I have developed quite an emotional attachment to my worms. For good reason, they are truly amazing and greatly underappreciated creatures.
If you haven’t yet discovered the joy of worm farming I urge you to give it a go. For the yet to be initiated:
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. Wikipedia
Earthworms aerate, till and fertilize the soil, breaking down organic waste into plant-available forms, improving the soil structure and nutrient and water-holding qualities of soil. Current farming practices that use chemical fertilizers, pesticides and over-tillage of the soil kills earthworms and other beneficial organisms, leading to poor soil fertility, loss of soil structure and soil erosion. At the same time, rotting organic waste dumped in landfills is polluting our underground water supply and releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming.
Earthworms eat organic waste and give us healthy soil and organic fertilizer in return. The knock on effect is healthy plant growth and food that is significantly more nutritious and delicious. Farming/gardening without man-made chemicals enables us to avoid poisoning our soil, environment and bodies. This perfect partnership is easy and fun to develop on a smaller scale at home.
There are numerous commercial systems available but you really don’t need a hi-tech operation to get started so go with what your budget allows or make your own. My
son has designed this ingenious system which enables us to maintain the health of the farm and easily harvest the ‘gardener’s gold’. These simple re-cycled plastic boxes are divided by a section that has holes cut into it. One side of the box is filled with food until full. At this point we begin filling the other side leaving the first side to break down further. As the food disappears the worms will move into the food rich section leaving behind the easy to harvest worm castings which contain up to 100-million microbes per gram – up to 20 times more than ordinary soil! Added to your garden, these microbes continue to break down organic matter into plant-available forms, thereby enabling plant roots to take up nutrients that would otherwise have stayed bound in the soil. These beneficial organisms also suppress the growth of pathogens, which means healthy soil and healthy plants. In addition to harvesting the castings we catch the worm wee (leachate) which drips through a hole in the base. It makes a wonderfully nutritious tea when mixed with water. Tea for plants that is :-).
My farms, however, we getting a bit to much attention from other wildlife in the garden. I realised that the aeration patches had been gnawed through and at least one rat was feasting on my red wrigglers. I’m all for ‘the cycle of life’ etc. but realised my population was taking to much of a knock. It was time for some maintenance and harvesting anyway so I got stuck in. The old aeration patches
were replaced with wired mesh, the harvestable sides were harvested, the worm filled sides set aside and the whole box was given a good clean. Worms were returned with a note on top to advise other family members to now only feed on the one side (yes it is necessary in my family!). Worms are now safe from predators and I have buckets of gold to mix into my veggies boxes.
P.S. I know many of you are very anxious to see images of the incredible vertical garden. I ask you to bear with me a little longer. The scaffolding will be coming down soon and then you will get a much better sense of this exciting project. If you can’t wait to get started on your own VG but need some help, get hold of the plant wizard James Halle on firstname.lastname@example.org.