April 28, 2011 at 8:14 a.m.
Vermicomposting is just a smaller version of your backyard compost pile except it utilizes a controlled population of worms. Drill air holes into a 20" x 14" x 8" plastic bin and place some peat moss, shredded newspaper and add just enough water to moisten the material. The menu for worms consists of your kitchen scrapes such as apple, banana, potato and cucumber peels, coffee grounds, turnip, carrot and parsnip tops - just about any vegetable waste will do. Bury this under the moist paper and peat mixture and you are ready to start the party.
The best worms for vermicomposting are redworms (Eisenia fetida) also known as red wigglers, fish worms or manure worms. Do not use nightcrawlers as they do not do well in captivity. As long as you use redworms, your kitchen scrapes will be devoured quickly. If they are happy, they will reproduce. Breeding worms can lay three cocoons per week; each cocoon may have as many as three worms that hatch in 21 days and will reach maturity in just over two months. If you start with 100 worms and you do the math, it may seem a little frightening. Do you have friends (or enemies) interested in composting? Don't worry! The worm population stabilizes itself by the size of the bin and the amount of available food. Your bin may support upwards of 600 worms. Don't bother naming them.....it could get confusing.
If all goes as planned, in three months your worms will have produced a vermicompost teeming with microorganisms to improve overall soil health. Adding this to your vegetable or flower garden improves fertility and soil structure. Be careful ! Pure worm compost can be strong enough to burn, so top dress away from plant stems. You can also make your own potting soil by mixing with peat moss, perilite and your own garden soil.
The efforts are small compared with the benefits to your garden, besides, the worms really do most of the work for you.
The Chisago County Master Gardeners are selling a fantastic selection of bare root plants that include Blueberries, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Onions, and much more. Please call the Extension office to order plants or visit: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mgwe b/chisago/2011%20Plant%20Order%20Form.pdf to view and print a plant order form. Master Gardener Jerry Vitalis is also available at 651-257-4436 to answer questions about these plants and to take your orders. You can also visit us on Facebook under Chisago County Master Gardeners.
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