Earthworms are nature’s ultimate recyclers. They consume their body weight in organic matter and dirt every day and leave behind what many gardeners refer to as ‘Black Gold’. Worm waste that is. Nature’s purest food. It’s actually called worm castings and it’s an absorbent, nutrient rich soil conditioner.
There are 2700 species of earthworms. During the colder months they burrow deep into the earth. Once the ground warms, they move closer to the surface. This is also where the root systems of plants are located. The earthworm burrows allow air and water to reach countless beneficial microorganisms and the roots of hungry plants. It’s true that a garden with earthworms is a happy garden.
Earthworms live off of organic matter in the soil like decaying leaves and grass. Red earthworms (a.k.a. tiger worms and red wrigglers) produce castings that are rich in water-soluble nutrients that are readily available to plants, unlike synthetic chemical fertilizers. Red earthworm castings are also loaded with beneficial bacteria and microbes that promote an optimum growing environment. Plus the shape and absorbency of the castings increases the drought resistance of the plant and the drainage of the soil.
You can purchase worm castings at many garden centers and you might be surprised by the price. Worm waste…how much could it be right? A 15-pound bag will cost you around $20. When you consider all the good that castings do for the garden and that it’s the one of the safest ways to fertilize plants indoors or out, you start to realize its value.
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But there’s more. Worm castings have no odor and they won’t burn your plants. It can also be mixed with water and sprayed on soil or directly on plants. Earthworm castings can even be used to repel white flies, aphids, and spider mites.
I have a big bag of worm castings in the garage and yes my garden loves it! But I’ve decided I’m ready to try my hand at producing my own worm castings. I’m investigating making my own worm bin or purchasing one of the many systems on the market. Here’s what I’ve learned so far: the size of the bin is important; you need to consider how you will remove the castings when it’s ready and only red earthworms produce beneficial castings. I’ll keep you updated on my experience. For now, I’m off to mine some black gold.