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Updated – Worm Farming at Zaytuna Farm

Photos © Ingrid Pullen

This update is in response to very kind and supportive readers who have read Worm farming at Zaytuna Farm and have made very intelligent questions about it and to my protracted and thoughtful review of it.

The original article is reproduced under the update.

The use of animal manure and human manure from composting toilets as a feed stock for the worm farms is beneficial in many ways and can be considered an essential part of a permanent agriculture system such as permaculture. During the amount of time human manure resides within the compost toilet it is subject to being used by organism such as bacteria as a food, energy source. This recycling process transforms the potentially hazardous matter human manure, to human health into new forms of organic matter which becomes an energy source for soil organisms with in the soil. Plants are grown in these healthy and productive soils for human and animal food. Hence the natural order or cycle of organic matter transformation, reuse and recycling is completed and this cycle can be repeated for a very long time.

The rise of industrial agriculture and its use of organism killers such as pesticides, acid based fertilisers is relatively recent. Up to this time agriculture was organic, although not all the material and practises use where of a benign nature. The use of lead arsenate, a very poisonous organic substance for pest control is but one example. And fertile fields where reduce to deserts by removing whole forests ecosystems for single annual crops and the use of salt affecting, flawed irrigation systems.

However this occurred in relatively localised sites in great contrast to the current vastness of the globalised industrial and its very small annual crop species, agriculture system. A very interesting and informative read, among many on this subject, are the Farmer’s for Forty Centuries King and An Agricultural Testament by A, Howard

The worm juice from the worm farm bath tubs is collected and used as soon as possible. The worm juice is mixed with water after passing through cloth sieve and the edition of fish extract at a rate of 100 millilitres to a nine litre watering can. The use of fish extract adds any missing nutrient material lacking in the composted human manure and worm casts/ juice. The water is applied though a pressurised system; pressurised water is injected via a tap into the worm juiced at a fifty percent mixture of worm juice and water in the watering can. This mixing produces a bubble like froth, containing air/oxygen and is applied by a watering can to plants in the paddock and the plant nursery.

There are a number of very complex alternatives to current industrialized agricultural system in existence I keep in mind the KISS principle, keep it simple sunshine. I look to nature within the forest and garden as the teacher with the most experience and knowledge. Simply being there is enough. And after a busy and productive day in the garden, reclining in a comfortable hummock, under shady tree, with a bowl of fruit from the food forest and some cool water to drink, is an earthly paradise.

Start of Original Article

Worms are an essential part of a permanent agricultural system. At Zaytuna Farm worm farming has been developed into a very productive system. The feed stock we use is the contents of composting toilets and animal manures. The worm farm product is included in the potting mix for the plants grown in the plant nursery of the farm, producing very healthy and productive plants.

The origins of this method of worm farming comes from my experience as a Permaculture advisor and trainer in Lesotho, 2012-2014 (Miles Durand’s author profile).

Worm Farm Train

Aretion

A number of bath tubs are placed in a reticulated shade house and used as worm farm containers forming a worm farm train. Each tub in the farm train is an independent worm farm. A length of agriculture drainage pipe is place on the bottom of the bath with one end exposed to the air. Weed matt is placed over the agricultural drainage pipe to prevent the drainage holes being blocked by the worm bed material. This enables the essential worms need of air/oxygen to move from the bottom to the top of the worm bed and the feed stock. The feed stock of animal manure and old compost toilet material is filled to the top of the bath. Manure worms are added to the bedding material and feed stock then covered with a cardboard blanket and hessian bed spread cover. Water is applied to the worm farm and the resulting worm juice is collected in the container placed under the drain hole of the bath tub. The worm farm juice is mixed with water and fish concentrate and applied to seedlings in the plant nursery as a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner.

When the feed stock has been consumed by the worms the covers are removed. The worms dig down into the casting to avoid the light. The worm castings are scrapped off in thin layers to be used in potting mixes and garden beds. Then the bath tub is refilled with manure, aged compost and toilet material. And this harvest process takes place on the next bath tub worm farm.

Worm Juice before it has been filtered

Typical Composting Method

Typical Composting Method with Worm Farm in Background

In this method of worm farming, no kitchen scraps or garden waste are added to the worm farm as feed stock. High nutritional materials such as kitchen scraps are feed directly to the poultry, producing high nutritional products such as eggs and meat.

Worm Egg – Baby Worm – Adult Worm

This worm farming system meets the requirements to be considered part of a permaculture design system. It reuses bath tubs, recycles waste organic matter and reduces energy input. The inclusion of small animals , such as worms into cultivated eco systems is part of the philosophy of permaculture design, working with nature. Small is indeed beautiful and very productive.

Is worm farming at Zaytuna farm a worthy endeavour, do hens lay eggs?

The Final Product = Worm Castings = Food for lettuce

Further Reading:

11 Comments

  1. i wonder what E Coli levels are evident in the liquid product. Are the ‘human wastes’ hot composted prior to incorporation into the worm farm system?

  2. I’ve been placing tomatoes into containers with holes in the bottom and then placing them in the worm farm. When the worms are done you have tomato seeds that can’t wait to grow. I had noticed that when I used my worm castings that tomatoes started to grow – so started using the worms to condition my seeds. I bet it will work with other types of seeds as well. Thanks for this article.

  3. LOL! My garden has the same covered humps too. It’s cold right now but worm activity is right up to the top of the tarp. These compost heaps are excellent to start and keep between the fruit trees. I never bother my worms or their tunnels and over a period of time the compost heap disappears. I’ll track back and start another on in the same spot. My neighbors also throw bags of kitchen scraps over the fence for me and it’s like the worms “listen” for the sound of her bags hitting the ground. If I wait a few hours the worms are already broken into it!

  4. David Murphy’s book “Organic Growing With Worms” covers your addition of fish concentrate and aeration with inspiring results under ‘enhanced vermicast solution’ with incredible increases of beneficial bacteria colony forming units. It’s an Australian book, I think the best ever written on vermicasting. Incidentally I’ve had a low use ‘waterless worm driven toilet’ for five years – a composting toilet with Eisenia fetida but have recently connected another rainflush toilet to it to safeguard against drying out refer Dr. Uday Bhwalker’s worm toilet in the book.

    1. I am interested in hearing more details about how the composting toilet system can interact with the vermicomposting system. I have a bucket system for composting humanure, which I dump into compost heaps… I want to start a vermiculture system and in this article, for the first time, begin to see that the two systems could be connected. Any details by forum members would be greatly appreciated!!

  5. There is a story on Geoff Lawton’s website about a 3 cow biogas system where he was going to introduce humanure. I would be interested if you could do both biogas AND this system and make the most of the waste. I am very new in my permaculture learning so any feedback would be great

  6. Hello there,
    ok now I’m really confused, worm juice, worm wee, or worm tea. I’ve been told from this lot, http://www.wormfarmingrevealed.com that the run off from a worm farm is aerobic which is not good for the garden. and worm tea is made from the worm cast that are taken from your farm and pumped around a container of water with air flow or bubbles with molasses added for 24hrs. i trust you people at the TPRI, but this does seem to be conflicting ideas. please put me right.
    thanks

    1. I wouldn’t worry about run off from your compost/worm pile. It’s just going to feed the soil life around it. I purposely place surface compost bins by my fruit trees for this purpose. The trees love it. I never disturb my worms in their compost heaps. Many people will turn their compost but I’ve found this to be unnecessary and it causes the baby worms to be dislocated. They work hard for me and the best thing I can do is leave them alone. Molasses is used as a fertilizer: https://fifthseasongardening.com/molasses-jekyll-to-you-hyde-to-pests
      I don’t operate a worm bin, my whole yard is a worm bin. I just need to get the compost product to them to keep them happy and staying in my yard.

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