Earthworm Castings - Don't Cast Them Aside!

Earthworm castings? What's that, you say? Finding an actor to play an earthworm? Pouring some metal into a mold and making a statue of an earthworm?

Actually, castings is the term given to what, in plain terms, is worm poop. I suppose it came from the fact that this is what the worm casts aside.

Anyway, why a discussion of earthworm castings? Who cares? Well, anyone who wants to grow a better garden. Worm castings are one of the greatest fertilizers that exist. And as a bonus, in order to make that fantastic plant food, the worms eat up our organic wastes, keeping them out of the landfill, thereby killing two birds with one stone and helping out Mother Earth in the process.

The process of using earthworms to turn our garbage into high quality compost is called vermicomposting, but most people just call it a 'worm farm', or earthworm composting. Composting does not require the use of worms, but when they're added to the mix, it becomes much more efficient and complete.

It appears that the earthworms don't actually digest the garbage that they eat. They actually are eating the microorganisms that are feeding on the organic waste matter. But when they excrete the castings, there are now eight times as many of those beneficial microorganisms as before. Plus, if any disease pathogens happened to be present on the food eaten by earthworms, it's usually killed off as they process the food. Additionally, the vermicompost contains many additional minerals (compared to regular soil) that fuel plant growth, and are rich in humic acids which balance the pH of the soil. Just a few reasons why worm casts are fantastic as compost.

To use the earthworm castings as compost, just dig it lightly into the soil around your plants. Some authorities say to use half as much compared to regular compost, and even less on plants in containers, while others state that it's fine to use it full strength. You'd probably want to start out on the light side and see how it works. You can always add more, but if you use too much, there's no going back.

Give 'compost tea' a try too. One quart of water to a couple of tablespoons of worm castings, and let it steep for a day or two, shaking occasionally. Sprinkle around plants, not directly on them. Earthworm compost should retain its value for around a year if you keep it from drying out in a nonairtight container.

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