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How to grow big, fat happy worms and beautiful compost

Sunday, February 26, 2012 by: Marsha Anderson
Tags: vermiculture, worms, kitchen scraps

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(NaturalNews) Good soil is crucial to a productive garden. Healthy soil will contain live microbes that are mostly dormant when soil is the typical, neglected landscape. Microbes rapidly propagate when soil is nurtured by controlling moisture and organic matter or compost. To get a compost pile started you need straw and vegetable or kitchen waste.

Compost piles can be handled in a trash can or bin but they work best on the ground. Dig out a patch about 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 inches deep, gently mix a bucket of vegetable waste with about a bucket of straw or mulch and a bucket of the excavated soil in the pit. This is a good recipe to get the microbes in high gear. Mound the remaining excavated soil over the pit to prevent smells, finish with a heavy layer of straw or mulch to retain moisture and prevent weed seeds from propagating. Give that pit at least a month to cook before adding a few worms. Don't throw live worms into a pit that is very warm to the touch. Compost piles reach high temperatures and yes, they will occasionally catch fire if not monitored properly. A good stirring and/or watering will usually lower the temps quickly. Steam rising out on cool mornings is fine. Hotter temperatures will process more volume more quickly. You should get the feel of it fairly fast. It's harder to get one going during the cold, wet months but once it gets going you can keep it cranked up year round in any weather.

Adding the worms

Garden worms can be obtained from a friend or a fishing and tackle supply store. There is an extra satisfaction in releasing worms that were on death row as fish bait to a happy ideal life. Live long and prosper, Red Wigglers!

Once your compost pile with worms gets going, keep it slightly moist, keep it mulched and never let it dry out. Other than checking moisture and mulching it, leave it alone. As time progresses, you will see masses of worms on the surface of the soil after pulling the mulch back. If there are no signs of non-decomposed vegetable matter, add a little more. Put a thin layer of fresh vegetable cuttings on top and re-mulch heavily. If you still see recognizable pieces of non decomposed vegetable matter, cover it back up without adding more vegetables. Keep it heavily mulched. Ideally, when the mound reaches maximum efficiency, you can add a three-gallon bucket of waste every other week and you will only see huge numbers of happy worms partying in moist dark soil. The worm poop is the gold; it's the best fertilizer money can't buy, and a little goes a long way. Use this as a topper on you plant beds at a rate of 1/4" per year. Worm poop is black, moist and orderless. It will smear black on your finger tips and is difficult to wash off, so don't use the finger smear test if you're about to go to a black tie event.

One more tip, if you have, or are thinking of keeping bees, don't locate a huge, actively managed compost pile near your bee hives. It seems to upset the bees and they're not shy about letting you know.

Sources for this article include:



Composting Your Organic Kitchen Wastes with Worms from Virginia Tech: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/442/442-005/442-005.html

What to Feed your Red Wigglers: http://www.squidoo.com/feed-red-wigglers

About the author:
Marsha Anderson practices organic gardening, plant based nutrition, and healthy living in sunny San Diego, California.

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