Sunday, April 1, 2012

All Turds Are Not Created Equal

When planning your garden, whether it be standard rows, raised beds, lasagna style or square foot gardening, if you are looking for worm castings to amend the growing site be sure of that what you are buying is what you need and what you want.
There are plenty of companies out there selling worm castings, some moist, some dry, some online, some at local garden stores (haven't seen any at the mega stores yet). We are one of those companies selling castings and I am sure that we are not the best there is but we just want folks to know what they're getting when they do buy worm manure because the castings are only as good as the food the worms eat. There are many castings that come from night crawlers such as Terrestris Lumbricus and some that come from Red wigglers Eisenia Foetida or Eisenia Andrei, one notable difference between these is their size as Night crawlers are about 3-5 times the size of red wigglers. The real difference that you want to look at, however, is the nutrient content. The three main nutrients that plants need are Nitrogen (N) Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K), but there are loads of micro nutrients that they need as well, such as calcium, magnesium, the list goes on. Each of these benefits different plants in different ways, promoting root growth, leafy development, fruiting, preventing certain ailments or deformities in the plant i.e. calcium helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. You want to fertilize your soil and/or plant foliage with the nutrients that will best benefit your plants.
A great number of the larger worm farms seem to be feeding their worms things like manure from cattle or horses which isn't a bad thing at all since there is a great deal of nitrogen to be harnessed from the foods those animals eat. However others are feeding them things like peat which is 1) not incredibly sustainable (that's important to us) and 2) not incredibly nutrient dense, thus rendering a product with some nitrogen and a bit of calcium (the calcium naturally comes from passing through the worms digestive system) but little else. Now remember that I stated earlier that we may not have the best castings out there but we do tend to believe that much like us, worms need a varied diet and this produces castings with a variety of nutrients. The last time we had a sample analysed the levels were fantastic, the phosphorous was the highest followed by potassium and then nitrogen. Now we did not have a detailed analysis last time to focus on minerals and other micro nutrients but that test is in the process and we expect great results there as well. The difference we believe is that we feed our worms food scraps, so it stands to reason that all those nutrients that we love fruits and veggies for, show up in the worm castings in a finely processed form that is readily available for plants to use.
So remember, the next time you are in the market for some worm castings, make sure you are getting what you need, otherwise you could end up with some really leafy tomato plants with weak roots and little fruit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a closet worm wrangler!! I love my worms. I work for a park and do talks on vermiculture all the time. Great article.