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Julia's Compost Shop

The Wormery

 

My aim with this page is to try to gather together as much information as possible about vermiculture and composting in general. when I find interesting articles, I will add them to this page so hopefully in time it will become a useful resource for all you budding worm farmers out there.

I stumbled on some interesting and upifting TED talks recently and after watching them, I felt just that little bit more optomistic for the future.  Please pass the link on.

This first one is a talk by Alan Savory who has spent many years researching the effects of large herds of grazing animals on grasslands. The surprise is that when well managed, these animals can turn desert into productive land - quite an eye opener.

http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html 

 

This second one is more relevant for home gardeners as it focuses on HUMUS - the very thing that vermiculture helps to increase in your garden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8Q1VnwcpW7E

 

This is by Roger Doiron, an advocate for households to grow their own.

http://www.ted.com/talks/roger_doiron_my_subversive_garden_plot.html

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WORM TEA

As mentioned on the worm farming page, the liquid that collects in the lower tray that can be drawn off is actually leachate, which is a mixture of liquid that has comes from decomposed materials and what has gone through the worms.This will have a variable amount of nutrients in it, but is still useful as a fertilizer.

To make proper worm TEA, as the name suggests, it will involve 'steeping' or allowing the material to sit in water for a length of time to extract 'flavour' or in this case, nutrients. There are any number of clips on You Tube of people showing how to make worm tea, most involve putting a small quantity of vermicompost in a container, adding some molassis (which is said to stimulate microbial growth) and then injecting air bubbles- usually via a modified aquarium oxygenator. This bubbling is usually kept going for around 24 hours, after which, the solids are strained off and the resulting liquid is the TEA.


Of course, this process is a bit involved but perfectly good results can be achieved by simply putting a handful of vermicompost in a bucket, adding water and allowing it to steep for a number of hours and ensuring that it is agitated frequently. The liquid can then be strained and diluted to use as a plant tonic.  The solids can be added to the soil.

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The Great Composting experiment

 

Surprisngly, in all the years I have been making compost, I had never made it the 'PROPER" way, that is gathering all the composting materials together and building the heap in one go.

After scoring a beautiful wooden slot together system for FREE, on Freecycle, it lloks so good I just plonked it in a space between my little Blenheim orange and a plum tree, it looks right at home.   I thought now is the perfect opportunity.

To start, I mowed the lawn, all 200m2, raided the chicken coop for the wood shavings that had been in there for at least 6 months, I  have four bantams that are only in there for sleeps, so there was not a huge amount of poop mixed in, it was being used as the CARBON component.  I also hauled out some stinky stuff from the recently started compost bin, this comprised of all manner of things - weeds, citrus (that doesn't go into the worm farms) great hunks of parspalam grass that I had brought home form one of my gardening jobs.  Plus I had a couple of bags of coffee grounds, scrounged from a local cafe which I pre mixed with the wood shavings.

So, having gathered all the materials, the stacking sandwich began, green, brown, stinky sltuff, green, brown etc with a good soaking after each layer.

As luck would have it, the material I had gathered perfectly filled my new enclosure. I covered it wth a piece of old carpet and left it to its own devises.

Two days later, I decided to test the temperature.... It went off the scale of my cheapo domestic thing that I hang up indoors, well over  50c/120f.

A week later, and I remembered I had a sugar thermometer, so testing again at four inches depth and I got 50c again, so it has been steaming away for a week at pretty high temperatures, should be enough to kill weed seeds - at least in the middle part. So now its time to turn it over and get all the material on the edges cooked.

After four weeks, and at least four sessions of emptying it out onto an old shower curtain laid on the grass, mixing it up and then forking it all back in again, it is still steaming away which means that there is still decomposition taking place. The only identyfiable matter in the whole pile are the wood shavings, everything else is brown.  In the second week I added a huge bag of tradescantia that had been removed from a clients garden, this was to ensure I had enough green to brown and to increase the bulk a bit as by this time the heap had halved in volume.

 

Findings so far, it would appear that you can reckon on getting approximately half back what you put in, but as it is all free, thats pretty good.

When it has cooled down, I intend to put it through a 5cm mesh sieve and use the fine stuff to create some potting compost- I shall mix this with some vermicompost, and the larger pieces will go into the next lot. I m already saving stuff up so there are many and various bags tucked away full of dried banana leaves, big plump acanthus leaves (they probably won't be so plump by the time I get to using them), bags of coffee grounds and the lawn is looking like a hay meadow as I want to mow just before starting the next one.  The chickens love it though as they have lots of grass seed heads to pick at and Florence the tortoiceshell cat enjoys blending into the background when she has a nap in the sun.

 

This is Hermoine helping to turn over the compost and rewarding herself with any unfortunate earwigs who happen to come into sight.  There were a surprising number of little bugs running around even when this was steamng.

Early on, when it was almost too hot to touch, I suggestd to my son that we could probably cook an egg on it.  We found an old frying pan, put in a little oil and waited for around 5 minutes to it to heat up, then found an old egg that had been mis laid and too dodgy for human consumption, cracked it into the pan, Then waited...and waited..and waited, ha, after 20 minutes we both got bored.  So, the conclusion was ...you CANNOT cook an egg on a compost heap.

 

Worm population explosion.

Here is a link to one of my worm farming heroes, Bentley Christie. He is based in Canada and has a really informatie website.  Here is a  really interesting  'what if' excercise on the question of a worm farm population doubling in 3 months.

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/general-questions/will-a-red-worm-population-double-in-3-months/