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The Soil Food Web!

Your soil is full of living organisms. There is a complex food web that starts with chemicals released by plants to attract the right organisms that give plants nitrogen (fertilizer) in the best form the plant can use. Think about when you add chemicals to your soil what happens.

Nutrient Value of Worm Castings


We hear great stories about castings -- especially about tomatoes

Worms create organic soil; some call it the "perfect" soil since it is very high in nitrogen –no need for chemical fertilizers. Worm have an amazing digestive system. One pound of worms can process up to 1/2 lb of food waste a day—almost 4 lbs each week. Worm castings are nature’s best fertilizer. Compared to typical soil, worm castings have:

  • 10 X more Potash
  • 5 X more Nitrogen
  • 7 X more Phosphate
  • 15 X more Calcium
  • 4.5 X more Magnesium

If you use commercial fertilizer to limit the nutrient ratio to 10-10-10. Commercial fertilizers are very effective -- because they are very high in nitrogen (too high!). They upset the chemical balance of natural soil and biota (bacteria, protists, etc.) which PROTECT the plants, so you become dependent on chemical fertilizers to sustain plants.

Learn more: Jeff Lowenfels, author of TeamingWith Microbes, the revolutionary book on organic gardening and the soil food web, ($24.95) on my web site. It’s very cool and detailed science – and it’s a must-have book for gardeners.

How to Use Castings:

Remember that worm castings are very high in nutrients. They also are a great soil supplement that adds structure to your soil. Numerous ways to use worm castings include:

  • Potting soil (10-15% castings recommended by VA Extension Service, 50% by the WormWoman)
  • Fertilizer for starting seeds - sprinkle lightly in seed beds or seed pots/trays.
  • Fertilizer for transplanting plants - put small amounts in planting hole
  • Top dressing in garden (1/4 inch layer)

How to Use Tea

"Worm tea" is creating a buzz with gardeners everywhere. "worm tea" is not a drink because it contains colonies of microorganisms, good and bad. To promote healthy bacteria, most recommend using tea with in 4-5 hours when aerobic bacteria are present. Like our bodies with contain millions of microscopic creatures, it is impossible to see these organisms - viruses, protists, etc. Always use common disease prevention precautions – use gloves, never handle castings/tea with open cuts, and wash your hands with soap and water after handling castings or tea. Many benefits are scientifically unproven. However, the evidence is growing rapidly. Some folks are claiming it may be used given it’s fungicidal and pesticide qualities – ex. powdery mildew and black spot. You be the judge.

Look how simple it is to make "wormtea" – it’s not for drinking. Pour water through your castings. Make fresh "worm tea" and use it within 5 hours of creation. Add it to your soil to build up the nutrient and mineral content. Naturally we are thrilled like many others to see our plants respond so well to this beneficial composting product and it could not be easier to make. Like worm castings, the nutrient content is very high:

  • 10 X more Potash
  • 5 X more Nitrogen
  • 7 X more Phosphate
  • 15 X more Calcium
  • 4.5 X more Magnesium

Depending on the quality of your soil and health of your plant, dilute the tea accordingly. Dilute it up to 10 times for large scale use or add 1 part water to 1 part tea for a 50% dilution for weaker plants. Just be warned, it is strong and often using it full strength can burn a plant temporarily.

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