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Vermicomposting in Philippines, Organic Fertilizer Farming, Vermicast and African Night Crawlers
The point is, I wanted to put up a vermicomposting station in Cavite and Caloocan where me and my family lives and my mom and dad resides (Cavite General Trias). The problem is, I don’t know what I will need to be able to construct a simple set up of organic fertilizer compost container. I heard that it is special because no to little amount of light should pass through or should be seen inside the container for maximum composting and multiplying of the African night crawler (ANC) worms needed to eat up the compost and turn it into the amazing organic fertilizer called the vermicast.
A couple of months ago, I learned from an artist college friend that she had a friend she used to stay with in their home somewhere in Dapitan who literally handles such set ups and construction as her friend teaches biological waste management to communities around Metro Manila. Bottom line is I wanted to construct a container with which I can contain at least a kilo of the special worm called African night crawlers who will eat up my excess organic garbage and turn it into an organic farming fertilizer.
Second way I thought of to be able to come up with a diverse set of ideas is to go search online using Google search box. Here are the results of my research for vermicomposting in the Philippines.
Facts About African Night Crawlers
- There are about 4000 species of earthworms in the world but 400 can be found in the Philippines which means it’s also possible that we have the most fertile land in the world.
- African Nightcrawler worms were introduced back In 1982 by Dr. Otto Graff in the Philippines. They feed on litter at the surface without borrowing on the soil ( Epigeic ). These little creatures of the land were also found to breathe through their wet skin. That’s why any presence of oil in their feeding ground is discouraged to keep the worms from choking to death. That is because oil sticks to their skin blocking their breathing medium and eventually choking them to death.
- They are bisexual which means that each and every worm have both male and female sex organ (Hermaphroditic) but they still have to mate with other worm at least once in their lifetime to start the reproduction process. They feed on microbes (fungi and bacteria).
- Each African Night Crawler worm can lay 3-7 eggs a week that will hatch in 2 weeks and mature in 2 months, with a life span of 1-2 years in the wild and up to 10 years if properly nurtured and cared in a contained area plus they can grow up to 12 inches in length and weigh up to 3 grams.
- They feed on kitchen excess and veggie waste, agriculture materials such as leaves and small barks of tree, livestock manure, wet market waste, and almost all biodegradable materials which in turn becomes the vermicast or organic fertilizer.
- These worms also consume as much as 100% of their body weight in food intake and excrete the same amount per day. With proper nutrition, earthworm manure (vermicast) is known to be the best odorless organic fertilizer in the world known today.
- Sometimes called as the super soil of the planet Earth. They are cold blooded and thrive best in tropical areas like the Philippines, making us an ideal habitat. ANC will die of coldness at temperature below 12 oC. ANC will live and reproduce at temperature between 24-28 oC. ANC love wet area with a moisture of 40-80%.
- This kind of moisture is just enough water that the waste material can absurd without any water drops. Too much water may drown them. Less water may dry their skin and kill them. There is no known symptoms of disease or sickness anybody can get out of Earthworms as of today.
How To Make Worm Beds for African Night Crawlers
Prepare a solid container probably 8-12 inches tall and at least 14 inches x 20 inches in square diameter. Make sure that the box is not a clear box but colored (black if possible) so no light will pass through it. It can be plastic or anything that will not dissolve in moisture or water or easily break down under normal heat. Be sure that the container will have an air ventilation. You can try to drill some very small holes in the top area or cover or in the highest point of the sides of the box. Be sure to not drill too many holes or big ones or too much air might come in to dry the skin of the worms. This might kill them. (see sample container in the video below)
How To Prepare the Soil Medium (Bed)
For worms to thrive, live healthy and eat more and quick your excess organic waste of greens and browns, you will have to put them in a compost combination. This will be your soil medium otherwise called as the bed. If you use small containers, it is important that the bed be maintained of enough moisture and to achieve this, project makers use newspaper put above the soil medium. You only have to open this up whenever you add food composed of your veggie leftovers such as leaves, stems, peelings or skin, seeds and more. The usual resulting composition of the bed according to my own research is a combination of 1 part manure from animals (cow, carabao, horse, goat etc) and 1 equal part of rice hay or saw dust. Don’t forget to dry your animal manure for at least 3 days. They might just be too warm for your worms when used fresh from the drop area. In layering your bed, best to use in layer 1 is a compilation of grass cuttings dried for about 2-3 days. An alternative could be the finely shredded papers and browns. The second layer may comprise of dried animal manure (as stated above) and the third layer is the composting worms themselves. The last layer to put which is on a regular add up basis is the food of the worms, your kitchen trash. See classification in the video below. Last but not the least is a top cover of old newspaper or peet moss if you have it with you on your area.
This is a 1:1 ratio. You cal also use as recipe for your bed this mixture – 1 part animal manure and 1 part regular loose soil. Be sure to use untreated mixtures otherwise, chemicals might kill the worms or lessen the harvest of vermicompost which according to my research is advisable to be done every 45 days. After harvesting, you can prearrange an additional container and have with you prepared another bed in another container. The purpose of this is to distribute the worms into two separate beds. By this time, they’ve surely grown in size and in numbers. This way, you are aiming for 3 times positive results which is farming your worms, farming your compost for quality and increasing your harvest quality and quantity.
Maintenance of Worm Bed (Bin Container)
Making sure that there is enough moisture is enough for the worms to produce more and quality vermicast in your harvest period and leave them happily multiplying in your soil laying eggs and reproducing more in the right temperature. Apart from this precaution, you have to make sure that your bed mixture doesn’t get oil in it. This will kill your worms. Furthermore, maintaining your bed is easy. As I’ve mentioned above, use old newspaper to keep the moisture in the bed. Cover your top bed part with enough number of strips of old newspaper and open them only as needed like when you put some feeding materials to your creatures. African Night Crawler worms easily consume your feeding materials so be sure to supply them with enough food daily to make sure they maintain a healthy population. This is one of the secrets in obtaining the best quality harvest of organic fertilizer in your vermicast. Avoid feeding your worm with oily, meaty and dairy food substances.
Selling the Vermicast (Cost) and Production Tips
Remember that there is no better recipe for your soil, your worm bed, your container and your vermicast harvest than keeping up with your experience. It will teach you a lot. In handling your container, it is best to place it in a cold dark place. We all know this is very much favored by worms and this way, they can multiply better and produce quality fertilizer for your agriculture and planting projects. You can sell your excess fertilizers. If you ask me how much a sack of vermicast costs, by research, here in the Philippines, 1 sack may cost from Php 250.00 – Php 450.00 depending on the quality and place of production plus transportation and transfer or delivery costs.By pick up, the price above would suffice local distribution and consumption in the Philippines.
In vermicast and organic fertilizer use, there is completely and absolutely no overdose which means you can use as much as your plant needs when preparing a seedbed of planting pot or even in a rice farm or vegetable farm. Store in a cool dry place your excess vermicast for optimum use later on.
Farming of African Nightcrawlers (Worms)
How do you really farm and help your worms grow bigger, healthier and more in numbers? Well actually there is a standard number of eggs being layed by each African Nightcrawler but when you keep them in good condition, this will help your worm farm grow not just faster and more in numbers but also more in quality. Remember that quality yields quality which means that if you have quality food for your worms, they will reproduce quality eggs, quality vermicast and quality population which will eventually go on and on and on. Refer to what I have mentioned above for the maintaining temperature and moisture and in giving the right quality food.
Less chemical, less risk in quality. If you use browns and prefer it more than greens for your worm food, chances are, your yield will also be second best. greens by experience are better food for the African Night Crawlers than browns or paper and other waste materials. Using of the right sized containers for your farm will also benefit you in terms of production of your worm farm and not just in terms of your harvest of vermicast. If you feel there is too many of them in a container, by all means, divide them into 2 containers but be sure you have enough place to handle the fast reproduction, otherwise, divide them only whenever necessary and maximize the quickness of consumption of your organic food feeding. The many your worm is the quicker they can consume your feeds.