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Vermicompost Harvest – Garbage to Black Gold

Red Wigglers - Eisenia foetida

With the first lettuces cleaned out of the garden it was time for a vermicompost harvest. Vermicompost, compost filled with worm castings, otherwise know as worm manure, is a rich compost that will get my second or third plantings well nourished. I have written about my vermicomposting adventures before here.

Once the weather became dependably warmer, over 50 degrees, I moved our worm bin outside. It now lives on the north side of the house where it is in the shade most of the day.  In preparation for the harvest, I shredded and soaked lots of newsprint for a day.  This is my supply of fresh bedding. I dumped out all the worms, compost and old bedding onto a sheet of plastic and left this mass for a couple of hours. This gave the  worms time to dive down to the bottom of the pile away from the light. That gave me enough time to wash out the bin and dump in the wet shredded newspaper which had a little time to drain through the bin’s drainage holes.

Worms in the bin with new bedding and some new garbage

The harvest process simply means taking the top layers of vermicompost off the pile and putting it in a bucket, and then returning the worms with any clinging bedding into the bin with its fresh bedding. It is not necessary to remove every bit of old bedding . In fact, this old bedding and compost ‘inoculates’ the new system with the bacteria that will get the new system operating properly. While I say the worms eat my garbage, it is also true that various bacterias and fungi also eat my garbage and they need to be re-introduced. I always wear gloves when I work with the worms.

I keep a bowl on my kitchen sink for food scraps, vegetable and fruit peels and trimmings, tea bags, and stale bread mostly. I also add well crushed egg shells on a regular basis because the worms need that calcium to reproduce. Sometimes this garbages goes to the chickens, or the regular compost pile because I do not want to overload the worm bin which  could cause anaerobic bacteria to develop causing a smell. A healthy worm bin is an aerobic system; the worms need to breathe. A vermicompost system cannot accept meat or dairy!

Maintaining a worm bin and making vermicompost is not a complicated business. Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof is my bible, but it has more information than most of us will really need. It is all fascinating though, and if you have children who want a science project vermicomposting can benefit the child who gains scientific information and record-keeping experience, and the family garden. You can read a great interview with Mary Appelhof here.

The New Mexico State University Extension Service has an excellent downloadable pamphlet with basic information.

A bucketful of vermicompost

I harvested nearly five gallons of vermicompost. Most of this was used in garden beds ready for replanting, but I have mixed vermicompost with seed starting mix, and in potting mix for container planting. I confess I usually harvest only once a year which explains in part the large amount of compost.

What do you do with your kitchen garbage?

2 comments to Vermicompost Harvest – Garbage to Black Gold

  • Wow that looks like really rich, good stuff! I’m lazy so I purchase mine. 🙂

  • In our property since we don’t use other worms, we just let our native worms do the composting. They just go to the pile all of them, and then before the rainy season we can get some compost. I am sorry but i can’t touch those worms even with globes, haha, and that goes with larvae too. And that is me, the one who dreams of having a butterfly house someday!

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