Spring is here and the worms are hungry. Cocoons, and baby worms are appearing by the minute. Here are a couple of pics from this week’s castings harvest.
Earthworms have a couple of jobs, and depending on your goals you will need to decide what worm is best for you. Earthworms feed on decaying organic matter and produce castings. Worm castings (worm poop) is nitrogen rich, pH balanced, humous that is ready to be absorbed by plants roots immediately. Earthworms are the intestines of the soil and are top soil producers. Beyond soil production, their other job is to tunnel through the ground aerating and mixing the soil as they work. Earthworms are also the “plow of the soil” mixing layers of earth while they eat, tunnel, and deposit their castings. These tunnels allow oxygen and water to reach roots of plants and break up compacted soil for greater root penetration and growth.
Red Worms (eisenia foteida) If your goal is composting and worm casting production, this prolific producer is your worm. Well suited for bin raising, not a candidate for adding directly to soil.
European Nightcrawler (eisenia hortensis) Larger worm that is an excellent for composting and fishing. Well suited for bin raising, not a candidate for adding directly to soil.
Alabama Jumper (amynthas corticis) Large worm that is a powerful aerator. Strong worm that is ideal for adding to garden or soil and can burrow deep in hard packed soil. These worms are deep divers and do a great job of mixing layers of the soil, can be bin raised but are better suited for the soil.
A few weeks ago I had noticed a few brown patches from my neighbors yards creeping close to mine. Within a few days affected areas were well into my grass. Upon further inspection of the pattern and damage it appeared to be the dreaded chinch bug. The little critters love dry conditions and love to eat away at the healthy roots of grass. I quickly brewed up some worm tea and made a liberal application to my yard. Within a couple of days, my neighbor and I noticed a difference and are happy to see the grass is on it’s way to recovering.
Worm tea is an all natural inexpensive way to beat back garden and lawn pests, and has saved me loads of money and headaches. The beneficial micro organisms in your actively aerated tea will add life back to the soil and are predacious to many pests attacking lawns and vegetables.
Last Spring was the first time my parents used worm castings exclusively to fertilize their garden. My mom and dad claimed their best tomato crop they can remember. We used a handful of castings with each tomato seedling, and the results were terrific. Even in one of the driest and hottest years on record, the taste, yield, and size of the tomatoes were outstanding.
Worm castings or earthworm manure is the best all natural fertilizer you can get. Beyond Potassium and Nitrogen, worm castings are alive with beneficial microbes. Beneficial bacteria, nematodes, and other tiny beneficials that will add life to plants and soil. You can maximize your castings harvest by brewing compost tea. You will need an aquarium pump, water, castings, and some unsulfured molasses to amplify the effects. Worm castings are the only manure that can be directly absorbed by plants roots. They are perfectly pH balanced and won’t burn up plants like other high in Nitrogen manures.
I have tried several models of flow through systems and continue to tinker to get the results I’m looking for. The idea is for the finished castings to fall through the grate at the bottom of the bin and the worms to work towards the top of the bin.
Materials: square metal tubing, plywood, braided cable, 1.5″ self tapping metal screws, small I beam we found for the base bar to mount winches, and 2 winches (one we salvaged and another from Tractor Supply @$20) for pulling each direction.
We welded a bar to slide along the bottom of the bin to agitate the castings through the grate. I have tried other versions without the cutting bar, and castings tend to get clumpy and stuck. Stay tuned for the big reveal when we add worms and a few finishing touches.
The Garden Volunteers of South Texas will be hosting their monthly “Essentials of Gardening” from 12:15 – 3 PM tomorrow at the San Antonio Garden Center (3310 N. New Braunfels at Funston, next to the Botanical Garden.) Dr. Jerry Parsons will be speaking first on year round garden planning. I will follow him w/ a worm composting presentation. Admission is free but a $5 donation is encouraged. Come join us!
For large jobs of sifting worms from castings or compost I use my Texas Worm Harvester, but for smaller jobs I have built a small box sifter. With some scrap materials, and the left over 1/4 inch wire mesh I had I put together this sifter. I have also seen where other worm farmers use 1/8 inch screen, for my use I have found the 1/4 inch to do just fine. Separating worms from castings using this or the harvester method is the first step I take and removes most of the worms are course unprocessed organic matter. I do spend time picking out tiny worms and eggs, but losing a few is not a big deal. Here is a picture of a tiny hatchling that I found while harvesting castings. As you can see, or maybe not, these little guys are hard to find. This little thread of a worm was wiggling which made him easier to see.
Spring time means it’s time to plant. The whole family pitched in helping my parents with the garden. My niece and dad are pictured above planting the watermelons. I supplied the worm castings, and a little hoeing to help out.
Worm castings are one of the benefits to raising your own worms. Composting food waste with worms will give you your own organic fertilizer. All natural fertilizer that strengthens roots of plants, improve disease resistance, and makes better tasting vegetables. Check out these links for additional information and benefits from gardening with worm castings.
We’ll be looking forward to some more tasty vegetables from the garden this year.
I just received my blueberry shipment yesterday, and was anxious to plant. I ordered 14 blueberry 2-3 foot tall plants (climax, premier, brightwell, and delight varieties). Blueberries like a little acidity and do very well in the southeast Texas well drained sandy soil. We will put most of the plants in the ground in Livingston, but I wanted to have a couple here in San Antonio in pots.
My blueberry potting mix: Sandy southeast Texas soil, peat moss, worm castings, and finished compost.
For the two plants I split 4 lbs of Texas red worm castings that I placed near the roots, not mixed like the other components. Worm castings are an outstanding fertilizer to support root growth and development.
These plants should produce a few berries early this Summer, but we will pick them early to yeild a better crop in the second year.
I chose a large container, and repurposed an empty syrup tub that we use to feed cows.
Better yields, better tasting fruits and vegetables are the result when you fertilize w/ red worm castings. Worm castings contain loads of calcium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. Other micro and macro nutrients are present that support and develop superior root structure, to plants fertilized w/ commercial fertilizer. Even though highly concentrated, worm castings will never burn plants like synthetic fertilizers can. Benefits of fertilizing with worm castings include healthier plants, healthier fruits and vegetables, and cost savings.