Is It Good To Use Red Worms For Composting?
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Today is the era of organic farming, and the food obtained from the organic farm is also healthy and fresh but it is not economical. One of the key factors while growing organic food is eliminating the use of chemicals during the cultivation of food. To enrich the soil medium with essential nutrients, add good quality compost or well-rotted manure into the soil. If you want to establish your own garden, instead of buying expensive good quality compost you can form your own composting material by using red worm wigglers. Which is not only cost-effective but also enriched with essential micro and macronutrient.
What is vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting is the use of worms for the breakdown of food and other discarded organic waste into compost or liquid fertilizer. These worm feeds on organic waste materials and passes it through their digestive tract and convert it into a granular form which is known as cocoons that are though vermicompost. It is also known as casting which may improve the chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil. The chemical secretion of the earthworm digestive tract will help to breakdown the soil and organic matter and contain more nutrients that are readily available to the plants. There are 2700 different species of worm which are further divided into burrowing and the non-burrowing type and can be used for vermicomposting.
Why red wigglers are preferred
Red worms are more efficient in composting as compared to the other worms. They are also known as manure worm, red hybrids, tiger worms, and striped worm. According to Marry Applehof, a famous worm guru and author of worm eat my garbage stated that red worms are the most satisfactory worm to use in home vermicomposting. There are three species of a red worm named Eisenia fetida, Eisenia andrei, Lumbricus rubellus which are famous for composting.
There are the following reasons why I prefer the red worm over other worms.
- They eat 10 % of soil and 90% of organic waste material and convert into vermicomposting faster than other worms.
- They can tolerate temperature ranges from 0-40oC and optimum temperature for reproduction is 25-30oC with 40-45% moisture in the pile.
- Scientific research proves that on a small scale they can produce 5-10 tons vermicompost annually while on a large scale they produce more than hundreds of tons of compost annually.
- They can consume up to half of their body weight in food waste every day.
- They are thriving on kitchen waste but not on animal products.
- Extremely hardy and easy to care for.
- They can mature and reproduce more quickly than larger worm species. Studied show that if you start with 100 red wigglers they turn into 1000 in less than 12 weeks.
- They prefer to live in a blend of food waste and bedding than dirt.
- Mostly prefer to live in colonies and can handle high density in a worm bin.
- They content to stay in the container and would not try to crawl out.
Benefits of using red worms
Here are important benefits that you can get by using red worm composting.
Play a role in organic farming: The red worm casting contains a higher concentration of macro and micronutrients than the garden compost. It is also enriched with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which are readily available and easily released after the application to the plants and ultimately improve the growth rate of the plants. The vermicompost enhances the plant growth and suppresses diseases of the plant.
Improve topo soil condition: Studies show that, the addition of red worm compost into the soil may improve the biological, structural and physical properties of the soil. They mostly live in top 5” soil because they love to decompose leaves and twig and do not move down deep into the soil. Most of the plants grow in the topsoil. If you apply direct red worm to your garden soil, it increases the porosity and microbial activity in the soil and improves the water holding capacity and aeration in the soil. It also lessens the crusting and other physical damage common to the soil of the arid climate.
Eco-friendly: It also benefits the environment by reducing the amount of chemical fertilizer and pesticides and decreasing the number of wastes going into landfills. The worm will reduce the waste products from kitchen waste. World Bank urban development series of waste composition indicates that on an average about 46% of waste comes from biological means and 25% is particularly from kitchen waste in the form of food. By red worm composting, you can prevent them from ending up in landfills.
Protection of earth from global warming: Research indicated that when your biological waste tossed into landfills upon decomposition it produces methane gas which is 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. In this way, landfills are the second-largest producer of methane gas which had a great role in global warming. By using red worm composting you reduce the production of methane and save our earth from global warming effects.
Vermicompost tea: It is a relative by-product of red worm composting, which is a liquid produced by extracting organic matter, microorganisms and nutrients from vermicompost. Studies show it contains 4-5% more nitrogen than the average garden soil but it is slow to release due to mucous secret as they digest the biological waste. Unlike vermicompost, it also applies to the top of plant foliage, reportedly to enhance the disease suppression. Vermicompost tea is also applied to the soil as a supplement between compost application to extend the biological activity.
Supplemental income: If you can rear red worm properly then you can utilize them to form good quality vermicompost for business purposes. You do not need to worry about end suppliers because it includes nurseries, landscape contractors, greenhouses, garden supply stores, flower shops, and the general public.
Economical: Using red worms you can form compost in a short period of time. By using it you can physically implement three R (reducing, reusing and recycling) into your lifecycle through red worm composting. It will benefit you financially like:
- It will avoid tipping fees for green waste implemented by many landfills diversion.
- You can make your own nutrient pack organic fertilizer free of cost which costs on average of 50$ per 10pound bag.
How to use red worms for composting
Application of direct red worm into the soil may also affect the other beneficial insect pest of the soil so it is preferred to use the container for making red worm composting. The size of the container should be 24” ×24” which can hold 1000 worms in it. It should be shallow rather than deep because red worms prefer to live in the top 6” of the soil. You can use any material like glass, wood, and plastic. The advantage of using wood is that it can be used again and again. You can even use a commercially available plastic bin for composting.
After the selection of a suitable container, next is to create a hospitable environmental condition which is usually known as bedding. Bedding can be formed by using newspaper strips or leaves which hold moisture in the container and also aided with air spaces which are essential for worm growth. Before placing the bedding material ensure that they retain the moisture properly otherwise if the surrounding environment dries out then worms would not thrive because they respire through the skin. According to Rink et al. the threshold level of moisture is 45-60% and for best composting, they require a 70-90% moisture level. Maintain pH range 7-8 for maximum activity of worms and salt concentration should be less than 0.5%. Also, maintain the optimum temperature and aeration in the container for the optimum and rapid growth of the red worms. The next step is the selection of organic waste for the red worm. They cannot feed upon dairy products. Here is the food upon which red worm feed.
- Paper products
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grains, beans, and bread
- Fallen leaves
- Coffee ground
- Lawn clipping and weeds
Always provide the worms with shredded organic kitchen waste because as we know they do not have teeth so they take more time for decomposition. If you provide the food in a shredded form they can feed well and provide good compost. Here is a simple rule of thumb for 1 pound of red worm you require 1 pound of kitchen waste.
Studies revealed that red worm is a nightcrawler as if they are exposed to light for 2-3 minutes they move down or move aside. For harvesting the compost, you can use this hand-on method. To harvest the upper compost layer use light, and after this screen-out of the worms, you can remove the compost, undecomposed food, and bedding. Then again place the worm with fresh food material into the container along with undecomposed material. For indoor composting, it prefers to not add undecomposed material into the container. In this way, you can get the fresh compost
I have also written a guide here: “How to get started on a red worm composting project.” and here “Basic steps to making your own red worms composter.”
Hopefully with “Is it good to use red worms for composting?” I could show you how efficient the red wigglers are for composting. This article is presented to you by RedWormFarms.com.