By Lisa Lonsdale
Have you been looking for a natural, organic fertilizer to give your soil a nutrient boost? Try worm castings. These are the excrement of an earth worm or red worm, which can be found in natural soil everywhere. The process of raising worms to produce castings is called “Vermiculture.”
Worm castings are packed with natural minerals and contain up to 11 times more nutrient value than topsoil, including nitrogen, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, potash and magnesium. The benefits of these increased nutrients are varied but include the following:
• Enhanced seed germination
• Increased drought resistance
• Increased insect repellency
• Inhibited growth of fungi
• Improved plant structure development
• Increased fruit and vegetable yield
• Decreased water usage
• Non-toxic and purely organic
• Can be used on all plants
Castings can be purchased by the bagful from a local vermiculturalist (find them online) or from commercial home centers. If you are interested in a little extra work, you can raise the worms yourself in simple-to-make containers. The worms (red worms work best) can be purchased or you can collect them yourself. Just dig under any large potted plant that sits directly on damp dirt. You should be able to find dozens of red worms that can be added to your prepared bins. You then feed them your daily kitchen scraps and they turn those into rich castings. There are dozens of tutorials available online, so if you have the motivation, you can be “growing your own” in no time.
Another alternative is to create a miniature compost pile. Create a 2×2-foot frame out of old wood or rocks, 6 inches tall. Fill it with cuttings, grass clipping, egg shells, some coffee grounds and a few banana peels. Cover it with some potting soil. Keep this area damp and in several weeks, you can dig down about 6 inches and find lots of red worms. Gather them up and put them into newly watered garden areas. They will help aerate the soil and provide their castings “in place.” Keep your little composter moist and you will have a continuous supply of red worms. Email me if you want more tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.