How a vermicomposter works
What is vermicomposting and how does a vermicomposter work ?
Vermicomposters are ecosystems in their own right. And as with all ecosystems, there are rules to be followed to ensure that they function properly.
This ecosystem contains not only epigastric worms (which live naturally in the upper layer of soils: Eisenia fetida, Eisenia andrei, …) but also a whole lot of microorganisms necessary for the degradation of vegetable waste (bacteria, fungi, colembolas, mites , …).
The ecosystem must be kept in balance for optimum operation and avoid nuisance.
Collembolas and mites
Cocoon and worm baby
The organisms living in a vermicomposter need oxygen.
If possible, you can leave the juice container tap open (with a container underneath) to provide better ventilation, or make chimneys in the litter.
The organisms live in obscurity.
Enclosed in the vermicomposter, they have no problem.
It must still avoid placing it in the sun that heats the surfaces.
Compost worms die below 32 °F (0 °C) and above 95 °F (35 °C). Below 41 °F (5 °C) the worms hibernate. Above 86 °F (30 °C), they suffer from heat.
The optimum temperature range for worm efficiency is between 59 °F (15 °C) and 77 °F (25 °C).
There is usually 2-3 degrees more inside the vermicomposter because of the decomposition of the material which generates a little heat.
The location of the vermicomposter is therefore essential.
It must not be placed in direct sunlight or it will quickly exceed the maximum temperature (especially in summer).
If you put it outside, it will be necessary to ensure that it does not undergo the frost in winter (it can be protected by a cover, insulating materials if it is not too cold).
The ideal location is therefore indoors, in a temperate place.
The environment must remain moist without being too wet.
It is advisable to have a carpet of moisture above the waste to prevent drying out on the surface (cover with coconut fiber or mop or cloth at the size of the vermicomposter).
Also, it will be necessary to take care to regulate the humidity to avoid worries (midges, fermentation) by bringing cardboard which will be able to absorb moisture. These cardboard additions will also serve to balance the ecosystem by providing carbon.
The medium must have a constant pH (measure of acidity).
The decomposition of the organic matter will naturally acidify the medium. In addition some foods can bring a strong acidity that will be more difficult to control.
The regular addition of finely powdered egg shells will provide a “buffering power” in the middle. They are composed of calcium carbonate that dissolves in acidic media and neutralizes acidity.
The decomposition of the organic matter must have carbon, nitrogen, humidity, oxygen, … to function well and avoid nuisances (odors, ..)
Green waste (peelings, …) is rich in nitrogen. Cardboard / paper, made of cellulose is rich in carbon.
We must bring as much waste from the kitchen as paper / cardboard (by volume).
Some wastes should be avoided, others should never be incorporated:
How a vermicomposter works : The transformation of waste into vermicompost
Freshly deposited waste is first attacked by bacteria, fungi, collembola and mites.
The worms will eat the residues of this first decomposition. They will eat as long as there is food for them.
When the system is well launched, the worms will gradually move upward to reach levels where food is more abundant.
The degradation of the waste will release the water they contain. It is therefore not necessary to humidify (except for the first days during which the humidity level must be monitored).
When the humidity is high, the vermicomposter produces some juice. This humidity can be regulated with more or less cardboard.
The juice, also called ‘Worm tea’, comes from the water released by the food waste. It gets dark by running down through the compost and it goes into the collector tray.
When a tray is full, add an empty one above it. The trays are pierced, organisms can easily move up and down.
After about 4 months the waste will be transformed into a brown material, of homogeneous color and of a consistency that will depend on the moisture content.
We must not recognize the waste anymore. If waste is still present because it takes longer to decompose (potato peels, etc.), you can put it back in the upper tray with fresh waste.
The more the inputs are rich in cardboard (carbon), the more the consistency is granular, pleasant to the touch and easy to use: to obtain this, add a lot of cardboard!
It is normal to find some more worms who continue to live in the vermicompost.
If there are large quantities of worms in this last tray, it is because the compost is not fully mature. You can still leave some time or remove it and let it rip in another container (a planter for example).
It is not embarrassing to leave the worms in the vermicompost harvested.
This juice is a very concentrated liquid fertilizer. It must be diluted 1/10 (minimum) to use when watering your plants.
It contains fungi and bacteria useful for the life of the soil and the root system of plants. It should therefore be used quickly if possible and store it in an open container because the organisms present need oxygen.
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