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What Are Worm Castings

Worm Castings

 

Vermicomposting Turns Green Waste Into Black Soil Amendment

Compost from Red Wigglers (earthworms) provide natural conversion of waste into soil amendments.

 

Also known as "worm poo", worm castings are one of nature's most potent all natural fertilizers & soil amendments. When worms ingest their food they excrete the worm casting. Castings not only enhance the growth of gardens, grow beds, lawns, plants, fruit trees, etc but also strengthens the root ball and stalk enhancing lustrous green leaves and providing one of the finest tasting fruits or vegetable. The rich, nutrient filled castings assist in replenishment of the soil which with the use of commercial fertilizers are broken down compromising optimal growth and taste.

 

I love the way childhood memories stay with you. As a child growing up on my grandparents black angus cattle farm, I can remember my grandmother having me bring her Worm Castings from their huge worm beds underneath the oak trees, and raised primarily just in leaves and compost and fed mostly table scraps. We would apply the Worm castings within the hole around each seedling, for fertilization and soil amendment. Today Red Wigglers are grown for fish bait, bird & reptile food and compost/soil amendments. Worm castings around a plant's root ball, or applied as a mulch, makes plants grow unbelievably well!

 

Dictionary.Com defines Vermiculture as "The raising and production of earthworms and their by-products". Some would consider vermiculture a 4-syllable word for poop! Earthworms are masters at turning waste vegetation into an all natural, nutrient filled soil amendment. The technical name for this soil amendment is "Worm Castings", and considered by those in the know as the best soil amendment available.

 

Worm Castings can be applied around a plant's drip line; mixed directly into the plant's roots, or applied as a mulch, adding valuable nutrients to strengthen the root system, thus making plants grow unbelievably well.

GA Wigglers Worm Farm raises thousands of pounds of Red Wigglers annually for use in turning waste into valuable soil amendments, known as worm castings.

 

It's all in the dirt

Healthy plants need healthy soil, and "Dirt" becomes fertile soil only when nature's balance of components are in place: Organic matter, living organisms, moisture, and nutrients for both plants and their essential buddies micro & macro organisms.

Healthy plants need healthy soil. Organic soil amendments are materials derived from plant and animal parts or residues such as blood meal, compost, bat guano, manure, seaweed, and worm castings.

 

Synthetic fertilizers are inorganic compounds

Plants cannot distinguish between an organic or synthetic fertilizer - the nutrients are processed in exactly the same way. However, the similarity stops there. Chemical fertilizers add nutrients to the soil, but they don't add anything else. Plants need more than just nutrients to survive. They also need organic matter and living organisms.

Synthetic fertilizers do not support microbiological life in the soil. The application of a synthetic fertilizer actually kills a significant percentage of beneficial microorganisms. These tiny creatures are responsible for breaking down organic matter into a stable amendment for improving soil quality and fertility. Some convert nitrogen from the air into a plant usable form. Compost and organic material introduce beneficial microorganisms into the soil's complex mix.

Composts contain an astonishing variety of microbes, many of which may be beneficial in controlling pathogens. Beneficial microbes help to control plant pathogens.

Organic matter improves soil structure, resulting in a crumb-like structure that improves water retention, air infiltration and enhances soil fertility.

 

Comparing Synthetic and Organic Fertilizers

Organic conversion of plant and animal materials into soil is nature's method - - and Organic agricultural systems mimic that nature process to work with plants in providing the variety of nutrients they need for growth and health.

 

Organic conversion of plant and animal materials into soil is nature's proven method of fostering healthy biological life.

Plant Nutrient Requirements Plants require 13 nutrients. There are three primary macro-nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). These nutrients are used in significant amounts, so they must be replaced periodically to sustain productivity.

The secondary nutrients are: Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S). There are usually enough of these nutrients in the soil, so additional fertilization is not always needed.

The micro-nutrients used in small quantities are: Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Chloride (CI), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), and Zinc (Zn).

 

Comparative Limitations of Organic and Synthetic Fertilizers

Organic amendments (which include more than nutrients) can be highly variable in composition. They are also a dilute source of nutrients compared to inorganic fertilizers, so the nutritive shock to the growing system isn't as noticeable. Because of this diluted feature, organic materials might be more expensive than petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers and might be difficult to justify economically for large-scale production.

And if you don't like to get your hands dirty, you might shy away fro earthy qualities of organic soil amendments that mimic nature's own highly variable results based on microbiological activity and soil temperature.

Synthetic fertilizers usually do not contain micro-nutrients and they do not support microbiological life in the soil.

Because of their high concentration, they can be easily over applied and can "burn" roots with a concentration of salts. When synthetic fertilizers release nutrients too quickly, they can create a great deal of top growth before the roots are able to balance the growth underground. This top-heavy growth can lead to weaker and disease-prone plants with less fruiting because of the need for moisture and nutrients provided by a robust root system.

 

Synthetic fertilizers also leach into water tables, streams and lakes, causing water quality problems when not carefully controlled in the field.

 

 

Worm Compost Tea

 

We use the term "Worm Compost Tea" rather than "Compost Tea" because we are a seasoned earthworm farm and are familiar with the differences of earthworm castings compared to other types of compost.  We therefore brew with our Worm Castings, although “compost tea” is probably a more commonly used phrase than specifying the type of compost as we do, when we mention worm compost tea. 

In both, microbiology is extracted from the microbial seed material with water so that the microbiology is in a liquid solution which can be sprayed – most often a far more convenient and feasible application method than bulk soil amending or dispersion.  The nature of worm compost tea vs. compost tea can be radically different with worm compost tea having more species diversity and worm created substances than compost teas and therefore offers more effective results.

There are two types of worm compost teas: extracted and aerobically brewed.  In the extraction method, water is run through the earthworm castings to simply extract the microbes from the castings into the water. The resulting liquid solution is then applied in various ways. Many bottled teas you see on the shelf use this method due to extended shelf life.  In the brewing method, compost/castings are placed into a container of circulated and aerated water (via an air bubbler or similar system) typically with other nutrients.  The circulated water extracts the microbiology and the microbes are in an abundance of both oxygen and nutrient to feed upon.  In this method, colonies of microbes are brewed in exponential numbers, a colony of bacteria for instance can double in population every 20 minutes.  Aerobic brewing takes longer than basic extraction with common brewing times of 24 - 36 hours.  Brewing time is very dependent on water temperature with warmer water creating faster brews.  Aerobically brewed teas have much higher microbe population densities than extracted teas and for this reason are the tea of choice.  The sign of a good aerobically brewed tea is a good head of foam and scum on top signifying healthy microbe action!

 

 

How Worm Compost Tea works

Worm Compost Tea is all about microbiology and is measured and evaluated under a microscope.  Compost, Worm Castings, and other inoculants all work and are evaluated by this means also.  It is the wide diversity and numbers of microbiology that define a good tea. Worm compost tea is important to healthy soil which, in turn, creates healthy and vibrant plant life.  

 

Worm compost tea suppress disease and pests on vegetation and will boost the crucial microbial activity known as the Soil Food Web (SFW) which is so crucial to organic soils.  Perhaps the most widely used and known use of teas is to suppress/eliminate black spot and powdery mildew on roses.  By spraying worm compost tea on the surface of leaves, you are doing two things.  First, you coat the leaf with millions and sometimes even billions of microbes all competing for a food source.  Some for instance protozoa, eat bacteria which may be eating decaying plant material.  Others eat other microbes and their wastes.  In the end, there are not enough resources for the harmful molds and fungi to flourish.  In addition, you are also coating the leaf with a protective surface that protects the leaf cells from attack by foreign spores or airborne microbes.  Finally, by inoculating the soil with Worm Compost Tea, microbes break down nutrients for uptake into plants thereby increasing plant health and the plant’s own disease resistance/suppression.

 

Aerobically brewed Worm Compost Tea is superior to basic compost teas because of the higher number and diversity of microbes, the additional substances that worms create and the reduction or lack of harmful microorganisms.  Although a traditional compost pile is a great environmental aid, and its final compost is a great value to your garden, it typically does not have the microbe species diversity and numbers of earthworm castings – especially when using GA Wigglers Worm Farm All Natural Worm Castings – to be an exceptional aid.  (Remember, microbial species diversity and numbers are necessary for a more thorough breakdown of the organic matter in any compost.)  A tea can only have the species diversity of the starting medium.  The only way to circumvent low the numbers and diversity when brewing tea with a basic compost is to inoculate the tea itself during or at the end of the brew with catalysts, i.e. microbe packages!  Worms also create substances that act as growth hormones, cell length regulators, anti-aging compounds, and more goodies that just are not available in common compost.  Though different in quality either the brewing or extracting method will add these important aspects to teas, and this is the probable explanation of good results obtained by non-aerobic bottled tea that does not have high species diversity and numbers.  

 

How to use Worm Compost Tea

Spray your plants liberally on the leaves, stems and surrounding soil.  Use them on turf.  Use them on clay soil to begin its transformation to humus.  Use them on your flowers indoors and out and on your other house plants. Use them on your compost pile to introduce the microbial activity and hasten the compost pile’s beneficial breaking down process.  Inoculate the ground surrounding your fruit trees.  Use them on manure piles that stink and marvel at how fast the stink and flies go away!  Use them on the small bucket of kitchen scraps you may have outside of your house.  Worm compost tea everything!

 

Foliar Spray/Wash:

It’s best to spray all surfaces of your plants in the early morning or late afternoon when the suns angle is low and has less strength.  When possible do your foliar spraying on a foggy, cloudy or clear days since rain may wash away some of the effectiveness. 

Soil Inoculant - Drenching:

Always apply teas out of direct sunlight.  Use them pure or dilute them (10:1 is a suggested maximum dilution rate).  Dilution ratios vary due to the manor or the characteristics of your application technique or equipment.  An ideal time is during light rains, mists, or fog.  Alternatively, irrigate a little before your treatment and after the application to insure the microbes will survive and travel more quickly and safely to their new job locations. Whenever possible use non-chlorinated water.

If a tea stinks, do not use it on your vegetables as it is demonstrating anaerobic properties and may contain pathogens.  Dr. Ingram suggests you use it on an undesirable weed bed!

A properly brewed worm compost tea is environmentally responsible, kid safe & pet friendly!

When we brew, there is a window of optimal application time when microbe populations and diversity are at their highest.  Best results occur when the worm compost tea is applied during its prime and is applied within 3 hours of being removed from the oxygen source.