is the aquatic worm, which dwells in water rather than soil. These worms are longer and thicker than their dirt-dwelling counterparts; they are more active and have no intestines. Aquatic worms breathe through their skin, which makes them susceptible to desiccation if they are removed from water for too long. If you are interested in raising aquatic worms, you will need to raise them in a large container of water.
Worms are often used in vermicomposting. This process involves using worms to break down organic matter into a useable fertilizer. Vermicomposting can be done by anyone; you do not need special skills or knowledge to carry out this process successfully. All you need is a suitable container to hold your worms and a reliable supply of food waste. A simple plastic tub will suffice as a worm bin, but you may need to drill several holes in the lid to prevent the buildup of toxic gases.
Add bedding (cardboard, newspaper, or dried leaves) to the bottom of the bin to create comfortable living conditions for your worms. Layer your food waste (banana peels, apple cores, etc. and avoid meat, dairy and oil-based food waste) on top of the bedding and add your worms (approximately 1 pound of worms per every 1/2 pound of food waste). This process can be done on a small or large scale. If you are raising worms on a small scale (i.e., in your backyard), you will need to feed them often (every day or two). If you are raising worms on a large scale (i.e., at a farm or business), the food waste can be added less frequently (every few days).
If you are raising your own worms to produce compost or vermicompost, you will need to harvest the castings (feces) produced by the worms. This is a simple and safe procedure. Place a plastic sheet on the ground or lay a tarp on the ground. Add fresh vegetable scraps and cover with a thin layer of soil. The worms will move down into the shallow layer of soil and feed on the vegetable scraps you have provided.
The worms will naturally disperse through the soil and gather near the surface to feed during the night. At dawn, you can scrape off the castings from the top layer into a bucket. Add new vegetable scraps and cover with soil to provide a food supply for your worms.
When harvesting the castings you will notice that some are entire worms, some are just the head, some are just the tail, and some are a combination of all three parts. These are still good to use as fertilizer and can be mixed into the soil as you plant your garden plants. However, if you are looking for a high quality product you will need to separate the worms from the castings. This is done by straining the castings (use an old stocking and a wooden spoon) and rinsing away the soil. Next, spread the castings on a screen or tray and allow them to dry in the sun.
When they are dry, the larger worms and worm pieces will wriggle around and the castings will no longer be sticky to the touch. If you want to ensure that the castings are clean and free of worms, pass them through a fine sieve or use a fan to blow away the lighter particles.
An effective way to harvest earthworms for bait or vermicompost is to cut three or four squares of carpet into two inch strips. Wedge one end of the strips into the soil and allow the rest to dangle freely. The worms will crawl up into the hanging carpet strips and can be removed and used.
Worms for Composting
Composting is a great way to deal with food waste and other biodegradable garbage. It can be done on a small or large scale and requires very little effort after the initial set-up.
When raising your own composting worms, it is important to provide plenty of bedding materials. You should add shredded paper, dead leaves, sawdust, or other carbon-based organic material to the bin (a simple wooden box works great) and layer it with your food waste. The worms eat the organic material and create “castings” (their feces) which are high in nitrogen and an excellent fertilizer. The entire process takes between three and six months to finish.
Worms are excellent for composting, but one thing to keep in mind is that they can’t handle large bones or fruit rinds. If you are planning on composting, collect fruit and vegetable scraps and plan your meals accordingly. Don’t buy fruit or vegetables unless you can eat them all before they go bad. If you have a large family, this may be a problem but many restaurants will give you their waste food for free if you ask.
As the bedding materials break down you will need to add more or replace them with fresh material. Ideally, you will turn the pile with a pitchfork every few weeks and keep the temperature from getting too hot (130 degrees F is the optimum temperature). One way to achieve this is to incorporate a layer of “brown material” (cardboard, dried leaves, sawdust) every time you add a new layer of food waste.
Bokashi is a specialized type of composting that uses a bran-based material to ferment the waste and inhibit the growth of “bad” bacteria while promoting the growth of “good” bacteria. The waste is then buried in the soil where it can break down slowly over time.
The first step is to mix food waste (and other non-biodegradable materials) with the bran. This should be done in a sealed container, preferably a bucket or barrel. A lid or even a layer of plastic wrap and some duct tape will work. The bran will begin to ferment the waste and produce a gas that smells like rotten fruit or vegetables. The mixture should be stirred or shaken every few days.
Once the waste has started to break down (this may take a month or more), it can be added to your bokashi bin. The bokashi mixture can also be added and stirred into the bin if you are having trouble getting things to break down. Continue doing this until you have added all the waste you want to compost.
The bin should be filled about a foot deep with mixed bokashi “fridge.” Add some soil to the top of the bin and then bury it with a garden fork, leaving at least 6 inches of the bin above ground. The goal is to have the bokashi material working on breaking down the waste but not exposed to air where it can attract pests or smell bad. You can bury it deeper and add more soil on top to help keep the smell in.
The waste will break down slowly in the bin. Every few months you should turn the contents of the bin with a garden fork to help break up the waste. This helps aerate it and mix in any bokashi material that has worked its way to the bottom.
This is a great way to completely break down food and other organic waste.
The resulting “castings” make a fantastic fertilizer.
Little maintenance is required once you have mixed the waste with the bokashi mixture.
This is slow way to compost.
It can be stinky if not kept covered and poorly ventilated (especially in the first month).
Requires a lot of space for large amounts of waste.
If you want to speed up the process, you can mix in some uncomposted manure or other compost. Just make sure it is mixed in well so that it does not come into direct contact with the waste you are trying to breakdown. This can help get the whole process started and your bins will finish breaking everything down faster.
Chicken Manure Composting
Manure composting is a traditional way of composting that has been used for centuries.
Sources & references used in this article:
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