Can we grow plants only in Vermicompost?

There is a lot of confusion among people regarding the usage of Vermicompost. People often argue about the percentage of Vermicompost that you should add to your plants. Arguments range from using 10% to 100%! I did extensive research on this topic and went through several studies. I found a lot of exciting things, which I have included in this article. 

Can we grow plants only in Vermicompost? You can grow plants only in compost; however, it is best if you don’t. Compost is not a substitute for soil. Plants need soil for many nutrients which are absent in compost. Using pure compost can also result in lower output, stunted growth, and even death in some plants.

Vermicompost can be an excellent addition to your plants if used correctly. Let’s dive a little deeper so you can understand how to get the most out of your Vermicompost. 

What is Vermicompost?

Vermicompost is the product of the decomposition of waste scraps by worms. Worms eat the waste products and turn them into high-quality manure. Vermicompost is rich in minerals like iron, zinc, sulfur, copper, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorous, nitrogen, and organic carbon. (Source).

With such a rich profile, it can easily replace synthetic fertilizers that have several adverse effects.

Impact of Different Concentrations Of Vermicompost On Plants

Determining the correct amount of Vermicompost to add to your plants is a must for optimum plant health. A study published in Bioresource Technology explored the impacts of various concentrations (0% to 100%) of Vermicompost on bell peppers. The study found that mean fruit weighs and mean yields kept increasing till 40% vermicompost. After that, that yields start decreasing, and at 100%, it was lower than what it was when no vermicompost was used (Source)

Too much of a good thing can be harmful. This study conclusively proves that Vermicompost works the best in optimal concentration. When you use too much of it, the plants start to suffer.

How much Vermicompost should you use Per Plant? 

If you are going to use the end product of vermicomposting (Vermicast) for your potted plants, a good recommendation is to use a universal potting mixture. You can make it by adding 1/3rd Vermicompost, 1/3rd coco peat, and 1/3rd garden soil. It’s best to use this mixture while planting new saplings.

If you don’t have coco peat, you can create a mixture with 25-30% Vermicompost and 75-80% garden soil. 

What if you are using the compost in a much larger area than a pot? How much is needed in case of a large tree or a farm which is several acres in area 

Crop Amount Of Vermicompost Needed
Citrus Tress, Pomegranate and guava 2kgs or 4.5lbs per tree (1-2 Year old trees)
Mango and Coconut 2Kgs or 4.5lbs per tree (At Planting time)

5Kgs or 11lbs per tree   (1-5 Year Old tress)

10Kgs or 22lbs per tree (6-9 Year Old Tress)

20Kgs or 44lbs per tree  (10+ year old tress)

Rice  1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Cotton 1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Chilli 1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Maize 1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Turmeric  1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Grapes 1000Kgs or 2200lbs per acre
Onion, garlic, tomato, potato and cauliflower  1000-1500Kgs or 2200-3300lbs per acre

(Source)

How to store Vermicompost 

So you must have realized that you don’t need a lot of compost for healthy plants. Worms are pretty good at what they do, and often we end up with more Vermicompost than we need. While it is an excellent option to sell the surplus (It is more valuable than you think!), some would like to keep it for future use. You would be surprised to know that if you store it correctly, the Vermicompost can have a shelf life of over three years!

So let’s understand the proper way of storing your compost.

  • First, you need to let it stabilize and remove the worms from it 
  • Then let it dry a little, so it’s damp but not wet. Do not let it dry completely. A dry compost loses most of its great qualities, and despite popular belief, you cannot restore it by adding water. You can even check it once in a while for moisture content. If you feel its too low, add a few sprays of chlorine-free water (Rainwater works the best)
  • Store the compost in a non-airtight container. The compost is filled with aerobic bacteria, and even after storing, they continue to work. If you put it inside an airtight container, it will go anaerobic and produce a foul odor. 
  • Without worms, the temperature ranges that compost can endure rises significantly. It would be best to store it at room temperature, but minor fluctuations won’t hurt it.
  • You can use a 5-gallon bucket to store it. Make sure that you drill enough holes in it so microbes receive adequate air.
  • Do not store it outside unprotected. The rain will eventually wash away most of the good stuff in the compost.

How to tell if it has gone bad?

So technically, compost can’t go bad, even though it can lose its nutrients over time. Fresh compost has the maximum nutrient concentration and is great for your garden soils. 

If you store it improperly, the aerobic bacteria can eventually die, and anaerobic ones take over. This can create smelly compost and will appear bad to most people. However, it is not useless. It still contains plenty of nutrients, and you can still use it. Just mix it in depleted soils and bury it a little deeper.

Even If it gets too dry and has lost most of its nutrients, it can still be a great addition to your soil. It can still add nutrients and increase the water holding capacity of the soil

Vermicompost benefits for plants 

Vermicompost is called black gold for a reason! There are a plethora of benefits of using it. If you take all its benefits into account, it can easily surpass synthetic fertilizers. Let’s take a look at a few of these benefits

  • Soil Aeration – Vermicompost increases the airflow in soil that add new life to it
  • Microorganism Enrichment – Vermicompost enriches the soil with a large variety of microbes which contains many beneficial enzymes. The microbial activity in vermicast is 10 to 20 times higher compared to the soil!
  • Elevated Water Holding Capacity – Soil enriched with Vermicompost can hold larger quantities of water which can protect trees from prolonged dry spells
  • Vermicomposting reduces the burden on landfills – Instead of letting it go to waste in landfills and create pollution, you are turning your garbage into something valuable.
  • Extra Money – You can even start your vermicomposting business and sell the product for some extra income.
  • Higher Output – Studies, including the ones we mention, show that Vermicompost can significantly increase the yields of plants.
  • Polluted Soil Restoration – Some studies show that microbes and worms can restore soils contaminated with heavy metals, agricultural pollutants, and hydrocarbons

Final Thoughts

While using Vermicompost, always check the suitable concentrations before applying. For most of us, it is lesser than we think!. Different plants need different amounts. For some, even 5% is enough, while others give maximum output at 30%. However, in almost all cases, it would be best if you stayed below 35% vermicompost. 

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