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June 28, 2017

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Worm Castings - Nature's Finest Fertilizer!

What are Worm Castings?
The short answer is... ahem... worm "poo".

Worm Castings are the richest natural fertilizer known to humans. That's right: as little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 6" potted plant for more than two months. Worm castings stimulate plant growth more than any other natural product on the market. Unlike animal manure and processed chemical fertilizers, it is absorbed easily and immediately by plants. But Worm Castings don't only stimulate plant growth: they also enhance the ability of your soil to retain water (because of its texture), and it even inhibits root diseases such as root rot.

What Are in Worm Castings to Make Them So Beneficial?
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 is promoted.

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 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.

Worm Castings Application to Specific Crops
CropApplicationAlternate Application
Small planters and pots Mix 1 part of worm castings with 3 parts of soil. Top dress each plant with 1/4 cup worm castings every two weeks. Add 1/2" to 1" earthworm castings to surface of the soil. Water and repeat every 3 to 4 months. Add red worms (approximately 25 worms/planter). Worms will help aerate the soil and they will help loosen up the dirt inside the planters/pots.
Root crops (potatoes, carrots, onions, and beets) Apply 1" to 2" of worm castings at bottom and sides of the seed furrows and plant holes. Set seeds or plants in place and cover with soil. In 4 to 6 weeks, side dress with 1/8" of worm castings. When preparing soil, use 3-4 lb. earthworm castings per 100 sq. ft. Side dress when plants are 3" to 4" high and side dress again in mid-season if necessary for optimum growth.
All types of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, and melons Mix 1 part worm castings with 4 parts soil. Line newly dug hole with mixture, place plant in hole and cover. Top dress each plant or hill with 1/4 cup worm castings after budding. Water and repeat every 2 months. Mix 30% earthworm castings with organic peat/humus for a potting mix. Use two poinds of pottingmix per set, then top dress with 3 to 4 oz. per plant after the fruit appears and once again when the fruit begins to ripen.
Roses, shrubs, and trees Mix 4 cups of worm castings into the surface of each plant and cover with mulch. New or Transplanted - Mix 1 part earthworm castings to 2 pars of compost or organic peat. Surround the newly dug hole with mixture, spread roots over mound of mixture in the hole. Cover and water well to eliminate air pockets.

Established Roses and Shrubs - Mix 4 cups earthworm castings into the surface of each plant and cover with mulch.
Herb garden Feed each plant 1/2 oz. of the above mixture when seeds emerge or when transplanting, then once again in mid-season. Castings can not be used full strength because they will cause scraggly plants with reduced amounts of aromatic oils. To achieve maximum production use 5% to 10% earthworm castings mixed with organic peat and humus Medicinal herbs response to this mixture is phenomenal.
Established fruit and nut trees For every 1" diameter of a tree, apply 2 cups of worm castings. Top dress from the trunk to drip line, cover with mulch or compost and water. When transplanting bare root or container trees where you want maximum growth and fruit production it is best to use a 50/50 mix of cured compost and earthworm castings. Most all of the fruit and citrus trees will go into production in half the time and you will get two years growth in one year. The nut tree will take longer to get into production and the rate is not as dramatic as the other trees. The results for ornamental trees will be from two to five times the normal growth rate. After planting in the spring, the trees will require 5 to 7 lb. of earthworm castings applied in the fall. Use this amount on the tree with a caliper of up to 1". Apply the castings by top dressing from the trunk to the edge of the drip line. With established trees top dress with 5 lb. of earthworm castings per 1" caliper of the tree two to three times a year. It is important to get the worm castings applied during the spring blossoming period.

NOTE: You may shorten the height of the trunk by doubling or tripling the amount of castings applied during the first year after transplanting.
New lawns - great for seed and sod Apply 10 lbs. of worm castings per 100 sq. feet. Spread seed into seed bed, rake in and water adequately. Use 1/8" of worm castings to sod bed surface, apply sod and water adequately. Top dress lawns at the rate of 5 lbs. per 100 sq. feet and water adequately.

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