August 22, 2008

Worm Facts

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:02 am

W O R M  F A C T S 

 Can You Use Any Variety of Worm For Vermicompost?
NO!   We recommend that you use a special variety of red worm called Eisenia fetida. These are not a garden variety worm like you might find in your backyard….those are called earth worms.

You cannot put a container of Eisenia fetida red worms in your garden because they will quickly wiggle off to find a good aged manure pile and disappear.   SO, if you want to have a worm bin filled with worms that will eat your garbage and make castings and rich organic fertilizer, you need Eisenia fetida red worms. 

Do Vermicompost Worms Need Special Care?
red worms want a warm, dark, moist place to live. They thrive in a worm bin when you feed them a variety of chopped up left overs….vegetables, coffee grounds, a little fruit, bread. Worms love composted (not fresh) cow manure as well as horse, donkey, llama, and sheep manure. Never use pet droppings! And if you want an organic “end”-product you must be sure the animals providing the manure are also fed a completely organic diet.

Another way to make worms happy is to add a thin layer of shredded wet newspaper over their food, or soak some cardboard, tear it into small pieces and add it to the top.

What Turns Worms Off?

a. Worms do not like light! Too much ultraviolet light will kill them. Never leave your worm bin in the direct sunlight.

b. Worms do not like heat, which means you cannot put them into a hot compost pile. It will make them sick…or worse.

c. Worms do not like water because they breathe through their skin. Keep them moist, but not wet.

d. Worms do not like meat or cheese, too much citrus fruit gives them tummy aches, and they cannot digest tomato seeds.  Egg Shells are a big no-no as they cut their little mouths. And please avoid all fatty foods.

Important: To maintain maximum production, worms need to be kept at 55-75 degrees. Lower or higher temperatures may cause them to slow down, or even die. Take good care of your worms and they will multiply, eat your garbage and makes lots of beautiful, odorless, non-toxic vermicompost fertilizer.

What Are Worm Castings?
A worm casting (also known as worm cast or vermicast) is a biologically active mound containing thousands of bacteria, enzymes, and remnants of plant materials that were not digested by the earthworm. OK, to put it bluntly, it is worm poo. The composting process continues after a worm casting has been deposited. In fact, the bacterial population of a cast is much greater than the bacterial population of either ingested soil, or the worm’s gut.

An important component of this dark mass is humus, a complicated material formed during the breakdown of organic matter. One of its components, humic acid, provides many binding sites for plant nutrients, such as calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur and phosphorus. These nutrients are stored in the humic acid molecule in a form readily available to plants, and are released when the plants require them. ~Mary Appelhof, Worms Eat My Garbage, 1982, p. 68

Why Are Worm Castings So Good For Plants and Gardens?
Castings contain slow release nutrients which are readily available to plants. Castings contain the plant nutrients which are secreted by the worms. They dissolve slowly rather than allowing intermediate nutrient leaching. The product has excellent soil structure, porosity, aeration and water retention capabilities. The product can insulate plant roots from extreme temperatures, reduce erosion and control weeds. It is odorless and consists of 100% recycled materials.

The activity of the worm’s gut is like a miniature composting tube that mixes, conditions, and inoculates the residues. Moisture, pH, and microbial populations in the gut are favorably maintained for a synergistic relationship, and then a terrific end product. ~Dr. Bill Becker, “The Benefits of Earthworms,” Natural Food and Farming, July/August, 1991, p. 12

 Worm castings will not burn even the most delicate plants and all nutrients are water-soluble, making it an immediate plant food and the wealth of good bacteria is an excellent all natural pesticide. Minerals leach directly into the ground.

When mixed in water and allowed to steep,Vermicompost makes a wonderful “worm tea” that is full of nutrients.          No, Please DON’T drink it!  Pour it on your plants! The effects of earthworm castings used in any of these ways are immediately visible. They make plants grow fast and strong. More information is below…..

 What Types of Nutrients Do Worm Castings Contain?
Castings contain: 5 times the available nitrogen, 7 times the available potash and 1 1/2 times more calcium than found in 15cm of good top soil. Castings are supplied with available nutrients which are water soluble and immediately available to plant life. You will find that most potting soils have nutrient life of 2-5 days. Potting Soil made from worm castings will last up to 6 times longer. 

Worm castings are much cheaper and do a much better job. Worm castings hold 2-3 times their weight in water. That means you water less and the pot will stay damper for a longer period. Worm castings will not burn your plants; unlike using any fresh raw manures (cow, horse, etc.) which can burn root systems if it is not applied properly. ~Kids for Landcare: Wormwatch, Education Department of South Australia, 1992, p. 35.

What Are Vermicomposting and Vermi Conversion?
The first, thermophylic composting, has been in use for more than 60 years in the US. The process raises the temperature to over 131 degrees F. to help ensure a product free of weed seeds and harmful organisms. The second, vermi-composting, adds valuable attributes such as water retention, texture, nutrient availability, a rich earthy fragrance and an ability to fight soil-borne plant diseases such as root rot. ~Resource Conversion Corporation, San Diego, CA.

“Vermicompost outperforms any commercial fertilizer I know of…” states Dr. Clive A. Edwards, who began his earthworm research in his native England in the early 1970s before coming to Ohio State. “I think the key factor is microbial activity in the worm castings is 10 to 20 times higher than in the soil and organic matter that the worm ingests.” ~Dr. Clive Edwards, in “Worldwide Progress in Vermicomposting” by Gene Logsdon in BioCycle October 1994, p. 63.

Though the science of vermiconversion is not new, using worms to convert waste into soil additives has been done on a relatively small scale. “Nobody is doing it on a large commercial scale” says John Beerman, General Manager of Operations, Canyon Recycling in San Diego.

Is Vermicompost A Widely Used Product?
The soil additive is marketed in the form of mulch, compost, or vermicompost, in bulk or in bags. “We can’t make enough earthworm castings to meet our demand here,” says John Barbour, AP in The Orange County Register, Friday March 1, 1996. Hard-working worms: Turning Green Horticulture Waste into Greenbacks

Redworm castings contain a high percentage of humus. Humus helps soil particles form into clusters which create channels for the passage of air and improve its capacity to hold water. Humic acid present in humus, provides binding sites for the planet nutrients but also releases them to the plants upon demand. Humus is believed to aid in the prevention of harmful plant pathogens, fungi, nematodes and bacteria. ~Blueprint for a Successful Vermiculture Compost System, Developed by Dan Holcombe and J.J. Longfellow 1995.

What Is Worm Tea & How Do I Make It?
For centuries, farmers have been straining water through vermicompost and calling the liquid ‘Worm Tea’. When prepared properly, worm tea should be virtually odorless and is a valuable organic amendment for the soil, in potted plants and for use in organic gardening. In the last few years, research into the soil food web has lead to the development of worm tea brewers. Worm tea is brewed using vermicompost and other organic materials such as molasses, sea kelp and other compounds as a starter and then water is added. A pump with special nozzles is then used to to oxygenate the mixture over an 18-24 hour period. The microbes (good guys) are increased exponentially and the mixture, with a shelf life of 15 hours, can be sprayed on lawns, flowers, trees with complete safety.

There is evidence that worm tea will cure tomato blight, leaf curl on fruit trees. It can safely replace conventional fertilizers used in areas such as schools, municipal parks and playgrounds where children and pets are of concern. Many conventional fertilizers are unfriendly to the eco system and are now (or will soon) be banned because of the dangers they pose.

Worm Tea is an excellent, 100% natural, non-toxic alternative to pesticides and fertilizers. For web sites offering more information about vermicompost and worm tea, visit Resources.

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