Everything you need to know about these incredible creatures and the key to a healthy, happy and beautiful garden.
After 35 years of working with horticulture we now offer something very exciting: where you utilise recycled products such as newspaper and waste from your kitchen to name a few, and be rewarded with the most amazing compost and liquid fertiliser! This is the future for all gardens, using vermiculture with Red Wriggler worms, i.e. Vermicompost (worm compost) and Vermitea (liquid fertiliser).
Vermicompost is a “slow- release” fertiliser which will not burn plants, and rewards you with great fruits, green vegetables and wonderful flowers. This saves you a great deal on commercial fertilisers! Worm compost (Vermicompost) has 5 times more nitrogen than most composts which is excellent for green foliage.
It has 7 times the conventional phosphorous allowing for strong root growth, and with 11 times more potassium you are assured of growing fantastic flowers and fruit trees. In addition, you have the added value of Vermitea, a by-product of Vermicompost. This offers exceptional value to your garden, and also increases the flavour of vegetables. It can also be used as a spray for foliage on vegetables. This enhances the quality of your crop, while suppressing diseases and fungal infections. Environmentally-friendly approaches to gardening, and totally committed to vermiculture and recycling, is how I can get your garden looking fabulous.
Baby wormlets eat right from birth and do not stop! If looked after well, compost worms live up to 5 years and have immense value in helping to produce vital humus for the soil. Humus allows for better water retention of up to 35%, as well as holding the nutrients for plants, much like an extended vitamin tablet. These fine-stranded worms (see the worm hatchlings above) They look like strawberry blonde hair, and grow in length before filling out in bulk. Close on maturation age (+- 3 months from birth) their clitellum or sex band swells up, turns a white colour and is indicative of sexual maturation. A truly fascinating experience to watch and observe!
While compost worms breed “24/7″ you will note that close to spring a veritable flood of baby worms hatch. Due to the cooler bedding temperatures in winter, compost worms tend to “breed more” while eating less, so once again, nature is in perfect balance, ensuring the survival of the species, and yet another spring of wonder, bursting with life!
Stand back Mr. Viagra – compost worms “do it” for 12 hours at a time, mating up a storm! How? Each worm slips under the sex band (clitellum) of the other worm, and while entwined, secrete fluids that ensure fertilisation of the cocoons take place. Depending on the quality of food available, compost worms will produce 1 – 6 baby wormlets per cocoon, which will take another +- 3 weeks to hatch. You might note that some cocoons are smaller than others, this is because the size of the cocoon is relative to the girth of the worm, and more mature breeding worms tend to produce larger cocoons. Urban legend has it that the Eisenia Fetida worm has taken on the name “Tiger or Tier worm”, perhaps due to the striation toward the back end of the worm on sexual maturity. If held up to the light, you note bright yellow/orange banding, and also definitive ”bands” of poop, as the faeces moves through the body. Luckily worms never have to have a colonoscopy!
Note that while mating, each worm moves into the clitellum of the other, much like clipping under a wedding ring, moving apart again once mating complete. Each worm produces a cocoon after a few days, which in turn takes +- 21 – 24 days to hatch under ideal conditions
Basic example of the compost worm life cycle. Compost worms maturate at +- 3 months, breed every 0 – 7 days, each worm producing one cocoon, and from there another +- 3 weeks until those cocoons hatch, and so on.
Check out this Youtube Video of a LIVE worm birth!
Compost worms in a butternut heaven!
Foods such as butternut and pumpkin provide a high-energy food source for worms, and are excellent as a “going away” food, as you can simply place a large wedge in the worm farm, cover up and leave for up to 2 weeks.
“More powerful than elephants” Charles Darwin said of worms… Ok, now before you want to bury your Mother-in law in secret, no compost worm crimes go without leaving clues! Compost worms have been known to “eat” entire pairs of jeans, coffee cups, cardboard boxes, and a two thirds of all landfills!
Esther is a people’s person, and takes her projects to heart. You can be assured that you will get only the best advice, and take care of your Vermicompost and Vermitea.
There seems to be a great deal of mystery surrounding the birth of a cocoon – the following 3 photos should clarify
The worm giving birth to a cocoon from over its head.
Cocoon about 3 weeks later – note that it has become brown.
The same cocoon giving birth to about 4 worms – they look like pink threads.
Something to think about
A regular customer of mine over the years, came to my premises feeling very frustrated. She had a few cocoons in a container to show me saying these nasty intruders are killing her worms and spent the day extracting them and squashing in her fingers. I took one look and jokingly said “you are a murderer”. When I told her what she was doing – killing her next generation of worms, she felt very embarrassed and in future, will treasure these cocoons.
A lady phoned me one morning enquiring if I had worm “wee” for sale. I said NO but I do have worm tea (Vermitea – a by- product of worm castings as worms do not wee) – yes she said, I will collect 1 litre to detox herself and it does wonders – rather her than me!
Many of my large worm farms are situated at my daughter’s home as she has a larger property than I have. For years, her Great Dane and large Ridgeback have had bare patches near their tail areas. Despite numerous visits to the Vet, nothing helped. About 6 months ago, the dogs started drinking Vermitea while we were attending to the farms and now beg for the Vermitea every time I visit. Three months after the dogs had started to drink the Vermitea (which is organic), their coats improved and now have magnificent shiny coats. It does make one think what else can the Vermitea do – the sky seems the limit.
That was quite a lot of information to digest, so here are some important points to help you better understand this incredible realm.
Some Clarifications on Vermicompost Terms:
Vermi (worms in Latin) + compost (a mix of decaying organic matter which in turn provides nutrients to plants) = Nature’s Best Plant Food.
Vermicast is a fancy name for worm poops – highly compacted and bursting with humus, nitrogen, enzymes, microbes and bacteria, consider them minor power houses of natural, organic goodness. Vermicast is sieved from rougher Vermicompost, as a very easy-to-use granular soil amendment, and can be applied as follows:
Potting Medium – Mix 1:3 with potting soil/Vermicompost/river sand
Sprinkle on and water down immediately in the pot plants – sprinkle on top and water down. Great for “tired” pot plants flowering shrubs, roses and blooms – boost and yield, colour and fragrance by boosting your plants and buds start forming. Seedlings and cuttings – Using Vermicompost ensures well over 95% success in germination of seeds, including many “difficult to grow” plant species
Mix as with potting soil (1:3), or you can place cuttings in 1:1 mix of Vermiliquid/water or 1:1 mix of Vermicompost/water. General Soil Tonic – Add 1:5 in other composting/soil mediums.
How to make worm castings, Vermicomposting is very similar to composting, but Vermicomposting uses worms to help speed up the composting process, resulting in a final product of a soil amendment which is literally loaded with nutrients for plants.
Have a look at this ball of Vermicompost, note how “sticky and pliable” it is? Well, humus is essential in HOLDING WATER and for the slow release of vital minerals and nutrient plants need. Compost worms, as tillers of topsoil, actually build the most crucial food basket for mankind. Poor soils = poor health, plain and simple! One only needs a small amount of Vermicompost per plant, and if soils are particularly bad, easy to apply and make “plant and root” specific. Soil gets renewed by “re-processing” green organic waste back into food! While there are thousands of annelids (worms), there are only 5 or so true composting worms, i.e. they eat 95% or more decaying organic matter.
The most common of these is the Eisenia Fetida (also known as the Red Wriggler, Kariba, Branding or Tiger) worm. These little worms are truly the world’s best composters! The Vermicompost is immensely concentrated, and has an extremely high humus concentration. Humus acts like a “water nappy gel”, which absorbs water for long periods, and stays in soil for up to 20 years! The most important thing to remember when applying worm tea is this – apply as soon as possible (best within 48 hours) OR keep bottle open and in dark cupboard. You can also add a 1/2 teaspoon of honey or molasses as “food” for your bacteria and microorganism. The beneficial aerobic microorganisms require oxygen to survive.
Vermicompost bursting with colloidal humus!
Vermicompost – A Living Soil Amendment
Short educational video on vermicomposting from Cornell University.
Wonders of Vermicompost
Being a horticulturalist by profession, I delight in experimenting with the wonderful properties of Vermitea and Vermicompost, and noting the effects on seedlings and cuttings as we go, so enjoy!
OK, now onto something else.
This cutting of Rosemary demonstrates the immense force and potency contained in Vermitea/Vermicompost, as compost worms transform decaying ingested material, into a stable food source for plants. The plant absorbs as needed, and both Vermitea and Vermicompost is noted for its amazing success rates in germination and cuttings, often having success in Vermicompost! How strange to think that such small, humble composting worms can make such a difference to your garden, the health of plants, scenting flowers more potently, and ensuring bigger yielding in food crops. Small wonder that the world is turning to worms on a large scale as we realise that we each can give back to Mother Nature.
Why Vermicompost Just Makes Sense
- Recycles organic matter back into your garden, not the refuse dump!
- Keep it natural, organic, safe and eco-friendly; Mother Nature knows best.
- Save money by using an economical alternative for maximum yield.
- Inoculate soils with beneficial microbes. Never use “steamed” composts, as all the microbes and good bacteria has been killed off. Soil rich with micro-life is food rich with abundant, nutrients and good health for you!
- Improve plant taste and freshness! As Vermicompost is a pure plant food, better photosynthesis and aromatic qualities ensue.
- For every 10 dm3 you feed your worms, your return will be +- 2dm3 of pure “Black Gold” Vermicompost. This is highly concentrated goodness, and you only need small amounts to equal and surpass other composts.
NB! Can your compost do this? Once you use Vermicompost, you will never go back to buying inferior compost. Better still, make your own, or buy from Eco Worm Farms, as we make potent Vermicompost.
VERMITEA on special at R25 per litre for collection only.
‘WORM TEA IS USED THE WORLD OVER – WORM TEA ALSO ACTS AS AN ORGANIC MILD INSECTICIDE – NO APHIDS, WHITE FLY OR MINOR INSECTS WILL BE SEEN ON YOUR PLANTS – THE TEA ALSO ACTS AS SYSTEMIC i.e. TAKEN UP BY ROOTS AND THROUGH LEAVES – THE WONDER OF VERMITEA IS THAT VEGETABLES ETC. CAN BE HARVESTED IMMEDIATELY AFTER APPLYING VERMITEA AND USED FOR CONSUMPTION’
Also known as Vermitea or Vermiliquid Worm tea, (or Vermitea) is valuable when applied to the leaves of plants because it prevents the infestation of plant diseases like powdery mildew and black spot while providing nutrients to the plants. Check out this robust and healthy plant growth of beans after just 2 weeks from one of our Eco Worm Farm clients.
Worm tea is inexpensive, organic and safe to use on all plants, and is especially good for growing vegetables and herbs. It also prevents plant infestations with harmful micro-organisms, just to name but a few benefits. Try your own Vermiliquid and Vermicompost experiments at home and be amazed – see for yourself!
Worm tea can be applied in two ways, directly into soil or as a foliar spray.
The Benefits of Worm Tea?
Simple, Affordable, Green and Great!
Pathogens cannot infect the plants because the potential infection sites are already dominated and occupied by beneficial microbes.
Plants are more active, taking up nutrients from the tea making it less susceptible to attack by pathogens, as bacteria/fungi or mild proliferate when a plant is out of balance.
Nutrients and food in the tea encourages good micro-organisms to grow, with the nutrients being retained better, allowing for nutrient absorption on an “as needed” basis by the plant.
Soil structure is improved, with more oxygen reaching into the roots and preventing toxin buildup in soil by anaerobes.
Vermitea or Vermiliquid is absorbed via the roots, and overall water retention is better, which is great in our water stressed country. The depth of root is increased encouraging stronger plant growth with robust leaves and yield.
By using an organic alternative, your plants are truly healthy, which means that you will be too! Consumers are demanding a shift away from the many dangerous and harmful chemicals that get used in commercial vegetable farming.
You will now have control over what you eat, and as so many diseases are dietary related, this is a no-brainer!
Organic matter will contribute to the growth of the tea microbes when applied to the soil. If there is not enough organic matter, adding some more will help prolong the benefits of the worm tea application. This if your soil is very poor, best to add Vermicompost as well, particularly on planting new stock. You will need +-1/2 cup per small bush, 1 cup per shrub, and 2-4 cups per tree (per season!).
How To Apply Our Wonderful Worm Tea
Worm tea is sold as a concentrate, and needs to be diluted 1:30 with either rain water, or tap water that has been left to stand for 24 hours. This is to ensure that the delicate micro-organisms do not get killed off! You can also add in garlic/marigold mixed with 1/4 dishwashing liquid as an organic and natural pesticide. Take 2 or 3 cloves of garlic and 3 marigold flower heads in warm water for one hour. Drain off the liquid and add to your worm tea. Another option is to add in comfrey with the worm tea, for ailing, old and diseased plants, as comfrey is considered nature’s plant healer. Steep as above, and feed the compost worms the comfrey leaves once you have steeped your leaves… worms LOVE comfrey! It is best to apply the Vermitea late afternoon, as plants aspirate and will absorb more. Ditto for worm tea as a leachate/vermiliquid for soil. You ideally want the liquid to drain down as far and well as possible.
TIP: When planting out, add one or two handful of shredded newspaper close to the roots, as a “slow release” sponge ball, especially for very sandy areas along our coast.
NB! Take photos before and after applying worm tea. We know you will be more than impressed, and your plants will love you for it!