Contributed by: AngelOfDeath
This FAQ details how to produce home-made worm castings.
It is a lengthy process and takes anywhere from 6 months up to 2 years, depending on comparison to how much decomposed matter vs number of worms you have. This method takes a little time, but then again, a little time and effort will certainly beat the store prices!!!
Why are Worm castings a beneficial soil additive?
- Introduce micro organisms to the soil, increasing disease resistance.
- Hold water and give nutrients in a consistent natural way.
- Great fertilizer that can be used a lot but wont burn the plant
- 10% worm casting in soil mix improves germination rates, plant growth, and give them a healthy appearance.
- Castings also contain plant growth hormones
Some facts on worms:
- Worms eat twice their weight in matter daily
- Worms defecate (crap) twice their weight daily
- Worm populations double every 4 months or so
- Worms will eat decomposing, rotting matter, anything from grass clippings, to manure, to decaying lettuce. This process is called Vermicomposting
- Worms live within the top 6 " (inches) of the soil. Worms work from the bottom to the top
Worm improve soil airation due to their tunneling action; this keeps the soil nice and loose. The worms will stick around so long as there is enough organic matter for them to digest, especially if you add blood and bone meal, or other various organic fertilizers. If the worms are crawling out of your medium, then its time to add organic fert or transplant into a more organic decomposing medium.
Which worm species to use:
The best worms to use for homemade worm castings are Red Wrigglers, a common worm that can be almost found anywhere. Night Crawlers can also be used - they are much larger and also eat a lot more than the wrigglers. You can find Night Crawlers easily around your yard.
What Compost to use:
Note: Raw scraps are indigestible, and must be broken down first by bacteria. Worms are better able to digest and process organic scraps that have been pre-decomposed.
1. Cow manure. Cows are poor digesters, they only digest about 15% of what they eat, leaving another 85% of the stuff an organic sludge; worms absolutely love cow manure! It is better to have the manure pre-decomposted prior to the vermicomposting. I consider cow manure an essential ingredient.
2. Any vegetable/fruit scraps. Recycle your food waste! Take your scraps, and place them in a blender, mix it around for a couple seconds. Mixing makes it easier and faster for the scraps to decompose and makes it easier to mix in with other ingredients for a blend.
3. Dry leaves, grass clippings, rotting wood. These ingredients take a bit longer to decompose, but they seem to be richer in the end. Anything you rake up for your lawn is great.
Note: meat scraps and sauces tend to make things a little too rancid and stinky, as well as attract flies and pests. Keep to vegetable scraps.
Materials and directions:
1. A standard Rubbermaid tub (15 gal)
2. 50-150 worms, the more the better.
3. Your decomposing matter
4. Water spray bottle
Directions for setup:
Take your pre-decomposed matter and fill up your tub with it (Up to 6 inches from the top of the tub, so the worms cant escape) . Even it out gently.
Now take your worms, and place around the EDGES of the tub - the worms will dig down and eventually find their way into the soil.
Spray water on the surface of the scraps to keep everything moist (including the worms). Usually i do this about twice a day. There is no turning, or sifting required, as the worms will do all the work.
Harvesting the Worm Castings:
The top layer of the matter should turn a dark brown when your worm castings are finished. This new soil looks like brown chunky sand. It looks like dirt, and it smells like dirt. But its genuine, fresh worm castings!