At this year’s Spring Conference, we at OGS decided to set up a handful of volunteers with pen, paper, and the directive to go home after the event and write a post on each class they attended for us to share on the OGS Blog in a series we’re calling the Conference Blog!
In this series, we bring together the diverse perspectives of our audience and hear experiences from dozens of different voices–commercial farmers, backyard growers, conscientious consumers, and everything in between!
Vermicomposting for Fun and Profit presented by Brian Rosa was a fast paced, information packed workshop. Because I’ve had worm bins for many years much of the information I already knew, but even so, I didn’t nod off at all in spite of going bed late and getting up early.
Garden worms are soil dwellers that tunnel and burrow and are not suited for worm bins. Plastic storage crates make ideal worm bins. They should be kept in an area that range in temperatures between 60-85 degrees. If the temperatures get much under or above this the worms will likely die. Composting worms won’t survive in outside compost bins. They need darkness, good ventilation, drainage, moist bedding and food. The bedding can be Leaves, (my favorite) straw, sawdust, and paper (which I don’t like because it adds no nutritional value). Composted manure is good as is finished (cold) compost. What you shouldn’t add is soil, peat moss, dog or cat manure and most leftover cooked food because it may have too much salt. They eat most any vegetable scraps. (My worms love fresh squash and will eat it down to the hard skin.)
Fruit flies can be a problem but will be less of an issue if the food is first frozen.
The composting worms are called Red wigglers, Manure worms or Tiger worms. There are around 2,700 types of worms but only three known composting worms. These worms aren’t either male or female but instead they both all mate and all make cocoons. Each cocoon will have 6-7 baby worms. These babies will be adults in six weeks and start reproducing.
Vermicompost is rich in plant nutrients and adds beneficial microbes to the soil. It can be added to potting soil mix at 10-20%. It can be made into a compost tea and used as a foliar spray.
One hog farmer vermicomposted hog waste and made $190,000 in one year!
Making an outside compost pile was also talked about. Instead of making compost in layers, as I’ve always read, I learned it’s best to mix the brown and green together at the ratio of 2/3 brown to 1/3 green.
My only disappointment with the class is that the subject was so broad. If it had been just about home vermiculture with more specific detail from that angle I feel it would have been more useful to people just getting started. People interested in large profit making operations won’t learn much in an hour and half but a class to inspire people to start a vermiculture business could be of value.
Jenn Cloke, originally from Atlanta, has lived in Western North Carolina for since 2006 and wears her Appalachian mantle proudly. Jenn was the Communications Coordinator for Organic Growers School from 2012 to 2014. She and her family run a small farm at the foot of Cold Mountain.