Taking Worm Farming To The Next Level
Many people may have a worm farm in their backyard to dispose of food scraps and create liquid fertiliser for their garden. But have you heard of a worm windrow before?A windrow is a long line or elongated mound of compostable material.
A worm windrow is a windrow full of worms that has been designed as a giant in situ worm farm - also known as farm scale vermiculture.
Blythe from Runnymede Farm, has constructed these windrows on her farm as part of a Greening Farms For Farming, Fodder and Fauna Grant.
The purpose of the windrow is to:
- utilise and magnify the value of nutrients produced on farm
- decrease reliance on artificial inputs
- improve soil health and function by increasing soil biology with particular focus on fungi
- promote carbon sequestration
- improve diversity and
- provide natural habitat
The worm farms are in windrow format, creating a row of food and bedding which is prepared and populated with worms. A cover crop is established over the windrow and moisture levels are then maintained to optimum conditions for worm activity.
The windrow can be active all year round as the large windrows allow for stable temperatures and the worms can access underground when extreme high temperatures occur, returning at night and when temps cool down.
The food and bedding source for the worms include aged wood chip / chicken manure mix, cattle manure and cardboard.
The woodchip and manure mix are sourced from Blythe and Gregg's pastured egg operation. In winter the hens are based on a woodchip base and their paddock area is rotated in a wagon wheel formation around the base point. Hens do approx 60% of their defecation at night time, so this system collects that manure which is then stored to mature.
The wood chip base of the mix aids in building a fungal dominated casting. Cow manure from the cattle yards is also added along with cardboard that is a waste product from the egg business. Some windrows also have additions such as biochar and seaweed.
The cover crop broadcast into the windrows is a multispecies mix including millet, pillar forage rape, sunflowers, sorghum, mustard, radish, linseed and purple top turnip. This cover crop shades the windrows and provides exudates to feed biology.
The windrow conversion times vary with composition and worm population density. These windrows take approximately 4 months to be ready for harvest. Once harvested the castings are then made into a liquid application that can be applied to pasture in diluted form on its own or in combination with other bio fertilisers and stimulants adding beneficial bacteria and fungi over more than 500 acres of irrigated summer and emerging autumn pastures.