So what, you may ask, is vermicomposting and how does it work?
Well, “vermi” is the Latin word for worm, and worms like to feed on slowly decomposing organic materials (e.g., vegetable scraps). The “end” product, called castings, is full of beneficial microbes and nutrients, and makes a great plant fertilizer. So, vermicomposting is the practice of using worms to make compost simply by feeding them your food waste.
The reason vermicomposting is becoming popular is because worms are very efficient eating machines. They eat over half their body weight in organic matter per day!
Things to keep in mind before starting your system.
Not all worms can be used for vermicomposting.
– No, soil and garden worms cannot be used for vermicomposting.
Not all worms are created equal.
– There are over 4,000 species of earthworms ranging in size from ½-inch to 22 feet
Only a few type of Earthworm species are used for vermicomposting.
– There are only four temperate and two tropical earthworm species used for
vermicomposting. One species, Eisenia fetida, is used by most people throughout the
world. Eisenia fetida is commonly called ‘red wiggler.’
The following video is a great system if you have room:
If you look online you will notice a bunch of different companies selling their own version of a worm bin, however If you look around your house you may be able to make one yourself for next to nothing.
To make your own home-scale vermicomposter you need a few things:
1.Two 10gallon Plastic Container bins (Dark Colors are better, Worms do not like the light)
2.A sharp object (knife or scissors or drill to poke holes)
3.A couple of bricks
5.Worms (Red Wingers)
6.Spray Water Bottle With Water in it
1.)First take one plastic container and set it aside. This will be your reservoir.
2.)Second take the other plastic container and poke holes on the bottom of the container. 1 hole every square inch should do.
3.)Next poke holes on the top piece of the container. 1 whole every square inch is fine.
4.)Place bricks inside the container with NO holes (Reservoir). Lay bricks on their side, this is to give the top container space to let the worm tea drip out.
5.)Place containers with holes on top of the bricks inside the Reservoir container (with no holes)
6.)Place bedding at bottom of container with holes( I used a cocoa mix, cardboard clipping work fine as well. Anything that will retain moister, try to avoid anything glossy)
7.)Spray bedding with water from water bottle so that it is damp but not drenched.
8.)Add Red Winger worms
9.)Add vegetable clippings, and shredded junk mail
10.)Spray with water bottle to make moist
9.)Place damp Newspaper on top to keep in moist.
10.)Put the lid with holes on top of the container. Place the lid with no holes on the bottom of your reservoir bin for a stand if you like.
If you get this far, keep adding your worm food daily and wait at least three months for your worms to their thing. One you get a good batch of Humus, let me know and I will tell you how to seperate the worms from the humus so that you can add it to your garden or turn some into worm tea.
How to make Worm Tea With your Worm Castings
The following information was provided by www.redwormcomposting.com
An application of compost tea will add life to your soil with beneficial micro organisms that will fight disease and pests, as well as, boost your plants growth. Active aeration prevents harmful anaerobic bacteria and other non-beneficial microbial activity. Applying compost tea within a few hours is best, after a few hours the brew begins to go anearobic.
Many assume that worm tea is simply made by collecting the liquid that drains out the bottom of a worm bin (if it has drainage, that is), but this isn’t really the case.In actuality that liquid is referred to as leachate, and definitely isn’t nearly as good as real worm compost tea. The problem with leachate is that it can contain all sorts of compounds produced in partially composted or anaerobic waste materials – some of these can actually be phytotoxic – that is to say they can harm or kill plants. If you dilute the leachate with aged water and aerate it for 24 hours or so, it should be fine.
To turn your Castings into worm tea you will need a few extra suppliers:
Here is a basic supply list:
-High quality vermicompost / worm castings
-Some type of permeable bag – the muslin bags used to hold soaps etc can work really well, but even panty hose would likely be a great choice.
-Aged water – if you are using tap water you should let it sit for a day or two so as to remove the chlorine. Preferably, use some rainwater or pond water if you have some on hand.
-A basic aquarium air pump and tubing – an airstone will help, but it’s not vital
**Optional** – a source of simple sugars – molasses works very well. This is used to help increase the population of beneficial microbes in the mixture. Some claim that it is not a good idea since it will also potentially increase pathogens, but the way I see it – there actually need to be pathogens in the material for this to happen! Yet another reason that really high quality compost should be used
There a a number of different ways that you can set up your home scale aquaponics unit. There is no real right way, however there are a few things to consider to avoid some of the wrong ways. Your choice of system should best suit your needs and resources. One of the first things that you will need to consider is your space requirements and budget. Once you have these two prerequisites worked out you can begin thinking about other things.
Figuring out what type of fish you want to raise and the types of vegetables you want to grow is only a minute part of putting together a good system. You will need to think about tank size verse grow bed size and what type of medium (or soil) will you use? Do you want to have a constant flow system or a ebb and flow system? Can you run your system on solar, or do you want to add a water feature? There are advantages and disadvantages to each system, some out weighing others on a level of personal preference, others on more of a technical level. If you have the option I would recommend trying to experiment with a couple of different systems in an attempt to see what ultimately works out best for you and your environment.
The following is a list of some of the more used aquaponic systems around:
Recently I made a trip out to Escondido, which is in East San Diego County to visit the fellas over at the Escondido Tilapia Farm. Out there they have a sustainable set up to raise Tilapia for local fish farmers and urban aquaponic fanatics like myself. The following video was taken with my Iphone 3, so I have to appologize for the messy footage
Compost Pile Water Heating System
The tiplapia are kept in a 900 square foot barn which is filled with a number of different size pools and breading tanks. All of the fish are separated out by size and date of birth, with the larger fish sharing the big community pools.The water is heated by running a four hundred foot plastic irrigation hose through a huge pile of compost that is nearly two stories high. The compost pile generally stays at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which heats the water up around 8-9 degrees. The water leaves the tanks at around 71 degrees then re-enters the tanks after traveling through the compost pile at around 80 degrees which is perfect for the fish.
Each day they do a 25% water change to keep the ammonia levels down. They use the dirty water to water their plants in their field, and replace it with fresh well water. They are planning on setting up a full greenhouse to start incorporating an ebb and flow aquaponics system to clean their water in the future. Everything is ran off of solar panels making their operation nearly completely sustainable and almost entirely off of the grid.
Tilapia Breeding Tanks
Inside the barn they had a number of different breading communities set up. These were the typical communities that many breeders tend to use. Tilapia will breed on their own, if the conditions are right. However is you want to be able to track the birth and start breeding your hybrid versions you need to set up a breading tank. To do this they separated 5 or 6 female fish that are ready for breading with one male fish. All of them are put into a minimum 55 gallon tank.
Inside the tank you they added a few 6 inch cuts of 3 inch PVC tubes pluss a flower pot for protection. The female fish like to hide when they are laying their eggs. These PVC tubes and flower pot offer the perfect protection needed for the female fish. Tilapia are mouth brooders, meaning that they like to keep their eggs in their mouth until they hatch and become fry. Once the fish become fry and start swimming on they are removed from the tank for protection from their mother and the other fish in the community.
I will definitely get some more contact information and directions down the road for those of you interested in visiting the Escondido Tilapia Farm and learning more about raising tilapia.
Here is example of a home scale gravity feed constant flow aquaponic unit that I set up in a front yard in Ocean Beach, California. The tank is a 750 liter re-purposed food grade cart dug 16 inches into the ground then covered with bricks for aesthetics.
The water is pumped up into a set of 8ft x 4inch PVC tubes with 3inch wholes cut every 10 inches for the vegetables to grow out of. The tubes were painted brown for aesthetics.
The bottom tube drains into grow bed made out of a food grade cement mixer container filled with river pebble. This bed drains into a similar style bed below that is slightly larger, but with no grow medium. The plants are growing directly in the water with tadpoles. This bed then drains directly back into the tank that is filled with over 20 tiliapia of different stages of growth.
Check out the images below from our gallery:
This is a home scale aquaponic unit that installed a our backyard. We repaired an old 150 gallon fish tank by supporting it with some treated 2×4’s and plywood. It is a gravity feed system that operates with one pump that pumps water up into the top 7ft x 4inch PVC unit. 3inch Holes are drilled every 10 inches along the pipe where different vegetables are growing. The water exits the first tube and splits into two hoses.
One hose brings the water into a food grade cement mixer filled with clay hydroton balls, the other hose runs to a second 7ft x 4inc PVC tube. The second PVC tube is tilted slightly down like the first one with vegetables every ten inches. The tube drains into another grow bed filled with river stone and pebbles connected to a home-made bell siphon.
The first grow bed and the second one both drain back into the fish tank on their own with rather simple bell siphones I created by using two old water bottles and two glass mason jars. The way the 4 inc PVS tubes drain into the 3/4 inch hoses give the system the effect that it is alive while the water is pumping.
The system acts like it is is breathing, We have since fixed the sound a bit however it is still fun to look at it as a live unit itself. Breathing and flowing water from the fish to the plants like blood through its system.
This Following video was taken when the system was just over two weeks old:
This Next video was taken when the system was just over 45 days old:
Check out some more photos of the system: