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how to compost manual

Earthworms and Compost

The finest compost made is by earthworms.  Their castings contain 5 times the nitrate, 7 times the available phosphorus, 11 times the potassium, 3 times the exchangeable magnesium, and 1 1/2 times the calcium that occurs in the top 6" of uneaten soil.  Earthworms derive nutrition from the organic content of the soil by eating it.  In its passage through the worm, the mineral subsoil undergoes changes that make it immediately available for plants.  While earthworms inhabit the surface layers of soil, they commonly burrow deep into the earth  (as deep as 8 feet), honeycombing the soil.


They come to the top to deposit castings in the loose surface layers of the soil, bringing the subsoil to the top and mixing it with the topsoil.  The aerating tunnels greatly increase the air capacity of the soil (in some cases increasing 60–75%).  Water penetration into the soil is much improved, being quickly absorbed instead of pooling or running off.  Earthworms produce a topsoil that is nearly a neutral humus.  Wormcasts in acid soil are much less acid (sometimes 75%); and alkaline soils are made less alkaline.

Any gardener welcomes earthworms, and you can't have too many of these tireless workers in your soil.  Since earthworms survive on organic matter, they love compost.  Enrich your soil with compost and you can't help but increase the worm population of your soil.  Earthworms seem to be particularly attracted to coffee grounds, so if you use coffee, be sure to put the grounds into your compost.  Earthworms can't survive temperatures over 125 degrees; but not to worry.  They will stay in the cooler areas of your compost pile, and as it cools in its normal progression, the worms will invade further.  Don't worry about any worms you encounter as you turn the pile; the temperatures are reduced long enough for most of them to escape to the cooler areas before it gets too hot for them again.  Earthworms are bi-sexual, and increase many fold under good conditions.

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