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Vermicompost and manure are both known to be efficient natural fertilizers. Both are rich in nutrients, but they’re very different in the way that they become that way. Vermicompost is made from worms, while manure comes from other animals, typically from cows or horses.
But, both forms of organic fertilizer might not be created equal.
Is Vermicompost better than manure? Vermicompost, overall, is better than manure. It excels in terms of:
- Availability and accessibility
- Ease of monitoring
- Number of nutrients
However, there are many different factors that go into this answer. And this doesn’t mean that manure isn’t a good fertilizer. Keep reading to find out how and why vermicompost is better than manure, and whether or not you’re ready to make the change.
Why Vermicompost is Better Than Manure?
Availability and Accessibility
Unless you have cows or horses, or live close to a farm with cattle, obtaining manure fertilizer is a bit challenging. It’s also a little bit more complex than scooping up some cow pies and tossing them in the garden. The entire process of composting manure usually takes at least six months.
Vermicompost is something you can easily make on your own, and it’s a fairly simple process. Making your own vermicompost can be done in anywhere from three to six months. This process also takes up far less space than the manure composting process.
While you can find manure ready to spread at stores or online, it can be expensive.
- 10 pounds of manure will run right around $30.
- Vermicompost is about $20 for 10 pounds.
This may sound like a small price difference, but consider the increased cost if you are needing 40, 50, or more pounds. It really adds up!
Also, you’ll need less vermicompost to enhance the nutrients in the soil. With manure, you’ll need about two to three inches to spread across the area. If you’re planning on fertilizing a larger area and you’re purchasing all that manure, you’ll be spending a pretty penny.
Ease of Monitoring
A great benefit of vermicompost is that you don’t need to buy it. You can make it yourself at home. Since you’re the one feeding the worms, it’s easier to monitor what your worms are eating to produce the casting, in comparison to what you can tell is happening in the manure. When vermicomposting, you contain worms in an area, and the compost they’re digesting is exactly what you’re giving them.
With manure, typically from cows or horses, there’s not one single way to determine exactly what they’re eating, even if you’re keeping them in a certain area. The only way to know for sure is to test the manure and, well, that’s a little icky to think about.
With vermicompost being contained, and the worms feeding on the same foods, the nutrients absorbed and later put out in worm castings, are more evenly distributed than in manure.
Let’s be honest; nobody wants to keep either of these forms of fertilizer in their kitchen next to the bread. Even though they’re organic, they’re both forms of feces. Yes, both are organic. Both are natural animal products. However, that doesn’t change what vermicompost is or what manure is.
Compost is meant to be kept outside. However, logistically speaking, vermicompost is a bit smaller and easier to contain than manure. You can control the number of worm castings that are being produced, according to the amount of compost you have. Storing vermicompost vs. manure is just easier, and less stinky.
In fact, vermicompost usually doesn’t have an offensive odor like manure.
Manure has long been known to efficiently fertilize the soil by adding nutrients. However, as more and more testing is being done on vermicomposting, we’re learning that this is an even better way to incorporate these same nutrients in a more concentrated, potent form:
Benefits of Vermicompost
Now that we’ve established a basis of how vermicompost is better than manure let’s talk about why it is so very beneficial. Vermicompost is known to have positive effects on the soil that it’s added to, but it also helps out the environment.
Stimulates Plant Growth
When you mix vermicompost into the soil, you’re adding a hefty dose of all of the nutrients listed above. These are basically like steroids for your plants, only healthy.
Reduces the Risk of Plant Disease
Our daily vitamins help us keep our immunity up, and plants are no different. When Vermicompost is introduced into the soil, plants get to soak up all of those nutrients, enhancing their immunity and giving them a fighting chance against plant diseases.
Improves Microbial Activity and Porosity
Healthy bacteria and fungi are a natural part of healthy plant growth. The porousness of soil is where the microbial activity takes place. Increasing the porosity with Vermicompost is one way that microbial activity can be improved.
Better Water Retention and Aeration
One of the keys to healthy soil is aeration, which allows oxygen and nutrients to flow throughout and filter. This also aids in maintaining the plant’s water supply. The tiny holes that create aeration and allow water to flow can be made naturally through Vermicompost.
Vermicompost also has an active role in bettering our environment. For one, it helps create better, more healthy plants, which in turn give us clean air to breathe. I’d say that’s a pretty important environmental benefit.
Less Need for Chemicals
By using vermicompost, there’s not as much of a need for chemicals that are not good for the environment, or even our bodies. Vermicompost offers many of the benefits that harsh chemical fertilizers do, so we don’t have to rely on them as much.
Reducing Landfill Waste
Many of the things that we throw away in our trash can actually be used in the Vermicomposting process. Worms are able to eat their weight in food daily (source). If you choose to compost, you’ll be contributing less to the landfills. That’s a change that can have a direct, positive impact on the environment. Here are some things that you might usually throw away, but can actually be used to vermicompost:
- Vegetable and fruit rinds (avoid citrus)
- Coffee grounds
- Crushed eggshells
- Recyclable paper and cardboard (shredded)
How to Start Vermicomposting
Now you’re ready to start making your own vermicompost. The entire process is fairly simple. And, all you need to start off with is some space. All of the goodies, like the worms, come in a little later.
Create a Home for the Worms (a.k.a. Composting Bin)
These guys are so simple and easy to make. Grab a plastic bin and you’re ready to get to work. Check out this short video to see just how easy it is:
Gather Starter Material
The starter material is also called “bedding.” Shredded cardboard or shredded paper is a favorite amongst Vermicomposters. This is where the worms will initially burrow when making themselves feel at home in their new place.
Bring on the Worms
Depending on the size of your bins and how much compost you’ll be making, you’ll need anywhere from 500 to 1,000 worms. You can get them right here: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 500 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms (link to Amazon).
If you’re composting outside, you may want to start with fewer worms and see if you’ll need to add later. It should be noted that some worms will always find their way to compost. If you have a simple compost pile, it’s more than likely that there are already worms in there but those are generally going to be earthworms. What you are wanting for your vermicomposting project is Red Wiggler worms.
But What About Rodents? Won’t They Come And Eat My Worms?
There are a lot of misconceptions about vermicomposting when it comes to rodents. Generally, rats will only be attracted to your worm farm if you are keeping more food in the bin than the worms can eat or if you are putting the wrong types of food in.
Make a Smorgasbord for Worms
Offering a variety of food items is a great idea but you can do just fine by making use of vegetable scraps and shredded paper. A great tip is to blend the kitchen scraps and place them in a small container just under the soil. It’s not necessary but many vermicomposters swear by this. Worms don’t have teeth after all. The more broken down the food, the easier it is for them to consume it.
Harvest Your Vermicompost and Use It
Once you notice a few or all of these characteristics in your compost…
- Rich brown color
- Similar texture throughout, even distribution
- No visible cocoons, reproduction is slowing down
- Worms are smaller in size
… you’ll know it’s time to harvest your vermicompost. Now you’re ready to use it and reap all of the benefits it has to offer!
Vermicompost is a better choice than manure in most cases and can be harvested with minimal fuss. It’s also an excellent way to introduce kids to the wonders of worms. You can use an indoor see-through worm farm to let them experience the composting process with their own eyes. With just a little trial and error, you can begin putting kitchen scraps to good use and take advantage of nutrient-rich worm castings.
Bonus Tip: If you notice your worms attempting to leave their bin, one of several factors may be out of balance. Be sure to read Why Are My Composting Worms Trying To Escape?