Worm castings (yeah, poop) are a terrific natural fertilizer. I ordered a 1 gallon bag of them to try in the self-contained grow boxes and some other containers. I can also make a “tea” solution for use as a foliar spray.
I bought mine from BocaBob on Dave’s Garden. They’re shipped from someone in Texas. Here’s the information from Bob’s advertisement:
What Are Worm Castings?
Worm Castings contain a highly active biological mixture of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter and animal manure, as well as earthworm cocoons (while damp). The castings are rich in water- soluble plant nutrients, and contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil.
Worm Castings are packed with minerals that are essential for plant growth, such as concentrated nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It also contains manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, iron, carbon and nitrogen. However, the best of all is that these minerals are immediately available to the plant, without the risk of ever burning the plant. Remember that animal manure and chemical fertilizers have to be broken down in the soil before the plant can absorb them.
As the organic matter moves through the alimentary canal of the earthworm, a thin layer of oil is deposited on the castings. This layer erodes over a period of 2 months. So although the plant nutrients are immediately available, they are slowly released to last longer. The cocoons in Worm Castings each contain between 2 and 10 eggs that hatch within 2 weeks. This means that the process of decomposition are continued by the young earthworms in the soil, provided that the soil is loose, damp and rich enough in organic matter for the worms to stay alive.
The bacteria in the alimentary canal of the earthworm transforms organic waste to natural fertilizer. The chemical changes that the organic wastes undergo include deodorizing and neutralizing. This means that the pH of the castings is 7 (neutral) and the castings are odorless (they smell like a forest after rain). The worm castings also contain the bacteria, so the process is continued in the soil, and microbiological activity promoted.
What can Worm Castings be used for?
Worm Castings can be used as an ingredient of potting soil (as plant nutrients) for plants in and around the house. It can also be used as a planting additive for trees, vegetables, shrubs and flowers. When used as mulching material, Worm Castings will ensure that the minerals are absorbed directly into the soil when it is watered. Because Worm Castings will never burn plants, you can use as much of it as you like.
Benefits of Worm Castings :
1. The humus in the worm castings extracts toxins and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil. Worm Castings therefore have the ability to fight off plant diseases.
2. The worm castings have the ability to fix heavy metals in organic waste. This prevents plants from absorbing more of these chemical compounds than they need. These compounds can then be released later when the plants need them.
3. Worm Castings act as a barrier to help plants grow in soil where the pH levels are too high or too low. They prevent extreme pH levels from making it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil.
4. The humic acid in Worm Castings stimulate plant growth, even in very low concentrations. The humic acid is in an ionically distributed state in which it can easily be absorbed by the plant, over and above any normal mineral nutrients. Humic acid also stimulates the development of micro flora populations in the soil.
5. Worm Castings increase the ability of soil to retain water. The worm castings form aggregates, which are mineral clusters that combine in such a way that they can withstand water erosion and compaction, and also increase water retention.
6. Worm Castings reduce the acid-forming carbon in the soil, and increase the nitrogen levels in a state that the plant can easily use. Organic plant wastes usually have a carbon-nitrogen ratio of more than 20 to 1. Because of this ratio, the nitrogen is unavailable to plants, and the soil around the organic waste becomes acidic.
How to use Worm Castings:
For Germination Use 20 to 30% Worm Castings with coconut coir is an excellent germination mixture. It will also ensure continuous and lush growth for about two months, without you having to add any other plant food. As a Soil Conditioner If you hoe a layer of barren soil, add a layer of Worm Castings and give it some water, you will be surprised at the growth of your first season’s plants. You can also make a wonderful brewed tea to use as a folior spray.
I also bought coconut coir from Bob. That stuff is really neat! It was shipped as an 11lb brick. By the time I added 9 gallons of water to our utility cart and let it absorb it, there was a little over 2 cubic feet of planting medium. I mixed in four cups of the worm castings, then used that mixture for my self-contained box garden. I’ll be posting about those grow boxes in another entry.