CONNIE KURAMOTO AND JEANNE KEITH-FERRIS
Special to the Westerly
Worm poop is gardening gold!
Worm composting and their resulting worm castings (or poop) is the perfect solution for our rugged West Coast, small scale gardening needs. It is a living soil amendment which returns minerals, humus, and most importantly, microbes back to the soil for the roots of vegetables providing them with vigorous growth and pest resistance. This is why experienced gardeners get so excited about worm poop.
Make it or purchase?
You can purchase worm castings from most garden supply stores and it will work just fine; however, fresher supplies (like those sourced from Vancouver Island) will hold higher beneficial bacterial counts improving your plant’s health.
Or, you can invite hardworking worms into your home! Worms make great house guests working tirelessly to eat-up your kitchen-veggie scraps converting this organic waste into garden useful fertilizer. Worm composting (vermicomposting) can be done in the safety of your home, garage or shed.
Commercially purchased worm-bins or DIY worm containers (YouTube is a great resource), when done properly, do not smell and the resulting accumulation of worm castings can be used in: seed starter mixes, transplants, a top dress, or mixed into a slurry and watered directly onto plants (called a root drench). Unlike commercial fertilizers, excess worm castings will not harm plants. Worm composting is a better solution for our location compared to regular composting practices which can attract wildlife and vermin. As well, composting in a worm bin delivers a usable fertilizer 2 to 5 times faster than conventional composting.
When to use
Worm castings can be used early season and often, even adding them to a seedling starter mix; 1:3 ratio of castings to starter mix, for robust plant growth. When transplanting seedling starts, you can place a small handful of castings directly into the plant hole, plop in your plant, pat down the soil and be sure to water-in. I love using them to top dress seedlings that are waiting to go into the garden. During the growing season you can mulch your plants with castings distributing them around the plant base. Rain and watering will deliver the nutrients to the subsoil slowly releasing nutrients over several weeks. For densely growing plants as found in a strawberry patch, a soil drench works well. Just place about 3 to 4 cups of castings into a 5-gallon pale, stir briskly, and gently pour the mixture onto your plant patches. Using dechlorinated water – that that has been collected from a rain barrel is a better choice since chlorine kills the good bacteria found in the castings.
Worm castings can even be sprayed onto the leaves of growing vegetables.
Again, making a slurry, pour the solution though a painter’s strainer or kitchen sieve and place into a spray bottle. Spray this directly onto the leaves (called a foliar spray) once a week will keep your plants happy.
Worms can be purchased mail order from Canadian sources, or ask around. Neighbours already vermicomposting will always have extra worms to share.
Mail order sources for worms and kits are: Burnaby Red Wigglers; or, Worm Box. Remember, get out and garden! We are all still idling on pandemic time, but soil-soothing rhythms metered by hands in the dirt will keep us anchored.
Connie Kuramoto is an Organic Master Gardener and Jeanne Keith-Ferris is the president of the Ucluelet Local Food Society.
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