What is vermicompost? Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer and soil conditioner. The process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.
Encyclopedia defines it as: the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by some species of earthworm. Saahas defines it as: an innovative material you can use to get more out of your compost. This post is about our first opportunity to figure out the mechanics of this potentially valuable compost fertilizer.
Thanks to Bosch Saahas started vermicomposting for the first time at Bosch plant. Two tanks of 6*3*3 feet were constructed by Bosch in the waste management facility and vermicomposting began on 5th July, 2013 in one of the tanks. The tanks should ideally be under a shed protected from rain and heat. The bedding was prepared with a mixture of wet leaves, shredded dry leaves and semi decomposed organic material. The bedding for vermicomposting systems must be able to retain both moisture and air while providing a place for the worms to live. Layers of organic waste in equal proportion of pulverized vegetable waste, leaves and tea/coffee dust were spread out on top of the bedding and worms were released to have a big feast!
Maintaining optimum moisture levels is very important as the worms can not survive in excess heat produced by the natural decomposition of organic waste. This can be done by spraying water regularly. It turned out to be a challenge initially but we have learned to be careful and check the moisture level before spraying water. The temperature rose sharply in the first few days because of the decomposition of organic waste, so more water was sprayed.
Unfortunately, it was found that there was excess moisture after two weeks. There was no mechanism to drain out the leachate/vermiwash (vermiwash is also a good source of nutrients for plants). It took an extra week for the moist vermicompost to dry, which was a good lesson for us for the next batches of vermicompost.
Finally after four weeks the texture of organic waste was soil-like and black in colour. This signaled that it was time to harvest the compost and release the worms in a tank with fresh waste.
Harvesting of vermicompost was done by sieving it, thus separating the worms. This can also be done in several other ways such as by placing a ball of cow dung in all the corners. Cow dung attracts worms and after a while we can just release these balls of cow dung with worms in the fresh tank.
The harvested vermicompost was given to Bosch and a sample of it was sent for analysis. Also, a little vermicompost was also used in a tomato plant which was planted on the terrace garden of the Saahas office. The plant with vermicompost is growing at a faster rate than the plant in whose pot normal compost was used. Vermicomposting benefited Bosch by reducing composting time and providing better quality compost for the vast green areas of Bosch.
Conclusion: Through experimentation, the Saahas team figured out a replicable method of vermicompost. This compost has shown enormously beneficial during initial tests in reducing compost time and increasing plant growth. We will chronicle the future effects it has on further experiments.