TOO GOOD TO WASTE
Some 40 to 45% of the waste in our trashcans is compostable.
Become a key player in sustainable development by adopting vermicomposting
as a simple daily gesture.



Vermicomposting is a natural and eco-friendly process. It consists in placing worms in a vermicomposter container and feeding them regularly with the organic waste that we get when preparing meals. These worms eat up to the equivalent of their body weight in organic matter every day and reduce by a factor of five the initial volume of what they eat.


After a digestion stage, the worms produce castings, an odourless material with a potting soil consistency, also called vermicompost.

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Vermicompost is a soil amendment rich in nutrients for plants (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium). It improves soil aeration and structure and increases the soil’s water retention capacity. Its pH is relatively neutral. Plants that receive vermicompost are more productive and generally more disease resistant. This compost can be used in the garden, before turning the soil over, by spreading directly on the ground and also for potting plants, by mixing 1/3 vermicompost with 2/3 soil.


The vermicomposting system produces a liquid rich in nutrients, minerals and trace elements coming essentially from the water contained in the kitchen waste (about 80% of their mass). This liquid, also called “worm tea,” is collected in the conical bottom part of the vermicomposter. This liquid fertilizer, diluted in 10 parts water, will be used to water the plants.

What kind of worm should be used for vermicomposting?

There are two categories of earthworms:

Earthworms that live below the surface (belonging to the endogeic category): they can be found 20 cm or more below ground. The most common type is the “Lumbricus terrestris,” or “nightcrawler.” This is the one we see when gardening. It eats exclusively humus that is already decomposed by the soil’s microfauna. This earthworm aerates the soil by digging tunnels. It is not suitable for vermiculture.

Surface earthworms (belonging to the epigeous category): These worms live in the upper 20 cm of soil. This is the type of earthworm used for vermicomposting. The one that especially interests us is part of the “Eisenia” species.

In this Eisenia worm family, it is important to make a distinction between:

 

EISENIA ANDREI or red worm feeds on fresh organic matter.

EISENIA FOETIDA or tiger worm has yellow and maroon stripes and feeds on decomposing organic matter.


Often used in vermicomposting systems, the Eisenia foetida lives peacefully in the darkness at a temperature around 68°F (20°C). The adult Eisenia weighs between 0.3 and 0.5 gr and measures from 2.75 to 3.54 inches long (7 to 9 cm).

This earthworm has no eyes and finds its way around with light-sensitive organs. Its body is formed of rings called segments. These are surrounded by longitudinal muscles and circular muscles. To move forward, the earthworm contracts its circular muscles and stretches its body. Each segment has short bristles on the ventral side to help it move along. The circulatory system consists in a large contractile dorsal blood vessel that pushes the blood forward. Five lateral hearts push the blood backwards in a ventral blood vessel. The digestive tract is quite sophisticated. The adult Eisenia (about 8 weeks) is able to ingest the equivalent of its weight in organic matter per day. The Eisenia has no lungs and breathes through its skin, always moist and viscous, that allows the oxygen to pass through.



Mouth cavity: entrance to the worm’s digestive tract

Pharynx: part of the worm’s digestive tract located after the mouth

Ventral nerve cord: set of nerves in the worm’s abdomen

Seminal receptacle: sac that holds the worm’s semen

Ventral blood vessel: blood transporting vessel

Nephridium: organ that serves as a kidney

Gizzard: sac that serves as a stomach for the earthworm

Dorsal blood vessel: blood vessel

Crop: esophagus bulge

Seminal vesicles: hollow organs that carry the semen of an earthworm

Lateral heart: blood-pumping organ of the earthworm
Esophagus: part of the worms’ digestive tract located between the pharynx and the crop



 

Worms are hermaphrodites, which means that every individual carries both male and female organs. Nevertheless, mating occurs when two individuals line up against each other, facing opposite directions, juxtaposing their organs. One week after mating, the worms form cocoons that hold on average, three small developing worms. You can see the cocoons, sort of small brown-yellow beads, by carefully turning over the bedding soil. Cocoons hatch after three weeks. You will have the opportunity to observe them in your vermicomposting system. If you are watchful, you may see the birth of small worms.

 

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