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.
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.
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!Send us YOUR fascinating worm picture, and we will add it to our site! 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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!).
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!