VERMICOMPOSTING 101

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Composting with worms can be as simple or complex as you wish.  A basic 38 L Rubbermaid bin with a lid is all you need.  Some folks prefer something a little more complicated like the stacking tray system the Worm Factory 360 pictured here.  It makes no difference as the fundamental process remains the same.  There are a few things you’ll need to understand before you get started.

The worms most commonly used Red Wigglers  they are what’s described as a leaf litter worm and are not indigenous to cold northern climates. This is why they will not survive winter in most outdoor settings.  Under the leaf litter and above the top soil you will find a thin layer of decomposing organic material, this is the realm of the Red Wiggler.

Just as outdoor compost needs green and brown components so does a worm bin.  The old veggie scraps and off cuts in a worm bin represents the green or nitrogen input in the compost and the bedding made from paper, straw or dry leaves is the brown or Carbon input.  The bedding plays a twofold part in vermicomposting as it replicates the natural leaf litter habitat of the worms and acts as a moisture control.

None of the composting activity would be possible without bacteria and microorganisms.  The worms alone do not break down organic material and rely on bacterial decomposition to survive in their habitat; they live in active compost.

In ideal conditions including temperature, moisture and food availability one adult worm will produce an egg case containing 2-4 baby Red Wigglers every 8-10 weeks.

Now that you’ve got the basics why not get some worms and get started today?  Contact us here through the web page or visit us on Face Book, we’re here to help.

IT’S MINUS WHAT OUTSIDE?!!

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Chins up garden people, it is quite discouraging to wake up each frigid morning here on the Prairies.  Today the blush of spring seems a distant memory, a forgotten time of gentle rain and delicate blooms.  It’s currently minus 15 C!  To help cheer you up and more importantly give a little hope today we bring you….. Spring from the greenhouse.

All the luscious plants you see here are grown with strait worm castings from our outdoor vermicomposting facility.

 

THE BAIT DEBATE

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Do Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida)  make good fishing bait?  Apparently, this depends on who you ask, whew, there are a ton of mixed messages on this question!

We’re not big fishing folks here at the worm farm.  We’ve certainly sold many a worm down the road to a watery grave but haven’t personally used any of them in combination with a hook.  That’s not to say we don’t feed worms to fish, our in house aquarium has a very chubby population of happy cichlids.  Indeed there are many equally well fed fish, reptiles and amphibians living in Winnipeg who have benefited from including Red Composting Worms in their diet.

It’s safe to say Eisenia fetida are good fish food and well accepted by aquatic diners. The question remains though, are they effective bait in the age old art of the cast?  At this point we should probably beg forgiveness for our ignorance of the grand sport of fishing from our angling friends…. Here’s some of the feedback we’ve heard about using Red Wigglers for bait.

-they work great for small fish like Perch and Crappie.

-they give “good action” on the hook.

-they are too damn small to get on the f*cking hook.

-they are hard to keep alive on a trip.

Rumors abound, some say you can buy Wigglers at bait shops in the U.S. where they are used more commonly. No doubt not all fisher folk are worm farmers so these reports may have confused indigenous Earthworms with Red Wigglers but who can tell?  We really need some input on this question.  You be the judge, have a look at today’s photo of our worms on a standard CD disk then please weigh in with your “fishing with worms” experiences.  Let’s solve this mystery together; maybe we should open a bait shop.

Contact us with your feedback on this or any other topic right here on the web page or visit us on Face Book .

IN LIKE A LION, OUT LIKE A LAMB?

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Ah March, that unpredictable harbinger of spring… or not. March is a notorious time of year, here on the prairies it’s not uncommon for a late season blizzard to blow through or stormy rains can wash the winter blues right down the sewer, honestly folks, it’s a crap shoot. But what do do know for sure is that spring is on the way and gardeners and farmers alike are getting excited.

Do you have a garden plan or are you more of the guerrilla gardening sort?  If you’re lovingly looking at seed catalogs and carefully plotting out the placement of your new found treasures make sure to find some room for composting in your garden plan.  If you haven’t started your compost yet, what’s the hold up?  Did you know that frozen material degrades into compost faster than raw unfrozen fruits and veg?

Many people continue to throw kitchen scrapes into the composter all winter long and why not, it’s amazing how fast the scraps vanish into rich soil come the spring. The fast conversion is a result of bacterial action and the ease in which that bacteria gain access to the food source.  Anything you can do to increase the surface area of food waste material will help to speed up composting this allows the bacteria to colonize and begin to brake down the waste. Freezing work the best because freezing actually bursts open the cell walls of the vegetable or fruit waste allowing the bacteria quick purchase.

This is why we encourage people to freeze  then thaw the food they put into their worm bin too. Go ahead folks, get that compost going and when you’re ready for worms…. contact us, we’ll be happy to help.

 

SOIL REHABILITATION

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There are acres of sterile land throughout the prairies, killed by industrial agricultural practices and the use of chemical fertilizers.  This is unproductive soil that looks more like dust than dirt, nothing will grow in it without depending on huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It’s very vulnerable to erosion, wet years see it washed into already fragile rivers and lakes and dry years produce massive dust clouds that effect air quality over vast areas including towns and cities.  Producers are trapped in a cycle of dependency that can dictate the types of crops they can plant.  Most of all it’s totally unsustainable. There’s important reasons for people to switch to organic practices and it’s not just a wave of fickle consumer preference.  Organic farming protects and builds soil.

When we think of growing soil many people draw a blank, how the heck do you grow soil. People don’t think of soil as a living entity, they think of it as an inert substance that plants live in.  In truth soil is a complex ecosystem of it’s own full of varied micro-organisms both flora and fauna.  It’a a living breathing masterpiece of the Nitrogen cycle  and none of us could be here without it.  The fundamental building block of soil is Humus think of it a housing for micro-organism, once properly housed they can go to work breaking down organic material into the usable nutrients that plants need all a part of the Nitrogen cycle.

Worms too are fabulous soil builders, the best really, they represent giant ocean liners on the sea of soil life. Each worm takes in raw organic matter and after a trip through the rich bacterial landscape of it’s digestion deposits a perfectly balanced cast.  The cast consists of Humus and everything that lives within it’s protective structure.  Worms leave behind housing for soil nutrients and micro-organisms.

When food producers choose to leave the world of chemical filled production they do face a road of change in the beginning but once converted, organic production will equal out and in the end is proven to save money on top of the environment.

THE WASTE STREAM

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How much do you know about your personal waste stream?  Most people don’t give it a second thought once the garbage truck has stopped by.  The truth is that even if your waste stream is “out of sight out of mind”, it’s very much a part of someone else’s life.  Some of your trash you see doesn’t just go away.  The term waste stream is a catch phrase used to describe the active movement of organic and non organic materials by the solid waste industry.  The rather benign definition makes it sound like a Sunday at the park when in reality it’s big business with environmental consequences that killing of whole ecosystems in our world.

The first step to taking responsibility of your stream is to understand it’s components.  Let’s begin in the most simple of ways.  Do you have a toilet?  You’re already a step ahead of some people in our world.  What we’re alluding to is of course your personal organic waste, is it going to a treatment plant?  Or maybe you have a private system, is it in top working order?  Here’s a sobering thought, the capital city of our province, Winnipeg, still flushes sewage directly into our river systems every time the rains are heavy and overwhelm our antiquated duel storm drain/sewage system.  The city is slowly replacing these sewers  you can learn more here. it’s a reminder of how large a problem such a personal waste stream can become.

Let’s look at the other components of your household waste. We really hope you recycle; paper products, glass and aluminum cans are rock solid for redo. Easily recycled these materials are rebuilt for practical use close to home.  Plastic…. not so much.  Most so called recyclable plastics are recycled one time and it happens off the continent.  Massive shipments of used plastics are sent overseas burning carbon all the way to factories in developing countries. To take responsibility of the plastic in your stream all we can do is reduce the amount as much as you can.  Make intelligent purchasing decisions to avoid plastic packaging.

Moving into the world of organic waste, what are you sending to the landfill and does it really need to go there?  We’ve posted in depth about the difference in aerobic and anaerobic decomposition, know the score.  Composting is the way to go with this stuff, it’s easy too.  Keep in mind that since the beginning people have always had a dump, archaeologists rely on them to learn hidden truths about what our ancestors were up to and it wasn’t plastic pop bottles. Your composting endeavor can be really basic, like a simple compost heap in the corner of your yard, given enough time your organic waste will turn into soil. Taking the step to a more efficient and controlled compost comes naturally, then when your ready to take full control and responsibility for your organic waste stream you can make the move to vermicomposting all year long.

Give your waste stream some thought we’re happy to help.

 

THE COST IN THE CAST

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As visitors to our website will know, NATURE’S PERFECT PLANT FOOD produces vermicast, the end product of composting with worms.  We have shared many a post on this core topic, the 5 W’s if you will.  Here is a small sampling of our website articles to date.  Learn more here  

We encourage all our readers to be sensitive to a sustainable environment and commit to organic production methods for all their horticultural needs.  We’re not just doing this to sell our product, sounds a bit rich we know but true none the less.  We are dedicated to carbon reduction, soil preservation and reclamation.  In a world that loses 2% of its arable topsoil every year we’ve pledged to help make up that loss and with Global Climate Change upon us make no mistake this possesses great value.

What’s at stake?  Think of Vermicomposters as a kind of insurance, a glimpse into the future.  Not the dreaded doom and gloom future of famine, floods and plague either, it’s the good news future of food security and carbon reduction.  We put a lot of thought into sustainability, our operation is conducted outdoors the only one of its kind as far as we know.  We use solar power and actively strive to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible.  We use re-purposed packaging that would otherwise biodegrade in a landfill.

We employ these business practices because we understand the “cost in the cast” and what we can do to improve our environment now and in the future.  When we ask you to take another step along with us toward sustainability the transaction is bigger than finance, it is a little insurance to make sure that future exists.

Your feedback is always welcome.

WORM BIN A SWAMP?

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We’ve been getting alot of inquiries about wet, sloppy worm bins lately.  People have found their bins becoming too saturated and for some this leads to an unpleasant odor or heaven forbid, drowned worms.  Worms do like a fair amount of moisture in their environment and can in fact tolerate almost saturated material.  Standing water in a bin is a step too far however and this will create hostile conditions. Anaerobic bacteria can grow in stagnant liquid producing methane and methane smells really terrible.

There are a number of methods to remedy an over-wet bin.  Sometimes the easiest solutions is to simply add more dry bedding, once it’s saturated you can discard it and add new dry material, repeating this process until the bin become dry.

In a standing water situation you may want to tilt the bin and physically bail out the low end until the liquid is reduced.

Time heals all as they say, don’t worry about not feeding your worms in order to give the bin time to dry out.  They will shrink in size but quickly recover once they resume feeding.

If you’d like to have a safe guard in place to prevent worm drowning deaths you can create a layer of material at the bottom of the bin to act as safety net of sorts, we suggest heavy straw.  This way even if your bin develops standing water at the bottom, the worms can use the straw to keep their heads above water.

VERMICAST FOR INSIDE PLANTS

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Winter is the perfect time to concentrate on the health and happiness of your house plants.  These cheerful green additions to your home are proven to alleviate the “winter blues” and improve indoor air quality. They are our silent companions and often overlooked as a living part of the household, they don’t complain.  If your dog or cats living conditions became nonsustaining, you’d quickly notice a deterioration in their health.  Plants show their state of health too in more subtle and slower ways.  The time it takes for a plant to show off colored leaves can be weeks in the making and it can take weeks to get it back into prime condition. What started the downfall in the first place?

Soil health is a factor in the well being of house plants.  They are bound for life in a small habitat wholly reliant on you for their nutrient needs.  Many people fall back on chemical fertilizers   a one time rush of nutrients that may or may not provide your plant with the proportion they need at the time. The addition of vermicast will never “burn” your plants.

Not only does it provide a safe and steady flow of NPK to your little (or big) green friends it will continue working within the soil web of life to nourish a thriving micro-biological co-operative of organisms that build not deplete soil.  It’s the difference between being organic or not.  Organic producers are playing the long game, chemical fertilizers are more like a binge drunk for you plants and hangovers are not a pretty sight.

You can incorporate the use of vermicast, either from an outside source like us or you can start an in house system to supply your own using composting worms which… erm, you can also buy from us. What using organic castings will do is set you up for the long game, a continuous cycle of nutrients replicating nature’s most perfect system, the Nitrogen cycle.

 

KEEPING COZY IN THE WORM BIN

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What are the best conditions for Red Wiggler worms to thrive in an indoor bin, believe it or not that’s a bit of a loaded question.  Another answer might be; How much time do you have?  The first thing to keep in mind is active compost.  Creating a microbial rich active compost is the first step to having productive worms.  Think of it as a chicken or the egg question, worms live best and are most prolific in very active compost, they don’t necessarily create this environment but certainly contribute to it’s continued activity.

An active compost creates heat, the temperature of a bin can be manipulated by the amount of organic material currently under change.  Your bin has a base line temperature dictated by where it’s located, moisture content and compost activity.  This can be tested in new bins by starting the compost first and adding worms once it’s up and running.  Very few people have the foresight to check this and of course for those of us already in full swing it’s not possible to go back in time.  You can time a base line temperature check for a working bin just before adding new food.  Wait longer than you normally would, up to two weeks depending on the size, smaller bins, under 10 L only require between 5 and 7 days. The bin will have time to dry out and composting will slow as organic material is converted to castings.  This is now the ideal time to harvest castings and do a worm count too.

Once you established a temperature reading of a “cold” bin you can begin to use food and moisture to raise or lower the temperature. Our winter worm stock for example chills out at around 16 C surprising when you consider that the air temp in the area is 21 C.  This base line will rise to 20 C when the bin is fully engaged. At our facility the manure piles can hit a composting high of close to a whopping 65 C obviously if this happened in your indoor worm bin the worms would die with nowhere to escape.  In our experience, the worms will be attracted to these areas of “hot” compost action but they don’t do suicide runs to the center.

Some of the coldest and less productive bins are very “wet” bins.  If you have more moisture you have less aeration and while water holds heat better than air it also takes longer to transfer that warmth. Vermicomposting is aerobic composting, that’s why it smells so nice, (Learn more here) standing water in your bin is a problem.  Not only will it halt aeration to that level, whatever is under water, worms won’t live there unable to breath. But the worst part will be the smell, because anaerobic bacteria will start to work in the aquatic conditions you’ll have built yourself a swamp. That’s not to say that swamps and wetlands don’t play a valuable part in our ecosystems…. we just don’t want them in our houses, wink, wink.

As always your feedback is appreciated so please feel free to comment here on the webpage or visit us on Face Book.