The modest earthworm and its nutrient-rich castings (vermicast) have numerous benefits in producing healthy soil, plants, and crops .
Belonging to the phylum Annelida, earthworms were once considered lowly and insignificant. Today, with farmers and gardeners returning to organic methods of food production, these creatures are now recognized for their immense importance.
In this article, we’ll show you how to make and use worm castings for the garden.
Worm Casting Benefits
Below you’ll learn why worm cast is considered good for plants and your lawn.
1. Seed Germination
The worm is an invertebrate that may accelerate seed germination by means of its excrement or casts mixed into the soil . It also helps to aerate the soil and retain moisture for seeds to germinate and seedlings to thrive.
2. Lawn Conditioning
Lawns can dry out, and without fertilizer and sufficient moisture, the grass will quickly thin out and start to die.
The actions of earthworms allow the soil to become more porous and moisture-retaining, assisted by the water-filled castings.
The creatures digest nutrients from organic matter and excrete them into the earth, benefitting lawns as well as plants.
3. Organic Fertilizer
Worm castings are an organic fertilizer that is good for plants. You can also use it to make a natural liquid fertilizer or worm casting tea.
Make worm tea by steeping castings into some water and distributing the liquid around crops.
This is useful to encourage microbes and enrich plant roots, enhancing the size and vigor of indoor, outdoor, or greenhouse plants.
4. Break Down Organic Matter
Earthworms, through their digestive systems, break down ingested organic matter and excrete pure worm castings.
The liquid goodness then supplies a vast amount of nutrients to the soil, as well as food for other organisms.
5. Regulate Soil pH
Vermicast can achieve a stabilizing soil pH factor for the organic gardener. At a neutral pH of 7.0, the castings can help balance acidic or alkaline pH levels.
Extreme pH levels prevent plants from absorbing nutrients from the soil.
6. Soil Aeration and Structure
The granular character of this organic product allows oxygen into the soil, essential to plant development.
The casts can also improve the condition of soils containing coarse-grained building material such as grit, gravel, and sand.
7. Maintain Soil Moisture
Worm cast produces a more porous friable soil quality that reduces surface crusting and allows air and moisture to penetrate. It also increases water retention in soil.
Additionally, earthworms can produce up to ten times their weight in casts, which greatly improves hydration to plants and crops.
8. Decrease Soil Erosion
The moisture-retaining and granular qualities of earthworm castings help to improve drainage and limit the damage from soil erosion.
9. Lessen Soil Compaction
By forming soil aggregates, the castings help to avoid compaction problems of the soil and improve its structure.
10. Plant Growth Hormone
Hormones have vital functions in plant life. The hormone-like effect of earthworm casts greatly influences the growth and development of plants .
11. High in Nutrients
Vermicast provides vital nutrients for plants and crops to thrive. It is exceptionally high in nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. Earthworm casts also provide the soil and plants with a healthy dose of potassium and sulfur.
Moreover, earthworms are the real providers of good soil for sustainable gardening. Through their digestive processes, they can break down large amounts of organic matter and excrete this in a form readily absorbed by plants.
Soils naturally contain microorganisms. But, vermicomposting greatly increases the number of living organisms in the soil. It also enriches the soil with earthworm humus which is good for plant roots.
One of the principal benefits of worm composting is the increased microbial activity in the soil. The nutrients released from the casts assists in the growth of plant life and microorganisms. It also gives protection against harmful bacteria and disease.
Plants susceptible to rot and wilt diseases become more resistant and stronger from the increased nitrogen in the soil promoted by worm manure. The microorganisms in the soil benefit plants and crops by supplying vital nutrients.
13. Insect Pest Prevention
Worm castings naturally repel pests such as whiteflies that damage plants and crops.
Along with hormones and good bacteria, the tea contains enzymes. One of these enzymes, chitinase, reacts with the exoskeletons of insect pests to dissolve the essential element, chitin.
Without this covering, the insects get dehydrated and die. Therefore, many harmful insects that chew and suck on plants can be eliminated by the introduction of worm casts into the soil.
How to Make Worm Castings
To make organic worm castings, obtain a container or worm bin that is suitable for the process. The bin must not be too deep (10 inches deep is ideal) and there should be drainage holes at the bottom.
Put in a layer of sand and moistened newspaper strips at the bottom. Next, add some dried leaves, compost, manure, and then top it off with more moist newspaper strips and soil.
It’s now time to add the worms and food for them. Throw in some garden scraps and/or kitchen scraps. Now leave them alone for a few months.
However, not every worm will survive in composting bins. Lumbricus rubellus (red earthworm), Eisenia fetida (red wigglers), and Eisenia hortensis (European Nightcrawler) are species that are suitable for vermicomposting. The good news is you can purchase them online here and here.
Alternatively, buy commercially-produced worm casting compost if the DIY process is too much.
Harvesting Worm castings
After a few months have passed, lay out some old newspapers or a plastic sheet and empty out the contents of your worm bin.
Next, collect the worms and add them to a new vermicompost bin. The leftover is what is called worm casting fertilizer. Use it on your plants.
One of the disadvantages of worm castings is that it takes time to create. Three months is the minimum and it may take up to a year before you can harvest a good amount.
Another one is the cost. If you choose to buy earthworm fertilizer instead of making your own, you may find it a little more expensive than regular fertilizers.
Digging and turning over the soil has long been a regular part of the process for all who love their gardens. Seeing earthworms come up with the soil is a normal sight and true blessing for your plants and lawn.