The humic acid in worm castings is what helps to accelerate yield, growth, and aids in the absorption of water and nutrients from the soil.
I got some raised eyebrows when I first shared that I was keeping worms in our back room. Some people were slightly disgusted. I’m sure they thought I had gotten a little nutty in the head, but I was so thrilled.
After hearing about the many benefits of compost worms, I was determined to try it. One day.
I had been trying to get red wigglers for many months now, but the time never seemed right. Either I wasn’t able to find them locally, or we weren’t prepared for them.
When we moved away temporarily for a seasonal job, I decided now was the time. It was starting to become cold outside and our children needed some entertainment.
I posted in a Local Ask Away group on Facebook where I could find some. At first, it didn’t sound like anyone knew of any place I could purchase them, but after a couple of days, a sweet lady said she would sell me some of hers.
I bought two ziplock bags of worms for $50 CAD. I was surprised at how little worms were in there but was excited to try this.
We set up a small worm bin and started feeding them kitchen produce scraps.
It was a bit of a learning curve. The first couple of days I almost killed them several times, as I tried to figure out the proper method of worm rasing. With time I learned some tricks to keep them happy.
What are worm Castings?
Simply put, earthworm castings are just worm poop. They don’t actually eat the kitchen scraps you feed them. Rather, they eat the microbes that feed on the decaying food.
Their excrements create a nutrient-rich plant food that surpasses any other natural or conventional soil builder. They add beneficial organic material to your garden.
Research shows that worm castings are richer in plant nutrients than soil, about five times more nitrogen, two times more calcium, and seven times more phosphorus and potassium.
Not only do they provide the soil with a lot of nutrition, but they also provide a lot of microbiological activity that helps soil become healthier.
Worm castings are simple organic matter coated with beneficial microbes and bacteria. This organic waste is a lot better for your plants than chemical and synthetic fertilizers.
Why You Should Use Worm Castings in Your Garden
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There are a lot of benefits of worm castings. The advantages outnumber the disadvantages by far. This simple byproduct of worms helps plants grow faster, improve yields in your garden, helps to retain water, and more.
Plants grow faster
Worm castings are a natural organic fertilizer. They contain rich amounts of nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Research has shown that plants can grow up to 2X as large with an application of worm castings.
Worm castings also help to aerate the soil. They create space for soil aeration that also helps them hold more water.
Worm castings hold more water than other soil mediums, and therefore keep your soil from drying out so quickly.
Chemical-free, and containing no artificial pesticides, worm casting can be used for organic food production. It also doesn’t smell like other fertilizers.
A properly cared for worm bin has no disgusting smell. It smells like rich earth.
We learned this the hard way. After applying manure to our garden plot, our garden was almost completely fried. For two growing seasons, we have been dealing with our soil burning our plants. Our potatoes and tomatoes have suffered a lot.
I said never again to manure as a soil amendment. Worm castings won’t burn your plants.
Some studies say that worm castings can help plants produce 25% more with regular application.
That’s a significant increase and should be enough for us to consider adding worm castings to our garden.
Improved Soil Health
The main reason I wanted to start a worm farm was to improve the health of our soil. Healthy soil produces plants that taste better and are more nutritious.
So much talk about how our soil is depleted, and how we don’t get enough nutrition from the foods we eat anymore.
Starting by improving the soil in our backyard is how we can change that. Research shows that worm castings provide vital nutrients to leafy plants during their growth stage.
The more nutrients your plants are able to take up, the healthier they are for you.
Improved Pest Resistance
The icing on the cake is that worm castings actually make your plants stronger against pests and diseases.
Common garden pests are more likely to attack weak and frail plants. If worm castings improve the soil, so that plant is stronger, it is also less likely to fall prey to predatory insects.
How To Use Worm Castings
You can use worm castings as a seedling starter, a transplant amendment, and even for shrubs and trees. Worm castings should not be placed on top as a mulch, but rather be mixed into the soil.
As a general rule, 25% of your potting mix can be worm castings, although less will help too.
For seedling starter: 1 cup castings to 2 cups soil.
When transplanting: Add ¼ cup (about a handful) into every hole.
For shrubs and trees: add in one cup when transplanting.
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, there are several disadvantages to using Worm Castings.
Disadvantages of Worm Castings
It can get expensive if you are buying them from a store. Jocelyns Soil Booster is $30 for 800g. That can add up quickly. If you make your own worm bin (and it’s really very simple), you can get worm castings for practically free. The only things you need are a worm bin and worms. The most popular is the Red Wigglers.
They don’t survive extreme cold.
Here in Nothern Alberta, red wiggler worms don’t make it through our winter. That’s a good thing when it comes to invading the territory, but that also means I can’t store them outside.
They are living in our back room at the moment.
Because of the extreme cold, we have to store them inside. We can’t store them in a shed or garage. They would do well in a slightly warmer climate.
Unless you start With a lot of worms, it takes a while to get enough worm castings.
The red wiggler worms should double in amount every 90 days if they get fed properly. I recommend getting at least 2000 worms to start with.
You should be able to harvest about 7lbs of castings every month.
You have to separate the worms from the castings
There are several different ways to separate the worms from the castings.
One way is to dump and sort by hand. Which is most likely what I will do in a couple of weeks here. You can also prepare fresh bedding on one side of your bin and start feeding them there.
Stop feeding on the other sides and they will move over. You can also get fancy layered worm bins that help you do this.
Making Worm Tea
Another thing you can do with worm castings is made your own worm tea. This can be applied directly to the roots as a fertilizer.
½-¾ cup castings to 2 gallons water. Let steep 24 hours. Apply directly to roots.
Making and using your own worm castings is an easy way to improve the amount of organic matter in your garden soil. It will help to increase your yields and improve the health of your plants.