By Yvette Tan
It’s been a few weeks since the midterm elections, yet, as with past elections, posters still cover walls and tarpaulins still hang from posts. A farm in Mangatarem, Pampanga, does not have this problem, because they’ve put tarpaulin posters leftover from the last election to good use as lining and cover for their vermiculture beds.
“Since there’s so much tarps and people would just throw them or burn them, we use them for our vermicompost beds to at least reduce and recycle so that we don’t have to buy new plastics to cover our vermibeds,” says Raphael Teraoka Dacones of Teraoka Family Farm. “And surprisingly, it works. It’s kind of waterproof, so even if we water the beds, it keeps the moisture intact.”
Vermiculture is using worms to create organic fertilizer. Worms, usually African nightcrawlers, are kept in a bed of soil and are fed rotting vegetables, kitchen scraps, and other organic matter. Their waste, called vermicast (aka worm poop), makes for nutrient-rich plant food. The worms have to be kept in pens where they won’t escape, and they have to be housed in soil, or substrate that’s of the right texture and moisture for them to thrive in.
The tarps are sewn or glued together before they’re used to line the underside or cover the vermibeds. The vermibeds measure three feet by nine feet and are two hollow blocks thick. “We line (them with) tarpaulin. We put the substrate, we put the worms, we put their food, and then we cover them during the day just for them to eat,” Dacones explains.
All the worms have to do is eat and poop. “We use a lot of green manure since that’s one of the main sources of food,” he says. Green manure are plants that are grown so that they can be used to further fertilize the soil.
The farm has about 20 vermibeds that contain hundreds of worms each, and is able to harvest around 300-500 kilos of vermicast every other week depending on how much the worms are fed. This is just enough for the farm’s personal consumption. “We use it for our germination trays, our seedlings. It’s mostly for nursery as a topper for our seedling trays because it’s one of the best fertilizers that you could use, so that’s what we use compared to regular composting,” Dacones says.
Using tarpaulin that would have otherwise been thrown away helps prevent wastage and staves off the use of plastic. Plus, the worms won’t care whose face is on it, as long as it helps keeps them happy, healthy, and regular.