Harvesting Vermicompost

Did you know that worm castings are the absolute best enriching material you can put in your soil around your plants and that harvesting vermicompost is easy to do?

This past spring I have personally found out how superior to synthetic fertilizers and other liquid fertilizers even a trowel full of soil with worm castings in it can be. Here’s more about my experience with composting worms and using the castings at http://www.plantsandgardeningtips.com/.

Although harvesting vermicompost or the nutrient filled soil or worm casting can be somewhat work intensive, it is  not difficult to do.

If you use a whole container or, as in my case,  the whole window box without dividing into sections for feeding the wigglers, it will take a little more work when it’s harvesting vermicompost time.

When removing the nutrient-filled soil from the container in order to replace it with new soil, I will have to be so careful about not removing the worms with it.  I want them to remain in the new soil which I will use for bedding.

When I feel I should be harvesting vermicompost because there is sufficient nutrient-rich super soil in the entire window box and I want to use it,

I begin by shining a strong light on one end of the box, and the worms will bury below the soil.

Then I skim the top of the soil with a trowel and transfer it to a plastic zip bag.

If I happen to pick up any worms in my trowel while I am harvesting vermicompost,  I fish out the worms with my fingers and throw them back into the window box where they are out of the way. Worms don’t like having a light shining on them, so they will immediately look for shelter in the soil.

As I continue harvesting vermicompost, I skim more and more soil off the top of the pile and gradually get to the point where I see the worms.

Once more I manually, with my fingers or with the trowel, pick up the worms and move them out of the way as I keep working my way down to the bottom of the window box.

When there is no more nutrient-filled soil to be removed from that first side, I then fill up that corner with new soil, moisten it so the worms will feel at home, and bury food in the soil.

Then it’s time for harvesting vermicompost at the other end of the window box.

I go to the other end of the box, shine the light on this area and repeat the above procedure.

This time I will notice how some of the worms are slowly finding their way back to the new soil where I had put the food.

Little by little most of the worms will migrate to the new soil. Again when I happen to pick up worms with the soil in my trowel, this time the worm is placed in the new soil section. And when I get closer to the bottom, I will transfer the worms “en masse” with my trowel or my hands to the new soil section.

PS If I wait a few hours or even a day before harvesting vermicompost on the second side of the box, most of the worms will have migrated on their own to the side where there is food; in other words, the worms will have transferred to the new soil so there is less work for me when harvesting vermicompost on this second end of my window box.

When I have finished harvesting vermicompost from the second corner, I add some new soil and food to this end too. Sometimes I retransfer some worms back to the second end, sometimes I don’t bother.

Since I had been transferring the nutrient-filled soil from the box to a large ziplock bag which had originally held frozen berries, all I need do now is zip the bag and store this bag into another darker plastic bag to keep light away from it as I want the vermicompost to remain somewhat moist. I will be using all this compost for my balcony containers.

I hope this all makes sense to you. However, if you don’t like all that workwhenever it’s time for harvesting vermicompost, here’s a video that shows an easy way to tempt the worms into moving from one tray to another:

So the bottom line is to recognize your vermicompost; that is, you will know that the soil is ready for using when you can run your fingers through the soil and it feels like you’re running your fingers through coffee grains (not quite, but it’s close enough).

Also your soil should have a different smell — like when you’re walking through the woods just after a lovely light rain and you can smell the mulch. Believe me, it’s a special lovely smell you cannot forget.

The next post will deal with what to use for bedding for the wigglers when vermicomposting.

Meanwhile, enjoy your vermicompost. By the way, did you realize that even the big companies are starting to use vermicompost more and more as organic nourishment for the soil around their fruit trees or for growing their vegetables organically. It IS a faster way to get compost than by using the hot or cold composting method,and it is easier to mass produce.

So good luck with your vermicomposting.

On the next post I will discuss worm bedding material.

Happy gardening!

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