The Castings Conundrum – Part I

I received a REALLY intriguing email from one of our readers, Larry P, a number of weeks ago. It touched on a very important/relevant topic – and one that seems to have a lot of people confused.

NOTE: There is reference to a “14 Day Castings” formula in Larry’s email. As you will see, I have omitted specific (proprietary) information since it’s not meant to be publicly shared. Based on the fact that there has recently been a very heated debate on this topic on the Vermicomposters forum I want to make it CLEAR that I am in NO WAY attempting to attack OR defend anyone here. My aim is to hopefully shed some light on the topic based on what I’ve read etc. I certainly DO hope to stimulate some discussion here BUT definitely won’t tolerate mud-slinging (we’re trying to clear the water, not add more mud to it, right? haha). Ok nuff said!

I’m trying to figure out why put the compost or black peat moss through the worm. My organic chemistry professor always harped at me about Stoichiometry. If the were 6 carbons, 12 hydrogens, 3 nitrogens and 2 oxygen atoms on one side of the equation, then there should be an equal number on the other side of the equation after the reaction. There are retailers out there that say just put your worms in black peat with some chicken feed and lime and presto worms castings, ie black gold. Why not just spread the black peat? What makes the casting so much better than the black peat moss? If you start with a half bucket of black peat and the worms turn it into a half bucket of castings you still only have the same amount of carbon and nitrogen. Why are the castings so much better?


I’ve done the black peat thing. The formula is [I’ve omitted this information since it’s not meant to be shared publicly] and in 14 days you have about 10 pounds of beautiful looking castings. However are all castings equal? Are the wet mucky red wiggler castings any better just because they are fed a variety of food stuffs? So is it simple in simple out? Complex in complex out? Has anyone actually analyzed different castings? Is the value of the casting so Mother Nature complex that it can’t be analyzed? That there is more to it than just the amount of available individual elements. Just like compost really can’t be elementally technically defined.

Hi Larry,
Thanks again for bringing this up (sorry it’s taken so long for me to post something on the blog though). Rather than tackle your specific questions right off the bat, I think it’s probably not a bad idea to lay some groundwork here.
Some potential questions to get us started:
What exactly are “worm castings”?
How are “worm castings” different from “vermicompost”?
Are all castings/vermicomposts created equal?
Can you produce worm castings in 14 days?

What exactly are “worm castings”?

Worm castings are literally the little nuggets that come out the back end of earthworms (i.e. “worm poop”). They tend to be rich in plant-available nutrients, various other plant-growth-promoting substances, and countless beneficial microbes. Academic research has repeatedly shown that the use of worm castings (even in relatively small amounts) can have a significantly positive impact on plant growth. They have also been found to help protect plants from diseases and pests.

How are “worm castings” different from “vermicompost”?

One thing you’ll notice if you read a lot of the academic literature is that the term “vermicompost” is generally used more often than “worm castings”. Although these terms can be (and are) used interchangeably, “vermicompost” is almost always (if not ALWAYS) the more accurate term since it is very difficult to create a mix that is 100% pure worm castings. Invariably, even with long vermicomposting bed retention times & screening etc you are going to end up with some materials that have not passed through the digestive tract of an earthworm and/or resistant materials that are unaffected by the passage through the worm gut.

Generally, the longer the material is left to get vermi-processed, the higher the percentage of castings. Also, the higher the density of worms being employed, the more quickly you will achieve a high percentage of castings.

I still tend to use the two terms interchangeably myself – but just something to keep in mind!

Are all castings/vermicomposts created equal?

Absolutely NOT! Not even REMOTELY close. This is really where the “conundrum” lies. Everyone (and their mothers) can call their material “worm castings”. As far as I know, there is still no official castings certification board, or any real set of recognized industry standards. HOW the “castings” are created, and what “food” materials are used can both have a hugely significant impact on the type of material that get’s produced.

Assuming the vermicomposting process itself is optimized (and kept constant), the use of different food/bedding materials will result in vermicomposts with different nutrient profiles, microbial communities etc. Generally speaking, all vermicomposts produced in a reasonably “optimal” manner (as semi-oxymoronic as that might sound – haha) are going to possess beneficial qualities, and as such will help to promote plant growth.

One of the issues encountered by those using enclosed plastic bins, for example, is excess moisture. This contributes to the development of anaerobic decomposition processes, and the various resultant metabolites (some of which can actually be toxic to plants). It’s not uncommon to dump these bins many months after setting them up, only to find that much of the material at the bottom is in basically the same (undecomposed) state that it was in when added!

As such, well-aerated systems (such as various flow-through designs) have the tendency to produce the best vermicomposts (and in the shortest periods of time).

Can you produce worm castings in 14 days?

SURE! You can produce worm castings in minutes or even seconds. How fast can a worm take a poop?

The big question, though, is what percentage of castings are you going to end up with after 14 days? Well, it’s going to depend on the types of materials in the system, and the densities of worms being added. The variety of composting worm being employed will also more than likely affect the results.

The larger industrial flow-through beds – based on the original design created by Dr. Clive Edwards and his Rothamstead research team in the early 80’s – used by the likes of Worm Power, Oregon Soil Corporation, and Sonoma Valley Worms, generally have retention times of at least 30-60 days (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen mention of 60+ days as preferred by both Worm Power and Sonoma Valley). When you give the worms that much time to process the materials, you’re more than likely going to end up with a vermicompost with a high percentage of castings.

I myself have seen what really high densities of worms are capable of, so I have little doubt that you could produce a decent quantity of castings in a 14 day period – and as long as the process itself was optimized (with a good moisture/oxygen balance), whatever you were going to call the end product, I’m sure it would possess at least some beneficial properties (it would more than likely be superior to the starting materials).

Getting back to your questions, Larry…

Hopefully I’ve helped to shed some light on WHY it is beneficial to process materials using composting worms (some helpful links at the end of this post for further reading). I myself wouldn’t likely be trying to process either “peat” or “compost”, however – since these are both highly stabilized materials. If these were bedding materials that were also mixed with a fair amount of nutrient-rich “food” materials I’m sure you could produce some decent vermicompost (in 14 days? Again, this would depend on a number of different parameters). The main thing to get across here is that vermicompost is HUGELY different than peat moss alone – although it does share some of the same beneficial properties (water-retention, soil structure enhancement etc).

There has indeed been a LOT of academic research focused on vermicompost. I HIGHLY recommend that everyone (interested in the subject) checks out the Ohio State University Soil Ecology Lab website. In particular, be sure to visit the Publications page. I recently discovered that they have made many of these research articles publicly available, which is AWESOME for all those that don’t have academic library access. One article that provides a really nice overview of the topic is “THE CONVERSION OF ORGANIC WASTES INTO VERMICOMPOSTS AND VERMICOMPOST ‘TEAS’ WHICH PROMOTE PLANT GROWTH AND SUPPRESS PESTS AND DISEASES” (**Opens as a Word Document – so if you don’t have this program it might not work. For everyone who doesn’t have MS Word, I highly recommend “Open Office” – and open source equivalent).

Also, be sure to check out the Cornell Vermicompost page. It is a fairly new resource, but there is already a lot of really interesting stuff there!

As the “Part I” should indicate, I am more than likely not finished with this topic just yet.
Thanks again to Larry P for writing in!

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  1. Larry, thanks for the question and Bentley thanks for the answer! I have wondered about this 14 day casting process myself.
    I agree Bentley that anything you process through a red worm is going to be more beneficial to plants than when it went in. As well, processing peat or compost misses the great benefit of turning waste that would otherwise rot into something truly wonderful. And don’t forget that creating compost sequesters carbon instead of letting it be released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 or methane. Now if that doesn’t turn you into a worm composter, I don’t know what will.

    • Larry D.
    • November 1, 2010

    All i know is i am glad i didn’t pull into the fast lane of vermicomposting.I have been looking at ways to reduce garbage.No way you will ever hear me say,i’m a peat moss bucket user.If i quit composting garbage,i’m quitting composting worms!
    We live in a world where soon we will have to learn how to launch garbage into outerspace.Then read about where an asteroid re-entering our atmosphere was some old garbage truck that broke down.So they got rid of it too!
    Besides.I can’t watch peat disappear like a squash does.It is pretty boring composting peat.Before shot….peat.After shot….peat!
    Mary A. taught me something.Worms will always eat my garbage!

  2. Worms don’t eat all of my garbage yet but that is a goal.
    And Bentley, thanks for promoting free and open source – it’s awesome.

    • Bruce Westfall
    • November 2, 2010

    I was partway thru reading this when i remembered I hadn’t bought your BOOK! So I bought it and then kept reading.

    I hope the book is interesting and worthwhile, but even if it isn’t – I will open the .doc file from OSU with OpenOffice and give my money to Bentley ( since Bill G. has enough…)


    I do wish you included a hardcopy of an MSWord instruction manual so I could shread it and put it in the worm bin.

    • Bruce Westfall
    • November 2, 2010

    I mis-spelled my name. Sure would be nice to have it right…

    • John Duffy
    • November 2, 2010

    Your “aim” at shedding some light was very effective & diplomatic. Well done! Thanks also for the Cornell Vermicompost info…I guess that’ll be my next web stop on my nightly excursion to vermi-enlightenment. Can’t get too much information when it comes to having fun & learning about worms!
    For all the worm friends out there, enjoy the journey, the results will speak for themselves;)

    • Andrew
    • November 2, 2010

    Bentley, just to be clear, the discussion at started out discussing vermicompost/castings in general. I began with a quote from Kelly Slocum, part of which said:

    “Keep in mind that castings value is determined largely by the intended end use. If you want the castings to amend your soil for planting a fruit orchard, for instance, the castings you’d most want would be dominated by microscopic fungi, supported in castings produced by a feedstock with a high proportion of carbon material (leaves, wood, paper, cardboard, etc.). Were you looking for castings with which to amend soil that will be growing annual flowers, the product with the highest value to you would be dominated by bacteria. Bacterial castings are produced with feedstocks higher in nitrogen (greenwastes, manures, etc.). Castings that have the most generally diverse community of organisms possible are generated from feedstocks with a particular balance of carbon and nitrogen bearing materials.”

    I also referenced your interview of Allison Jack and included this excerpt:

    “We found that a 20% vermicompost amendment to potting media produced the largest seedlings compared to other plant and compost based amendments…seedling performance in vermicompost amended potting media depends on species. So while 20% amendments were great for tomato, we had to scale down to 10% or less for cabbage and delphinium…we tracked root bacteria after the seedlings were transplanted to field soil and were somewhat surprised to find significant treatment differences a month later. This means that even as the roots grow out of the original transplant plug and into the field soil, the bacterial communities continue to be influenced by the tablespoon or so of amendment that was in the plug.”

    The 14 day VC concept was just a part of the overall discussion until the person selling “the formula” joined the forum to chime in. Some forum members responded to his post (for the most part respectfully) and a dialogue ensued. In the end it came down to a very basic difference in approach to vermicomposting (JMO). One is trying to optimize VC production to sell for a profit, the other is trying to convert garbage to VC for personal use. Nothing wrong with either approach, they’re just different.

    I’m looking forward to “Part 2”. If you get the chance to communicate with Allison or Dr. Edwards, please ask them if they have a way to visually identify actual worm castings. A few of us tried screening (1/8″ screen) peat, coir or regular compost and the resulting material looks very much like screened VC.

    • Bentley
    • November 2, 2010

    Thanks for chiming in everyone

    Andrew – I actually did read the entire thread and there was a lot of interesting stuff there. Just noticed some fairly heated exchanges along the way and didn’t want to seem like I was trying to get things going over here as well.

    Interesting question re the visual identification of castings. Are you wondering if there is some way to visually determine the “quality” (percentage of castings) of a particular vermicompost? Or are you literally wondering if there is some way to determine if a particular piece of material has passed through a worm, or not? In my experience, castings themselves have a fairly distinct appearance (like little tiny pellets ).

    • Larry D.
    • November 2, 2010

    Part of the discussion is from those of us that are actually researching some of this method,is that it is meant to deceive.The black peat looks like what most of us think of as rich soil looking like.But if you screen regular peat,it looks like world class compost.
    And also see the 100 percent worm castings claim which is virtually impossible in the time frame.!00 per cent means all the matter passes through the gut of the worm.I had clumps that they don’t seem to mess with.Although at this moment,i don’t have enough ANC worms for the exact count.But reduced the size of the bucket.I’m not getting the 100 percent totals.But i may not be following it to a “T”!

  3. This is a great discussion Bentley! Thank you for organizing it the way you did. I look forward to more….

    • Bentley
    • November 2, 2010

    Hi Larry – you have touched on an important potential issue when materials like peat are being used, and such short vermicomposting periods being employed. It would be really fascinating to see how some of these quickly-created materials stack up against those produced in beds with much longer retention times.


    SHAWN – wow! Great to hear from you. I seem to have hit upon a great way to reach you. All I have to do is shout out “WORM POWER” and you’ll be here in a flash! It’s like my own personal “Worm Phone” (like the “Bat Phone” only better)!

    Teasing aside – I wonder if you might shed some light on all this? Have you guys tried out various bed retention times etc. What parameters have you used to determine that vermicompost/castings are “finished”/”ready”?

    • Andrew
    • November 2, 2010

    “…are you literally wondering if there is some way to determine if a particular piece of material has passed through a worm, or not?”

    Yes! Do you need a microscope to tell if a particular particle has passed through a worm? I’ve heard of the “tiny pellets” description, but that seems a bit too vague if the starting material has small particles in it. Screen peat, coir, regular compost or anything similar that has not been touched by a worm and they also can look like tiny pellets. My African nightcrawlers produce really big poop (almost mouse-sized “pellets”), but sometimes they’re not so big…depends on the size of the worm. They’re also not the same shape each time either. My starting material (bedding and food scraps) are much larger chunks, but even without worms this material would decompose into smaller particles. I’ll take side-by-side photos later to show you what I mean. Work is getting in the way today.

    I know this is a totally different system, but here’s what Sonoma Valley Worms say on their website (they start with hot pre-composted manure):

    “Worm Castings are the casts (manure) of a worm. It takes about a year to make 100% pure worm castings.”

    • Andrew
    • November 2, 2010

    argh! I meant to say the African nightcrawler poop are nearly the size of small mouse poop, not the size of an actual mouse.

    • Bentley
    • November 2, 2010

    HAHA! Now THOSE are some seriously BIG turds!

    Good questions, Andrew – and you definitely make some good points (re: other materials looking quite similar). Also interesting to see Jack Chambers’ (Sonoma Valley) opinion on this – one year?? Wow, I wouldn’t have thought it would take that long!

    Fascinating stuff – hopefully I can egg Shawn (from Worm Power) on enough to get his take on all this!


    • Andrew
    • November 2, 2010

    C’mon, Shawn. We need the vermicompost pros to chime in.

    I don’t have the link, but I kinda remember that in order to get “pure” castings they shovel the material back to the top of a commercial flow through reactor 2-4 times. I don’t remember why they need pure castings since that isn’t optimal to use in most gardening situations. Maybe it was for VC tea?

    • Bentley
    • November 2, 2010

    Yeah, I have come across similar info (about adding material back to the top of the system). I think it was actually in a video created by…

    (do you copy? Over)

    In my next installment I’ll write more about the different types of vermicompost I use (like you say – the REALLY pure stuff isn’t necessarily ideal for every gardening situation)

    • Larry D.
    • November 2, 2010

    Bentley has one heck of a worm phone! I talk to myself and get a busy signal!
    Andrew had me all excited about worm mouse poo! You reverse screen that! The castings don’t go through the screen. 🙂
    Like Andrew says though.All my worm specie are different sizes within their own group.My largest is euro poop.Different size poop.They poop paper if you feed it to them.Red horse manure with bedding is not pitch black.It only looks bad to the naked eye after worms poop it out!My veggies don’t even care if i check on them any more.So i know it is good stuff.Surely some is 4 months old!
    But if you have sterile peat,what quality does a sterile food source make?Even with a little sprinkle of something to force them to eat it.
    We are taught to ready our bins a week or two.It appears this method does not teach waiting! Why?

    • Kator
    • November 2, 2010

    Wow .. this is really fascinating stuff!
    I had no idea that some VC is optimally suited to certain vegetation as opposed to others – all dependent on the source of feed (although on reflection it makes sense). And that only specific portions of VC should be added to plants, especially those confined to planters etc. These subjects have a huge potential for discussion and research. Keep your PC powered up Bentley .. sounds like the makings for a new book 🙂

    • Larry P.
    • November 3, 2010

    Interesting discussion. I used this fast produced casting on some of my apple trees (I have 800) this spring as a top dressing and on my mums and marigolds when I transplanted the into their permanent location. I also sprinkled these castings on the roots of 80 new apple trees that I planted this year. The unofficial and unscientific results were that the mums and marigolds did fantastic. They’re probably the best I ever grew. The top dressing on the apple trees didn’t seem to make a difference. The apple trees I planted with the castings did very well. I didn’t lose one tree and some grew a much as 5 feet! Funny thing is that the ones that grew the best were in the poorest soil. Go figure. I don’t want to stir up mud with this question. I’m just trying to find out what the best top dressing would be for my orchard. I just bought a ton of the fast castings and spread it on part of my orchard. I’ll keep everyone informed on how those trees do next year. Two of the rows I put the castings on cropped very heavy, so if there is a good return bloom in spring of 2011 then that’s a BIG plus for using the castings. Apple trees a notorious for cropping every other year.

    • Heather Rinaldi
    • November 3, 2010

    Just a few more words regarding the environment/peat. Even if the peat is “renewable”, it seems to take a long time to grow back, which is not sustainable. Also, it grows in marshland and sensitive wetlands, and heavy machinery, roads built to the wetlands, diesel fumes of the machines and carbon footprint of transporting and bagging peat, and habitat destruction of the surrounding area to harvest the peat…is not my idea of environmentally friendly.
    Keeping stuff from the landfill, on the other hand, is a big thumbs up!

    • Larry D.
    • November 3, 2010

    Also,i operated heavy machinery for over 25 years.I never sat on a piece of heavy machinery that didn’t leak hydraulic fluid,or grease.Which if you don’t grease heavy machinery daily,it leads to catastrophic parts failure! Where does that leach to in a peat bog or marsh?I know they don’t use people with wheelbarrows and mules!
    Hydraulic fluid has been determined to lead to cancer in laboratory animals.Any one who does not believe me,just read the warning label when you are in a parts store that carries it.You can argue that any thing is unsafe.Don’t just think they lightly lift peat from peat bogs though!

    • Andrew
    • November 3, 2010

    “I’m just trying to find out what the best top dressing would be for my orchard… I just bought a ton of the fast castings and spread it on part of my orchard.”

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that even “speed castings” will help your orchard, especially the areas with poor soil. Basically even poor quality vermicompost is better than zero vermicompost (VC). Just like badly cooked food is better than no food at all. “All that glitters is not gold” and “All that is gold does not glitter”. The best looking VC is NOT necessarily the best VC. I realize freight costs for a ton of VC will limit where you get your VC from, but it’s certainly worth shopping around for your next purchase.

    The quote I posted earlier is several years old and new research data may have supplanted it, but here’s the part that would seem applicable to an apple orchard:

    “If you want the castings to amend your soil for planting a fruit orchard, for instance, the castings you’d most want would be dominated by microscopic fungi, supported in castings produced by a feedstock with a high proportion of carbon material (leaves, wood, paper, cardboard, etc.).”

    I don’t have a link or reference (maybe Bentley has it), but I recall reading about VC producers that can evaluate a particular agricultural situation and then suggest a particular blend of VC and/or VC tea (aerated) that would best apply to that situation. I imagine Jack at Sonoma Valley Worms works with vineyards. The folks at Wormpower are working with Cornell Univ. researchers (Allison Jack among them) to learn more about VC and its role in combating various plant diseases, so they might be able to steer you in the right direction.

    • Kator
    • November 3, 2010

    It may take some time and a good deal of experimentation to chart both findings – VC composition that’s optimally suited to certain vegetation and proportionally correct application. I suspect that it is being researched for commercial product development; however sharing experiences in this forum is really relevant towards success. So many talented and knowledgable participants.

    I’m experimenting with specific blended feed mix combinations. It’s a small indoor newbie project utilizing three bins being maintained in constant, identical environments.

    Thanks to the shared experience of others, not to mention Bentley’s mentoring, I’ve been able to avoid some potentially serious problems and make some great gains. My purpose is to find the best means for me to increase my population of wigglers in the shortest period of time without using commercial feeds. Come spring I hope to have a healthy supply of wigglers to transfer to outdoor garden trenches plus a winter’s production of VC.

    Thanks to this discussion, I now want to factor in the composition of the castings that each of the three feed combinations produce. Love this forum.

    • Andrew
    • November 4, 2010

    I hope this photo shows up. It has 4 groups of material. 3 are worm castings and the 4th is unknown, but came with a shipment of worms. It might be castings or just bedding material. Sorry parts are blurry.

  4. The top part does look like mouse poo.

    • Andrew
    • November 4, 2010

    hmmm…the photo got cut off. There should be 4 groups of particles:

    • Andrew
    • November 4, 2010

    Another try to post the photo. Bentley, please delete this if it doesn’t work.

    • Larry D.
    • November 4, 2010

    I think Bentley may be soon to be a father again.He was at the hospital earlier today.Patiently we wait!
    Andrew,i think it is the band width or something.# 26 looks like a winner!

    • Larry D.
    • November 11, 2010

    Read this official experiment!

    WP168 (FEI-1117-755200) Use of Sphagnum peat to optimize contaminated soil characteristics for chronic earthworm ecotoxicity assessments.
    Start time: 8:00 AM
    Feisthauer, N.1, Stephenson, G.1, Crumb, J.1, Olaveson, K.1, 1 Stantec Consulting Ltd., Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Site-specific ecotoxicity testing of contaminated soils provides useful information for the assessment of risk to terrestrial organisms. The most commonly tested earthworm species are Eisenia andrei and E. fetida. Both are compost worms, and their natural habitat is moist, highly organic fine-textured soils. However, the physicochemical characteristics of site soils often constitute a suboptimal habitat for survival, growth and reproduction of earthworms. Soil contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons as a result of oil drilling activities are often very clayey subsurface soils with little organic matter. Earthworm reproduction is usually very poor in these contaminated soils and in uncontaminated reference soils that have similar physicochemical characteristics to the site soils, but are free of contamination. Since the soil physicochemical characteristics have a strong influence on earthworm reproduction, the effect on reproduction attributable to soil petroleum hydrocarbon contamination often cannot be determined. As a result, 63-day E. andrei reproduction tests were conducted with uncontaminated reference and petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated site soils amended with a soil conditioner that would decrease soil bulk density and provide more organic matter but would not otherwise change the physicochemical characteristics of test soils. The soil conditioner was buffered (CaCO3) sphagnum peat. It is well tolerated by earthworms and is relatively inert since earthworms do not use it as a food source. Reference and site soils were amended with 0, 1.25, 2.5, 5 and 10% peat. Total and bioavailable concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons were determined in amended and non-amended soils. Significant increases in earthworm reproduction occurred in the reference and contaminated soils at the 2.5% peat treatment, relative to reproduction in the 0% treatments. Preliminary test results suggest that amending site soils that are suboptimal for earthworm reproduction with buffered peat is an effective method to discriminate effects on earthworm reproduction that are attributable to soil physicochemical characteristics versus contaminants in soil.

  5. As the author of 14 Day Worm Castings allow me to answer as many questions as I can keeping in mind I am not trying to instigate anything but rather clear the air. If anyone has further question I will be more than happy to oblige.

    First off apparently this has encouraged some great discussions which is a good thing not only for the vermiculture industry but also organic gardening, so a quick thanks to Bentley.

    Many folks have asked and stated that worm castings from one environmental setup are better than another based on the food fed to the worms. This is completely false…

    The quality of worm castings is not based on what goes in but what comes out of a worm as worm poop.

    What actually makes worm castings so beneficial is due to the bacteria in the worm’s digestive system. It has nothing to do with whether you feed them lettuce or celery…

    To stress this further, worm castings are not fertilizer as most try to sell it as but rather soil enablers that help to produce the needed bacteria, fungi… in the soil to assist in root growth and plant growth.
    One fallacy is that one needs to fertilize plants when in reality the whole concept of worm castings and or vermicompost is to feed the soil which in turn feeds the plants and not the other way around.

    OK, now onto the 14 Day Worm Castings process. First off the eBook offers three types of bedding materials which have been proven, two of which are renewable resources.

    Funny how one non-renewable resource has been picked out of three without mention of the other two???

    To accompany this is the fact the ones that have openly complained have admitted to not purchasing the eBook and reading it and have stated they would not…

    As for:
    “The 14 day VC concept was just a part of the overall discussion until the person selling “the formula” joined the forum to chime in. Some forum members responded to his post (for the most part respectfully) and a dialogue ensued.”

    As the post mentions first off for the most part…

    Secondly all I asked if these same people putting down only one of three bedding materials drove a horse and buggy with a pooper scooper???


    Perhaps they drove a car or truck to the local fueling station, hence depleting another natural resource known as petroleum from the planet?

    This was not likened very well… Wonder why???

    I have never claimed to be 100% green and never will however try to do my part as well as help others do theirs.

    Allow me to elaborate on the peat bogs and heavy equipment that leaks oil and hydraulic fluids…

    As previously stated…

    “Also, I operated heavy machinery for over 25 years. I never sat on a piece of heavy machinery that didn’t leak hydraulic fluid, or grease. Which if you don’t grease heavy machinery daily, it leads to catastrophic parts failure!”

    This was a post relating to harvesting peat from natural blogs.

    I too have operated heavy machinery on construction sites as well as on farms. Apparently the folks that state this have never been to a farm and seen a combine for instance??? A piece of heavy equipment used to harvest corn which also utilizes hydraulic fluid and grease on a daily basis followed by another piece of heavy equipment, a dump trailer which utilizes hydraulic fluid and grease across the fields to catch the processed corn which ends up on most folks dinner tables and leaks on the farm soil???

    One cannot have their cake and eat it too… sorry this just doesn’t cut it or make any sense!!!

    In essence, before you knock something down, at least have the decency to read it.

    Thanks for your time,


    • Larry D.
    • January 7, 2011

    What you fail to understand,is that you are offending more people than you realize.You did happen to bring up religion to back your actions that was offending people in another forum! Why?

    • Larry D.
    • January 7, 2011

    My comment about the black peat and heavy machinery has to do with articles i read on the destruction of natural peat bogs all over the world,and the creatures that live there.Most corn fields are already poisoned with fertilizers and pesticides any way! Some of which comes from petroleum! The petroleum in peat bogs comes only from heavy machinery.It affects the natural inhabitants!
    All one has to do is google peat bogs,and you will see for yourselves.Some people do and don’t believe in global warming.But we don’t want it as an excuse to keep on doing things that are offensive to most.And your comment was on a website that promotes reduce,reuse,recycle.Of course it will offend people when you say your worms are not able to compost garbage,when everyone else on the site you said that to is doing just that!

    • Larry D.
    • January 7, 2011

    This particular statement below came from the Earthworm digest.I have literally spend hours and hours trying to find something that backs the claim about castings Bruce is claiming.Even renowned scientists are saying that feedstock is important to castings.All i am asking is where does this information come from that black peat is equal or superior to a diverse blend.I can fill up a book with the statements that peat is an inferior product.But i want each of you to see for yourself.Do not believe what a person who is marketing peat tells you.Do your own findings.Then post them here,or at
    Here is just one statement i am sharing!

    I know something of what he’s talking about. I recently went to my local nursery, to look at bags of castings. On this visit, only one brand sat on the shelves. The label read “Pure worm castings”, and prices ran $20 for 18 liters (about 0.6 cubic feet) and $29 for 30 liters (about one cubic foot). I took a bag and examined the fine-grain, jet-black castings inside. Again, in a discussion with the castings producer at that conference, I learned a reason for the color. “It’s black peat, mined in Canada. It’s very, very old material, on its way to becoming an oil deposit. There’s very little nutrition there for the worms, and the castings are equally poor,” he explained. Worm castings aren’t always black—the color depends on the feedstock. Black may look attractive to customers, however and that’s what sells the product. (On a previous visit to that nursery, I found castings that looked to be at least one-quarter fine-screened wood. That’s definitely not what comes out the back end of a worm!) Back at the office, I looked at partially dried castings from the four bins we keep. They were a handsome brown.

  6. Larry,

    First, I am a Christian man that tries to apply Christianity to my everyday life and would not be where I am today without it. I am proud of my beliefs and will not be phony, shunning away from my beliefs that I try applying to my everyday existence or be made to feel guilty for them. I am not here to argue but rather state my opinions and beliefs much the same as you are…

    I did not state that worms cannot eat garbage. In fact I have several worm bins raising several different species of worms which I utilize vegetable scraps, newspapers, cardboard… only! I only stated the process within the book will not work with food scraps as they can take more than the two weeks to break down alone.

    I have even stated on a number of occasions that the ebook includes three types of worm bedding materials we have found that work, two of which are completely renewable resources. In fact I will have over 6 cubic yards of material later on this spring once I sift some materials out back for my worm bedding which is one of the recommended materials.

    Most all worm farms use and promote agricultural lime to adjust the pH when needed. Would this not fall under the same concept of depleting and or contaminating another natural resource? According to numerous studies the mining of the lime has harmful environmental impacts. I myself cut as much “dead” hardwood from my property each year as I can and save the ashes from the fireplace in 55 gallon steel drums which I use in the worm beds when needed. By utilizing the ash I was able to “limit” my usage of lime this past year to less than 10 lbs.

    I am an advocate of recycling and believe I have a realistic outlook realizing most people will not change their lifestyles to become as totally green as they could be. Rather if we get more people involved in doing just a little bit the world will be a better place.

    I guess it is my upbringing that comes into play as where a person(s) has the authority to hammer on another for using and or contaminating one nonrenewable resource while they continue using and contaminating other nonrenewable resources themselves. Complicate this with the fact that the few that have actually tried to hammer myself, have not even read the book as they have openly expressed in their own posts and statements. Didn’t most Americans become disgusted when the law makers did the same by passing a healthcare bill without ever reading it and know what was really in it?

    Going back to the corn fields… yes most are already contaminated, however what about the ones promoting organic produce. The oil and hydraulics are leached into the soil only to be turned in and spread later in the season or the following year.

    What about the exhaust from the machinery as well as our own vehicles depleting a nonrenewable resource and polluting not only the immediate area but rising into the atmosphere affecting virgin wooded areas, water supplies, native species… globally. Do we tell everyone to stop using their vehicles immediately?

    Or do we use a better approach promoting the idea of limiting the usage by preplanning ones weekly routes and not making unnecessary trips to the local store?

    We will never eliminate the use and or contamination of natural nonrenewable resources on our planet at least not in our lifetime however the key to success is to “limit” what we use and “return back” to the earth, i.e vermicomposting, mulching or composting grass clippings… whenever we can.


    • Bentley
    • January 7, 2011

    Hi Guys,
    I have no interest in getting involved in debates about 14 day castings, religion or hydraulic fluid leaking into peat bogs, so I’ll stay well clear of all that!

    Bruce wrote:

    “The quality of worm castings is not based on what goes in but what comes out of a worm as worm poop.”

    I’ll start by saying I basically agreed with the rest of what you wrote, Bruce (about the biology of castings being the key and not getting hung up on the “fertilizer” component – absolutely!)

    The statement above, however, has me puzzled. I agree that what comes out is the KEY, but the fact is, what goes in affects what comes out. You can’t claim that worm castings created from paper sludge and banana peels is going to be exactly the same as castings made from pre-composted dairy manure etc etc. That’s just not the case, and there are plenty of academic results to illustrate this.

    There would be similarities for sure, but it’s unlikely that the microbial community would the same – and the nutrients certainly wouldn’t be.

    If I eat only Doritos, and you eat a well-balanced diet of organic produce, there’s no denying the fact that we’re going to produce different waste products! (not the most pleasant analogy, but what can ya do? haha)

    You mentioned “quality” – and that is an important word. It would obviously be important for us to come up with an agreed upon definition of this term before being able to fully discuss this topic.

    Anyway – interesting discussion. Definitely not trying to detract from what you are saying/doing in general, I just don’t happen to agree with some of what you said.

    I am actually fascinated with the 14-day concept, and would love to see how the resultant castings stacked up against those produced in beds with longer retention times.

  7. Larry,

    I will not continue this as I am not claiming peat moss to be a food source even though the worms eat it much the same as newspaper which also has no nutritional value hence leaving an inferior end product. This is why the eBook notes the worms need additional food sources… which are nutritional hence leaving behind a “true” worm casting. What I was referring to is that a well rounded diet whether you add any combination of fruits and or vegetables will have the same end results as long as in moderation…


  8. OK – Gotcha, Bruce
    I just zoned in on that one isolated statement – I have not read your eBook, so I definitely didn’t mean to imply anything re: your overall philosophy/approach etc

    I also think it’s also important to note that different castings can be great for different applications. So it’s important to be careful about saying one is better than the other etc (again – no referring to anything you said – just speaking in general terms)

  9. Bentley

    I guess I should have elaborated more on this but what I was referring to it just because one feeds their worms tomatoes and I don’t does not mean that one worm casting is better than another as long as both are fed a well balanced diet.

    Yes I could feed my worm’s just peat or newspaper which they could survive on for quite some time; however the worms would not be as healthy or as fat as worms fed a rounded diet, hence leaving behind an inferior casting.

    I have always stressed to feed variety and everything in moderation versus just throwing in potatoes for instance. So in my short comings I was stating what I have always stated without elaborating here on your blog.

    By the way, I emailed you a copy of the very controversial eBook in question 🙂


    • Larry D.
    • January 7, 2011

    Bruce,here is one of your own statements:
    As for the renewable sources, the eBook does contain several types of bedding material tried and proven, one of which is totally renewable. So in short, and I do not mean to sound offensive, but do not knock down something when you have not read it and do not know what it contains…
    And when i asked why if you had a renewable resource,why were you yourself not using it? You never did answer! The casting paragraph someone else said in my comment above,holds the answer! That is all i need to say! I am not going to argue here any more!

    • Andrew
    • January 7, 2011

    “… just because one feeds their worms tomatoes and I don’t does not mean that one worm casting is better than another as long as both are fed a well balanced diet.”

    Unfortunately that is not what is implied on Bruce’s website touting his method. The blurb for that method specifically criticizes manure, food scraps, newspaper & cardboard as material that will produce inferior castings. The discussion on along with the original content of this blog centered on how we could improve the quality of vermicompost/castings by what we feed our worms. A “well balanced diet” is definitely part of that process since an unbalanced diet often results in a big mess, but the components mentioned above can definitely be part of that balanced diet.

    I will point out again that Bruce’s system seems to be designed for folks who want to sell VC as a business. The great majority of readers of RWC and other vermicomposting sites simply want to recycle food & garden waste and turn it into a valuable soil amendment. So there is a huge disconnect right from the beginning. One system relies on bedding & food stock that must be purchased (black peat, humus manure, etc.), while the other system uses bedding & food stock that would otherwise be dumped into landfill.

    With the exception of some indoor worms who get fed Purina Earthworm Chow along with other material, my worms are mostly fed old leaves and food scraps. I occasionally add discarded straw bedding from a pet shop that keeps rabbits and guinea pigs. I have no idea what bacteria or fungi are dominant in the resultant VC, but my guess it’s a pretty wild party in there. I’ll even go out on a limb and claim that my VC microbial population is more diverse and abundant than that in VC produced from store-bought bedding & food. Of course there’s no reasonable way to prove my claim, so take it for what it’s worth.

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