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Vermiculture: Promote Global Worming!. Written and designed By Julie Weisenhorn, Teaching Specialist, Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota. December 2000. Darwin  Earthworms.

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vermiculture promote global worming

Vermiculture:Promote Global Worming!

Written and designed By Julie Weisenhorn, Teaching Specialist,

Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota. December 2000

darwin earthworms
Darwin  Earthworms
  • “The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of Man’s inventions; but long before he existed, the land … was regularly ploughed, and still continues to be ploughed, by earthworms. It may be (doubtful) whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly, organized creatures.

- Charles Darwin, 1881

presentation goals
Presentation Goals
  • To understand the importance of the earthworm;
  • To understand the basic biology of the earthworm;
  • To become enthused about the prospects of home vermicomposting.
think about this

Think about this:

How can I change from

“waste-ful” to being “waste-free”?

earthworm taxonomic details
Earthworm Taxonomic Details
  • Phylum Annelida (Latin for “rings”)
  • Class Chaetopoda
  • Order Oligochaeta
  • Five families
  • Most common to N. America = Lumbricidae
  • 3000 species worldwide
common species
Common Species
  • Lumbricus terrestis – Night crawler
  • Allolobophora caliginosa – Grey worm
  • Allolobophora chlorotica – Green worm
  • Lumbricus rubellus – Red worm
  • Eisenia fetida – Red Wiggler
the earthworm history
The Earthworm & History
  • Casts found in Nile River basin = FERTILITY
  • No earthworms native to Minnesota
    • Exotics destroying understory vegetation
  • Darwin, Oliver and Barrett
  • Sir Albert Howard
  • The Rodales
  • Doc Hopp
lifespan of the earthworm
Lifespan of the Earthworm
  • Lifespan
    • Conservative estimate: 4-8 years
    • Barrett estimates 15+
    • Mortality by accident
  • Primitive physiology is unchanged
  • Body composition:
    • 70-95% water
    • Balance = protein, fat, minerals absorbed from soil
earthworm biology 1001
Earthworm Biology 1001
  • Segmented body “somites”
    • Somites equipped with setae
  • Five “hearts”
  • Cold-blooded
  • Peristonium = mouth
    • Prostonium for prying
earthworm biology 100110
Earthworm Biology 1001
  • Mucus is critical:
    • Holds in moisture
    • Aids in respiration
    • Protects body while burrowing
    • Sperm carrier during reproduction
reproductive system
Reproductive System
  • Hermaphrodites, but not self-fertilizing
  • Mutual exchange of sperm
  • Ova are fertilized in cocoons
    • Clitellum: light-colored band - produces cocoons
    • Cocoons contain ~ 4 eggs
    • Eggs incubate 3 weeks
regeneration
Regeneration
  • Myth: Cut a worm in half and you’ll have two worms
  • Worm needs at least 13 segments
  • Will re-grow body segments (equal number)
nervous system
Nervous System
  • Brain = a knot of nerves
  • Ganglion serve as impulse centers
  • Super sensitive to touch
    • Allows worm to select food, avoid predators and objects, and reproduce;
    • Can feel bird’s footsteps
  • Eyes are sensitive to blue light and skin to ultravoilet rays = burrowing action
digestive system
Digestive System
  • Eats weight in soil & OM daily
  • Processed in alimentary canal
    • Muscular mixing with enzymes releasing amino acids, sugars, organic molecules;
    • Includes microorganisms
    • Molecules absorbed through intestinal membranes
  • Result: CASTINGS
vermiculture vermicomposting
Vermiculture & Vermicomposting
  • Vermiculture is …

“the culture of earthworms”

  • Vermicomposting is …

“using earthworms and microorganisms to convert organic waste into black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus.”

- Mary Appelhof

slide17
Why?
  • Year-round compost & organic plant fertilizer
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Non-polluting
  • Profitable commercial business
  • Interesting for all ages
comparison of composting
Comparison of Composting
  • Organic Matter
  • Temperature
    • Compost bin = 130-160° F; 6-8 months
    • Worm bin = 59-70° F; year-round
  • Air circulation
    • Compost bin = vents + turning
    • Worm bin = vents + worm churn
comparison of composting19
Comparison of Composting
  • Moisture
    • Compost bin = rain, hose, organic matter
    • Worm bin = foodstock
  • Microorganisms
    • Compost bin = bacteria + fungi + some worms
    • Worm bin = worm mass + bacteria + fungi, etc.
comparison of composting20
Comparison of Composting
  • Time
    • Compost bin = few months; depends on weather
    • Worm bin = few months
how can i vermicompost
How can I vermicompost?
  • Three E’s:

Education

Equipment

Environment

1 st e e ducation
1stE: Education
  • Books
    • Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof
    • The Earthworm Book: How to Raise and Use Earthworms for Your Farm and Garden, by Jerry Minnich
  • Extension office bulletins
    • “Earthworm Biology and Production” by the University of California Cooperative Extension, leaflet #2828
1 st e e ducation23
1stE: Education
  • Resources on the Internet:
    • The Compost Resource Page
      • http://www.oldgrowth.org/compost
    • Worm Digest
      • http://www.wormdigest.org
    • Cityfarmer
      • http://www.cityfarmer.org
    • Worm Woman (Mary Appelhof’s site)
      • http://www.wormwoman.com
2 nd e e quipment
2ndE: Equipment
  • Suppliers:
    • The Happy D Worm Ranch
      • http://www.happydranch.com
    • Biological Home Grown Farm
      • http://www.worm-publications.com/biologicalhome.htm
    • The Worm Farm
      • http://www.empnet.com/worms/welcome.htm
worm bins
Worm Bins
  • Size
  • Construction
    • Plastic vs. Wood construction
    • Commercial
      • Can-O-Worms™
      • Worm-A-Way®
      • Worm-A-Roo™
worm bins26
Worm Bins
  • Size
    • Track food waste for a week
    • Allow one square foot of surface per pound of waste
    • Example problem:
      • Five pounds of food waste per week will require 5 ft² of surface.
      • Bin should measure 1’ x 2’ x 3’ (6 ft²)
bin construction
Wooden Bin

Organic

Breathes

Heavy

Deteriorates faster

Can be built as furniture

No treated lumber or fragrant woods (ie: cedar)

Plastic Bin

Lightweight

Holds moisture

Will not rot

Requires more holes for aeration

Inexpensive

Many bins available

Bin Construction
commercial bins
Commercial Bins
  • Can-O-Worms™
    • Most popular
    • Enclosed tier system
    • Bottom catch tray & spigot
    • Stackable mesh trays
    • Worms migrate vertically
    • Easy to harvest castings
    • $130.00 incl. shipping
commercial bins29
Commercial Bins
  • Worm-A-Way®
    • Plastic
    • Ventilated
    • Several sizes
    • Lightweight
    • $90-$100 incl. Worms & shipping
commercial bins30
Commercial Bins
  • Worm-A-Roo™
    • Double bin system
    • Plastic
    • “Migration device”
    • Lightweight
    • $140-$170 incl. Supplies, worms, and shipping
3 rd e e nvironment
3rdE: Environment
  • A worm bin must be:
    • Convenient
    • Easily accessible
    • In a well-ventilated location
    • Covered and protected from wind, sun, and animals
bedding
Bedding
  • Various materials:
    • Shredded newspaper
    • Sphagnum Peat Moss
    • Manure
    • Leaf litter
    • Coir (Coconut fiber)
    • Wood chips
  • Dampen bedding with tap water
  • Mix well
bedding33
Bedding
  • Possible additions to bedding
    • Calcium carbonate to control pH
      • Do NOT use slaked or hydrated lime
    • Rock dust for grit
    • Zeolite – for grit; also balances pH, controls odors, absorbs ammonia
bin temperature
Bin Temperature
  • Recommended: 59-77° F
  • A cooler bin …
    • Stays moist
    • Worms appear more active
    • Bedding is thicker
    • May have more mites
    • Easier to maintain consistent conditions
  • A warmer bin
    • Dries out quickly
    • Worms appear more lethargic
    • Bedding appears to be settled
    • Harder to maintain non-ambient temperature
    • Additional moisture required
bin care maintenance
Bin Care & Maintenance
  • Provide adequate bin and bedding mixture
  • Maintain moisture level
  • Maintain temperature 60-65° F
  • Provide air circulation in bin via adequate holes
    • Provides aeration
    • Controls odors by eliminating anaerobic conditions
foodstock
Foodstock
  • Variety
  • Bury foodstock under bedding
  • Don’t overload system
  • Maintain aerobic conditions
  • C/N ratio
foodstock37
DO’s

Fruit & vegetable scraps

Banana peels

Grains & cereals, pasta

Tea bags & leaves

Cooked eggs & shells

Coffee grounds & filters

Onions & potatoes

Pancakes

Banana bread, cake

Leaves

Plant cuttings

DON’Ts

Non-Biodegradables

Plastic

Glass

Rubber

Pet feces (cats)

Toxic materials

Ex: orange peels

Plant cuttings treated with herbicides or insecticides

Foodstock
foodstock38
Foodstock
  • Meat & Dairy products
    • Worms will consume
    • Not a good idea for indoor system (odiferous)
    • May attract undesirables
    • Can grind up bones (high nitrogen)
  • High N!
other organisms
Other Organisms
  • Mites & flies
  • Predatory planarians
  • Centipedes & millipedes
  • Enchytraeids (white worms)
  • Springtails
  • Isopods (ie: sowbugs)
  • Bacteria, mold, fungi, etc.
harvesting vermicompost
Harvesting Vermicompost
  • Worm castings vs. Vermicompost
    • Worm castings are deposits that have moved through the worm’s digestive system;
    • Vermicompost is a combination of :
      • Worm castings
      • OM and bedding at various stages of decomposition
      • Organisms such as worms and cocoons
      • Microorganisms
harvesting vermicompost41
Harvesting Vermicompost
  • Vermicompost supplies:
    • Nutrient-rich organic fertilizer
    • Humus is beneficial to plant growth
      • Humic acid
      • Binding site for plant nutrients
      • Increases soil texture and aggregation
      • Improves permeability
harvest methods
Harvest Methods
  • Dump & Hand Sort Method
  • Lateral Method
  • Vertical Method
slide43

There is no such thing as waste, for one organism’s waste is another’s resource.How can YOU be more waste-free?