What Are Worms?
Worms are tiny crustaceans that have eight legs and two antennae. They live in the soil and feed on decaying organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, woody debris etc. When they die, their bodies decompose into a fine powder called humus. Worms are very beneficial to your garden because they eat pests like aphids and scale insects which cause many problems for plants when they infest them.
How Do You Add Worms To Your Compost Pile?
There are various ways to add worms to your compost pile. Some methods include: using worm castings, adding worms directly into the pile, adding worms in a baggie with other materials and burying the bags in the compost heap. There are different types of worms that can be used for different purposes. For example, there are leaf cutter and root cutter (or “leaf stripper” and “root stripper”) worms. These worms chew off the top layer of leaves from certain plants, leaving behind smaller leaves that are easier to digest. Other types of worms include those that eat fungi, bacteria and nematodes (a type of microscopic insect). Nematodes are small round organisms that attack plant roots causing them to rot and eventually kill the plant.
Types Of Worms Used For Composting
There are several kinds of worms used for composting. These include:
•The Red Wiggler, also known as the Tiger Worm or Eisenia foetida, is the most common type of composting worm. They are also known as manure worms because they used to be called manure worms. They are red in color and have a wiggly motion when they walk. These are sold in almost every garden center for use in vermicomposting, which is the process of using worms to create a natural fertilizer.
•Lumbricus terrestris is a type of earthworm also known as the “Nightcrawler”. It is commonly used in fishing but can also be used for composting. These worms are not as active as red wigglers and when disturbed they will curl up in a ball. They are usually sold frozen, which keeps them from curling up.
These types of worms are the most popular for vermiculture but there are many other types of earthworms such as:
•The Common Earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris)
•The Deer Worm (Amynthas Vitta)
•The Australian Nightcrawler (Eudrilus Eugeniae)
Add A Bunch Of Castings To Your Compost Pile
Worm Castings or Vermicompost is worm poop and is a great fertilizer to add to your garden. You can buy Vermicompost in bags from garden centers and it is sometimes mixed with other materials such as sawdust. Many gardeners prefer to make their own Vermicompost in a bin or barrel by adding lots of kitchen waste along with some dirt and worms. You can also make worm tea or worm water by adding water to your worm castings.
This is a great liquid fertilizer with lots of nutrients for your plants.
What Do You Add To A Compost Pile?
The list of what you can add to your compost pile is almost endless. However, you do need a variety of “browns” and “greens”. This simply means that you need lots of carbon sources (browns) and nitrogen sources (greens). If you are just starting out, it’s best to keep things simple. The rule of thumb is that browns should make up about one-third of the pile and greens should make up about two-thirds. You can have as much brown material as you want but the greens should be limited. The most common things people add are:
•Grasse Clippings (without weeds)
•Green plant cuttings
•Leaves (from trees such as oak, maple and pine)
•Peat moss or humus – this is available at garden centers and is usually an acid forming ingredient when combined with other materials.
•Aged Manure (without seeds)
•Newspaper – only colored ink, not the white parts
•Pine Needles (only fresh, not dried)
You should avoid putting meat or fat content material into your pile. This can attract animals and cause your pile to not breakdown properly. You should also avoid making your pile too wet. A good way to check the moisture level is to grab a handful of material and squeeze it.
If it doesn’t break down when you apply pressure then it’s time to add more browns such as lawn clippings or dried leaves. If it turns to mud when you squeeze it then you need to add some greens like fresh grass clippings.
What About Old Coffee Grounds?
At many coffee shops, the used coffee grounds are just thrown away. Many people don’t realize that these can be added to your garden as a great source of nutrients such as nitrogen. Old coffee grounds are especially high in nitrogen which will help green plants and flowers to grow. They also contain phosphorus and potassium, while not in large quantities they still provide a benefit to your plants.
It is recommended that you don’t use heavily flavored coffee such as strawberry or blue berry since these can potentially harm your plants. Also, for best results, the grounds should be dry when you add them to your garden. Try drying them in the sun or in an oven at a low temperature. If they still smell like coffee then you need to dry them longer.
Old coffee grounds are easy and free to obtain if you already drink coffee. You can also ask a local coffee shop if you can have their used grounds. Just be sure to ask if it’s okay to take the grounds and if they have any rules such as only taking certain days or times that you can pick them up. This is a great gardening tip since not only are you saving money by using something that would otherwise be thrown away but you’re also preventing waste from taking up space in a landfill.
What Is Composting?
If you are really into recycling and saving money, then you might want to consider a home compost pile. This is very easy and you probably don’t need to buy anything to get started.
What exactly is composting?
Well, you are basically taking organic material and breaking it down into a friable material that looks like soil. These are the basics of what you need to do:
Add Carbon: These items contain a lot of carbon and will help with the decomposition. They also tend to be dryer than other ingredients so they help to absorb some of the moisture in your pile. This is a good starting point for new compost piles.
Add Green Waste (nitrogen): These ingredients are high in nitrogen and are usually wetter than carbon. These help get the entire process started. A lot of different ingredients can be added here such as fresh grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, and even wet leaves.
Add Manure (nitrogen and carbon): This is only needed for those with gardens that use a lot of nitrogen producing plants such as corn. Since this is animal manure you will want to make sure you don’t add too much or it can have the opposite effect and inhibit growth. A small amount, 5% or less, is usually just enough to give your garden a healthy boost.
Add Blood and Bone (carbon): This material is high in carbon and can be slow to break down so is best added in smaller amounts over time. It also tends to be quite dry.
As you can tell by the list above most of these ingredients are organic in nature and you don’t want to just go throwing them into a pile in your yard. There are certain steps you need to take to not only make the process easier on yourself but to ensure that it’s done correctly.
The first thing you need to do is to make sure you have the space for a pile. The pile needs to be at least three feet high and three feet wide. This might be more space than you think you have but if you are dedicated you will find it.
The next step is to put a barrier around the pile. This is important for two reasons. One is to prevent animals and unwanted debris from getting into the pile and the other is to contain the materials. If you don’t put up a barrier then the pile can easily spread out in all directions and even if you have the space you will end up with more of a mess than you want or need.
So, it’s best to contain it.
The last thing that needs to be done before putting material into the pile is to turn it. Turning the pile helps with the decomposition process and also makes it easier for you since you won’t need to worry about stepping into a big hole every time you want to add material. You can turn by hand or hips will do the trick and there are different ways you can position your pile. You can have a flat pile, a pyramid pile (where it tapers from the top to the bottom), a cone shape, or any combination of these.
It really isn’t that important as long as you are able to put material on top and turn it from the bottom.
Now that you know how to set up your pile you need to fill it with the proper materials. You can do this in any order you want and it’s really a matter of what you have available to you. You can start with the bottom layer and work up or start with the top layer and work down. The most important thing is to make sure that each layer is loose and mixed well with the one below it.
If your materials are too heavy they might not break down as quickly and could even prevent the materials below from doing so.
There are a few other things to keep in mind while building your pile. You want to make sure that you don’t have any water standing on or soaking into the pile. This can cause everything to rot instead of decompose and this can create an awful smell as well as make things quite messy. You will also want to keep the out invertebrates, particularly worms and ants that like to eat this material.
A layer of dirt or gravel is all that is required to keep them from climbing up into your pile.
There are many different ways to calculate how much of each ingredient you need. It really just depends on the type of material you are working with. If you have a lot of grass clippings then you would use more of that then you would use bark chips. It also depends on how big your pile is.
Sources & references used in this article:
Raising earthworms successfully by RL Sherman – 2003 – rabway.com
Vermicasting (or Vermicomposting): Processing organic wastes through earthworms by A Stewart – 2005 – Algonquin Books
Earthworms by H Chaoui – 2010 – omafra.gov.on.ca
A simple push-pull strategy to harvest earthworms from coconut leaf vermicompost produced in tanks. by CW Marr, NR Anderson – 1995 – krex.k-state.edu
A comparison of vermicomposting and composting by M Gopal, A Gupta – Current Science (00113891), 2019 – search.ebscohost.com
Worms for food and profit by J Dominguez, CA Edwards, S Subler – Biocycle, 1997 – jdguez.webs.uvigo.es
Earthworms by R Birenbaum – IDRC feature; F237e, 1983 – idl-bnc-idrc.dspacedirect.org
Vermicomposting: A promising technology to turn kitchen waste to organic compost by JM Laird, M Kroger, MR Heddleson – Critical Reviews in …, 1981 – Taylor & Francis
Vermicomposting: A promising technology to turn kitchen waste to organic compost by CP Action – search.proquest.com