Did you know: Worms have been around for 120 million years and play an important part in nearly every eco-system in the world!
WHAT IS VERMIPONICS?
Vermiponics is the introduction of worms to your aquaponics system. We do this to increase bio-diversity, create a healthier eco-system, as well as to produce a source of organic fish food.
Worms are fantastic because they eat through organic waste, but can also access nutrients which are usually locked up in compounds and unavailable to the plants. Microbes in the worms gut help mineralise and oxidise the organic matter and produces worm-castings (also referred to as ‘worm manure’, ‘worm humus’, ‘vermicast’ ) that contain water-soluble nutrients; nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, pot ash and phosphates which are immediately available for the plants.
You can keep worms separately in a wormery or add them directly into your media-based, flood & drain grow-beds.
WORM-CASTINGS : BENEFITS FOR PLANTS
- Enhances plant growth
- Higher crop yield
- Aids germination
- Worms produce antibiotics which help protect plants against diseases
Wormeries are ideal if your main organic material for composting is kitchen waste, as the worms break it down into a nutrient-rich solution called vermicompost, which is richer than garden compost and can be used as a fertiliser. Vermicompost can be added directly to soil, used as a top-dressing for indoor/patio plants, or mixed 50:50 for potting up. To further maximise the output from your system, you can utilize the ‘Compost Tea’ (the liquid at the bottom of your wormery), it is a great feed for plants and can be diluted into a natural biopestecide for the plants.
For a wormery you will be likely to need 1000 worms (500g) to get the process started.
Don’t forget to get the worms habitat ready before you order them. Worms need to be put into a layer of damp bedding material such as;
- Torn up newspaper / cardboard
- Leaf mould
- Well rotted sawdust
Their beds should not contain any raw or uncomposted materials. Leave them to eat this for the first couple of days.
When you introduce kitchen waste, add small amounts at a time.
WHAT WORMS EAT (when kept separately to aquaponics)
Worms can survive on just about anything including fish waste, algae and dead plant roots. For a home-size system it is best to stick to:
- Fruit and vegetables (excluding acidic/citrus fruits)
- Plant matter e.g. unwanted roots
- Garden waste e.g. grass clippings, leaves
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags / Tea leaves
- Grains e.g. bread, cereal, crackers (even when mouldy/stale)
- Crushed egg shells / Egg boxes
- Kitchen towels
- Paper bags
- Shredded cardboard / Paper
On a farm or more commercial scale, their feed can be extended to include:
- Food processing/grocery waste
- Restaurant / Cafeteria waste
- Grass clippings
Note: Heat from a composting pile can be used to heat water for your aquaponics system, meaning you can keep fast-growing species such as Tilapia without paying as much to heat the water!
HOW TO INTRODUCE WORMS INTO MEDIA BASED FLOOD & DRAIN GROW-BEDS
Adding worms is best done in the morning. Here’s how to remove them from soil:
- Take a handful of wormy soil
- Put it on a sheet of paper on top of your (drained) grow media
- Shine a light on them – worms have photosensitive cells across their body and around their head which sense, and allow them to ‘see’ light. When they detect light, they will naturally burrow back down away from it and into your grow media.
Remember: Worms need oxygen, so ensure beds are not left flooded with water too long, or the worms will drown.
If you don’t use a tapped wormery, you can use worm castings, as follows:
- Fill pillowcase or material bag with vermicompost and tie
- Place in water and leave to steep with an air pump oxygenating the water for a day or so
- Use in the same way as other plant feeds, and is an excellent soil conditioner for gardening
Compost tea is very nutrient rich, so is often used to feed fruiting plants such as marrows, or is diluted.
Which worms should I use?
Eisenia Fetida aka ‘Red Wrigglers’ ‘Tiger worms’ or ’Redworms’ are the most efficient worms used for composting. They are specially bred for withstanding nutrient rich solutions – such as the compost pile. We also use Dendrobaena veneta known as the ‘nightcrawler’ because our local fishing shop sells them, and we like to source things as locally as possible.
Will the worms drown?
As long as worms have a good supply of oxygen, they will survive. In wormeries they should be separated by some sort of board with holes in, away from the compost tea at the bottom. In grow beds, you should ensure they are not left flooded too long. We recommend keeping worms separately from fish, in a wormery
Can I use earthworms from the garden?
The Lumbricus terrestris (common earthworm to you and I) tend to burrow deeper than most compost bins can accommodate and although they do a great job in compost heaps, aren’t as well suited for nutrient rich conditions as tiger worms are.
How many worms should I get?
Most family systems start off with around 1000 worms (500g/1lb). The quantity processed depends on the conditions, given optimum temperature and feed, over the space of a year these worms could have multiplied 15-20 times.
What temperature should my wormery be?
Worms are happiest between 12-25 ° C. they should be kept out of direct sunlight.
I live alone and don’t make much waste – can I compost?
A small wormery could be a good solution for you, as they take up less room than a compost pile, and can even be situated indoors. Luckily, they work well being fed small quantities of kitchen waste and can the worms can survive for weeks without a new food source.
How often should I feed them?
Little and often should be fine, especially if mixed up with other sources of food such as shredded paper. Once you have observed them, you should get a feel for how quickly they eat. Worms can survive weeks without new food deposits.
How do I know if it’s working?
Smell. When working efficiently, wormieries don’t smell. A bad smell could indicate that
- It has been overfilled at a rate the worms can’t cope with (remove some waste)
- Liquid is building up in the bottom and needs to be drained and stored. (add an absorbent material to soak up excess liquid)
- The temperature is too hot/cold – (move or insulate)
What are the ratios for diluting compost juice?
Compost tea should be 1 part concentrated liquid to 10 parts water.
Will worm poo harm my fish?
Not at all, they will use it as a feed source.
Will the worm-castings in the grow media cloud my water?
No, the water is not affected by the humus (castings)