How Worms Kokua* our Planet. By Leslie Foster from Kokua Worms
Worms & worm parents save the World!
Wouldn’t that be a headline to savour? We might not quite save the world, but we can help make it a healthier place. Composting your food scraps to make your own natural rich fertilizer is both the first and final step in the bigger picture of smart food management, and it’s a family oriented sustainable practice. We all know that growing our own food and teaching our keiki (children) to discover and value vegetables, fruits, & herbs are desirable practices, especially in our disconnected, fast paced world. We also know how important it is to utilize all our resources and let nothing go to waste, just as indigenous people, like ancient Hawaiians did. Vermicomposting helps you and your loved ones do both of these.
Vermicomposting is the low maintenance, odor & bug free process of turning food and paper waste into ultra rich vermicast, nature’s richest plant food. Vermicomposting, or composting with worms is an incredibly easy practice of feeding chopped up scraps to worms which are sandwiched in between “loose, moist” carbon material such as shredded paper & other mediums. These carbon layers keep worms protected from light & air; give worms an area to get away from the heat of decomposing food and mate; and is part of their diet. The benefit of these carbon layers to us is that they prevent odors from escaping, thus keeping undesirable critters from joining in the feast in our worm habitat.
Vermicast and leachate are the “fertilizer” byproducts of worm habitats. Vermicast, also known as “ black gold” or worm poop, provides food, nutrients, and live organisms which your plants and your soil crave. Enriching your soil with this “live” cast, along with maintaining a top layer of mulch, improves moisture retention, crucial in our current condition of changing rainfall patterns. Leachate, the runoff from decomposition and watering, offers everything the vermicast does, but also has bacteria, which is why I recommend not using it near low growing edible plants. Since both leachate and cast are very concentrated, I recommend dilution prior to application. Though, full strength cast is an excellent medium for germinating seeds.
Composting worms are NOT your backyard variety of worms. Composters are the epigeic worms that feed on decomposing material on the earth’s surface. “Earthworms” are the endogeic species that live a little further below the surface, benefitting from mulch top layers and tunneling down to aerate your soil. I encourage Hawaii residents to leave earthworms in the earth, caring for them by not using man- made fertilizers, keeping mulch on the ground, and watering your plants. ( Mulch, or green waste is an essential ingredient to feed living soil. )
The information can seem extensive, but proper care and maintenance of a worm habitat consists of simple routines: regular feeding-say 2-3x per week, allowing worms to “thrive vs survive”; keeping things moist- in sun blazed environments like Hawaii’s, habitats welcome watering; providing and maintaining “fluffy” carbon top & bottom layers allowing for good cover, airflow, and drainage; harvesting the poop out a minimum of twice a year.
Feeding your worms a balanced diet, keeping them in a moist environment protected from air & light, and regularly harvesting their cast, keeps worms happy and can make our soil a healthier ecosystem.
In today’s world, more and more of us realize that smarter food management is crucial, from reducing portions of food prepared, and revamping how food is distributed and discarded, to teaching keiki to eat the wholesome “live” foods that we grow. Recycling “inedible” food waste by using it to feed our plant life, reduces our carbon footprint and creates a healthy food cycle – of which composting worms are the MVPs.
Happy Worming, and let’s save our planet!
Aloha e, Leslie
*kokua: to help, aid, give assistance, relief, an assistant,