Worms at Work

What Is Vermicomposting ?
Vermicomposting is the process by which we can convert organic waste into a rich humus by using red earthworms. After a worm ingests organic matter, the matter undergoes a chemical change and what comes out is a rich plant food!

How To Do Vermicomposting At Home?
Take a broad earthen pot or an old plastic crate (not higher than two feet) and make small holes at the bottom for draining excess water.

Put a layer of soil / coconut husk in it.

3. Add biodegradable waste: a mixture of kitchen waste like vegetable peels, leftover food (no non-veg please) and tree leaves. If the waste is broken into small pieces, it will enhance the speed of decomposition. Do not add material like plastic, metal, rubber, glass and printed paper.

4. Add a little fresh cowdung (ideal ratio of cowdung to waste is 1:8) or some fresh vermicompost to the waste.

5. Mix or turn the waste everyday to avoid foul smell and sprinkle just a little water.

6. The volume of the waste will decrease, thus more waste can be added.

7. After 15-20 days, the waste will decompose partially and will turn blackish. Then, turn over the waste thoroughly and introduce some red

earthworms in it (about 50-100 are sufficient).

8. Cover it with a layer of dried leaves. After the introduction of the earthworms, the waste does not have to be turned over.

9. Sprinkle some water every day to keep the contents moist. Never flood the pot with water, as this would cause the worms to drown. During the rains keep the pot under cover. To harvest or to separate the earthworms and the vermicompost, stop adding water for 3-4 days. Empty the contents on the ground in bright sunlight (as shown below). The earthworms are shy of light and will burrow down.
10. Remove the top portion of the compost. The worms will again burrow down. Remove another layer of compost. Repeat till 75% of the compost has been removed. Add the vermicompost to your plants. The earthworms would have multiplied by now, thus you can start another unit or give some to your friends.

Repeat the above procedure.
You should ideally keep two containers. Once you introduce worms in the first container (step 7), you can start adding waste in the second one (step 1 onwards). Thus, on harvesting the compost in the first container, the earthworms can be immediately introduced in the second container, in which the waste would be ready to receive the earthworms.

What Waste Can You Add?
Bio-degradable matter like kitchen and garden waste should be added to the pot. This means all vegetable peels, leftover food, tea leaves, dead leaves and plants. Eggshells should be broken into small pieces before adding it. Meat waste tends to attract mice, so avoid putting it.

Where Should I Keep The Pot With The Worms ?
It is best to keep it in the corner of your garden, in a shaded place. If you do not have a garden, keep it in the corner of your balcony / terrace (preferably a shady corner). The place should also be sheltered from animals like cats, dogs and mice. Keeping it in your room is not a good idea as the pot may attract insects which you may not welcome.
What About Other Insects That Will Appear In The Pot?
All kinds of creatures may creep into your pot. This is normal, do not panic. These bugs are harmless and even complementary to your worms.
If there is an excessive amount of other insects in the pot, uncover the pot. Make a few cone shaped piles in the sunlight and fresh air. The sunlight and fresh air and general disturbance would scare off the insects.
Else, you could also add a little haldi (turmeric) powder to keep away other insects.

If ants are a problem, keep a water filled container around the pot, to keep away the ants.
If rats are a problem in your area, cover the pot with an iron mesh or a tin plate with holes. In the garden, planting ‘khus’ keeps rats away.

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