Gardening With Worm Castings Compost (Worm Poop)
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Gardening With Worm Castings Compost (Worm Poop)

The use of compost worms to convert organic waste into nutrient-rich compost (commonly known as vermiculture) has evolved from an inexpensive, eco-friendly way of composting waste material, into a wide-spread method of technology now widely regarded as one of the most innovative, sustainable, and ecologically sound approaches to gardening of the past century.

Overview:

The use of compost worms to convert organic waste into nutrient-rich compost (commonly known as vermiculture) has evolved in recent years from an inexpensive, eco-friendly way of composting waste material, into a wide-spread method of technology regarded as one of the most innovative, sustainable, and ecologically-sound approaches to gardening of the past century.

Essentially completing nature’s life-death-rebirth cycle, compost worms consume decomposing plant matter to produce what is referred to as worm castings (worm poop) or by the scientific term, vermicompost.

During this process, the organic matter passes through the earthworms’ digestive tract where bacteria convert it to natural fertilizer, and a thin layer of oil is secreted onto the castings. These castings are rich in a highly concentrated mixture of water-soluble minerals--including nitrates, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, and carbon--as well as enzymes, bacteria, and bits of animal manure and plant matter which provide immediate nutrition to plants.

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With five times the available nitrogen, seven times the available potash, and one and half times more calcium than found in twelve inches of typical topsoil, worm castings compost also adds microbial floral and fauna life to the soil that protects plant roots from disease. And since the final product also contains earthworm cocoons--which will hatch into little red wigglers in about two weeks--provided the soil is kept loose and damp, the introduction of young compost worm eggs means the composting and microbiological activity will continue to take place indefinitely.

Additionally, the oil coating on the castings causes them to disperse slowly into the soil, providing continual food for a period of about two months. (Neither manure nor artificial fertilizer does this.)

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When used as part of a 3-prong approach to gardening--used initially for seed germination, followed by incorporation directly into the soil, and then added periodically as a fertilizer--worm castings compost has been proven to produce the most healthy, lush, and productive plants possible, which has made its use increasingly popular in recent years.

Method:

For Germination:

When combined with sand in a 3-4:1 ratio, worm castings make an excellent germination medium. Rich in nutrients while providing the ideal texture for starting young seeds, this mixture will ensure strong sprouts and continuous, lush growth for up to three months--and with the fertilizer already built-in, there’s no need for additional plant food.

As a Soil Conditioner:

Setting new plants--whether flowering, fruiting, herbs, or vegetables--into soil that’s been biologically activated with worm castings compost, provides plants the best possible environment to promote lush growth, deep roots, as well as larger leaves, brighter flowers, and more fruit production.

As Fertilizer:

Worm castings compost is the richest natural fertilizer known, able to stimulate established plants better than any commercial product can.  As little as a single tablespoon has been shown to provide enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 12" potted plant for over a month.

And as one fertilizer you can’t over-do, worm castings compost can be spread around the base of any plant, lightly dug in, or distributed across large plots using a spreader.  With no harmful chemicals to worry about--unlike synthetic fertilizers--there’s no need to be concerned about it touching foliage, flowers, or fruit.  You just distribute and water.

Prepared as a liquid fertilizer by mixing 1 cup of worm castings into a gallon of pure water (or water that’s set long enough for the chlorine to evaporate) and then allowing it to stand for 1 week, this nutrient-rich liquid can be used as a general fertilizer or sprayed directly on leaves to fight fungi and other disease, and also repels many kinds of insects.

Worm casts

Safe, effective, and simple to use, worm castings compost has been proven to save water, energy, and effectively maintain optimal soil quality naturally by adding a wide range of essential nutrients, aerating and improving the soil’s water-holding capacity, and promoting normal microbiological activity. 

But perhaps most importantly,  worm castings compost eliminates the need for commercial fertilizers and animal manure which are now recognized as environmentally destructive to natural water sources, wildlife, and ultimately, pollutes entire ecosystems.

References:

http://www.wormpoop.com/

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Own-Worm-Compost-System

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/worm-composting.aspx

Thunb via: http://media.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen/photo/redwigglerwormsjpg-6081b8efae073a62_large.jpg

Images via Wikipedia.org unless credited otherwise

Visit JAMES R. COFFEY WRITING SERVICES & RESOURCE CENTER for more information

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Comments (6)

Vermicompost is quite expensive in our locality but it is all worth it.

Ranked #10 in Biology

For small amounts, you can get it really cheap online. If that's not an option, maybe it's time to start your own system. You can do that for about $30 worth of material (including worms)!

I'm not a gardener, but your wealth of knowledge made this very interesting.

Ranked #10 in Biology

Glad to hear that, Michael.

Worms are a valuable resource in the garden. I just created a raised veggie bed this year and at our local farmer's market, I was able to purchase 100 worms for $12. A must for every garden! Well done.

Ranked #10 in Biology

Thanks, Sandy. You certainly have the right attitude--and the start of an excellent plan!

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