The Glencairn Stables Worm Farm is hidden away inside a shed. Hundreds of worms crawl and wriggle in an enormous wooden bed, made from old pallets.
Worms and vermiculture are vital ingredients for a healthy garden. Earth Kids met Samantha De Wet, horse lover, worm lover and compost maker! She says that worms need soil and compost to live.
She makes vermi compost, for and from worms called Red Wrigglers, NOT earthworms:
- They are specific compost worms and love leaf litter and horse manure.
- They come from Europe and were brought to SA as we also want great compost.
- They do not like the sun but love dark, damp places to live in. This compost has no smell.
- The worms have chemo receptors in their skin: they smell and breathe through their skin. They also eliminate wastes through their skin.
- Their compost must be damp, not too wet or they will drown, and not too dry or they will dry out. They need warmth too so if it gets too cold, they slow down – 25 degrees Celsius is perfect for them.
- The worms also love coffee grounds which add value to the compost they live in.
What is Compost?
Compost is a decomposing ecosystem filled with all kinds of tiny creatures – Sam finds worm eggs and other tiny things living in her compost. This is an aerobic system with no smell – good oxygen and bacteria – vs anaerobic where the smell is strong as things are rotting and rotten. No kitchen waste can be used as this attracts baboons, porcupines, rats, mongooses and mice. There are no flies around at all!
Dry compost does not work as it needs moisture and darkness, the right kind of bacteria and oxygen to break down. Straw and horse manure in layers covered with plastic makes good compost.
- We can add horse manure to our compost – we have leaf litter and soil.
- We can add vermi culture to our soil BEFORE planting vegetables to add nutrients to the soil.
What are Earthworms?
Earthworms (also called nightcrawlers) are very important animals. They aerate the soil with their burrowing action and enrich the soil with their waste products (called castings). Good soil can have as many as as 1,000,000 (a million) worms per acre.
There are over 3,000 species of earthworms around the world. These invertebrates (animals without a backbone) range in color from brown to to red, and most have a soft body. Earthworms range in size from a few inches long to over 22 feet long. The largest earthworms live in South Africa and Australia.
Earth Kids loved looking for worms in the huge worm farm and bought 3 huge bags of fresh horse manure compost for their own garden.