Worm Bin Run-Off

Question from Tom:

Do you know of anyone that has collected the run off water from
several bins and processed the water for a spray. Does the water
contain the “leeched” nutrients and minerals that could be used, for
example, as a additive to house plants.

Hi Tom,
What you’ve described is actually what a LOT of people would refer to as “worm tea” (“vermicompost tea” etc) – largely thanks to misleading info provided by worm bin manufacturers. The best vermicompost tea is of course actually made using finished (nicely stabilized) vermicompost.

Can leachate be used as a liquid fertilizer? Absolutely – but it’s important to realize that not all these drainage liquids are created equal!

The “quality” (for plant fertilizing purposes) will depend on the age of the bin, how well it’s been maintained, and what materials have been added to it. For example, a fairly new system that’s been overfed and just generally poorly maintained, will likely have a leachate that contains high concentrations of anaerobic metabolites – some of which may be phytotoxic (harmful to plants). On the flip side, if you are collecting liquid from mature bins (with lots of finished vermicompost in them) that have been properly maintained, the drainage liquid will likely be quite similar to actual vermicompost tea.

If I was going to use leachate from a newer system I’d likely dilute it with rain water (or aged tap water), and perhaps even aerate it before putting it to use. I’d also likely use it for outdoor gardens rather than smaller container plants.

Just my 2 cents! Hope this helps.

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  1. My bucket system tends to run wet and I pour the leachate off into the garden beds. More paper and other bedding would help that, but I tend to have either lots of bedding or lots of food, usually at different times.

    • JOHN G.
    • August 1, 2012

    I have used water from a well developed bed with great result’s , but you have to cut it in half with water.

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2012

    Hi John,
    You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head there! Using leachate from a mature bin AND diluting it is a great way to ensure that you end up with a decent liquid fertilizer (something much closer to actual vermicompost tea). I think where people might get into trouble is assuming the liquid draining out from a new bin is just as good.

    • glenys morris
    • August 3, 2012

    Hi I never seem to get leachate from my worms, although I freeze my food first. I am not sure if I don’t give enough water to them and I have them in a large plastic bin. they are kept outside and are very active. thanks glenys

    • JOHN G.
    • August 4, 2012

    Glenys hi.

    I keep my red’s in discarded bath tub’s ,with the drain’s headed down hill an put screen wire over the drain hole’s.The have it high enough to put a bucket under the drain an catch the good stuff ,lol I put a piece of carpet (cut to fit on the surface) an when it rain’s the bucket’s fill up ________hope this help;s to give u idea’s . JOHN G.

    • Bentley
    • August 7, 2012

    Hi Glenys,
    I definitely wouldn’t be concerned if you are not seeing any leachate. While it’s important to make sure the contents of the bin stay moist, producing drainage liquid should not actually be the goal. I always recommend focusing on creating top quality vermicompost instead – that way you can create an even better “tea” and you don’t need to worry about compromising the worm habitat.

    • Bentley
    • August 7, 2012

    John – sounds cool! Given the size, and how well they drain, I think old bath tubs could work very well. Since they are exposed to the elements, it obviously makes more sense that there would be a lot more leachate – and it would likely be great stuff once the beds are fairly mature.

    • JOHN G.
    • August 7, 2012

    Bentley hi.

    My bed’s are probably about 3 years old ,an I keep them well fed lol maybe too much .An while I am here there’s a little tidbit I would like to add ,the black soldier fly’s larva makes wonderful fish bait .I catch all kind’s of fish with them ,in fact I like them better than the worms lol ,TTYL JOHN G.

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