Do you have kitchen food scraps that are just thrown away? You can reduce your trash and make organic fertilizer with a worm bin.
The end-product is called vermicompost and it is a secret ingredient for successfully growing strong healthy vegetables and flowers.
The words vermicompost and vermicastings are often used interchangeably but it is good to understand the difference. Vermicompost is a combination of worm waste and broken down organic matter from your worm bin. This looks much like what you would have in a standard compost bin, and it is not smelly at all.
Vermicastings are the waste produced by worms, pure dark brown/black worm poo. Both products can be used on plants immediately without fear of burning. For simplicity this article will use the word vermicompost.
Worm compost contains water soluble nutrients and is a rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner in a form that is easy for plants to absorb. An easy way to get your hands on this product is to have your own worm bin or find a good friend who will give you some.
There are many different kinds of worm bins and the internet is full of ideas on how to make your own easily and inexpensively. You can also buy bins or even complete systems. But whatever you decide, get started right away so you can enjoy the benefits.
Here are four simple ways to use the vermicompost from your worm bin:
First, top dress your plants which is just like it sounds, adding the vermicompost to the top of the soil.
Second, amend the soil when transplanting your plants by mixing vermicompost into your planting hole.
Third, add to seed starting soil mix in a 25/75 vermicompost/seed starting mix ratio.
And last, make an all-natural liquid fertilizer tea. Steep or brew the vermicompost in water so the nutrients and beneficial microbes can easily be taken up into the plant. This tea provides an easy way to provide a quick bit of nutrition and growth burst. Vermicompost tea will not burn your plants like chemical fertilizers can.
Vermicompost tea is easy to make. A simple method is to steep vermicompost in a container of water overnight. Add about one cup of vermicompost to a gallon of water. Steep overnight then pour the mixture through a sieve or coffee filter.
Or easier yet, place the one cup of vermicompost in a large coffee filter or cloth and tie it tightly closed with twine. Let it sit overnight in the water and then lift out the bundle and you are ready to go.
During the growing season, feed your plants once a week with the tea. You could also put the tea into a spray bottle and foliar feed your plants for an added boost.
If you have any vermicompost left over at the end of the growing season this can be easily stored over the winter in a plastic bucket with a tight fitting lid and it will be ready to go at the start of the next growing season.
So, don’t delay, start up a worm bin and soon you will have your own secret weapon for growing healthy productive vegetable and flowering plants.
Judy Mann has been a Clallam County Master Gardener since 2005. In 2016, Judy received the Golden Trowel Award for her contributions to the Master Gardener program. She often gives presentations on how easy it is to make a worm bin and how to keep worms healthy and happy.