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Worm composting

Ecologist

27th January, 2006

Worm composting is fun and easy. George Pilkington offers some advice and encouragement for those wishing to take it up.

ALL ABOUT WORM COMPOSTING

Worm composting your BDW uses no energy

* Means fewer waste collection journeys = lower CO2 emissions; reduced road congestion; lower exhaust pollution; less noise pollution

* Less landfill gas – methane and CO= reducing climate change

* Reduced leachates = cleaner water sources and surrounding countryside

* Less incineration = fewer dioxins; less energy used to burn waste = less C02 emissions

* Less land needed for landfill sites

* You’ll become a farmer! More connected with nature and the natural processes of life. And you are making a difference – feeling of empowerment

* Fall in love with your worms – it can be addictive as you want to make sure that they are happy

* Lower council tax bills – certainly lower landfill taxes and lower gate fees

* Produces the best soil in the world for yours or your neighbours’ plants 

* Increase your crop yields – why buy when you can grow? 

* Have beautiful healthy blooms and be the envy of your neighbours!

* Save money on bagged compost and chemical fertilizers

* Educate your children live!

* Less water and less time spent watering – more time for relaxing in your garden!

* There’s no excuse not too – it’s easy.

WHAT GOES IN…

All your BDW including: Bread, pastry, biscuits, cereals, pasta, fl our products, breakfast cereals (and their boxes), cakes and puddings, fruit and veg peelings, dried foods, chocolate, casseroles, stews and soups, leftovers from breakfast, lunch and evening meals, onions and their skins, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags, (even worms enjoy a brew!) AND cardboard – from egg boxes to loo rolls, cotton, wool, old clothes, grass cuttings, dead flowers and tree leaves, wood sawdust and shavings, newspaper and a lot more besides!

BETWEEN ENTRY & EXIT: A NATURAL MIRACLE?

As up to 59 per cent of your household waste or BDW passes through your worms’ guts, microbe numbers massively increase. And these microbes are of paramount importance in the recycling of nutrients in the soil, such as nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous and trace elements. It is only through the actions of soil microbes that nutrients in organic matter are broken down and returned to the soil, liberated for plants and for use by other microbes. Life on earth depends on this process, and a single gram of healthy fertile soil contains upwards of a million microbes. And it is these microbes massively increasing in the guts of your worms that speed the decomposition of your BDW, without which it takes a very long time. Quite simply: No BDW, no microbes – no microbes, no worms. None of either, no living soil. In essence your worms, and the BDW you feed them, are performing a natural miracle – transforming expensive polluting waste into living soil... WOW!

END PRODUCT

Vermicompost is a fine textured, dark peat-like material with excellent structure, porosity, aeration, drainage and moisture-holding capacity that has a similar appearance and many of the characteristics of peat (without having to destroy peat bogs to obtain it).

Increase in plant yields: Research data shows that vermicompost has increased yields of 14 per cent in lettuces, 40 per cent in broccoli, 80 per cent in tomatoes, and 259 per cent in carrots.

Contains natural plant stimulants: Vermicompost contains natural plant stimulants/hormones, eg auxins, which promote root formation and bud growth.

Helps to fight plant diseases: The high concentrations of humus in vermicompost helps to prevent harmful plant pathogens, fungi, nematodes and bacteria. Vermicompost also suppresses diseases such
as club root and white rot.

Encourages rapid seed germination: Research has shown that cauliflower seed emergence was uniformly earlier, with hardier bigger seedlings ready to plant out up to two weeks earlier and that were more resistant to downy mildew.

Best imaginable potting soil for greenhouses: Being a natural product, it does not burn plants or their roots, or even the most delicate of flowers. And having water-soluble nutrients, the benefits are immediately released to plants after watering as they slowly leach down to the roots.

Increases mycorrhizal fungi activity: In several crops vermicompost was shown to increase the uptake of Vesticular Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (VAM), fungi that live in the soil and form mutually beneficial relationships with plants.

Produces and promotes a healthy root mass: Trials clearly showed a four-fold increase in root mass, length, girth and secondary development when grown in vermicompost. The plants also established much quicker with such a strong healthy root structure.

Improves soil structure: Vermicompost contains a high percentage of humus, which helps soil particles bind together into clusters, creating channels for the passage of water and air. Worms also produce mucus and this is deposited in the vermicompost, again giving it a friable and crumbly structure. Means less watering as it remains moist for longer, and is capable of holding two to three times its own weight in water.

Produces a liquid ‘Golden Soil’ – Vermi tea: A brew of vermi-tea, made from fresh vermicompost steeped in water for a short period, is full of nutrients, beneficial microbes and, has been found to bring natural fungal disease-suppressant qualities when sprayed onto the leaves of plants.

CONCLUSION

The battle for the earth begins with you at home, in your house, kitchen and garden. Recycling your food waste, and perhaps even growing some vegetables with the vermicompost, is a small but beautiful step in the right direction. Why should we pay through direct or indirect taxes to clean up our landfill BDW problems when we could use the valuable resource for our own use?

by George Pilkington

George Pilkington has been working with worms and preaching their benefits for nearly 20 years. During that time he has set up a company, Nurturing Nature, which has won the coveted Green Apple 'Gold' Award for Best Environmental Practice. He gives lectures around the country on worm composting and is the author of the well-received Gardening for Wildlife.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist December 2002


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