We just added 1,000 new pets to McCollum Orchards! The best part is that they all fit in one box and eat our garbage! As you probably guessed by now, we started a vermicompost part of our overall composting system here on the farm.
|We've got worms, and we know how to use them|
Why We Got Worms
Several books we’ve read about organic farming and self sufficiency, like we read most recently, suggest using worm castings as part of the compost and fertilizer mixture in the garden or small-scale farm. Worm castings are the by-product after worms eat decomposing stuff. You can make it into worm tea, which is just the castings steeped in water for oxygenation. It becomes a highly potent organic matter additive to soil mixtures, to help plants grow.
|Worms stretching out|
We are set on improving our composting system this year, and vermicompost is one strategy. We’ll add the worm tea to our compost mix for the vegetable garden and the hopsyard. It’s been proven in vegetable production, but not highlighted for hops, yet. However, we think it will be a good addition because, as we learned from a soil scientist at the Northeast Hop Alliance conference in December, hops need a lot Nitrogen, which generally comes from organic matter being replaced in the soil. A normal fertilizer just wouldn’t do it all. The compost session at the Northeast Organic Farming Association Winter conference in January gave us the kick to do it.
So, when we placed our vegetable and herb seed order this February, we also ordered one pound of worms, which works out to about 1,000 of them. The two kinds typically used in vermicompost are California Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers. These types are ideally suited for dark environments and live off decomposing organic matter. We got the California Reds through Victory Seeds in Oregon. Unfortunately, they arrived while we were out of town, so they had to hang out for a couple nights at the town post office. The employees were probably wondering what that compost aroma was.
How To Start a Worm Bin
|Worm food and decor|
Once the worms get acclimated, they will start eating more. They eat just about anything organic except meats and fats. (They don’t want to end up looking like caterpillars.) Eventually, they will also start to multiply and we can keep dividing them into new bins to make more compost.
Vermicompost may be new to McCollum Orchards, but it is not
new to farming. My dad, a retired farmer, raised worms in 1974. He had a
sizable operation of 150 4x8-foot worm bins. That’s a lot of newspaper shreds.
If ours grow that big, they'll have to get their own office and we’ll have to start getting the New York Times delivered, too!