Vermicomposting: Step By Step Guide

What Is Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is an aerobic method that helps earthworms create natural compost by decomposing animal and plant waste. The vermicomposting unit’s output is known as “vermicompost.”

Worms use the grinding motion of their gizzard to digest agro, plant, and farm wastes, excreting granular casts known as “Vermicasts.” Simpler nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and others are found in earthworm castings, which the plants can utilize directly.

Vermicomposting Goals

The following goals are pursued by the vermicomposting method:

  1. Quality compost is produced.
  2. By converting agro and farm waste into valuable bioorganic manure, it contributes to waste recycling and solid waste management.
  3. Improves soil fertility, which boosts crop yields.
  4. The organic farming system is promoted.
  5. Food output can be increased.
  6. Members of rural families are given employment options.

Requirements for vermicomposting

Vermiculture relies on feedstock or raw materials such as plant and animal feces, as well as earthworms, to break down organic matter into smaller minerals and nutrients. Furthermore, it necessitates the use of water to meet the minimum humidity levels of 40%.

Raw materials for vermicomposting

It contains organic green waste from farms, kitchens, forests, and other sources. The waste-to-dung ratio should be 1:1. The earthworms’ feedstock is raw materials, which should have the following characteristics:

  1. It should have a water content of at least 75%.
  2. The density should be less than 640640lb/ft3.
  3. chemical, pesticide, or tannin residues should be absent. Earthworms for vermicomposting

In terms of habitat, they can be epigeic, endogeic, or anecic. Eisenia fetida is a red wiggler that is generally chosen above other species.

They have a high metabolic rate and can break down and transform organic materials into vermicompost in 45-50 days. Eisenia fetida is the most popular species of earthworm employed in the vermiculture technique all over the world.

Read also: Can You Compost Onions?

Vermicomposting Digestion process

To begin, earthworms ingest organic matter such as plant and animal waste into their intestines. The organic wastes then move through the earthworm’s intestines, where they mineralize into ammonium, which then becomes minerals and nutrients for the plant.

The gizzard’s grinding action and the digestive tract’s chemicals aid in the conversion of organic detritus into plant nutrients that are more easily digested. The release of granular vermicasts is assisted by the action of the gut muscle (rich in the nutrient source).

Vermicomposting Process

Vermiculture entails the collection of earthworms, the construction of a compost pit or bed, the harvesting of compost, packaging, and marketing of the finished product.

Collection of Earthworms for vermicomposting

It entails the following procedures:

  1. To begin, look for earthworm castings on the soil surface.
  2. Then, combine 500 g of jaggery, 500 g of cow dung, and 2 l of water to produce a solution.
  3. Next, across a 1m X 1m area, sprinkle the above solution on the soil surface.
  4. Top with straw lumps, then the old jute bag, and sprinkle the solution every 20-30 days or such.
  5. Lastly, after the earthworms have gathered at the place, we can collect them.

Construction of Vermicomposting Unit

Vermiculture is a technique for creating vermicompost that involves building a compost pit or a compost bed.

Compost pit

It is normally done in a cemented pit and can be built in a backyard or field. The ideal pit size is 5X5X3 feet, but this may change depending on the amount of biomass and agricultural waste. The ditch is often covered with thatched grasses, dry leaves, twigs, etc.

Pit compost is usually not recommended due to aeration and drainage issues. The water column should be in the center of the compost pit’s parapet wall to avoid ants from killing the earthworms.

Vermibed or Compost Bed

It is preferable to compost pit vermiculture. We must follow the steps below to build vermibed:

Phase 1: Add loamy soil to the bottom of the first layer, allowing for a thickness of 15-20 cm.

Phase 2: Add a second layer of broken sticks, pebbles, and coarse sand with a 5 cm thickness.

Phase 3: The incorporation of earthworms is the most important step in the process. A compost bed with a thickness of 15-20 cm is 2m X 1M X 0.75M and 150 worms are introduced.
Phase 4: Prepare the fourth layer by removing animal wastes such as cow manure, goat feces, and other animal wastes. Add a layer of agro-wastes, such as dried leaves, wheat straws, and other similar materials, up to a thickness of 5 cm on top of this.

Phase 5: After the vermibed is built, it must be watered continuously for the next 30 days. It’s important to remember that the feed shouldn’t be dry or wet at this point.

Phase 6: To avoid heat-trapping, cover the vermibed with either coconut leaves or old gunny bags instead of plastic. These procedures guard against avian attacks.

Phase 7: Distribute the pre-digested organic debris to a thickness of 5 cm and repeat this step twice per week.

After completing these processes, use a pickaxe or spade to turn over the organic detritus and allow for frequent watering. Vermicompost that is humus-rich, granular, and dark black takes around 2-3 months to make.

Read also: Can You Compost Pineapple?

Harvesting of Vermicompost

After the earthworm fecal matter or castings are visible over the topsoil, the vermicompost is ready to harvest. You must carefully segregate the worms and solid wastes at this stage. Stop watering for 2-3 days to allow the earthworms to migrate to the end of the bed and isolate them from the solid waste.

After that, give the compost a light treatment, and the earthworms will relocate to the colder base. Finally, using sieves or meshes, remove the worms and solid wastes.

Quality Checking and Packaging

The soil texture, color, porosity, smell, wetness, and other criteria are taken into account while quality inspection. The vermicompost should have a granular texture, a dark-black color, a light, earthy odor, and a moisture level of 40%.

A musty odor from the compost suggests the presence of mold, while any foul odor suggests partial decomposition. Sieve the vermicompost before packaging to ensure that all plant and animal residues are removed.

Then, to avoid moisture loss, transfer the vermicompost into the laminated over sacs and label it with the brand’s name, nutritional facts, directions for usage, market price, and so on.

Lastly, it’s suitable for marketing to people who work in nurseries, farms, landscapers, and gardeners, among other professions.

Conclusion

I hope you find this article helpful. I would like to hear from you. So, let me know if you have any questions about vermicomposting.

Further Reading

  1. International Journal of Research Vermicomposting in organic Agriculture: Influence on the soil nutrients and plant growth ResearchGate
  2. Vermicomposting: A Better Option for Organic Solid Waste Management
  3. Vermicompost Articles
  4. Vermicomposting: A Better Option for Organic Solid Waste ManagementThe influence of vermicomposting on photosynthetic activity and productivity of maize (Zea mays L.) crop under semi-arid climate