Vermiculture (worm cultivation) has emerged as one of the hottest trends in composting and garden maintenance. Gardeners have long been aware of the value of the common earthworm, aerating the soil as it tunnels and leaving behind rich castings. But many are harnessing the process by creating composting beds overseen (or “underseen!”) by the red wiggler worm.
Red wiggler worms are amazing agricultural aids. Their digestive tracts contain complex microorganisms that, when excreted, can alter a soil’s makeup. Depending upon the worms’ food source, these microbes can deliver more nitrogen to a plant and control crop-specific diseases. Custom worm compost blends have been created for use in vineyards, fruit orchards and nut farms. And studies have shown that worm compost can correct the eco-balance of soil exposed to harsh synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and may even detoxify soil contaminated by heavy metals like lead.
Maintenance of a worm composting bed is simple, but the details matter. Worms require food, air and water in very specific concentrations. The worms work in a world of peat “bedding” that is turned at intervals to aerate. Food (corn meal, table scraps, animal manure-never meat or fats) is sprinkled on top and not replenished until depleted. Commercial farmers “pre-compost” the animal manure, allowing it to increase in temperature so as to kill weed seeds and pathogens before feeding it to the worms. The worms can break down an amazing array of materials –even newspaper and cardboard –making them invaluable recycling aids. Completed compost accumulates at the bottom of the bed where it can be harvested for use.
Intrigued? The Georgia Wigglers Worm Farm in Covington offers products and classes to get one started. Vermiculture classes, offered on alternating Saturdays, feature a two-hour seminar and one-hour Q&A for $85. Georgia Wigglers has an online store offering everything one may need, including worms. They also sell compost and concentrated “teas.” Worm compost is not cheap –almost $20 for a 15-pound bag –but the results are reportedly magical.
Learn more at www.gawigglers.com or call 678-977-7944.