Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vermicompost - The Harvest

Harvesting Worm Castings

Having a worm condo is a wonderful way to lower the landfill contributions as well as create a great addition to your soil and plants. I have a premade four-story "condo" that I bought, but worm bins can be made in many ways. No matter what kind of vermiculture structure you choose, there will come a time when the castings have to be harvested. Here in the heat of Florida, I can harvest castings as often as every three months. article is all about the harvesting process.
#1 Take the lid off

This is the upside down lid. Note the worms all along the edges. They just seem to like it there. But it does mean I have to be careful not to squish them when removing and replacing the lid!
#2 Get the supplies ready

You'll need a large bucket, new bedding, grit (optional) and newspaper or something else to spread the castings out onto for sorting. The bedding I use is coir. That's what is soaking in the water in the pitcher. Make sure to use de-chlorinated water. Also pictured in the lower left is a plant stand that will hold the top floors of the condo while I work the lower level. I have a bottle of frozen water, but that's only necessary in the 90+ degree summers.
#3 Photo of frozen water in place to cool air.

Because of the excessive heat here in Florida, (90+) I add a frozen bottle of water to cool air. (I find the worms all over it on hot days.)
#4 Remove the top two layers.

I suggest adding some food scraps to the top the day before your start. The purpose is to coax as many worms as possible up to the top layers. Then, the next day, remove the top two layers and put them on the plant stand. (left) Exposing the good stuff you can see in the bottom layer.
#5 Black gold!

Close up of worm castings - no odor at all, rich, dark fresh soil-like amendment for plants and yards.
#6 Another shot for a little perspective

This is a better view; my hand is full of castings which in turn are full of worms!
#7 scooping into pail

All the castings/worms are scooped out of the top level, view the bottom layer, aka the spa since there is a lot of moisture there. And the worms do seem to like to "hang out" there. There's a lot of reproducing going on down there too
#8 Preparing to sift

Next step, sit for an hour and sift for worms. Get comfortable! Scoop out castings onto newspaper into tall mound, wait, then go to the bottom for the worms. While waiting for worms to migrate down, sift from pail. Then just keep repeating. Toss worms into new "top layer" (see below)
#9 Former bottom layer waiting to become top layer

#10 Preparing bottom layer to become new top layer:

Add moist newspaper to the empty layer and put on top to keep moisture in while you sort. Just toss the worms you find into this bin, keep a little of the casting matter with them. Later I'll add the wet coir and another layer of newsprint.
#11 View of filled pail

Top off pail with damp newspaper to keep in moisture. In 30 days repeat the sifting for new worms that are about to hatch!
#12 Bottom layer is now the top layer

Prepare the new top layer as you did in the beginning. Add soaked, damp coir, grit and top with more damp newsprint.
#13 A little damp wipe, lid back on, floor swept and Voila! All done!

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