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Posts Tagged ‘worm tea’

Saturday, January 22, 2011
10 – 12 noon
San Diego Botanic Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, CA 92024

Saturday, February 5, 2011
10 – 12 noon
Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West
El Cajon, CA 92019

Monday, March 14, 2011
2-4 p.m.
Welk Resort Farmer’s Market
8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, CA 92026

Saturday, March 19, 2011
10 – 12 noon
Summer’s Past Farm
15602 Olde Highway 80
El Cajon, CA 92021

Learn about the ins and outs of backyard composting and vermicomposting at this free workshop! Workshop will include information about selecting a bin, maintenance, harvesting, and more! A limited number of compost bins and worm bins will be available for purchase after the workshop.

Click here to pre-register now or to view a full list of upcoming workshops!

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If your bin becomes too acidic, too moist, too dry, too compact, full of rotting food, full of  food they don’t like, too hot, too cold or they just organize an expedition,  your worms can attempt an escape from your bin.  This thwarted escape plan (if your lid is on tight) ends up with many worms in your bottom collection tray.

To rectify this situation add water to the collected liquid in order to dilute the sediment and ease its flow through the sieve.  Then strain the liquid through a sieve or small holed colander, rinse the collection tray out and reassemble the worm bin.  Add the worms, collected in the sieve, back into your top working tray.   If you clean out the bottom bin regularly you can save all your wayward worms and keep the liquid fresh and in top condition.  Dilute the liquid with 5-10 parts tap water before adding to your garden.    Remove the chlorine from tap water by letting it stand in the sun for several hours.

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The latest edition of the Solana Center Composter Newsletter was emailed on September 1, 2010. This edition includes information about worm tea, composting tools, and upcoming workshops and events! Click here to take a look!

For a complete list of past Composter Newsletters visit the Composting 101 page. Don’t miss the next newsletter! Click here to join our mailing list!

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Do you own a Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin or a worm bin in general and wonder what the liquid that forms in the bottom tray is? It is worm tea, sometimes it is also called “worm castings” or “vermiwash.” You may not be aware but there are numerous benefits of using worm tea in your soil. Worm tea is a natural fertilizer which is used to promote the growth of plants. If you own a wriggly wranch bin, worm tea forms in the bottom tray that can be drained from the spigot. If you are a gardening enthusiast, you can use worm tea to replenish the soil with nutrients and protect plants from many plant diseases.

Worm tea has the same benefits as worm castings, but in liquid form. Castings are produced when worms break down the organic matter in the soil. It is also called “worm manure” or “worm humus.” These castings are present in the worm beds. When you run water through these castings, nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium and magnesium are picked up. The process of harvesting worm castings is called “vermicomposting.”

How to Make Worm Tea

For making worm tea, you will need a large bin or worm compost bin, such as the Wiggly Wranch bin. The bottom tray should have a drainage spout and holes for aeration. Soak a handful of worm castings in at least 5 liters of warm water. Allow the castings to soak for a couple of days. Next add a teaspoon of molasses (optional). Molasses will promote the growth of micro-organisms. If you feed your worms a balanced diet such as fruits and vegetables (no meat or dairy) they will produce the best castings and worm tea.

The water must be chlorine free because chlorine will destroy the “good” bacteria. To help conserve water, rain water is a good source of unchlorinated water to use. Pete Ash, an experienced gardener, long time master composter, and organic farming and gardening teacher, crafts a tea bag of the compost and vermicompost to soak in water. He suggests using an aquarium pump to keep the water aerated to stimulate micro-organism growth. Pete says, “The idea is to wash the microbes out of the compost into the water; adding a simple starch or sugar to the brew to feed the bacteria that are breeding. Use the wash water from rice rather then washing it down the drain.”

How to Use Worm Tea

The best way to use worm tea is to dilute it. Pete owns a few Wriggly Wranch bins. He dilutes the worm tea with 4 to 6 parts water (or more) for foliar spray applications. He also recommends using the tea within a couple of days and as it accumulates it may spoil. It is not clear to anyone how long worm tea should brew for, but if it smells bad you should not use it. Pete harvests his castings regularly because the mucus can build up along with bacteria and can actually become toxic for the worms. As Pete says, “No one likes to live in their own feces.”

Benefits of Worm Tea

Worm tea and compost is excellent for a garden. Pete uses worm tea as a foliar spray and compost tea as a field spray. There are many, many uses for worm tea. Here are a few ways to use worm tea to grow healthy fruits and vegetables:

  • Use worm tea as an inoculant for potting soil. The nutrients in worm tea help seedlings grow strong. It is suggested that inoculation should be done two weeks before you plant your seedling.
  • Plants that are grown with worm tea are healthier. Worm tea has many nutrients of food and medicine the plant needs to thrive. Plants grown with worm tea are also more nutritious than plants grown in soil treated with chemical fertilizer.
  • Worm tea also helps recover polluted soil. If you repeat the worm tea applications, the microbes will convert and metabolize organic and inorganic chemicals. The worm tea will help sequester the heavy metals found in chemicals.
  • Sometimes lawns can become sterile due to chemical treatment. Worm tea will repopulate the soil with microbes, enrich the roots and break down the thatch turning it into food for grass.
  • During hot summer days, worm tea can help retain water in soil.
  • If you decide to use worm tea as a foliar spray, it will help your plants produce more foliage and larger stems. This greatly helps plants that are lacking enough sun.
  • You may also add worm tea to a compost pile to speed-up the break-down process.

By using worm tea, you can help the environment by reducing and even eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers that can cause water pollution. Studies show an average American family produces a ton of waste each year. The estimate is 1/3 or ½ of household waste is organic matter (kitchen waste). If you vermicompost, you will reduce the amount of organic matter that ends up in landfills, help mitigate global warming and make nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer and worm tea for yourself. Vermicomposting is nature’s way of completing the recycling loop. If you are interested in learning about “the circle of life…the circle of rot” please refer to our March 2003 newsletter for a discussion of why you should compost, how this is improves healthy soil, which in turn creates healthy vibrant plant life.

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Water is added to a Biostack during a rainless day.

Bin wetness from rain is usually a non-issue in San Diego County but recently, with the extreme rain that has fallen on our lovely County, outdoor compost bins are probably on the soggy side. Remember, optimum bin dampness is comparable to that of a wrung out sponge so if your bin is dripping, it is probably too wet!

Backyard Compost Bins

A “too wet” compost bin will naturally dry out over time as the water in the bin evaporates, but if it is rainy or cold outside, the bin may stay wet for an extended period of time. A bin that is too wet can lead to a smelly, anaerobic situation that most strive to avoid. To speed up the drying process, add additional browns (materials high in carbon) to your bin. Items like dead leaves, straw, shredded paper, and mulch will suck up the excess water, drying out the bin. Once the bin is back to the dampness of a wrung out sponge, the microbial population will increase, speeding up composting in the bin.

Worm Bins

Red Wigglers are terrestrial creatures. They will quickly perish if placed into a pool of water. If their environment gets too wet, they will wriggle for their lives, migrating to a safer location, probably out of the worm bin. To dry out the bedding, add shredded paper or cardboard. The worms will eventually eat the paper and in the meantime, it will absorb excess water. If space in your bin is at a premium and additional material cannot be added, placing a piece of cardboard or burlap on the surface of the bedding will absorb moisture and can be replaced if additional moisture needs to be removed. Make sure to also check the worm tea level of your bin. Most of the water in the bin will end up in the worm tea level. If it fills, it will saturate the lowest level of the worm bin. If the tea levels are high, drain the tea from the bin and use it as a liquid fertilizer on your plants! They’ll love it!

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worm-castingsMoisture content is very important when composting with worms. This is because your red wigglers breathe through their skin and need appropriate moisture to do so. Often times the materials you add will give your bin moisture, but you will find that you will need to add water to obtain appropriate moisture content (especially with warmer weather).

Check your bin: To check your moisture content reach into your bin and grab a handful of the contents. It should feel like a wrung out sponge with few drops of water.

Too dry: A good thing to have near your worm is a spray gun, especially when the weather is a bit warmer. Lightly spray the contents of the bin until it reaches the “wrung out sponge” moisture content.

Too wet: Add some dry shredded paper. This will soak up the excess moisture and your worms will eat it too! Be sure to double check your worm tea level as well as this can often affect the moisture content of your bin. If your collection try is overflowing with worm tea it may be adding extra moisture to the bottom level causing it to be too wet.

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The Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin includes a bottom collection tray and spicket for collecting worm tea. For more information about bins visit www.solanacenter.org

Having a healthy garden is every gardener’s goal. There are a myriad of products and techniques that are endorsed by many gardeners. One such product that many use is worm tea. Worm tea is the liquid produced by worms in vermicomposting. Many worm bins have a collection tray or spicket for collecting tea, like the Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin seen in this photo.  Worm tea should be mixed with water before adding to plants but what ratio is best?

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