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Vermiculture is much like ranching – with worms as the “herd.” In a commercial setting or for individual farming, vermiculture provides the worm breeding stock for composting (also called vermicomposting). Not just any worm can be cultivated for vermicomposting – redworms (Eisenia foetida) are most commonly used. They grow quickly and maintain high reproduction rates under the right conditions. This species does not burrow, but feeds on layers of decaying materials. Larger worms – commonly known as nightcrawlers – are typically bred for the fishing market.

Hobbyists who engage in vermiculture generally do so for home composting. They will cultivate the worms, then harvest a portion of the increasing population for transfer to composting bins. Small-scale growers provide bait and composting worms for sale, along with their byproducts, which include castings (worm manure) and tea (liquid that is extracted from the worms’ environment). Larger commercial operations perform what is called “on-farm” vermiculture. This stock is used in many ways: industrial-scale waste composting and the sale of byproducts.

Worm husbandry at any level is a boon to organic growers and composters. These little creatures never rest, but are continuously processing materials through their simple digestive systems. They also remain busy adding mindlessly to their population. The end result, so to speak, is a truly great, non-toxic fertilizer for gardens and plants, plus live stock for turning kitchen waste and other materials into compost. Add to that the demand for crawlers in the vast fishing market and it’s obvious that vermiculture is more than worms and dirt.

Simple vermiculture boxes – a system of drawers or trays – can be built at home or purchased. They allow for worm management in a controlled environment. A mix of damp cardboard or newspapers may be blended with manure. The worms then make their way through openings from one level to another for feeding, growing, and breeding. The vermiculture environment is moist, acidity and temperature levels are reasonably stable, and the bedding material remains aerated.

Before jumping into a vermiculture venture, it’s important to become educated in the ways of these little wigglers. Give them the right environment and they will literally – and beneficially – eat their way through house and home!

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Author: The Top Worm

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