March 2019

Measuring the Benefits of Castings & Leachate on Plant Growth

** Guest Post Alert ** – Hi everyone, Bentley here. I just wanted to let you know about a new experiment and blog series being put together by Myckel (from the Netherlands)! This is a topic a lot of people are interested in, and Myckel (as a plant biologist) is just the man for the job. I’m very excited, and appreciative of the time and effort he will be putting into this. Just so you know, Myckel will be added as an RWC author, and all future posts will only have his commentary (if I have comments I will leave them at the bottom like everyone else).

Take it away, Myckel…😉

Last week there was a question here on Red Worm Composting regarding the usefulness of leachate and worm castings for plants. Bentley gave an insightful answer to the question, but the bottom-line is I felt that this actually needs to be tested. As a plant biologist I felt the need to share my view on the topic as well (in the comments section of the post linked above), but it kept me thinking that there is much “copied from others” information and it would be worthwhile to set up an experiment to see and measure how big the advantage (or not) worm castings and leachate have for plant growth.

With spring just started I will be running an experiment to test this and if you would like to join me, feel free to do so, because it would be interesting to see if others can replicate the experiment. I will be giving a description of when I will be doing what and some background information regarding why I do some things the way I do them. If you will replicate the experiment, but change things along the way write them down. You’ll never know if those changes will be important later on.

What are we going to do?

Over the next few months we will (more…)

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Leachate vs Castings Tea Revisited

A question from Jae:

I have a question about whether I should really use the worm leachate and worm castings that have been gathering in my farms. A lot of online articles say worm leachate can be damaging for plants while a lot of other people say leachate is actually quite good. Additionally for worm tea, which I gather is made by diluting worm castings with water has to be used immediately. Is worm tea also something that could work for plants and seeing as we have a lot of castings on our hand at the moment, is there a way to store the worm tea without using it immediately?

Hi Jae,
This is something a LOT of people wonder about – largely because of all the conflicting information out there. It is also a prime example of one of those vermicomposting topics where “it depends” is likely the most accurate answer (there are lots of topics like that in vermicomposting – haha).

Let’s start with what I feel is “bad advice” – particularly bothersome since it gets spread around by those who have quite a lot of influence. It’s this idea (more…)

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Vermicomposting Trenches vs Vermicomposting Planters

Back in the spring of 2008 vermicomposting trenches completely changed the way I look at outdoor vermicomposting and gardening. I (accidentally) discovered the magic of integrated systems – directly harnessing the “power” of worms to boost plant growth.

People have associated earthworms with soil health and plant productivity for ages. It’s no secret these lowly creatures can greatly assist us in our gardening/farming efforts, when healthy populations of them are present. You don’t really need any sort of fancy “system” either – just enrich your soil with lots of organic matter, introduce some local soil worms (if you don’t already have some) and away you go!*

Integrated systems, however, are a completely different (more…)

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Trench Vermicomposting – at the 2019 Homegrown Food Summit!

In case you haven’t “heard”, I was invited to put together a presentation for this year’s Homegrown Food Summit (2019) – the topic: Trench Vermicomposting!

I’ve been a huge fan of the summit ever since it got its start back in spring of 2015. In fact, as some of you may recall, it was thanks to Joel Karsten’s Straw Bale Gardening talk (links to a blog post I wrote on the topic) that I ended up going completely overboard with a crazy hay-bale-vermicomposting-trench project that season.

It’s truly humbling to actually be invited to present at this event – especially seeing my name alongside people like Joel Salatin and Paul Wheaton – and I couldn’t imagine a better topic than vermicomposting trenches for the occasion!

The presentation itself actually needed to be (more…)

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Silage and Old Straw/Hay Bales as Worm Food

A question from Gordon:

I live in farming country and some farmers use silage bales. They are about 2000 pounds of alfalfa and hay. Or I bad tears grain crops that won’t have time to mature. So I am wondering that after the heating time has passed, about 4 to six weeks would it be safe to put worms into the bag? the bag would provide a sealed unit with a stable humidity. If I started with a pound of worms how long would I need to leave them in to consume the feed. I could build a rack to tilt the bag to in some way direct the worms to different areas.

Hi Gordon,

This is a great question. I must admit that – living in a very active agriculture region – I find myself often looking at old rotten hay bales and other heaps of organic matter sitting in fields, imagining what would happen if I added a bunch of Red Worms! lol

The short answer is that many of these farm wastes can indeed be fantastic fodder for vermicomposting systems. But alas, things aren’t quite as cut and dried as that (ok I’ll stop now – haha).

Getting back to the giant-rotten-bales-in-the-field example I gave…

In a situation like this, where the material has been (more…)

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100 lb of Red Worms in a Single Room?

The are various reasons for people wanting to be able to raise lots of composting worms. They can be used to stock more systems (to process even more wastes and produce even more castings); they can be used for large-scale projects; they can be shared with others (helping to “spread the worm”); they can be used as a live food or fishing bait – or they can be sold for profit.

Naturally, if you can raise more worms in less space that’s even better!

Back in the “olden days” of the internet (and modern vermicomposting for that matter) a man by the name of Brian Paley wrote an article called “How To Breed, Raise, and Maintain A 100-Pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room“.

It is a very long article – nearly 14,000 words…basically the equivalent of (more…)

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