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Bring your soil back to life with worm castings

15 Mar

Spring is here and it is time to plant in Texas.  Worm castings are rich in P,N,K but the most valuable component are the beneficial microbes that will add life to soil and plants. We have a ton of worm castings at our two Texas farms.  You can pick up a 10 lb bag for $20.  Add a handful of castings to seedlings or brew up your own compost tea to really get the most out of  just a few lbs of worm castings.  You will be surprised just how far a small amount worm castings can go.

Here’s a video from a few years back where we brewed up 500 gallons with a combination of worm castings and compost.


Compost Tea Time

18 Mar

This afternoon I began brewing up about 70 gallons of compost tea with worm castings I recently harvested.  In about 12 hours my brew will be ready to apply to my plants and yard.  If you are in the San Antonio area, and can pick up, I’ll be giving a gallon of actively aerated vermicompost tea away with a purchase.  An application of compost tea will add life to your soil with beneficial micro organisms that will fight disease and pests, as well as, boost your plants growth.  Active aeration prevents harmful anaerobic bacteria and other non-beneficial microbial activity.  Applying compost tea within a few hours is best, after a few hours the brew begins to go anearobic.

Here’s a link for a recipe.

Be aware of store bought compost tea products claims that are sitting on the shelf.  These products will not be aerobic and will not contain many of the benefits (beneficial microbes that require Oxygen) that are associated with actively aerated compost tea.

Composting made simple

26 Jan

“Winter” is a relative term, and your winter may be somewhat more harsh than ours in Texas.  For more severe or colder winter composting it is possible to maintain an active outdoor compost pile.  It froze last night in San Antonio, but my compost pile was a toasty 135F just 5″ from the top.  Optimal temperatures for composting range from 135F-160F.  The heat is generated from microbial activity that is breaking down the organic waste.

Composting is an easy and inexpensive way to produce your own natural fertilizer.  You can purchase tumblers, composting bins, and containers designed especially for composting, or you can also build one yourself for free.  I acquired for old wooden pallets from my friends at Murphy Tomatoes, and simply wired them together in a square.

There is a ton of science behind the composting process, and some folks really get into that.  I like to keep things simple. After you decide whether to pile, or use a container (build or buy), there are 3 basic things you need. Compost is alive, and the organisms that are active in the process need Food, Air, and Water:

Food: I have added leaves, vegetable waste, horse and cow manure, and coffee grounds in layers.

Air: Periodically, mix up the composting material.  The microbes need oxygen to work.

Water: Depending on how much rainfall you have, you will need to water your pile.  If it’s dry add, water your compost.

If your compost pile is cool or inactive you can usually fix the problem by adding one or all of the three (food, water, air)

What to do w/ your Pumpkins after the Trick or Treating

2 Nov

The candy is gone and the festivities are over.  Instead of throwing those pumpkins out with the trash, add them to your compost pile or feed them to your red wigglers.  Composting and worm farming is fun for the whole family.  It is rewarding watching your food waste turn into dark and rich finished compost.  I just added some worm castings to my lemon trees, and am on the hunt for sad jack-o-lanterns around the neighborhood.

Compost tea benefits: Get rid of termites, fleas, ticks, chiggers, and more naturally.

10 Oct

This weekend I took a visit to East Texas to work on some of our worm beds.  While loading manure from some piles to start a new worm bed, I noticed some termites in some fence posts, as well as, some fire ant mounds.  I have had success with compost tea applications before in controlling ants, grubs, and fleas.  So I started a small batch of tea with finished compost and some redworm castings.  I also did a little research to see if anyone had had any experience with termites and found this article.  Microbes like nematodes and bacteria can be amplified with a quality finished compost and brewed into actively aerated compost tea. Beneficial predators that can control and eliminate many pests.  So if you have a roach, ant, flea, tick, grub, cigger, termite or other problem chances are actively aerated compost tea can come to the rescue.

Compost “Sweet” Tea

1 Oct

I started brewing a batch yesterday afternoon of actively aerated red worm compost tea (red worm castings, unsulphured molasses, and rain water).

I have collected about 15-20 gallons of rain water to use over the last month or so.  Rain water, well water,  or water from other natural sources are the best choices to be used in your compost tea.  Tap water should be left out in the sun for a day or so to eliminate Chlorine. Next, I harvested some castings from my worms.  I use a mesh laundry bag for my tea bag.  Compost can be added to the water or steeped with a bag.  The tea bag eliminates the need to strain before putting in your sprayer.

Aeration- I’ve got a pond aerator pumping into the brew to supply plenty of O2 supporting beneficial microbial growth.

To make is “sweet” compost tea, I’ve added some unsulphured molasses to feed the beneficial bacteria.

This batch will be ready this afternoon.  I’ll put the finished product into a pump sprayer and apply to my plants.  It’s that easy to add beneficial microbes and add “life” to plants and soil.  Compost tea applications will reduce water consumption by plants, and add balance back to your yard and plants.  Beneficial microbes (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and nematodes) can eliminate the need to aerate your lawn, the use of pesticides, and commercial fertilizer.

I will need about 5 gallons or a third for my use, and will be glad to share the rest.  I’ll be giving a gallon away with any worm purchase this weekend.  First come first serve.

Compost tea results

16 Aug

I had mentioned in my previous post that positive indicator for my compost tea application was to rid a section of our hay patch of ants.  The spot of concern has been infested for a few years with “town ants” or Texas leaf cutter ants.  Town ant hills were sprinkled throughout a 20 yard X 20 yard area.  The operative word being “were” because two weeks later the ant hills are vacant.

Beneficial microbes in compost tea are parasites to ants, fire ants, fleas, ticks, and chiggers.  I had had success in my lawn in getting rid of some of these pests with compost tea, but never on this scale.  This alone is encouragement enough for us to continue compost tea applications, and we’re looking forward to the next batch.

Compost Tea Party part 3

11 Aug

We ended up with two batches.  In both we used @80 lbs of finished compost (40lbs in each of 2 mesh laundry bags that we purchased for $1.87 at Wal-Mart).  Both batches we used 500 gallons of well water, and aerated with our 1600 gallon rated Aquascape 4 pond aerator.  Where we tinkered a little was on the food source (molasses + brown sugar) and brewing time.  1st batch we used two jars of unsulphured molasses and 1 lb of brown sugar and 24 hours of brewing time.  The color was light brown and the smell was pretty much neutral with a hint of earthiness to it.  Batch #2 was brewed for 36 hours and was fed 4 jars of molasses and 1 lb of brown sugar.  The smell on batch #2 was the same faint earthy tone with a hint of sweetness from the molasses.  The color was a shade darker brown than batch #1.

One thing we will be judging the success of the compost tea application on is in the reduction of ant hills.  We don’t have a big fire ant problem, but one hay patch has several ant hills in an area.  Adding beneficial microbes began for me as a way to control fire ants, grubs, and other pests in my yard, and have had some terrific results. We’ll keep you posted.

500 gallon Compost Tea Party part 2

27 Jul

Let the Compost Tea Party begin.  The holes in our mesh bags were too large, and we were concerned that our sprayer might get clogged.  We grabbed some old panty hose and stuffed our bags into them.

We brewed up our first batch for about 24 hours.  It had a nice weak tea color and had a hint of earthy smell.  (I pulled out my old Sears microscope that I got for Christmas in ’85, but figured X600 would not be quite powerful enough to see any microbes.) The first batch went well and was applied at a rate of 15 gallons per acre.

The next batch that is brewing right now.  This batch will brew for 36 hours.

500 gallon Worm Compost Tea Party

18 Jul

Brewing a 5 gallon batch of compost tea is no trouble.  In a couple of weeks I will kick it up a notch and be brewing up 500 gallons at a time.

We purchased a 500 gallon spray rig from Rozell Sprayer Manufacturing Co. in Tyler, TX this Spring.  In order to add beneficial microbes to our hay fields and pasture, I’m going to replace the water soluble fertilizer with compost tea.  I don’t have enough compost to spread over 100+ acres, so compost tea is the solution.

I just ordered my aquascape 4-stone pond aerator today, and this is what I will use to aerate my tea to ensure it stays aerobic.  Most of the beneficial bacteria are aerobic and will need plenty of O2.  To keep the ratio of finished compost to water the same as a 5 gallon brew (1 lb. -1.5 lbs. per 5 gallon)  I am going to need 100 -150 lbs. of compost and some larger mesh bags.   I am planning on using onion sacks for my tea bags.

Stay tuned for more information on “Big Time- 500 gallon Worm Compost Tea Party”