Vermicomposting in Mauritius

Making compost from Red Wiggler Worms – My personal journey

Hello there reader! Are you a gardener yourself? Permaculture, organic, composting, tamagotchis 😉 are themes that interest you? Planning to plant your own veggies soon or just curious what vermicomposting is about particularly in the local context of Mauritius? It is difficult to find any detailed resources about vermicomposting in Mauritius. It is also difficult to find sources of supply where to get these worms. It is also difficult to find any information at the Agricultural Organisations of Mauritius on how to source these worms. It is not a wide spread popular activity in Mauritius.
You might also have come across this article with your Google search as you might be looking for red wiggler worms to start your own vermicompost. You’ll see linked articles in Google of Mauritian websites related to agricultural themes that define the activity of vermicomposting and the benefits and that’s it.
Before you start from scratch, it might be good to read through this article. It might save you some time & costly mistakes, and you can also re-evaluate if this activity is the right thing for you and your expectations as this is a long haul kind of thing, you will not get high output of worm castings quickly! Vermicomposting requires patience and …Effort! It is not only a setup once and sit back and relax and forget kind of thing – you might lose all of your worms that way. Your worms are going to be needing some taking care of 🙂 …but not that time intensive on a daily basis! Don’t give up yet.

A pile of worm castings
A pile of worm castings – One of my first harvests this year from my worm bins. This is a very fertile material. I applied it to this raised bed. The white thingies you see in there are not the worms, that’s just some seedlings. The worms are red in colour. Not visible here and I have already removed them from this pile.

While you can find a lot of videos on YouTube and websites that will be able to give a lot of details about what vermicomposting is and what red wiggler worms are (their scientific descriptions etc.) – which I recommend you to look into ideally prior reading my post, yes please – do watch these videos and read articles on this topic to get a better idea what it is about as my article will go more into details of what I have been up to – so more a personal account. Things are always a bit different when it comes to the reality of Mauritius, right?
There aren’t only red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) as worm species that can process manure, garden waste, kitchen waste etc. there are also other species such as the european night crawlers (Dendrobaena hortensis) which look quite alike, then there is the african night crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae), the indian blues (Perionyx excavatus) also look alike the red worms and are some of the popular ones. There are other species and they all have their own characteristics. Some are more productive, some are more adventurous and like going out of the worm bin etc.

Worms escaping
Worms escaping. This was a bag covering worm bin crate no. 2. They found their way into it. I am inclined to estimate that these aren’t red wigglers but the adventurous worms escaping could be the indian blues (Perionyx excavatus) variety who have this tendency. Other reason could be that the worm bin was ready casting wise and the worms were looking for new avenues of supply…

Since I just mentioned that point, what the worms do not like is light, keeping your worm bins in an environment that has light 24/7 (lamp at night) will ensure they stay in their bin. Try to read about each worm species resources, it’s interesting how they differ even though they look alike.

I started from scratch with my setups – I mean by the the worm bins build to house the worms. I tried to replicate setups I saw on YouTube which I have then tweaked and adapted with materials that I can get locally. It still amazes how much we import, for example coco peat, something we could produce locally is imported from India and Sri Lanka. The worms love coco peat as one of the bedding materials to create their home sweet home.
I came up with many of my own models, and I kept tweaking and adapting to make it more simpler. Trial and error and then improving upon gave new aha effects plus new ideas. The setups would also have to be a setup which the worms would like to stay in – like air flow, the worms need to breathe. I have also tried different setups, some that are cheap, some that cost more, and some that require more work. Each build comes with it’s pros and cons and it also depends on you, how you look at it from a perspective of:

  • Do you have the time?
  • Will you allocate a budget or aim for the cheapest build possible?
  • Will you want to build or just buy a complete setup adapted to vermicomposting?
  • Small volume or large volume?
  • Patience? …it can take years if you are aiming to do large volumes to have the right critical mass of worms.
  • Do you have someone that is already doing it that can guide you or set it all up for you?

I have along this journey made my own verdicts, particularly for the amount of time and effort it has required with all the trials and errors – which in my case was also a fun activity! This activity isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and if you aren’t passionate of vermicomposting, it won’t make any sense to adventure into it. If you just want the fertile worm castings it might be also reasonable to evaluate if it’s less costly of an investment of time & effort to just buy it from a local producer. You could be getting this from me in the future eventually – if things work out well and we are in the middle of 2024/2025 – ask me again about it. I recently harvested around 80 litre volume of worm castings which is a good start for the first year. Expect this to triple by next year. So it’s going to get more interesting in the 3rd year. Also, worm castings can be mixed with compost & soil, it doesn’t have to be pure. This means 250 Kg of worm castings could = 500 Kg of compost mix that you could get from me. In theory currently 🙂 Worm tea (a liquid) is also an option.
I currently do not have enough critical mass of worms to sell vermicompost (yet). I use all the vermicompost for my own farm. But this is more larger scale talk, we are going to go back to the basics and this article is also valid for anyone with a small garden backyard that wishes to run a worm bin. There are solutions for this and I might have complete setup builds you could get from me. I made some stackable builds, they are working out great and the stacking options comes with a lot of benefits. I am still experimenting with these.

So, now back to a reality check to one of my verdicts is that it will cost you less of an investment and time to do compost the normal way with for example a bio composting bin – where it would be good if you are a novice to learn about hot composting and the difference of aerobic and anaerobic and the greens to browns ratios, that is carbon to nitrogen. Actually knowing how composting works, can help you avoid a few mistakes with your worms, for example you cannot do hot composting with the worms, it would kill them. You can also select what you feed them more so that you create the type of worm castings that you will want to use in your garden. For example horse manure will create nitrogen rich worm castings.
I also am a novice learning about composting which I find fascinating! Please do also contribute and share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below at the end of the article.

Following up next in this article is my story and steps of what I have done, I don’t know yet what format or shape it’s going to take – I usually write long articles – so bookmark this page and blog if you are not going to read it at one go and for reference. I also have photos of my journey which I will post in the article. By October 2023 my journey into vermicomposting will have reached 1 year. We are currently in July, so 3 more months to go and I am currently at +5000 worms. I started with an estimate of 250. I didn’t get my 250 worms all at once, I got them from different sources – the reason being it’s quite difficult to get them. Doing some online search via social media can lead you to some posts, articles and sources – then the other thing is, those who practice vermicomposting do not always have enough worms to share/sell until they have redoubled their population. So you gotta come with a bit of patience 😉
While ideally I would have wanted to have started with 1000 worms to speed up things because with 1000 worms you can reach an interesting critical mass level within 6 months where you start getting results. BUT if you are just starting, the likelihood of mistakes is high and you wouldn’t want to lose that many worms on your first tries.
I am very happy to actually have been able to source any worms at all. I was even looking at importing some and the amount of paper work required put this idea on halt and I tried my luck locally – I did spend a lot of time looking for them. So there are a few farmers who do vermicompost but just small scale. So, I hope my current worm population will reach 10 000 by October 2023. It will make some of my goals that I have for 2024 achievable. Please keep thumbs pressed for the red wigglers in DITO’S GARDEN to make it! 🙂

This post is going to be the story of my adventure into the making of vermicompost, managing worms and worm tea! Worm tea is not a tea made up of worms – it is a liquid of the worms casting that I capture from my stackable crates when keeping it humid which is fertile to water plants with. Some will let it flow in buckets of Biochar. And one vendor calls their worm tea vermiwash, so this fertile liquid comes in a few names. Am currently trying my own worm tea it out on my farm to observe the results.

Vermicomposting in Mauritius? Hearing about worms that can process food waste for the first time

How did you find out about vermicomposting? Please let me know in the comments section below. I am curious about your journey too and what led to the turning point that you are now convinced you want to manage your own worm bin? The first time I heard about worms that can process food waste (red wigglers also process more than just food waste!) or turn garden materials into a very fertile compost I was intrigued. When the pandemic and lock downs began, a farm in the north of Mauritius had contacted me and asked me if I would be keen to take over a whole structure, that is the worm bins including the worms of someone who wasn’t able to manage these anymore. Having then no idea what that entailed, no experience in the field of vermicomposting and also not confident at all if I could manage the worms (in my mind back then: these little snake like looking creatures) with my hands even with wearing gloves – it was for me totally unchartered territory – like do the worms bite!? This offer didn’t conclude back then but it left a little seed in my mind – though I didn’t look at all into vermicomposting from that point on. But call it fate, destiny or predestination, the worms would find me again…
At this period in time at the beginning of the pandemic, I had just started to plant, also with zero experience, so my mind was already busy with just figuring out how to make for e.g. raised beds, seedlings etc. I still run the farm on the plantation side. Green leafy vegetables and sweet potatoes are one of my main crops. My other main activity is the production of Kombucha.

You could say fast forward 2 years later, I then came across this topic of vermicomposting again. With my outreach into selling my Kombucha to the owners of the farm Just Natural (who also practice small scale vermicomposting) located in the north of Mauritius not far from the Anjalay Stadium, a connection was made that would grow further into the future, it began with in turn, which also logically made sense for Just Natural to reach out to me about their organic produces that I could use as flavor ingredients for DITO’S KOMBUCHA. Contact me if you are interested in my latest Kombucha batch!
I have here in fond memory my first harvesting days in winter at the farm of Roselle fruits. You can buy organic vegetables & fruits directly from Just Natural, please follow them on Facebook and check out their website. You’ll also find some interesting articles about their farm on the local newspaper websites. It’s a nice oasis of greenery, peace and tranquility where I love to volunteer work from time to time – which you can too – also family friendly.

So my numerous visits at the Just Natural farm, and my questioning about the worms started to grow whenever I saw their worm bins – as this got me really curious as I was entering composting territory at DITO’S GARDEN, …that they eat up the kitchen waste and garden waste which then turns into worm castings – a very fertile compost – sounds so amazing! At some point I googled “Red Wigglers” and voilà – I was trapped in this rabbit hole. I started to watch hours and hours of YouTube and at some point I thought I now know a bit about the worms and I have an idea how I could get started.

The first worm bin in a 20L paint bucket

First worm bin
First worm bin – I filled it with compost, coffee bags and some veggie scraps.

I started my first worm bin in an empty plastic used 20L paint bucket which I had thoroughly cleaned. I saw them do this on YouTube. What I didn’t do though is drill holes at the bottom of the bin for water to flow out. I wanted to do it very simple as I saw Captain Matt and the Worm People do on YouTube like here:

How I Use Worm Breeder Buckets

If you watch the video, and if I recall properly, he will be using 250 worms and around 5 litre of aged horse manure which the worms will process within 2 weeks. He will be keeping the bin indoor, protected, and slightly humid. His bin has no holes at the bottom and is not drenched wet. Keep in mind he has the experience as well. So as a beginner, this didn’t work out for me – now I can replicate this. But let’s continue with how I fared on.

I also didn’t add a secondary bin underneath it to capture worm tea. Nor put a bin on top for the worms in the middle bin to come up to eat kitchen waste or as an escape if something is not to their liking in the main section. So that makes 3 buckets in total. On top paint buckets don’t stack well, they tend to go into the buckets, so that also needs some fixing as you need spacing in between… Too much for me then 🙂 I needed easier solutions. Can you relate!? 😉
The middle bin (I mean bucket here) would then have been the section with also the worm bedding – the stuff worms like to live and eat. Now, I confess that I was then of the mindset that I don’t know how to use a drill and never will I be able to use one – so I didn’t drill or get anyone to drill them for me and this limited me to from making a better setup.
As you can see, that was a bit of a paralyzing mindset. No, I don’t go about life with this limiting mindset like this about every obstacle I face. It was just particularly certain tools, like this that I had no idea how to use them and it never striked me that I could just have asked someone to show me how these works right? Haha. Sometimes the simple stuff is just around the corner but we pick the most difficult route – been there too? 😀

So fast forward a few months later I saw a promotion at the Super U parking of Ingco on tools and I got myself an entry level drill at a good deal and then asked my uncle Louloute to show me how this works and I was set!
What a life changer, I started drilling holes in my new worm bins, then drill holes into walls for screws etc. this made me really happy – I started building my own stuff! Coming from the position thinking I’ll never know or do this… 🙂 It feels awesome when you can build your own things! I now also cut steel with a grinder – that means a lot to me 😉 It helps your mind to evolve when you do DIY and you start finding different solutions for problems. It’s a pretty fulfilling feeling! I recommend this.
So back to that worm bin.

I got my first 10 red wiggler worms via a barter transaction from my friends which I put into that 20L cleaned out paint bucket. So this was how I sourced my first worms. I made right away all those beginner mistakes. I put in way too much food in there. The worst was also the water. I put too much water and there was no way for the water to flow out. So… yeah, the worms drowned :- ( My first failure with the worms. I assessed what went wrong and improved on that on. Everything else from now on was going to have a water exit. It makes sense to start small with vermicomposting – you are bound to make mistakes. You quickly discover what you still don’t know about the worms. I hope with this article, we can reduce a bit of these beginner mistakes. But some stuff only makes sense when you experience it on your own, even with just the theory that guides you well. With experimenting you can also discover what works better.

Red Wiggler Worm Mauritius - 01
A red wiggler worm – this post wouldn’t be complete without a photo of a red wiggler!
Earth Worms Mauritius
These are earth worms I found in a vase when getting out the soil. Can you see how they look totally different to red wigglers. You can’t use these worms for vermicomposting. They will come on their own into your for example raised beds, compost etc. if the environment is good.

I need more worms! Where can I find more red wigglers in Mauritius?

Now that I had lost my 10 red wiggler worms, I had a dilemma. Where do I get more worms? My friends didn’t have many worms themselves, so I couldn’t get more from there for a while. I started doing research online, making some calls, asking in groups and found a page on Facebook of a vendor. That vendor sells occasionally and at a ration of 50-60 worms per person only so that more people can benefit. It was priced per worm and on top for me it quickly added up with the transportation I had to pay to get them as the vendor was located on the other side of the island. I did go ahead and buy these worms to start my new bin – it was the only option I found to source them at this point in time.

New worm bin design from bucket to crate

I created a new worm bin with these plastic crates that already have holes in them. There is no drilling necessary. They even have holes at the bottom. I bought 2 of these at plastic industries in Port-Louis. I wouldn’t recommend that you get these. Also, there are cheaper ways to go about this if you are on a budget and am sure from my builds you can come with other ideas too. These first 2 black crates I got are not ideal for stacking. They do stack by slightly going inwards leaving some gaps on the sides so this is not so ideal for the vermicomposting activity – when you will want to put crates on top. I later found out that I can stack a different model on top of it… so there are kind of workarounds as you discover with time and little spacings might not matter at all… When you start and do not have a lot of worms, you will not have to bother about stacking anyway for a while 🙂

First crate setup with holes - 01
First crate setup with holes - 02
First crate setup with holes - 03

There are other plastic crates that stack better without any gaps – they cover all 4 ends – you would have to pierce holes at the bottom which is easy. This version came a bit later in my build series. And am using this a lot right now.

Stacking 2 different crates for vermicomposting

I then also added inside a lining made up of a sarlon net which involved some sticthing. At first the idea was to have this net to prevent the worms from leaving the box and to still have airflow and hold the contents of the box. If you want to replicate any of my builds, all my builds are work in progress. Read the whole article as I will mention what improvements I can suggest – some improvements might be mentioned at some other parts of the article. I have now come to new conclusions what is better to use after close to a year of using these builds with sarlon. Instead of using sarlon, use geotextile and if you want to go cheaper, just use cardboard and replace it when after harvesting worm castings. The worms can get through this sarlon net, even though it’s 50% dense. The worms, when they panic, will force their body through the net. I found it impressive how much force they will use to get through the net! Geotextile will work better at also keeping the worm bin longer humid and better protected – like from sunlight.

But I still do not have enough worms

I needed more worms still. On a lucky day my friends at the Just Natural Farm who do vermicomposting where doing some maintenance works on their bins and offered me a handful of worms. That could have been around +100 worms. This gave a new boost to my first worm bin that contained the first 50-60 worms I had purchased.

Around that same period, as I was posting in agriculture related groups on Facebook that I am looking for red wiggler worms, I received a response from someone who told me there is a farm that goes by the name ROC in Ville Noire (not far from Mahebourg) that she knows that practices vermicomposting and I got in contact with them and they were happily willing to share me some worms. ROC stands for The Resilient Organic Community – or *ROC project* – which is an important initiative of the NGO Eco-Sud to sustainably increase food security in Mauritius.

Resilient Organic Community – ROC

They organised an open day with guided visits about their activities which I went to attend and learned quite a lot there! For example they inspired me to build my bio composters. I also saw how they manage their worm bins, which are elongated wood planks, elevated with inclination so that the worm tea can flow into buckets containing bio char.

ROC-1 Infographic on Vermicompost
ROC-2 - The worm beds for vermicomposting
ROC-3 - The worm beds - Worm tea drips into a bucket of bio char

I also find it amazing the impact of this community farm on the community and inhabitants of Ville Noire. You can sense a vibe and aura of positive energy emanating the moment you parked and entered this location of greenery! Beautiful welcoming cheerful people collaborate at Ville Noire. It is also possible to volunteer work on the farm on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. On Thursday’s you can after working share a meal together with the team. I would like someday to spend a day and do some volunteer work on their farm. Their location if pretty far from me in Grand Baie. Please keep thumbs up that it can take place, maybe through co-voiturage with other persons in the north. Another thumbs up that I’ll get to have my own pick up in the future.

So am thankful I got around probably +250 worms from them which I then used to kick start my second worm bin.

As you can see, the costs of getting the worms starts to add up on the transportation, material and time involved. My location is Grand Baie and the places where I have been to fetch them has been in Black River and close to Mahebourg in Ville Noire so far. For materials I have been to Port-Louis and other hardware stores around the north. Where there is a will there is a way the saying goes.

Worm Bin Materials to create Worm Bedding

Now that we have gone through the introduction of the journey that led to the setup of 2 worm bins. Let’s talk about the bedding materials that these worms like to live in and eat and turn into worm castings. This is an account from personal observation, please share in the comments section your experience of what you have noticed the worms like a lot. Before making the worm bedding, I looked at YouTube tutorials and read on reddit posts of what the worms like and tried to replicate from that. So this is also an ongoing journey for me where I am still learning. You can gradually tell in what the worms thrive and in what kind of materials less.

Before adding the worms to their new worm bin, this usually my setup. At the bottom and on the side of the worm bin I usually put some coco peat. Then I make a layer of pieces of paper and cardboard. I just tear them apart with my hands. It’s great if you could have them shredded but I don’t have a shredder. This is of course for the future a possibility that I could process this kind of waste for offices.

Then I add some horse manure, which looks like brown grass balls, and cover it with a layer of cow manure which looks like dark soil. I finish it off with a layer of dried / brown mango leafs or any other leafs. Then I will water this for a week or two on a daily basis so that it starts to decompose and check if it’s in any case heating up or doing warm composting – as a safety precaution if the bin is heating up I will wait until it has cooled down before adding any worms because hot composting will kill them. For this you can use a thermometer or just check in the middle of the bin with your hands if it is hot. Exposure to the sun might also warm up your bin and I have sometimes been confused by that heating up thinking it was warm composting. But anyway, if your bin is too hot whether it’s the sun or hot composting, you will need to fix this.

The worm bin crates that I use is around 60cm high so the bedding material will occupy 50cm height and then the leafs will pile up a bit and look out over the bin. Usually for warm composting to activate you need a pile that is way higher (roughly 1m) – so it is kinda of safe to say that hot composting is quite unlikely to take place.
The worms also like the leafs and also lay eggs on decomposing leafs, those that are not exposed to light.
It is unlikely that it will heat up extremely but in my case, in summer, with the sun on top directly on the bin, it has happened. Particularly when it comes to the hot summer sun of Mauritius, keep your worm bin shaded and away from that direct sunlight. If that’s not possible, cover your worm bin with a lof ot materials that can insulate it. If you use a lot of horse manure or cow manure, it could heat up, particularly if it’s still fresh dung state. Don’t use it fresh directly. Here is what I usually do when it comes to dung to manure it.

I would say overall, the worms number 1 material they like to be in and eat are excrement’s, for example cow dung and horse dung. Avoid chicken dung, its too hot for them. You will find resources online that explain how to process chicken dung into manure before you can give it to your worms but I didn’t have good results with chicken manure, neither with my plants – so I stopped using chicken manure.
I prefer horse manure and cow manure – it is also way more low maintenance. I do not dry age the dung for a whole year first. You will read online that it is recommended. But I don’t see the point to-do that particularly for horse dung. I don’t think it will still have any nutrients left for the worms – it will just be like a dried grass material. (This is just a guesstimate!) One of several processes I will undergo with the cow and horse dung is pile it up to activate hot composting, for this I can use my bio composter structure where I can mix it also with greens and browns. There are many ways to go about this. As I keep experimenting and finding a streamlined way to process it all in a similar rhythm, I will at some stage define a structured process that I will stick to and it will have to include the hot composting of the dungs before usage as the hot temperatures kills off weed seeds and bacteria. Here is a question I also have is since the worms will eat the manure and process it and turn it into a new material, how much of the old still remains in the new…

Here is one technique am using for my crate setups apart from the hot composting I mentioned previously, which you could say is a beginner entry to get initiated and I read online many fare well this way. It’s also not that work load intensive like mixing a 1m high pile of dung, greens and browns. The horse dung, I’ll spread it on the ground and water it for a week a few times to wash out horse urine and any elements the worms might not like. Keep in mind that the worms do not like urine and can die from it. Horses are quite often given dewormers, so there is this topic if the manure could contain dewormer substances and have an impact on the worms. I don’t think so because it’s an excrement and the animal has processed it. I’ve haven’t seen my worm populations decrease from horse and cow manure. The watering should help rinse it off I would think. Whenever in doubt of your project of what you plan to feed them, do a check of whether they might like it or not. There are articles on this topic.

After that, it can go in the worm bin and the worms will be happy to process it. Just like there are some veggies or fruits that are listed online that worms might not like, I will not pick these out from my kitchen waste. For example lemons, I’ll just leave them – it’s going to dry up and decompose in the bin anyway.

I have a big pile of cow manure. There I will usually use the top part that is dusty and add small layers on top of the worm bin. This way it will not heat up the bin. I will keep adding layers like that as the worms process different layers in the worm bin. You can experiment.
I also have worm bins that are mainly only horse manure or cow dung – and temperature checked before I applied the worms.

When it comes to kitchen waste, like veggies, coffee, tea, egg shells and fruit remains etc. is what I will feed them. The worms love that stuff too. During the summer season, when there are a lot of fruits, and I have a lot of mango trees, I will have mango fruit waste, they also love the whole fruit including the seeds. Similar to avocado, papaya, pumpkin etc. all fruits & veggies that have these sweet fleshy structure is what the worms like. You can sometimes see the worms mass up in a fruit and this is called a “worm ball”. When this happens, it also increases their reproduction rate.

I usually apply kitchen waste as a phase 2 in my setups, in the second worm bin that I stack on top of the first worm bin. If it’s a big worm bin where there will be no stacking of crates practiced, you can select corners where you place the kitchen waste. Don’t make huge piles of kitchen waste all at once, spreading it out is also okay. If you make a big pile of kitchen waste in your worm bin, it’s going to be mixing with the browns and could activate hot composting – this will kill your worms. A safety measure is to always add new materials to only half of your bin so the worms can move to the other half if they don’t like something. Heat goes up, so if you have 2 crates they have an escape route to the bottom.

Feeding the worms Kitchen Waste

I hope I haven’t confused you when it comes to bedding material for the worms. I’ll do a short recap here and also give details of how I currently give them kitchen waste. The process that I follow. I don’t think that in the very beginning of your first worm bin – if you have only a few worms – depending on what kind of setup you are starting with, that you will be able to have them process kitchen waste yet. You would be overfeeding them. Let’s assume you are going to start first with 1 crate that is stackable for which you create their bedding and have them grow in population and then 6 months later if it has worked out well and you can see a lot of worms, you add the second crate one top.

Currently this is how I use my crates setup:

Crate 1 – The worm bedding bin
I place 2 bricks apart on which I place the first crate. All crates that I use will have holes on it’s bottom layer that I have pierced with a drill for water to flow out. I usually use crates that have openings on the sides for air flow, so inside the crate I will place geotextile or cardboard on the sides before filling it up with any material. You could experiment with a crate that has no openings on the sides and not use any geotextile blinds.
Under the crate I will place a tray in which the worm tea will drop. In the first crate we could say the standard materials to create the bedding will be:

  1. Coco peat as bottom layer and placed on the sides. I tear it in small pieces by hand. Gradually as the centre of the bin increases in materials, I keep adding coco peat on the 4 sides of the bin, so it becomes like a coating.
  2. Pieces of paper and cardboard, either torn into small pieces by hand or cut with scissors.
  3. A layer of horse manure. These grass balls looking shapes.
  4. A layer of cow manure. It looks like black soil.
  5. Finish it off with a layer of brown dried leafs.

I keep these materials stocked so whenever I do maintenance on a bin or make a new one, I have all of this readily available. So if you are going to make your first bin, get these materials first. You can also start a worm bin without manure. You could use compost instead. You can create your own compost from kitchen waste or buy a package.

Crate 2 – The kitchen waste bin
Crate 2 will be the same model and setup as crate 1 including pierced holes with a drill at the bottom layer. You can use a different model as long as you can stack it on crate 1. It needs to have holes in the bottom layer so that the worms can come up. I will usually stack crate 2 on crate 1 after I have noticed a population increase of worms and also that they have processed a good amount of the materials. You could say roughly crate 1 needs 6 months until ready for a crate 2 to be stacked on top. However, if you have +1000 worms in crate 1, this process will go way faster. I would say 2-3 months.

If there aren’t many worms, and there is still a lot of material for them to process, there is no point to stack another crate with lots of food for them to process. You are just going to overfeed them.
How can you tell that crate 1 has been processed? The worm castings look different to the initial materials. If it’s not too wet, it is like a coffee ground like material. Wet it is sticky material and when you touch it, it will be like a paste. If you look closely it’s like small dark clusters. With time you’ll quite easily tell apart what is worm castings and what isn’t. It is also odourless. Also that said, if your worm bin is running properly, there will be no smell! A bad odour can indicate that there is something wrong with your worm bin. And how to tell you have reached a good critical mass of worms? The moment you dig and move a bit the worm castings you should easily come across worms. If you have to look for them for a while, it means you don’t have enough worms yet. They might all be at the very bottom of the bin. Maybe your bin is too dry, too hot or too wet and they’ll move into a place they prefer.

When I have stacked crate 2 on crate 1, I will use the following materials in crate 2:
(This crate will have predominantly kitchen waste and a bit less of below.)

Stackable crates for vermicomposting
  1. Coco peat as bottom layer and placed a little on the sides.
  2. Small amount of horse and cow manure.
  3. A small amount of torn paper and cardboard.

Like this stuff will only be max 20cm high and gradually shink, particularly coco peat once you water it.

Then I will throw in my kitchen waste that I spread around. Not a large amount, just enough to spread around and mix with the materials listed above.

  1. Cover with brown leafs. By now my crate will be nearly half full like 30cm high.
  2. I like to cover this with a goony blanket (burlap)
    Then water it all.

My intervals will be around 1-2 weeks that I will add new kitchen waste. Especially if not that many worms have moved up yet, do not throw in too much.

You should see gradually over time some worms, usually the strongest one, come up and start eating the materials. These strong worms will settle there and create a new colony, start laying eggs and spread over the next months. While at the bottom (crate 1) bin, similar will continue, eggs will hatch, worms will grow, some will come up, just like some from the top will go down, reproduce and keep spreading there too. So you are going to have worms in 2 bins now. At some stage, crate 2, will have more food for the worms to eat, meaning there should be a migration of worms, where most of the worms in crate 1 will move up. But this is not so predictable that they will do it. It is something I have seen on YouTube but in practice I haven’t experienced it yet. Am also considering to put a crate 3 on top of crate 2 when crate 2 is full. At some point you can rotate the crates. For example, you remove crate 1, take out the worm castings, put crate 2 in place of crate 1 and place crate 1 that is no empty on crate 2 which you then refill with some materials. This is a bit the logic process behind – you get the idea right?

But so far in reality, I haven’t done it that way… What I did recently was the following:
I removed crate 1 and removed the worm castings. I also took most of the worms out that I divided into new worm bin setups. After I added all the materials that I have listed for crate 1 above, I put crate 1 back in it’s place and crate 2 back on the top. So you are going to have a feel for it yourself how to go about it 🙂

I am expecting that some worms from crate 2 will go back down to crate 1 and vice versa. I will continue filling up crate 2 with kitchen waste, leafs, a bit of manure and paper+cardboards until it’s full. Am then going to evaluate if I add crate 3 on top, or just leave it for several months until the worms are through processing all the materials. A crate 3 is going to look dope I find – I want to try it 🙂
There aren’t too many ways to go about this. Once you get a feel for what is happening and going on, this will be quite intuitive. 😉

How do I collect worm castings?

This could be the make or break moment for you. What follows can help you evaluate if you are keen to do all this work or if it’s not worth your while – and if it’s just better to buy the worm castings compost or just make compost the normal way! Processing worm castings could even be a part time job to hire people, create jobs for!

First of all, if you read till here, you have an approximate idea now of how much time, effort, waiting and money (just count your transportation+equipment+worms+materials+time+others) it requires to just get started and it’s not a guarantee for success. Sometimes you need to start again from scratch. Then 3-6 months later you will have your first bin ready with worm castings.

Once I have a worm bin that is ready, I will dig out the worm castings including the worms and put it in a small bucket.

Digging out worm castings

I will unfold on the ground a white 50L flour bag that is large enough on which I will place the worm castings. Then I’ll sit (it would be better to do this on a table – I work on the ground) and go through the worm castings and just like how we used to check for rocks in rice in our childhoods here in Mauritius, I’ll do the same for worms, small worms and eggs that I will put in a secondary small bucket.

Processing worm castings

Once I am through, I will take the worm castings that will most likely still contain a few eggs and baby worms that I haven’t spotted and put it in a 20L bucket. I’ll continue this process till am done. This can take several hours till a whole day depending how many worm bins you got. The posture I use to be on the ground wears me out and gives me backpain at some stage – but am not too bothered about this. So next in the steps of processes is to have a better way to manage and collect worm castings. If you have a small setup, it won’t matter. If you will be doing volume, you will have to plan a workflow that is more comfortable than mine. The worms I usually count them and spread them apart in new worm bins and some go back to their initial bin. When I either reach 500 or 1000 worms, these will be used for a new worm bin setup. Ideal is 1000.

If your worm castings are very wet, it’s going to be sticky and more work. I would say when you are planning to get the worm castings out of your worm bin, give it a few days where you don’t water the bin so that it is drier. You could then also pass it through a filter. I haven’t done it that way yet as am a bit concerned if this method could crush the worms. There are mechanical filters that vibrate, but am not on that level yet.

You can use these worm castings to fertilize the soil of your plants or to add to your new worm bins with worms so that they have some existing material of their habitat.

Regular maintenance

One main regular activity with your worm bins is going to be keeping them humid. I water mine regularly. It is either daily or maximum every 3 days. I just take a water can and pour it over. It is great if you can use harvested rain water. If you are going to use tap water, store it in a tank first and let it settle for a day. You would want the water not to be rich in chlorine. The worms don’t like these chemicals.

Then every now and then I will dig into my worm bin and check how things are going. I like doing this anyways as I am curious to see if the worm population has increased. You can also easily spot their eggs which are of a golden colour. Exponential growth! 🙂

And then at different intervals, after several months or so, you’ll have worm castings ready. The other regular activities are quite spaced out, you won’t be busy with your worms that much. You could say, once it’s set and you know what you are doing, it’s a side activity that will accompany well your farming journey without being a burden. It’s not a set and forget activity though! If you forget to keep your worms humid for a week, you might lose a lot of worms!

I would recommend in the time you have your worm bin set, to get all your materials sorted out for the future worm bins. You will have several months time. Collect paper waste, coco peat, manure etc.

Worms and bin size – start with a small worm bin

If you are starting a new worm bin, don’t start off with a big space or area. Try it with the crate models for example where your small amount of worms to begin with will be close to each other so that they can reproduce. So far, adding 500 worms to big raised beds or basins has had zero results for me. I have tried it several times and spaced out over several months – I keep getting the same negative results. After a while I can’t find any worms and their population has not increased. I am of the logical thought process that the worms spread out and disappear and then also do not reproduce and die off. Keeping them in a smaller concentrated space keeps them surviving. So for a bigger space, you will need more worms to begin with or structure it differently. What I will try next for a basin that I have is divide it into parts, give them a small pile to begin with and gradually expand the materials. This is something I have to test if this method works better. When you don’t have that many worms and lose them, it does feel frustrating 🙁 Tips and suggestions on how you manage a large worm bin are welcome.

This worm bag gave some impressive results!

Worm Bag with crate

I bought this bag made of black geotextile for Rs.400 at Magasin Narain in Triolet. It is a cheap way to start your worm bin as the platic crates which you can buy at Young Bros will cost you triple. Brand new plastic related items will be more expensive in general because these are highly taxed. One plastic item you can get and modify are 210L blue drums which on the market tend to be around Rs.700 if you get them from a retailer and less if you get it from a factory. The great thing with the crates is that you can stack them.

A few things I have to modify with the geotextile bag which I will call worm bag is to set it up in a way that I can collect the worm tea underneath. In my current setup it was too heavy to leave a gap in the middle with bricks. I might try next time to use some metal bars in plastic pipes underneath with a metal net. But currently am focusing on other builds, mainly crates and bigger setups.

Surprising worm performance from this bag!

In this worm bag, I added a mix of soil and rocksand and then all the materials listed above for crate 1. I usually do not use any soil and rocksand. I read that these worms prefer compost and decomposition material and less soil. …but to my surprise they love it!
So in this bag after adding the soil and rocksand, I had wet it and then dug out the center and left all around the bag this few centimetres lining of this material and in the centre added materials listed above for crate 1 and added 500 worms. A few months later this worm bag was thriving with worms. There were more than +2000 worms in there. This worm bag has somehow a kind of environment which the worms adore. This is something you could experiment with. I think the combination of the geotextile, the earth+rocksand mix keep the whole bag nicely humid. This bag is also slightly bigger than the plastic crates. Water and rain water will flow through it so no drowning of worms.

I just added a crate on top of this worm bag. Things in the beginning that I didn’t think possible. Just like I thought it’s not possible to capture the worm tea, there is surely a way.
It fits and the worm bag is full of worms. Even till the very top. So I gather that it is time to feed them kitchen waste.


Hope you liked my story which is a work in progress project. There will be more to tell in the future. If you are planning to do your own worm bins and get started, you now have a few ideas of how you can get going and how you can do it better. If you are on a tight budget, be creative, there is surely a way – for e.g. with second hand materials, used paint buckets etc. In my opinion try to start with a worm bag or several of these – it is the cheaper way, it’s durable, nothing to pierce, has water flow and the worms seem to like it. It could also be your backup and worm population production units from where you then experiment with new builds.

4 thoughts on “Vermicomposting in Mauritius

  1. Ackram

    I’m very impressed with your articles on vermicomposting. I really appreciated your setup and the amount of effort and patience you put into the project. Well, I’m a beginner and I have already prepared my bedding and now awaiting worm to place in. So, I’m looking for worm. If you have worms to sell let me know. See you.

    1. Dietmar Reigber

      Hello Ackram, glad to see your first comment on this post! Am curious how you found out about vermicomposting and why you would like to practice this activity? As you can read above from my experience it took me quite a while to get started.
      For the worms, please WhatsApp message me on 58302949 and I’ll make you an offer.

  2. Celva

    Very informative. Thanks for sharing. I am interested in vermicomposting. and am reading about it when I came accross your article. Thank you


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