Worm castings for fertilizer.......

heidi41(z5 Mass)April 7, 2006

I've been doing a lot of research and have now jumped into VERMICOMPOSTING. This year thru out the growing season, I will be side dressing some of my plants with the worm castings. Next spring I plan to incorporate it into my potting mix to give my seedlings a boost. Has any one used this type of compost in there plkanting for market? HEIDI

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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Castings are great but expensive for a market garden. I have used them in my soil block mix with good success. Might make more sense to enciourage worms in your soil than to make/purchase enough castings for a market garden.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 8:25AM
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Ohiorganic has got this exactly right.

I have stayed with the same potting soil for a dozen years now - ever since I strayed off course and nearly ruined my growing season by purchasing a cheap product. I'm sure there are other good mixes but Black Gold has been consistent.

Black Gold is made of earthworm castings, sphagnum peat moss, pumice, and oyster shell lime. And, I attribute much the success to the earthworm castings.

Now, having said that, worm castings are too expensive for me to use in the gardens. If I was to ignore N-P-K values and just consider it equal to the chicken by-product based fertilizer I use, I'd need to buy it by the ton to pay the same $$ per pound. If I factor in fertilizer value . . . don't know how many tons I'd need to purchase to realize the fertilizer $ value per pound in a single bag of, say, chicken manure.

Raising sufficient worms to produce castings may well be possible but purchasing and transporting feed for your worms will cost $$. Don't be discouraged from your enterprise but "do the math" so that reality doesn't take a bite out of your enthusiasm at a later date. To make maximum use of your available worm castings, consider their use as tea in a foliar spray. Not doing much for the soil but, on the short term, the plants will benefit.

As Ohiorganic suggests, using castings in potting soil makes great sense but you'll see your profits vanish no matter what your product line if you were to purchase sufficient castings to fertilize a large market garden.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 12:05PM
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heidi41(z5 Mass)

I did quite a bit of research before I even started my vermicomposting. Right now I need 16 lbs of feed for my lil worms each week. Getting the food scraps isn't a problem as I work for a restraunt that saves me all the "compostable material" anyways.What ever I don't grind up for the worms goes into the compost pile. I have a few sources for scraps so that doesn't seem to be a problem. Also a guy I know is making me a large chopper/grinder out of an old lawn mower. This is turning out to be quite a learning experience. Heidi

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 4:09PM
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After reading about your circumstances, Heidi, I can't help but think that you are in the right place, at the right time, to be doing what you are doing.

If you can convert that 16# of worm food to, say, 10# of casting weekly, that's over 500# a year. Hey, Not Bad!


    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 1:37PM
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heidi41(z5 Mass)

Thanks for the encouragement. I am real excited about the whole vermicomposting thing. In my research, I have not found how many pounds of casting to expect. In approximately 3 months, the bins will be "harvested". At that time I will weight out and measure my castings. I will then be weighting out the worms and if they have been reproducing, They will be separated into more bins. More bins means more castings. Like I said, I've done some research and am very excited.
My kids have decided that it is a good thing that I am a single parent, as no husband would encourage his wife to start this type of venture. For some reason they think I'm a bit eccentric. HEIDI

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 3:07PM
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Perhaps you enjoy taking care of living things, Heidi. Sometimes it hardly seems to matter if they are gold fish, or laying hens, or gardens. There's probably a continuum but it seems to be some people's job to care. Others say things more wisely:

Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil. - Vincent van Gogh

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. - Henry David Thoreau

We can determine a positive goal - where we are going with our efforts. Like growing the best darn vegetables I can possibly provide for my family. Or, something like that. Then deciding what it takes to get there. Use a pencil and paper. Then, when we try - we are winners!


    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 1:23AM
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ole_dawg(7 UpCountry SC)

I don't know if I am getting a good deal or not. From what you have posted, I think I am. I am able to buy worm castings from a local bait raiser for about .10/lb. that is 10 cents per pound. I think it is good, is it?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 8:55AM
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heidi41(z5 Mass)

Yes, that sounds like a good deal. I had to abandon my worms. Or should I say, they didn't survive the winter. Hey, at least I tried. I do like the castings though. I thought that the areas that were fertilized with the casting did a bit better than the other trial areas. Heidi

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 4:14PM
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ole_dawg(7 UpCountry SC)

Sorry your worms croaked. Whenever I move a container here I find lots of worms under it. I plan to make raised beds in that spot next season. I will finish out this one using containers.
I also like the castings. I have had great results with them and buy more whenever I have extra money

    Bookmark   June 23, 2007 at 6:04PM
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It is true that worm castings can't be compared to chemical fertilizers in terms of nutrients per $. The major benefit of castings is the microbiology which helps break up nutrients already in the soil. The castings also improve water rentention, root growth, fruit yield and more. It is especially great for tomatoes. If you can produce castings yourself it is a great way to save money, but there are also companies out there such as Worm Power who produce large quantities of consistant product year round.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm Power

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 2:01PM
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ole_dawg(7 UpCountry SC)

Well Worm,
I guess I am getting a good deal. I enjoyed reading about you(r)Worm Power and I, of course know that your product is not like the raw worm poop I get here locally, but NY is a long way from SC. I am a true believer in the lowly worm and his poop. My lettuce has never been happier.
1eyedJack and the Dawg

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 10:34AM
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I am not a professional gardener, I have however been working with worm castings the last 2 years. I have an insulated box with a light bulb and a thermostat. The box was an old shipping crate, the insulation was scrap, the thermostat was one that I replaced in my home with a programmable. Total cost was I feed the worms waste from the local universities food preparation services and other food prep scraps. I got about 3 ft^3 of castings my first winter and anticipate about double that this winter. In addition I plan on building a larger bin in the ground in my garden. If all goes well I should be producing well over a yard/year. Since I am traveling anyway when I pick up the scraps, there is little extra time or money involved.

Don't give up!


    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 5:22PM
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For anyone interested in using worm castings why not get started making your own using red wigglers. For the average home owner gardener you will most likely develop enough over time to use in your garden. I started vermicomposting 4-13 and last summer didnt get enough castings to really use. Over this winter I have used some castings in cuttings I took in late summer what I have noticed is more new leafing than previous. In these cuttings I have only used worm castings and liquid seaweed and that is also my plan for this years garden. My vow this year is to use no chemical additives at all. Also tests have shown that less is better concerning castings. Tests that used a 50% ratio of the mix did worse than a mix with 20% of the mix. The latter being the mix I go with. So I encourage people to go organic by vermicomposting plus you can help save the earth. Happy gardening.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:23PM
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though few here would be considered average home gardeners and I assume most of us are growing on acres and not square feet of garden.

I am not saying castings are bad but they are expensive and it would take a huge worm set up to get enough casting to fertilize my 4 acres of garden. Though I suppose I could sell the excess worms for bait (selling fishing bait is a dream of my husband's).

So for now i will stick with compost (which has a lot of castings judging by the worm population in out piles) and other natural fertilizers

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 3:34AM
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