Composting is a process of converting the decomposable organic waste into plant useful matter. These composts are also a very important component for a plant to grow healthy. Preparing organic compost at home is very advantageous. As the food waste generated in our house is utilized, the problem of waste disposal can be avoided and moreover, your plants get chemical-free compost. In the previous blog, I had discussed briefly about different Composting methods. Today let me explain you about one of the effective methods called Vermicomposting.
What is Vermicomposting?
The process of cultivating earthworms in order to convert organic waste into fertilizer is called Vermicomposting or Vermiculture. This process is done using various species of worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste.
What are Earthworms?
Earthworms are called as farmer's friend. It is a very useful creature for gardeners. It helps in making the soil fertile. It feeds on the debris, manure, rotten plant parts etc and ferments it. The worms feed on the organic waste and produce nutrient-rich manure in the form of excreta. The excreta of earthworms are nutritious and hence the soil becomes fertile. They move throughout the soil and loosen the soil. This will allow air circulation to happen inside the soil and the roots get enough space to grow and extend.
The converted end product or manure is called Vermicompost. This compost will be rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium compared to other composts. Vermicompost contains water-soluble nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is used in farming and small-scale organic farming.
Common doubts that arise in Vermicomposting process
There are come common doubts that comes to your mind before starting the vermicomposting process. Here are few of them.
1. Components required for Vermiculture:
The essential components of a home vermiculture unit are an aerated container, moist bedding, food waste or debris and earthworms worms. You can purchase the DIY Vermicompost which contains live worms and start the process. The worms feed on the food waste or debris and convert them into manure. The container must contain holes so that the excess water can flow out by not harming the process. The most common materials used for the container are recycled plastic and wood. Vermicompost bins made from plastic are ideal but require more drainage holes than wooden containers as they are non-absorbent. Wooden bins will gradually decay, so they need to be replaced often.
2. Climatic conditions to carry out the Vermiculture process:
The most common worms used in composting systems are redworms (Eisenia foetida, Eisenia Andrei, and Lumbricus rubellus). They feed most rapidly at temperatures of 15–25 °C and can survive at 10 °C. Temperatures above 30 °C may harm these worms. So it is important to maintain the favorable temperature. Other worms like Perionyx excavatus are suitable for warmer climates. If you are planning to keep the worm bin outside, you need to avoid direct sunlight and must be insulated against frost in winter.
3. What all can be converted in the Vermicomposting method?
Almost all the decomposable food waste can be converted by the worms including raw vegetables, peels, fruits and other food residues. There are few food wastes that vermicomposting cannot compost which includes meat waste and dairy products. Earthworms cannot digest the meat and dairy products. So you cannot compost them in this process.
Harvesting the compost
The pyramid method of harvesting vermicompost is a commonly used method in vermiculture. It is considered the simplest method for single layer bins. In this process, the compost is separated into large clumps which are placed back into composting for additional conversion. The process continues with lighter compost. This lighter mix is placed into small piles in the bin. The worms spontaneously burrow to the bottom of the pile. After a few minutes, the top of the pyramid is removed repeatedly, until the worms are again visible. This process repeats until the mound is composed mostly of worms.
Every process has some advantages as well as disadvantages. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages.
a. It consumes less space. So it is easy to use in urban homes.
b. It does not require any special types of equipment. You can utilize the containers available in your household.
c. You can harvest the compost from the bin and utilize it to the potted plants.
d. It is 100% organic process as we are using earthworms for the conversion.
a. Earthworms cannot digest the meat. So you cannot compost meat in this process.
b. As the process takes place in open space, there are chances of mosquitoes and other flies surrounding the container and creates inconvenient atmosphere.
In spite of having few drawbacks, Vermiculture is an effective process to obtain compost in an organic way.