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How to use castings

Posted by barbararose21101 8 (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 29, 14 at 11:45

I have several pounds of castings and all my worms are happy.
I'm keeping the castings damp because there are hatchlings and cocoons in the sandbags with the castings.
We are going to have sun in the Pacific Northwest starting today: it is going to be hot (by PNW standards).
I have starts, I have plenty of garden space
& pots for an excess of tomatoes,
The roses want to be sprayed with tea.
I can do that by brewing small batches.

Questions are:
1. the tea recipe;
2. tea vs extract,
3. tea or extract vs using castings;
4. vermicompost products vs other forms of plant food;

Decisions will be tested by tomatoes.

What do you think ?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How to use castings

I think you need to tell "us" how involved you want to be in a systematic evaluation of various treatments.

Personally, I am willing to 'accept' your results without 'complaint' as long as you don't get up on a self-righteous high horse and demand that "we" take your results as "gospel" and swear never to mention using any other processes.

I can see a lot of fun coming from your 'experiments'. Once 'it' transcends "fun" and becomes "work", one should get paid for their labor. I suggest you construct your experiments to extract the most FUN from your summer, not the most 'scientifically' rigorous results. Like I said, I'll willingly and gladly accept your "data" in the spirit in which it is offered, regardless of the experimental design.


This post was edited by pskvorc on Sat, May 3, 14 at 13:11

RE: How to use castings

I would love to see an experiment done where you make aerated vermicompost tea and feed one plant with that, while doing nonaerated tea (just mixing in a bucket of water) and feed that to another, and see which one is happier. I am on the fence as to whether aerated tea is worth the time and effort, as opposed to an nonaerated version. I would love to see the results of such an experiment!

RE: How to use castings

"feed one plant with that, while doing nonaerated tea (just mixing in a bucket of water) and feed that to another, and see which one is happier."

One needs always to consider "sample size" when conducting 'experiments' or evaluating other's.

That said, when it's "all in good fun", sample size and statistical rigor is immaterial (and occasionally counter-productive). The effort put forth to conduct the comparison and the willingness to share the results should be taken in the spirit in which they were given and not 'peed on' by the "experts".


RE: How to use castings

There is one set of three pots yet to be labelled for the experiment. So far:

1. control. No food of any kind. Sob.
the soil has 1% estimated nitrogen and whatever wildlife
Cedar Grove products have.

2. Miracle Gro according to directions.

3. Jobes something or other with a lot of fancy ingredients and
no applicable directions. Will punt. Started with 1/4 cup in
+/- 3 gal pot.

4. Vermicastings. So far about 3/4 cup per about 3 gal pot,
some mixed under the plant and some on top. There was a
cocoon out in daylight ! I put it to bed.

5. Worm Tea. I'll use an approximation of Ingram's recipe
using eco-nero kelp which has 0.3 humic acid instead of
molasses. I'll use the air pump. My mentor in the air issue,
in addition to this forum and the internet, is a clerk at my
garden store who has had years of commercial experience
with vermicomposting. She said the tea needs air,
but stirring it is as good as an air pump. I'll use tea instead
of water with every watering & spray the foliage.

6. Suggestions inviited. I may think of something yet.


I realize how many variables I can't and won't control.
I just want to see what could be seen. It helps me pay attention to have a forum to report to. If there is enough fruit from these small plants to warrant counting . . . I'll try to.

RE: How to use castings

Sounds like fun! Keep us posted. :) I feel a little bad for the "control" plant though. Haha.

RE: How to use castings



RE: How to use castings

You are doing what I have always wanted to do... but I am too lazy. Keep us posted.

using VC for tea

The brew with the expensive additions isn't bubbling much:
No head.

The most head I get is when I put a ratio of about 2 to 1 water
(rain water) to horse manure. I infer that that is because it has more solids hence viscosity. The foam overflows and can rise 6 to 12 inches.

I'm using this horse poo tea instead of water for worm bins and for plants -- whenever -- . The horse manure isn't particularly composted. It had live worms in it, so I deemed it "safe" for worms. BTW those worms now have their own bin and began to be fed (pureed, rotted kitchen scraps) last week.

I would appreciate feedback about foam. If we all drink enough beer, ale or stout, we could use our experiences with those brews to describe what we get brewing VC tea.

The trouble with surfing the net for information is that I don't know where information or an idea came from. That said, I think I read that the molasses is for the benefit of bacteria.
Fungi want different food. Teas with a dominance of either or with both in balance serve different purposes.

So maybe this fancy brew with the expensive additive supports fungi more than bacteria and that's why there's no foam.

What do you think ?

RE: How to use castings

The only comment I can make about the 'head' on a glass of beer is that it always strikes me as bitterer than the beer itself. I suspect that is because my "sensors" are also dealing with the elevated CO2 that make up the "bubble" that a head of beer is mostly comprised of.


RE: How to use castings

for precise advice.

I learned from Elaine that the purpose of humic acid is to neutralize the chlorine ( & chloramine ?). I don't have to use it as long as I have rainwater.

Elaine describes a good foam as a hard boil.
. If we accept Elaine's view, that answers the aerate or not question:

Yes -- aerate for tea for foliage: to keep fresh, keep aerating;
No -- if you "express or extract" from the castings and use promptly, aerating isn't part of the process.

My casual test will compare castings to tea but not extract vs tea. The final set will be fed with Black Lake Organic 5-4-3.

RE: How to use castings

For me I mainly wanted the compost for my plants, flowers of various kinds , honeysuckle , peonies. As you might suspect a lot of hummingbird attracting plants. Because the past tough winter I lost a lot of plants and re ordered some and and a lot repotting . So with things starting to work out that way after a year of saving up castings I have had enough to mix in with everything. Yes I too like to keep my castings moist with a cover of some kind .

I have also used a couple of batches of worm tea and will soon make another. Anyway one plant that has shown marked improvement from last year simply by adding vermicompost is my peonies. Last year I had one flower bulb, so far this year I see that I have about 20 bulbs depending on how many of those actually flower. So now Im aware you are thinking but was the VC the reason for the improvement. Either way its the best the peonies have ever done. As for everything else the result will come later toward the end of the growing season. I have added VC to my tomato plants too. Just have a few of those.

tomato test

As promised, la de da, here is a picture of the 18 tomato plants.
Took me an hour to find where I'd posted the previous picture.

IMO no obvious differences between feeding strategies -- yet.
The plants that began smaller seem to have caught up in every case.
All have blossoms -- while still pretty small -- which interests me in itself.

This also is true of the indeterminate varieties ( Brandywine and Calabash)
which usually get too big to manage -- and are not in the test. The indeterminates are being tested in a less controlled way: in pot vs in ground, mostly. One has a nearly constant, slow water supply from a leaking bucket to a garden sock. The others have saucers. The pots that sit on the ground without saucers have roots in the ground. That's fine as long as the ground has moisture. If you have a good imagination, you can see the bucket on a sock in the upper right corner of the picture.

Next report on this process July 1.

RE: How to use castings

How's it going!

I wait with bait on my breath for the results of your efforts!


RE: How to use castings

That was a good one Paul. Two points.

RE: How to use castings

I have no idea how these double posts are happening. It's difficult enough to make the original!


This post was edited by pskvorc on Mon, Jun 16, 14 at 20:00

RE: How to use castings

For aerated water, I find that foam is associated with new additions of degradable material and high nitrogen levels. I generally interpret it as a nitrogen spike, but the retained bubbles may be due to bacterial slime or something else.

I brew beer, and a large head on my beer typically means too much carbonation for that beer formulation at that temperature. A beer with a longer head retention may be because it has a larger grain bill, or contains adjuncts specifically for that purpose; such as carapils malt or maltodextrin.

Either way, foam happens because the bubbles take longer to pop. That situation is often associated with protein films and polymers(nitrogen/bioslimes), and surface tension altering substances (soap).
Quote: "...the purpose of humic acid is to neutralize the chlorine"

Humic acid comes from the chaotic effect of decomposing organisms repeatedly processing the same carbon compounds until they become a gnarled mess. Humic acid is generally what makes dirt, poop, coal, and oil, brown or black. When you rinse vermicompost and it makes the water brown, you can make a pretty good guess as to how much humic acid is in the water by the shade of brown the water is.

Humic acid is considered a good thing for soil, but I don't think it can dechlorinate tap water much better than letting the water sit out and degas on its own. If you buy a seaweed extract and mistook the chlorine content on the label, seaweed contains salt from the sea it came from. Sea salt is made of sodium and chlorine.
As it is likely to come up in this experiment, I'm very interested in the experimenter planning for what will be done in the likely event of insects, and documenting the insect situation in respect to which plants were attacked, what was done, and how effective the treatment (or non-treatment) was; making sure to also document hand-picking insects and pruning. Insect protection is often touted as a benefit of the various tea products, but I've yet to hear of professional farmers replacing insecticides with teas..

I am also interested in suckering, since the experiment involves tomato plants. I have had a significant amount of tomatoes suckering in my aquaponics setup. Some of those suckers I rooted and gave to my friend, who planted them in dirt and hasn't had any suckering issues with them. I'd like to know how the different growing conditions affect suckering rate.

RE: How to use castings

Hello Buck -- These plants are in pots and have no threats from insects yet.
The only threat to my tomaoes in the past has been slugs when the fruit was on the ground. I will watch and notice. I am removing the so called suckers.
It didn't occur to me to notice whether there were differences. I remove them as soon as I see them. One got so big I couldn't bring myself to cut it -- all the others gone. I did let some sit in the soil & wondered if they were rooting or if last year's seeds were sprouting. You may have answered that.

There are definite differences in the plants. The starved control has blossoms and very spare foliage. The Miracle grow blossoms are buds still and is heavy on foliage. (BTW I'd guess suckers are an expression of nitrogen )
The BLO is second in foliage.. The tea, used instead of water as well as foliar food, seems to be ahead in the fruiting. Could be to do with bees:
the tea -fed plants are closest to an enormous fully blooming rose bush.
Which is why I tried the Sonicare. One or more pictures about July 1.
Pictures slow this site down, so I hestitate to post many.

PS Are you online somewhere on the subject of beer ?
I have a couple questions about hops and malt.

RE: How to use castings

Ahh, thanks for the followup. Sounds great so far! When you get your tomatoes, do note any flavor differences.

I found that Black Cherry tomatoes grown in poor soil (lawn), covered with wood chips, end up tasting like they have been sweetened with saccharin. Grown in my aquaponics system, they taste more like berries sweetened with sugar. If I don't pay attention to the water tests and the nutrient levels become undetectably low, those same tomatoes start to taste more like typical tomatoes. Also, I have about 90 strawberry plants making little red lemons because I let the water get too clean. :(

On the bright side, I have never before believed that plant flavor changes with fertility, and now I do. Fortunately, tilapia fish will eat sour strawberries.

I don't have an online presence for the subject of brewing but would like to help. If you want to chat about it, I would prefer to do so outside of this thread though.

RE: How to use castings

I'll look in the email that accepts posts from this forum to see
whether your email address is in there.

I think I have an unsophisticated palate. I grow strawberries..
I have a sophisticated palate for strawberries and notice a lot of
variety in strawberry flavors.

I'll pay attention to tomato flavors (that's the point after all) but
I'll be thrilled to have tomato flavor. I doubt I'll perceive nuances.
But if, by "typical" tomato you mean one grown for shipment
on an industrial farm -- that difference I can taste.

The Miracle Gro plants have unopen blossom buds; the tea plants
have small fruits. I have 14 plants not in the test -- 18 + 14 = 32 ?
The Others (non test) get random max nutrients. There is a total of
4 different varieties. Should be some flavor differences. But !
There are many uncontrolled variables !

RE: How to use castings

Looking forward to the pictures!


RE: How to use castings

I somehow missed this post when it first appeared. Boy, am I glad I did.

My general rule about "scientific", or "microscopic", or "meticulously observed and recorded observances of results" is to practice ignorance (by that I mean.....I ignore all those computations)

The eyeball test is all that's needed. If it's apparent that a particular method or technique is invaluably better than another by looking at obvious results, I use that one.

Aerated VC tea is one of those that pass the eyeball test. That has been so in every comparison I've done in my 15 years of fooling with vermicomposting (and I am always experimenting with every aspect of this art).

Almost all of my eyeball-obvious results have been dutifully recorded here for all to eyeball. Side-by-side comparisons of AVCT results vs plain old VCT findings long ago proved to me that the incredibly easy and simple job of aerating the brew was absolutely indispensable EVEN IF the brewing procedures were to require lot's more effort and work (if a hobby can EVER be referred to as "work")

BTW....when referring to AVCT, I do not mean using exotic extracts of this or that, or kelp, or things imported from the ocean, or human body parts, or special sauce, lettuce, cheese.

Just one food source to nourish the incredible growth of the army of biology that changes what my eyeballs see. Un-sulphured molasses.....oh, I know, another food source could be used, but the molasses WORKS ...and, I can eat it on my waffles with AVCT-inspired strawberries.


Moderation, Diversity, Patience

RE: How to use castings

Glad you missed it ?

I saw some support for your enthusiasm on another site associated with medical marijuana. One rumor has it that marijuana growers know more about gardening than most of us.

I agree with you that "brewing" is no big deal (i.e., not a nuisance) and the common sense of it, that oxygenating increases the bacteria we believe to be beneficial and decreases the bacteria we don't want in our gardens.

I think there is a lot to learn about adding stuff. I think the additions are apt to make major differences in the multiplcations of the life in there. Elaine advocated the kelp and humic acid to increase fungi. She thinks probably we have enough bacteria from our castings. She does not recommend molasses.
Further, think of all the variables that aren't controlled: (support for your attitude, probably ) : what did I feed the worms ? what other critters were in the bin ? How much VC to how much water ? Brewed how long? Is a week "better" than a day ? What if the water is aerated horse manure tea ?

First I used molasses. Then I used kelp with humic acid. Current buckets have both ! AND I am re areating the water that has drained from the Tea Test tomato plants.

They get their next feeding July 1 picture after that.

In case you miss it when I edit the other post, the unknown critter in my bin may be a ciliate. Looks similar, different shape: moves like a ciliate.

RE: How to use castings

"My general rule about "scientific", or "microscopic", or "meticulously observed and recorded observances of results" is to practice ignorance (by that I mean.....I ignore all those computations)

The eyeball test is all that's needed. If it's apparent that a particular method or technique is invaluably better than another by looking at obvious results, I use that one."

Reminds me of another man that felt that way about his hobby.

"One rumor has it that marijuana growers know more about gardening than most of us." Whenever I am doing what I feel is extensive research about good gardening practices I always end up on one of those sites. They are where all of the latest information is. Perhaps it is like lots of human medicine coming from Vets working with $$$$$ race horses.

If lacto fermentation increases the probiotics in vegetables which are good for us then it stands to reason that brewing and spraying would do a similar thing on our plants.

RE: How to use castings

Eyeball tests are OK when you are pretty sure of causes.

I advocate for a Science Mind Set, wanting to know what & why.
A good science mind set is skeptical and constantly hovering on hypotheses.

; )

There is a little too much anti science in the US presently.

I think we are all learners here. I like to say I'd rather be a smartass
than a dumbass.

RE: How to use castings

cb2: ""The eyeball test is all that's needed.""
That's what I do to judge my VC, and the sniff test.

This post was edited by otis11 on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 12:42

RE: How to use castings

When I say "eyeball" test, I'm referring to the results.

About 12 years ago when I first started going thru all the questions, and different brewing methods, and ways to increase the production of the biology being brewed, and then after tweaking my recipes over a couple of years and observing the results, I found the recipe that works best;

It happens to be the absolute simplest one (that worked).

I've used it now for 10 years, and the amazing things about it is it works every single time. That's not to say that other peoples' tweaks don't work too.

After using no chemicals for 12 years, my plants and soils have morphed from pitiful to awesome. Hardly any of the actual work has been done by me.

Wanna prevent diseases like "take all patch"? Use VC and AVCT. Eliminate the need for artificial fertilizers (chemicals)? Make the soil sluff off the need for it.

I know, I all sounds kinda like BS, don't it? It ain't. That's why I keep telling ya'll about it despite some wondering if I'm maybe drinking it during the brewing process.


BTW, there will become less and less causes of problems as the health of the soil (hence plants) becomes more resistant (dare I say immune?) (YES!) to all that sh.....stuff.

This post was edited by chuckiebtoo on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 17:38

RE: How to use castings

I think barbararose's results will pass the "eyeball" test.

Results that don't need statistical verification are often the "best". (If it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, and it LOOKS like a duck, it's a duck.)

That said, SOME of the procedural standards imposed by statistical rigor prevent 1) self-delusion, and 2) sale of snake oil. By the same token, MUCH statistical "analysis" is PURE "smoke and mirrors".

I think many will be surprised when they see the results of barbararose's efforts.


RE: How to use castings


RE: How to use castings

Miracle Grow

RE: How to use castings

Vermicompost used as top dressing

RE: How to use castings

Aerated tea. One of these plants had the first fruit.
Cause questionable.

RE: How to use castings

Jobes brand fertilizer

RE: How to use castings

Black Lake Organic fertilizer.

Interpreting the instructions on the package as best I could for pots, each BLO plant got about 2/3 cup at planting and at June 1 & July 1. That's twice as much as the Jobes seemed to call for. BLO emphasized minerals, which, maybe, are bulky ?

RE: How to use castings

The control and the 'teas' certainly appear to have the most visible fruit, while the "artificial" fertilizers clearly have the most foliage. Miracle Grow has a variety of recipes, one of which is "Tomatoes". Is that the one you used? Did you notice if the MG treatment plants had many blossoms? In other words, did they blossom but not set fruit? Did they blossom and the fruit is 'taking its time' developing? Or did they not produce many blossoms?

Thanks for the work, and the pictures. You know what 'they' say: A picture is worth a thousand words.


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