Originally published January 1 2011
Garden with earthworms for sustainable development
by Fleur Hupston
(NaturalNews) The organic and sustainable development movements begin with the production of fertile soils. Sustainable development aims for a drastic reduction in the use of inorganic products. Individuals can all contribute to reducing the use of inorganic products. Using worms to produce compost is one of the most effective ways of recycling waste.
When earthworms feed, they ingest bits of organic matter (humus and tiny rock particles). They digest what they can and deposit the rest as excrement (castings). Earthworms turn vegetable food scraps that many households throw away into rich, nutrient-laden soil perfect for flower and vegetable gardens. The worms are low-maintenance, requiring nothing more than soil, moisture and oxygen to work their magic.
Earthworm castings (droppings) improve the soil in several ways:
Earthworm castings are close to neutral, even if worms are fed in very acidic soil. The castings contribute to neutralizing soil PH by adding calcium carbonate to the soil.
Castings are rich in minerals and nutrients needed by plants. According to a study at Cornell University, the nutrient level of castings is usually much higher than that of the surrounding soil. Earthworm castings were found to be high in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and trace minerals.
Castings increase the humus content of the soil. An excreted casting is 65 to 70 percent organic matter, or humus. Soil rich in humus soaks up and holds water better, resulting in soil that is less likely to become hard and compact.
Earthworms can compost organic material faster than any man-made composting system. Some earthworm species can eat more than half their body weight in food each day.
Earthworms live either in the surface layers or in the deeper layers of soil. Earthworms living closer to the surface feed on leaves, dead grass and organic materials found on topsoil.
Earthworms living deeper down in the soil live off algae, fungi and bacteria found in their environment.
Although it is preferable to garden using earthworms directly in garden soil, earthworms can be maintained in a controlled situation to compost household and garden waste. Home owners can easily maintain a household worm bin to take care of kitchen waste.
Be careful to feed worms a vegetarian only diet. Do not place anything in a compost heap or worm bin that contains dairy products, meat, fats or oils. Earthworms thrive on a diet of discarded vegetable peelings, fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags, cardboard, shredded newspaper and/or cereals.
If earthworms are kept in a bin, bury the food scraps and do not over-moisten bedding (shredded newspaper, leaf litter and dirt). Be careful that the bedding does not become too dry and make sure there is enough ventilation and air for the earthworms to survive and breed. Check drainage holes in the bin to make sure they are not blocked.
Shared Earth Magazine, Shared Earth Publishing, Article "Gardening with Worms" by Norman Kidd, pages 4 - 9, July 2008
About the authorFleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about natural, healthy living and is currently studying to be a naturopath. She divides her time between writing for Natural News and various other sites, home schooling her children and studying part time.
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