A couple weeks ago at a nearby outdoor growers market a woman I was talking to stated that, “we wouldn’t be alive without worms”. I chuckled thinking that was an interesting thought and perhaps a bit exaggerated. But then a few seconds later quickly agreed with her.
Worms are essential for growing things in all soil. About this time of year, after seeds have been germinated and starts have been planted, gardeners are looking for the best ways to feed their plants. Each year, we get more and more interest from people wanting to know more about worm castings, what is the best form to use, and how much to use.
The use of worm castings has been around a very long time but is also greatly growing in popularity along with the notion of getting back to growing our own food, naturally and organically. Worm castings are simply what worms “cast out” after digesting plant particles and manures in the earth. What makes the castings of worms special is the digestive tracts of worms pretty much act like little biological composters, leaving behind a most amazing soil additive or amendment. Worm castings are also known as vermicast, and because of this “composting” process, they are also referred to as vermicompost. Vermiculture then, is the raising and production of earthworms and their by-product.
While there are many studies and ways of looking at the specific benefits of worm castings, there is little argument that worm castings are much richer in nutrients than the soil itself where the earthworm lives and eats. Worm castings are biologically active, rich in bacteria, enzymes, as well as nutrients that can be directly absorbed by plant roots. In addition, the castings act as a slow release fertilizer, in that their structure dissolves slowly. And, many sources make claim to the fact that you could grow right in castings and never burn a plant.
What is interesting to me right now is that commercial vermicomposting is very much on the rise and many of the ones we talk to say they cannot keep up with growing demand. It is also interesting how many people I talk to that are making their own worm castings right at home, in a variety of ways.
Last year, having started an entirely new yard including several garden areas, I fed almost all of my plants with only worm castings. I applied worm castings topically around the stems and over the root system, then let it “time release” in with regular watering. The results were amazing. My zinnias were well over 4′ tall and like nothing I had seen before. I trimmed my tomato plants when they reached 6′ last year. This spring all sorts of plants came up in a ‘huge way’, the fox gloves being most noticeable as they also topped 6′. I also have an enormous purple penstemon plant that is gorgeous, about 4′ high and very full at 4′ wide also. A few of last year’s photos are posted here. At Green Planet Naturals, we sell very high quality Worm Castings but also use worm castings in a number of our mixes: Compost with Worm Castings, Premium Potting Soil, and Soil Block Mix.
~ Linda Brown