August 2011

Composting worms High quality fertili zer for your garden (9-10)

Soil fertility, water and light are the most important factors for a productive vegetable garden.

By Arnold Brouwer
Director Programa Huertos Educativos
Cochabamba


Breeding composting worms

Each harvest takes nutrients away from the soil so it is important to replace them. In natural farming the soil’s ecosystem is seen as an essential part of the garden, for this reason chemical fertilizers which kill soil life and diminish biodiversity are not used.

Composting is a good fertilizer option, diminishing the amount of waste as a side effect. Animal manure of herbivorous animals, or naturally partly decayed plant materials like the soil underneath a molle or a pine tree are also good fertilizers. The potting mix sold in Cochabamba is partly made up of these materials often including Chapare soil. The Chapare soil is a very dark, rich soil, and should, in fact, not be taken from these tropical jungle areas since these forests contain very shallow top soils.

The Chapare soil is a very dark, rich soil, and should, in fact, not be taken from these tropical jungle areas since these forests contain very shallow top soils.

Another way to produce excellent fertilizer is breeding composting worms. These are not the common worms you can find in the garden, which are shallow soil dwellers, living inside a soil environment with relatively low organic matter content - beneficial to the garden mainly because they aerate the soil through their tunnels.

Composting worms, on the other hand, do not survive in this soil environment, and are litter dwellers. They need an environment with a high decomposed organic material content with little mineral soil particles. They are interesting to breed because they reproduce quickly, eat up to their own body weight every day and can live several years.

Worm castings or ‘vermicompost’ as it is called is a very rich fertilizer with all types of nutrients directly available to the plants.

Worm castings or ‘vermicompost’ as it is called is a very rich fertilizer with all types of nutrients directly available to the plants.


Photo: Arnold Brouwer

Soil

For worm farming you need to take into account a few basic rules.

  1. Worms like a dark, relatively humid environment
  2. You need decomposed aerated organic material (not rotten)
  3. According to these factors, you can breed worms rapidly, where space and food requirements can become a limiting growth factor as well as the amount of worm castings
  4. All worm farms have a drainage system to avoid clogging up. The run-off liquid is collected and used as fertilizer
  5. Worms always go up following food, or go down to escape from light. Both techniques can be used, stacking boxes with holes so the worms follow the food, or harvesting vermicompost while the worms go down escaping from the light

These pictures show a simple homemade worm composting system and an open box system for higher production inside a green house

Chicheria Banners

Banners are not only the most eye-catching thing that represents a chichería (aqhawasi = a house where chicha is sold, in Quechua), but they also indicate the presence of chicha in other locations, even in private homes.

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