Thursday, June 5, 2014

Winter Garden Duties - Compost, Worm Compost, and Worm Castings

Now that Christmas is over, maybe we can get something done around here besides eating.  Oh, never mind.  We must always work around that.
Originally posted 12-29-09

 Pure Black Castings            VermaPlex             VermaMax

Piling up the Compost

One thing's for sure, we're going to need a bunch of compost for filling all our self-watering containers come  spring time.  Our little experiment this fall using that method of growing vegetables proved  to be the answer to our adverse growing conditions here in North Central Florida.  We plan on going full steam ahead with our self-watering container vegetable garden.

self-watering container fill with worm compost
Self-watering container ready to be filled.

Our potting soil mix, if you recall, was 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, 1/3 perlite.  The mix from our fall garden planting can be reconstituted with fresh compost and worm castings, which won't require very much material.  But that stack of new containers Bill just completed will need a goodly amount of the mix if we are going to plant our entire garden using this method.

The plan:  pile up as much horse manure as we possible can (Her Royal Shiekyness is doing her best to contribute) and feed it to the red worms, as well as traditional compost piles of manure and organic matter from household waste;  inoculate all of these various piles and worm beds with VermaPlex® for added microbes; cover the compost piles with dark plastic for added solar heat; sit back and let it rot.

Horse Manure for earthworm feed
Come on, we need more poop!

Worm Compost or Worm Castings

Now might be a good time to discuss these terms and what the difference is between worm castings and worm compost. We have received questions from time to time about this.  Worm compost, or vermi-compost, is composted organic material via earthworms, usually red worms.  There's no "heating-up" of the material (at least, not intentionally.  It would kill the worms.)

The decomposition of the material is actually accomplished by the earthworms as well as by microbes.  The microbes "pre-digest" the organic material, which makes the worms able to digest it.  That's why it is so important to have a healthy supply of microbes present in the vermi-composting bin or worm bed. 

The result of vermi-composting is a mix of partially decomposed organic material and worm castings - the "poop" from the earthworms.  It's a great way to compost organic matter and kitchen waste, because it is nutrient-rich and adds great "texture" to your garden soil.  Composting with worms is also faster than traditional composting, which can often be a hit or miss thing if the mix is wrong or you if don't turn it, or what-ever.

Worm castings are worm poop and nothing but worm poop.  It's used as a fertilizer in much smaller amounts than worm compost.  An excellent slow-release fertilizer, worm castings have everything you need for growing vegetables.  The "slow-release" is the result of each casting being coated with calcium by the worm as it passes through its body. 

Often, when you purchase "worm castings" you are actually getting worm compost, since the process of getting "pure" castings is not that easy.  "Worm compost" is an excellent addition to your growing medium or garden, but  should not be confused with "worm castings".   When buying worm castings,  don't pay a premium for just worm compost.

Certified organic worm castings
You're looking a pure worm poop!

Along with the 1/3 compost, which can be either traditional compost or vermi-compost, we add about 6 cups of the Pure Worm Castings® to the mix before planting to supply the plant with slow release fertilizer.  Then, throughout the growing season, we add VermaPlex® every 7-14 days to the water reservoir or as a foliar feed.

In a future post, I'll share what we've learned about foliar feeding with the microbe-rich VermaPlex®.  It not only feeds the plant, but also prevents pests and diseases from attacking our plants.  It's truly a miracle....

.....and so is the fact that, after all that Christmas ham and turkey, I'm still hungry.  Chow!

Certified Organic Garden Fertilizer Resources:


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