The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to use worm castings in the garden

Percent worm castingsWith all of the benefits of worm castings in mind, you might be tempted to grow your plants in worm castings alone (if you could somehow come up with that many castings.)  However, some studies suggest that castings may lower germination rates if they make up more than about a fifth of your garden soil (perhaps because of a buildup of salts.)  In addition, be aware that the heightened levels of microorganisms in castings consist nearly entirely of bacteria, so keep the castings in the vegetable garden rather than feeding them to your fruit trees (who enjoy a higher fungal to bacterial ratio in their soil.)

What about the more realistic problem of not having enough worm castings to go around?  In that case, it sounds like your best bet is to put just a bit of worm castings in each of your garden beds rather than dosing any one bed heavily.  Since even low levels of worm castings can jumpstart your soil food web, I wonder if the best use of this limited resource might not be to activate biochar?

Red wormsHowever you decide to use your precious castings, be sure to put them in the ground when they're fresh.  If you allow your castings to dry out, to be exposed to sunlight, or just to wait around a few months before applying them to your garden, many of the positive benefits of worm castings disappear.  Yet another reason to make your own rather than trusting a big box store to provide castings for your garden!

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This post is part of our Hands-on Wormkeeping lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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