Worm Bin Leachate Use

Here are some good questions from Jessica:

During a particularly wet out-of-balance period, a large
amount of leachate collected in the base of my flow through worm bin.
From other posts I understand that the problem with “feeding” this
stuff to plants is that it is potentially anaerobic and full of foul
things. What I’m wondering is does it still contain nutrients? If so,
how can we safely recoup them? In particularly I’m wondering about
aerating the leachate? For example, with an electric (e.g. aquarium)
aerating? Or, with hydrogen peroxide? The latter seems to be a less
messy solution and (from what little I’ve read) seems like a viable
solution. Thanks.

Hi Jessica,
Leachate definitely contains nutrients, and in fact there are many people who swear by it as a plant fertilizer. I personally prefer to be somewhat more cautious myself, since as you’ve pointed out, it can indeed be “full of foul things” (love how you put that – haha)! Anaerobic conditions can result in the creation of phytotoxic (plant harming) compounds such as alcohols etc, so you can end up with some less-than-inspiring results if you do choose to use the liquid as-is! If simply pouring the stuff onto outdoor beds, you may not notice any negative effects, especially if you have a nice rich soil – but there would likely be a greater chance of negative repercussions when adding to potted plants.

I generally recommend that people aerate and dilute leachate (preferably with rain water) before using it. Even just pouring in the water in (then perhaps pouring all of it from one container to another) would likely help to add quite a bit of oxygen and get things headed in the right direction. Use of an aquarium pump would certainly do the trick as well.

I definitely WOULDN’T recommend adding hydrogen peroxide however since this will kill off most/all of microbes in the liquid, and potentially even those in the soil you end up adding the liquid to. I suppose that if you didn’t add TOO much at once (i.e. just enough to oxygenate and kill off anaerobic microbes) the liquid could still provide immediate nutrient value and perhaps longer term nutrient release in the form of the dead microbial biomass (being munched on by the “good guys” in your soil). Just not sure how you would find that “perfect” amount.

Anyway – hope this helps!

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    • Carolyn
    • April 7, 2010

    To make best use of Worm Bin Leachate I would put a few inches of cardboard bits on top of the bin and pour the leachate on top making sure the cardboard was way more than enough to absorb all of the leachate.

    To find out how much hydrogen peroxide to use to airate the leachate I would start by seeing how much hydrogen peroxide is added to the water in bags used to ship live fish long distances. We are probably talking a drop or two here not ounces. It may also not be the lack of oxygen in the leachate but the build of of carbon dioxide in it.

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