What is Vermicomposting or Worm Composting?
Vermicomposting or Worm Composting is the decomposition process of using various species of worms, usually, red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to break down organic matter (like kitchen scraps and other green waste) into compost. Here you should note one thing, this decomposition process is called vermicomposting, while the rearing of worms for this purpose is called Vermiculture.
Earthworms feed on the organic waste materials and give out excreta which are known as vermicasts (also called worm castings, worm manure, worm humus, or worm feces). Vermicast contains reduced levels of contaminants and has a higher saturation of nutrients than the organic matter before vermicomposting. It is rich in nitrates and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.
What is Vermicompost?
Vermicompost (or vermi-compost) is the end product of vermicomposting using various species of worms. It is the mixture of partially composted vegetable or food waste, vermicast (worm castings), and any resistant materials that will not readily break down.
A high-quality vermicompost will have a high percentage of worm castings in it, but there is a little chance that having every last bit of material in your worm composting system pass through a worm at least once. It is rich in water-soluble nutrients and is also loaded with the microbes that make and maintain healthy soil.
Vermicompost is an excellent nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is used in gardening and organic farming.
Vermicomposting is not only beneficial for growing healthy and lush vegetation but is also incredibly easy to do!
With nothing more than a bucket, some dried leaves, some soil, water, cow dung, thatch roof, gunny bags, weed biomass, biodegradable wastes, and your choice of worms, you will be able to start in no time. This method is an excellent alternative for those who want to help the environment by reducing their waste output while at the same time benefiting their own gardens with rich compost.
What Are The Types of Vermicomposting?
Majorly there are 2 types of vermicomposting, namely:
- Primary vermicomposting
- Secondary vermicomposting
Let’s understand both types in brief:
1) Primary Vermicomposting
When it comes to primary vermicomposting, raw materials are fed directly to the worms. The stocking density (means the number of worms per surface area) of a primary vermicomposting system is high, as all the nutrients found in organic matter go towards raising worms.
Here in this system, the worms must be fed recurrently and in small doses. This is important as thick layers of raw organic matter may be invaded by microbes and may cause auto-heating of the layer.
2) Secondary Vermicomposting
Secondary vermicomposting is an efficient and effective process for composting organic matter. In this system microorganisms and fungi, first compost raw material before it is fed to the worms.
Here, the organic matter has already been partially digested by fungi and microorganisms before the worms can eat it, which means secondary bins are seldom fed in thick layers and rarely cause the layer to heat. In secondary vermicomposting systems, the feeding rate (i.e. mass of organic matter added per surface area) is relatively high.
What Are The Types of Vermicomposting Systems?
Now, let’s get aware about what are the different types of vermicomposting systems:
1) Worm Bins
Worm Bins are ideal solutions for those who want to produce their own sustainable vermicompost. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Small bins are even easily movable, while larger ones take some extra effort. Worm Bins are completely above ground, and being above ground makes the removal of worms and vermicompost from bins quite easier.
The main problem with worm bins is temperature control. Depending on the requirement you may need to insulate, heat, or cool bins to make sure your worms enjoy a steady temperature all year round.
2) Worm Beds
Worm beds are an ideal way to give your worms the natural environment they need. These are long troughs placed or dug into the soil. Soil temperature remains relatively constant in worm beds, and thus, it prevents the worms from getting too cold or too hot.
It provides a more reliable and natural habitat (i.e. the earth) for the worms. Although digging is needed to remove compost or worms, its benefits outweigh any extra effort.
3) Worm Windrows
Worm Windrows are the ideal choice for those wanting to pursue vermicomposting on a large scale. Windrows are long mounds sitting atop the ground. These are fairly large in size and thus resist sudden temperature fluctuations.
As these are above ground, removal of worms and vermicompost from windrows is quite easier. However, due to their size, windrows are not always suitable for smaller venues, such as kitchens.
What is The Procedure for Vermicomposting?
Steps For Vermicomposting Procedure:
1. The very first step of vermicomposting is preparing the tank. For that, you can use a tank made up of concrete or plastic. Depending on the availability of raw materials you can decide the size of the tank.
2. Next you need to do is collect the biomass. After collecting, keep it in the sunlight for approximately 8 to 12 days. Take a cutter and chop the biomass to the desired size.
3. Prepare a cow dung slurry. For quick decomposition, sprinkle it on the heap.
4. Fill the bottom of the tank with a layer of 2 to 3 inches of sand or soil.
5. To prepare fine bedding, use the organic wastes gathered from the kitchen and fields such as dried leaves, and partially decomposed cow dung. Now evenly distribute the collected material above the sand layer. Continuously add both the partially decomposed cow dung and chopped bio-waste layer-wise into the tank up to a thickness of 0.5 to 1.0 feet.
6. In the next step, put the earthworm species all over the mixture, and then cover it with gunny bags or dry straws.
7. For maintaining the moisture content, do not forget to sprinkle the water regularly.
8. For protecting the compost from direct sunshine and rainwater, and for preventing the entry of snakes, mice, ants, lizards, etc., cover the tank with a thatch roof.
9. Keep an eye on the compost to avoid it from overheating, and sustain proper temperature and moisture
What Are The Advantages (Or Benefits) of Vermicomposting?
The advantages (or Benefits) of using the vermicomposting method to produce compost are explained below:
1. In Vermicomposting, earthworms quickly broke down and fragment organic waste into a stable and non-toxic soil material, which acts as a soil conditioner for plant growth. This sustainable process not only has the potential to significantly reduce environmental pollution but also creates a high-value product that can lead to economic gain.
2. Vermicompost offers a wide range of benefits to gardeners. It acts as a biofertilizer, restores soil nutrients, stabilizes soil, and enhances soil fertility for a long-term period.
3. Vermicompost offers a well-balanced nutrient profile and helps increase the availability of important minerals. Moreover, it functions as a complete fertilizer, forming a granulated product that can be used by farmers and gardeners with ease.
4. This method provides ample economic benefits, such as a supplementary source of income. It has shown to be a profitable enterprise as a circular economy. By getting involved in this, people can also take advantage of the lucrative opportunities available.
5. It is an efficient, cost-effective way to reduce the environmental impact of disposing of food waste. By using worms to break down and transform organic material into nutrient-rich compost, this process eliminates the need for more intensive waste management strategies and provides a sustainable solution that helps protect our planet.
6. By reducing the population of pathogenic microorganisms, it creates an environment more favorable for plant growth and is ultimately healthier for plants (similar to regular composting methods).
With these advantages, vermicomposting proves to be an excellent environmental-friendly composting method for gardeners.
What Are The Disadvantages of Vermicomposting?
Certain disadvantages (or drawbacks) of using vermicomposting to produce compost are as follows:
1. The completion of the vermicomposting process takes time. To get the usable form of organic matter, there will be a requirement of approximately 6 months.
2. There is a need to carefully monitor the moisture level of the bin. It should not be too wet or too dry. Worms require moisture to breathe as they have no lungs and they breathe through their skin. If the bin becomes dry worms may try to escape, and if the bin dries out, the worms will die.
3. Vermicomposting emits a foul odor at certain stages of the composting process.
4. While this method is beneficial for soil health, it can nurture the growth of certain pests and pathogens, (like fruit flies, centipedes, and flies).
5. Vermicomposting requires regular maintenance to ensure optimal results. To properly feed your worms, you should add a small amount of food periodically and caution must be taken that the worms are not flooded with too much feed. Also, if you don’t add enough feed to the bin, the worms will start trying to escape.
This article has hopefully provided you with a comprehensive overview of vermicomposting. I hope you have gained a better understanding of how this type of composting works, as well as the advantages and disadvantages it can provide for you and your garden. With this knowledge, you can now make an informed decision about how to best invest in your own garden. I hope this article was helpful and inspiring!
1) Vermicomposting – ScienceDirect
2) Vermicomposting – NC State University
3) The Basics of Vermicomposting – Oklahoma State University
4) Vermicomposting: Composting with Worms