Worm Farm Introduction and Guide
A traditional, hot compost heap is too hot for anything other than bacteria to live in the core. But in a cool compost heap (and most are cool), a lot of the work is done by worms. So naturally worms have been domesticated in a composting process that relies entirely on worms. The result is the wormery. The worms are variously known as brandlings, red worms, or tiger worms. They live in decaying organic matter and are not the same as ordinary garden earthworms, which live in the soil and would not thrive in a wormery. Companies that supply wormeries will also supply worms, but they can be obtained more cheaply from fishing-tackle suppliers. Better still, simply collect some from your compost heap, or from a neighbour if you don't have one. Failing that, put a bag of fresh green waste with a hole in the bottom on any patch of bare earth and it will rapidly be colonized by suitable worms. A wormery consists in its simplest form of two compartments an upper chamber where the worms work,...
Chemical analyses of parent soil without earthworms and the same soil after being worked by earthworms have shown an increase of the following - Chemical fertilizers seem to decrease the number of earthworms in the soil, killing them or driving them off ammonium sulfate is especially harmful. Many insects sprays are toxic to earthworms. Earthworms are good soil builders. But you can't put earthworms in infertile or hard clay soils and expect results. Where possible, dig up earthworms from other parts of the yard.
There are ten common species of earthworm in Britain that vary in size from Lumbricus terrestris, which can be in excess of 25 cm, to the many small species less than 3 cm long (see Figure 18.1). The main food of earthworms is dead plant remains. Casting species of earthworms are those that eat soil, as well as organic matter, and their excreta consist of intimately mixed, partially digested, finely divided organic matter and soil. Many species never produce casts and only two species regularly cast on the surface giving the worm casts that are a problem on fine grass areas, particularly in the autumn (see Figure 18.2). It has been estimated that in English pastures the production of casts each year is 20-40 t ha, the equivalent of 5 mm of soil deposited annually. This surface casting also leads to the incorporation of the leaf litter and the burying of stones. However, L. terrestris is the organism mainly responsible for the burying of large quantities of litter by dragging plant...
(not earthworms that live in soil, but smaller, related species called brandlings). In fact, this sort of compost heap is essentially a large wormery (see pages 140-145), but a lot less trouble. Worms should colonize naturally, but you can make sure by adding some from an existing heap. If you're starting from scratch, get some worms from a compost-friendly neighbour. As a last resort, buy them from compost specialists, but this should not be necessary.
One option is a wormery (see pages 140-145) but, if you have a vegetable plot, there are others. A small compost bin could be incorporated into the crop-rotation cycle in a vegetable plot (see page 133), but if you want to do this, why bother with a bin at all
This air supply is vital, since plant roots and soil animals need to breathe. Most of these channels are created by earthworms, which eat you guessed it organic matter. The more compost you make and use on the soil, the better will be its crumb and pore structure, and the less need there will be to water your plants in dry weather.
Organic gardening means growing high quality, delicious and nutritious food in an ecologically balanced way. Organic gardeners respect the Earth and work within the cycle of Nature. Organic gardening and farming improves the 'living soil' with its myriad of microbes and earthworms, rather than degrading the soil by saturating it with artificial and toxic chemicals.
Layer kitchen scraps with lawn clippings, chopped dry leaves, shredded twigs and plant stalks, and other landscape and garden debris to make rich compost. Composting recycles the nutrients contained in organic materials. My family keeps a small plastic bucket with a lid right in the kitchen sink, and that bucket is where all our eggshells, teabags, fruit and vegetable scraps, and inedible leftovers go. When it's full, my uncomplaining spouse carries it out to spread in the compost bin. (I love that man.) Our composting habit keeps our trash can smelling better, makes the earthworms happy, and keeps our dog from getting fat. Flip to Chapter 5 for details on how to make your own compost pile.
A typical mineral soil contains between 2 and 5 per cent organic matter. This is made up of living organisms such as plant roots, earthworms, insects, fungi and bacteria. On death these then decompose along with any other organic matter that is incorporated, either naturally such as leaves or by the addition of organic matter from elsewhere such as compost, farmyard manure, spent mushroom compost, coir and bark. Many of the living organisms are responsible for the decomposition of the dead organic matter. This is eventually broken down into its component parts becoming carbon dioxide, water, and minerals all of which is recycled. There also persists for a very long time a group of organic compounds collectively known as humus.
Any kids are fascinated by how plants, and even birds and butterflies, grow and thrive in the world just outside their front doors. So why not give children the chance to play in the dirt and get up close and personal with insects and earthworms Spending time outdoors teaches kids about science, gives them room to play and relax, and trains kids to find entertainment beyond the warm glow of the computer or TV screen.
The soil community also contributes directly to the well-being of many of the larger and more conspicuous animals in the garden. Small soil animals like springtails are food for ground-dwelling beetles and spiders, while earthworms are a favorite food of frogs and toads, and even of larger animals such as raccoons and foxes. And don't forget the wildlife that inhabits the compost pile itself.
If the soil food web is in good shape, the beneficial bacteria, insects, and earthworms will consume thatch and keep the soil open. But conditions are sometimes less than ideal due to inherent soil conditions, such as heavy clay, compaction due to heavy use, or regrettable lapses of good practice. That's when it's prudent to step in and fix the situation.
These ants are omnivorous, and feed on a mixture of plant and animal matter. They are effective predators of insects, spiders, earthworms, and other small invertebrates. Plant feeding is limited, and often occurs when ants are deprived of other food. Nevertheless, fire ants are known to feed on such vegetables as bean, cabbage, corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, potato, and sweet potato, and on other crops such as young citrus trees, peanut, sorghum, soybean, and sunflower. Okra fruit is particularly at risk. Sweet plant exudates and honeydew from homopterous insects are readily consumed. (See color figure 22.)
Acute toxicity is not the only property of a potential pesticide to be assessed. Its chronic (long lasting) aspect must also be tested. For example, its survival time on the surface of the leaf may influence its suitability, particularly on leaf crops, such as lettuce, which have a large surface area of pesticide deposit and which are eaten fresh. Pesticides must also be checked against their ability to cause irritation and allergies in humans and their ability to cause cancer. An active ingredient may be particularly toxic to other mammals, fish, earthworms, bees and predatory animals. When testing active ingredients, research workers remember very well the havoc that chemicals such as DDT caused in killing animals at the top of food chain (see also p52).
The damage is confined mainly to stems and lower leaves of succulent glasshouse crops such as cucumbers, but occasionally young transplants may be nipped. A relative of marine crabs and lobsters, the woodlouse has adapted for terrestrial life, but still requires damp conditions to survive. In damp soils it may number over a million per hectare, and greatly helps the breakdown of plant debris, as do earthworms. In greenhouses, where plants are grown in hot, humid conditions, this species may multiply rapidly, producing two batches of 50 eggs per year. The adults roll into a ball when disturbed. Partial soil sterilization by steam effectively controls woodlice.
Home brewing your own liquid fertiliser to use in the garden is cheap easy and a great way to give your plants that
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Most mouldering and commercial composting toilets are relatively anaerobic and compost at a low temperature. According to Feachem et al., a minimum retention time of three months produces a compost free of all pathogens except possibly some intestinal worm eggs. The compost obtained from these types of toilets can theoretically be composted again in a thermophilic pile and rendered suitable for food gardens (see Figure 7.5 and Table 7.14). Otherwise, the compost can be moved to an outdoor compost bin, layered and covered with straw (or other bulky organic material such as weeds or leaf mould), moistened, and left to age for an additional year or two in order to destroy any possible lingering pathogens. Microbial activity and earthworms will aid in the sanitation of the compost over time.
After the thermophilic heating period, the humanure will appear to have been digested, but the coarser organic material will not. This is when the third stage of composting, the cooling phase, takes place. During this phase, the microorganisms that were chased away by the thermophiles migrate back into the compost and get to work digesting the more resistant organic materials. Fungi and macroorganisms such as earthworms and sowbugs also break the coarser elements down into humus.
In its dark environment, the solitary mole moves, actively searching for earthworms, slugs, millipedes and insects. About 5 hours of activity is followed by about 3 hours of rest. Only in spring do males and females meet. In June, one litter of two to seven young ones are born in a grass-lined Control. Natural predators of the mole include tawny owls, weasels and foxes. The main control methods are trapping and poison baiting, usually carried out between October and April, when tunnelling is closer to the surface. Amateur or professional horticulturists can use pincer or half barrel traps placed in fresh tunnels and inserted carefully so as not to greatly change the tunnel diameter. The soil must be replaced so that the mole sees no light from its position in the tunnel. The mole enters the trap, is caught and starves to death. In serious mole infestations, trained operators use strychnine salts mixed with earthworms at the rate of 2 g ingredient per 100 worms. Single...
It's very important to understand that two factors are involved in destroying potential pathogens in humanure. Along with heat, the time factor is important. Once the organic material in a compost pile has been heated by thermophilic microorganisms, it should be left to age or season. This part of the process allows for the final decomposition to take place, decomposition that may be dominated by fungi and macroorganisms such as earthworms and sowbugs. Therefore, a good compost system will utilize at least two composting bins, one to fill and leave to age, and another to fill while the first is aging. A three-binned composting system is even better, as the third bin provides a place to store cover materials, and separates the active bins so there is no possible accidental transfer of fresh material to an aging bin.
Organic matter - in partnership with soil organisms - is the mam agent behind good structure. It greatly increases the pore space m soil. It not only helps crumbs (aggregates) form, it also increases their stability. Earthworms and microorganisms break down organic matter into gelatinous substances that gently hold soil particles together. Roots of plants and fungi also contribute, in two ways. They push soil particles together as they push through. They also manufacture gummy substances that help hold these particles together.
First spread over the ground a 15 cm layer of plant wastes such as hay, straw, leaves or woodchips. Add a five cm layer of manure. On top of this place a two cm layer of garden soil. Sprinkle on lime, dolomite and rock phosphate. Earthworms will quickly move in, adding their valuable castings to the heap. Every 24 hours, earthworms eat more than their own weight in dead organic matter and mineral soil. Continue to build up the heap in layers until it's about one and a half metres high. Keep the heap moist (not wet) at all times because this will lead to a rapid breakdown of the plant material. Cover the finished heap with a thick layer of mulch.
Decomposers are an important group, which have the special function within a community of breaking down dead or decaying matter into simpler substances with the release of inorganic salts, making them available once more to the primary producers. Primary decomposers are those organisms that attack the freshly dead organic matter. These include earthworms and some species of arthropods and fungi. Fungi are particularly important in the initial decomposition of fibrous and woody material. Secondary decomposers are those organisms that live on the waste products of other decomposers and include bacteria and many species of fungi.
With layer mulching you need the lightest material available for the speediest breakdown. This happens when a concentration of micro-organisms, bacteria, and earthworms are attracted to the soil's surface. These minute creatures will move upwards into the second layer of material after ingesting the first layer.
Sustainable gardeners talk about soil not just as a physical and chemical medium but as a living soil food web beneficial fungi, bacteria, earthworms, insects, and other organisms that partner up with plants to make them thrive. All these critters build soil structure and work to retain nutrients and convert them into forms plants can use. Without life in the soil, plants barely survive. Check out Figure 16-1 for a visual.
Soil animals, such as protozoa, amoeba, nematodes, earthworms and arthropods, also perform major roles by degrading surface litter, consuming bacteria and assisting in aeration. Earthworms will move into the heap as it cools adding their valuable castings. Note Every 24 hours, earthworms eat more than their own weight in dead organic matter and mineral soil.
Provides advice on all aspects of gardening, including composting and wormeries. The Garden, the RHS magazine, sometimes has articles on composting, and the annual report of the RHS Science Departments includes information about their latest research on composting. www.troubleatmill.com wormbin.htm provides instructions for making your own, cheap wormery.
Organic matter improves soil texture, makes soil easier to work, increases water-holding capacity of sandy soils, and supplies needed plant nutrients. It also improves the soil as a home for beneficial organisms such as earthworms, slows leaching by providing a holding system for plant nutrients, and speeds excess water movement through poorly drained soils.
In the wild, soil life is sustained and nutrients are recycled through natural processes. Microorganisms, earthworms, and other decomposers feed on organic matter and transform the nutrients it contains into forms that plants can use. The process is a slow, steady, ongoing one Plants grow, die, and decompose the cycle continues.
Healthy soil supports an abundance of living organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and earthworms, that together create a dynamic soil ecosystem. Many synthetic pesticides and fertilizers destroy this subterranean life, and poor gardening practices can damage the soil environment. The organic techniques described in this chapter will help you improve and maintain a healthy soil environment. Don't treat your soil like dirt
Plants need nutrients to grow flourish and fend off pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. Giving them what they need is a key to successful organic gardening, but as with humans, overdoing poor food choices spells trouble. The best way to feed plants is to feed the soil. Vast numbers of beneficial organisms call the soil home nourish them, and you nourish the plants. Adding organic matter, such as compost, provides fungi, bacteria, earthworms, and other soil dwellers both food and a hospitable environment. In turn, they break down this organic matter into nutrients that plants can use.
At this point, the whole group of organisms involved in the recycling of dead organic matter (called decomposers or detritovores) should be mentioned in relation to the food-web concept. The organic matter (see also Chapter 18) derived from dead plants and animals of all kinds is digested by a succession of species large animals by crows, large trees by bracket fungi, small insects by ants, roots and fallen leaves by earthworms, mammal and bird faeces by dung beetles, etc. Subsequently, progressively smaller organic particles are consumed by millipedes, springtails, mites, nematodes, fungi and bacteria, to eventually create the organic molecules of humus that are so vital a source of nutrients, and a means of soil stability in most plant growth situations. It can thus be seen that although decomposers do not normally link directly to the food web they are often eaten by secondary consumers. They also are extremely important in supplying inorganic nutrients to the primary producer...
These critters are the innocent bystanders or innocent burrowers of the garden-pest realm. Unlike voles, moles are carnivores and don't eat plants. They simply love to burrow in search of grubs, earthworms, and other insects. In the process, they inadvertently expose plant roots to air or push the plants out of the ground, in both cases killing the plants.
The usual reason for digging in compost is to get it down to where the plants need it . But earthworms are dedicated to doing just that, and the careful gardener takes a lot of trouble to encourage a healthy earthworm population. Moreover, earthworm activity is one of the major creators of good soil structure, while digging is one of the principal destroyers of that structure.
With all the environmental concerns about garbage disposal, composting in your own back yard is more important than ever. The compost heap can be a positive step toward recycling Mother Nature's bounty and improving your garden. It is simple. fall leaves, cut grass, and kitchen vegetable scraps recycled in your garden will improve the texture and nutritional content, and encourage earthworms and beneficial bacteria. Compost breaks down into humus, which reduces the need for fertilizer and water.
Tl doflble-dig, you loosen and mix tin- first toot of soil, blending in amendments as you go and then loosen the deeper soil in place. Do it a few weeks before you intend to plant, and its benefits will last from several vears to indefinitely. It improves drainage and aeration, loosens compacted or heavy soils, improves root growth encour ages earthworms and other soil organisms, distributes nutrients and other amendments evenly through the root zone, and leads to healthier plants. 1. Earthworms. The first is the easiest Encourage earthworms. If soils are only moderately compacted, earthworms may be able to loosen them for you. 3. Broadfork. Use a broadfork. It can loosen hardpan enough for earthworms to tunnel through, at least in spots. Encourage earthworms (abundant organic matter and minimal deep cultivation are the best ways to do this).
The idea that chemical fertilizers poison the soil and kill earthworms and beneficial soil organisms is not well founded. If such fertilizers are properly used, with liberal applications of organic matter, the number of earthworms and beneficial organisms should actually increase. Earthworms are abundant in my garden, where I have used chemical fertilizers for years.
Brown earth soils develop in the well-drained medium to heavy soils in the lowlands of the British Isles. They are associated with a climax vegetation (p52) of broad-leaved woodland especially oak, ash and sycamore, the roots of which have ensured that nutrients moving down the soil profile are captured and returned to the soil via the leaf fall. Surplus water does not accumulate and the soil remains aerobic for most of the year. The plentiful earthworms incorporate the deep litter layers. The resultant dark A horizon ('topsoil') rich in organic matter merges gradually into a bright brown and deep B horizon ('subsoil'). The soil structures that develop in the surface layers are granular and rounded fine blocky in which there is an excellent balance of air and water and into which roots can readily penetrate. Podsols (from the Russian 'under-ash') are strongly leached, very acid soils that develop on freely draining soils, such as coarse sands and gravels, commonly under heather or...
As earthworms, it is not the same as thermophilic composting. The hot stage of thermophilic composting will drive away all earthworms from the hot area of the compost pile. However, they will migrate back in after the compost cools down. Earthworms are reported to actually eat root-feeding nematodes, pathogenic bacteria and fungi, as well as small weed seeds.93 when thermophilic compost is piled on the bare earth, a large surface area is available for natural earthworms to migrate in and out of the compost pile. Properly prepared thermophilic compost situated on bare earth should require no addition of earthworms as they will naturally migrate into the compost when it best suits them. My compost is so full of natural earthworms at certain stages in its development that, when dug into, it looks like spaghetti. These worms are occasionally harvested and transformed into fish. This is a process which converts compost directly into protein, but which requires a fishing rod, a hook, and...
Managing soil health is key for successful control of soil-borne diseases. A soil with adequate organic matter can house large numbers of organisms (e.g., beneficial bacteria, fungi, amoebas, nematodes, protozoa, arthropods, and earthworms) that in conjunction deter pathogenic fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and arthropods from attacking plants. These beneficial organisms also help foster a healthy plant that is able to resist pest attack. For more information, see the ATTRA publication Sustainable Management of Soil-borne Plant Diseases.
Preparing the raised bed is the most important step in grow biointensive gardening. Proper soil structure and nutrients allow uninterrupted and healthy plant growth. Loose soil with good nutrients enables roots to penetrate the soil easily, and a steady stream of nutrients can flow into the stem and leaves. How different from the usual situation when a plant is transferred from a flat with loose soil and proper nutrients into a hastily prepared backyard plot or a chemically stimulated field. Not only does that plant suffer from the shock of being uprooted, it is also placed in an environment where it is more difficult to grow. The growth is interrupted, the roots have difficulty getting through the soil and obtaining food, and the plant develops more carbohydrates and less protein than usual. Insects like the carbohydrates. The plant becomes more susceptible to insect attack and ultimately to disease. A debilitating cycle has begun that often ends in the use of pesticides that kill...
'No-dig' methods are particularly associated with organic growing (see p21). These include addition of large quantities of bulky organic matter applied to the surface to be incorporated by earthworms. This ensures the soil remains open (see p330) for good root growth as well as, usually, adding nutrients (see p376).
Soil that teems with life is healthy soil. Organisms from earthworms to microscopic bacteria are one of the best signs of good tilth and fertile soil. They need the same soil conditions as plants do to thrive and become numerous. They also help to create the very physical and chemical conditions that constitute good tilth. In lawns, have you ever noticed small patches of greener grass near small piles of earthworm casts (their wastes or manure ) Earthworms are the best soil improvers. Studies have shown that an increasing number of earthworms in soil is directly related to increased productivity of plants grown in that soil. Earthworms can swallow and process from 20 to over 200 tons of soil per acre Where abundant, the soil-enriching casts that earthworms leave on a single cultivated acre can easily amount to 8 tons or more at one time. Earthworms can swallow and process from 20 to over 200 tons of soil per acre Where abundant, the soil-enriching casts that earthworms leave on a...
Include insects, centipedes, millipedes and spiders many of these are dealt with in the chapter on plant pests (Chapter 14), but it should be noted that there are many that are beneficial e.g. honey bees (see p136) and centipedes, which are carnivorous and many live on insect species that are harmful. Phylum Annelida (the segmented worms) includes earthworms, which are generally considered to be useful organisms especially when they are helping to decompose organic matter (see p321) or improving soil structure (see p311), but some species cause problems in fine turf when they produce worm casts. Phylum Mollusca is best known for the major pests slugs and snails (see p203).
The composting of organic materials requires armies of bacteria. This microscopic force works so vigorously that it heats the material to temperatures hotter than are normally found in nature. Other micro (invisible) and macro (visible) organisms such as fungi and insects help in the composting process, too. When the compost cools down, earthworms often move in and eat their fill of delicacies, their excreta becoming a further refinement of the compost.
Figure 5.1 Earthworms are an important component to composting. In vermicomposting, or worm composting, red earthworms are used to consume and digest organic matter in order to produce castings, an odor-free soil additive. Figure 5.1 Earthworms are an important component to composting. In vermicomposting, or worm composting, red earthworms are used to consume and digest organic matter in order to produce castings, an odor-free soil additive. Some soil microbes are opportunistic pathogens. They do not affect healthy plants, but if a plant is weakened by environmental conditions, the microbe will enter the plant and cause infection. Beneficial soil microbes make nutrients available to plants and in exchange get carbohydrates from the plants. Beneficial rhizo-sphere microbes are also responsible for the generation of compost from animal and plant matter. Earthworms are also helpful in the composting process and in the recycling of nutrients (Figure 5.1). Worms should not be introduced...
1 filled the trench before winter and forgot about it until spring. When I dug around to see what had happened, I couldn't believe my eyes. Loose, crumbly, easy-to-dig soil with lots of earthworms I hadn't seen before The dark soil between my fingers seemed completely unre lated to the light-colored stuff that had resisted my shovel onlv a few months before. My parents were impressed, too. The conclusion was simple Soil is magical stuff, yet the alchemy for transforming stubborn clay into lovely loam is surprisingly straightforward PQ
|How to Start a Worm Farm|
Do You Want To Learn More About Green Living That Can Save You Money? Discover How To Create A Worm Farm From Scratch! Recycling has caught on with a more people as the years go by. Well, now theres another way to recycle that may seem unconventional at first, but it can save you money down the road.