It has been about a month since we started our worm composting system (aka vermiculture system) and we were really itching to see how much black gold I could extract from the composter. For those who aren’t familiar, worm castings (worm poo) is extremely rich in all the elements that plants love! Worm castings are about 5 times higher in nitrogen than typical soil, 5 times higher in potassium and 10 times higher in potash. This stuff is one of the best soil amendments you can find out there. Essentially, it’s the gooood sh*t 😉
Step 1: Get ready to dig in fecal matter.
Ok, so it’s not that bad. Worm poop is really just dirt. It’s pretty amazing, they take fresh green matter (nitrogen) like egg shells and old lettuce and eat that along with their bedding which can be made of newsprint or some other type of brown matter (carbon). They munch on that as they squirm around and what comes out the other end is potting soil, like magic!
Step 2: Take out the bottom layer of your worm composter.
This is the lowest layer where all the castings will have fallen to. This layer will probably be the wettest and most decomposed. It is ready to go and be removed from the system. The only problem is that it’s full of worms, and you will need them to continue your black gold manufacturing operation.
Step 3: Grab a handful!
Time to start separating the worms from the castings. Grab a handful and start to pick the worms out of it. Interestingly, as soon as you hold a bunch of worms and castings they will start to congregate and form a worm ball which gradually squeezes out the castings. Technically if you had all the time in the world you could just sit there and wait while the worms come together and push all the castings out the sides.
Step 4: Watch out for precious worm eggs!
As you sort through the castings and worms, you will notice very tiny worms all throughout the castings. Lucky you, your worms are reproducing and multiplying quickly. Worms will double their numbers every 3 months or so. We started with 500 worms about a month ago. In two more months we will have 1,000! Anyway, the worm eggs. The worm eggs (see photo to the right) are tiny and look like little luminous seeds. Take these out and put them back in the composter. They can be hard to see so, you should make little casting patties and crush them down so you can see the eggs. Fun aint it?
Step 5: Separate out your finished product.
Once you have taken out several handfuls, extracted the worms, the tiny newborn worms and the eggs you will have pure castings all piled up. I was able to harvest about 2 pounds of wet castings in 30 mins. We calculated that one pound of castings is worth about $1.50. Not bad for a first try after only one month of composting. We are sure that as we move forward it will become more efficient and profitable to our sustainable gardening efforts.
Anyone have a quick way to harvest castings or have any questions about vermiculture?
James~How To Harvest Worm Castings… The Hard Way
jamesgroweverywhere September 15, 2011
Posted In: Uncategorized