Category Archives: Personal interest

And now for something completely different: Vermicompost (Spring 2014)

I am among many things, a vermiculturist, that is, I raise worms. Strange, no?

Vermicompost is the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also called worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by an earthworm.[1] These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than do organic materials before vermicomposting.[2]

Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.[3] This process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.

I do this because I’m a gardener, and I believe in eating the best food that I can. Vermicompost is essentially a magic ingredient. I’ve got another 15 gallons or so to collect. Not only does this feed the plants, but it propagates beneficial fungal and microbial life to the soil. The food that I produce is massively energizing. You might not think that there’s a difference between a potato bought from the grocery store and one that you’ve grown yourself, but there is. When I did not know gardening, I thought that such comments were little more than gardener’s vanity. It isn’t. The taste and nutritional content are immediately perceptible. And all of it relies on one thing: the quality of one’s soil.

This post was prompted by a question on a YouTube video.

I prefer using leaf mulch myself. I find that it breaks down and gives a nicer quality compost. Added to that is that fact that worms are built for eating leaves, among other things, while they can eat cardboard and paper, I find that the worms don’t seem to thrive as well. Perhaps that’s just cognitive bias and the naturalistic fallacy at play.

One thing that I find works extraordinarily well is a mix of egg cartons (I used the lids and keep the tray for germinating seeds) and leaves.

Here’s my magic formula:

Before your next batch is ready to harvest, mix about 50-50 shredded or torn egg carton with leaf mulch, let them sit in an airtight bucket with some bokashi inoculation and some kitchen waste. Let it ferment a couple of weeks, or until your next tray or batch is ready. By that time, the bokashi microbes will have predigested all the bedding while leaving the structure intact. The worms will be in a nutritional bedding plus the food that you add and the egg-carton helps maintain the moisture level.

The little white specks are crushed and not-yet digested eggshell.

Image of different grades of vermicompost.