Worm-Made vs. Man-Made
Before I tell you about the benefits of using worm castings or vermicompost, you need to know why you should not be utilizing chemicals.
If you watch the news at all, you are well aware of the environmental crises that occur around the world involving hazardous materials and chemicals. The components of chemical fertilizer have even been used to make life-destroying bombs, which should be a big hint to all of us that they are not the best thing to be using on our lawns; and especially on our vegetable gardens that supply the food we feed to our family.
Chemical fertilizers are considered potentially harmful to both humans and to our planet. They are completely inorganic, synthesized to mimic the minerals and nutrients that plants need to grow. Yes, they work; but at what cost? Chemical fertilizers can pollute wells and ground water and eventually ends up in the rivers, lakes and oceans as rain washes it to these water sources. How many times have you seen someone overwatering their lawn to the point that it is running in the gutters? How many times have you stopped to think that whatever he or she has used to kill weeds on their lawn or to make their lawn grow is being washed, along with the wasted water, into the storm drains? Where do you think the water from the storm drains ends up? Yep, I’ve been guilty too, but I’ve made learning about the best ways to garden while leaving the world a better place for my children, my personal goal and my business, and that does not involve using harmful chemicals.
I’m sure you’ve heard how important it is to wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly; in fact, in some instances the experts are now recommending that you remove the skins completely. The same skins that your Mom always told you has so many more healthful vitamins and nutrients than the flesh of the fruit, is now being contaminated. Some of the most common fruits, such as strawberries, have some of the highest concentrations of fertilizer-borne chemical concentrations.
And if that isn’t enough, chemical fertilizers can actually, over time, cause mineral depletion of the soil, a loss of humus content and fertile top soil, as well as increasing pest problems due to the destruction of beneficial bacteria and microbes that help the plants to defend themselves against diseases and pests. Long-term use of chemical fertilizers may mean that you have to water more and that you also may have to use more chemicals to destroy the pests and diseases that have been enabled by the use of chemicals to begin with.
This vicious cycle has been perpetuated, not only by us, but by the chemical companies that heard our demands for the “instant” picture perfect lawn. That was the American Dream, after all. But the perfect lawn takes time, which is something we all seemed to have run completely out of as the race was on to keep up with the Joneses and then with the Rockefellers and the American housewife put shoes on and started carrying a brief case. It was all we could do to raise our 2.5 children and bring home the bacon, but we still wanted that perfect lawn. Necessity is the mother of inventionwhich is how chemical fertilizers came to be.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention againas we now know at what cost our “instant” green lawn was achieved. Today, as more and more Americans are out of work or struggling to make ends meet, the return to gardening is like a tidal wave spreading across this country of ours. Even vacant city lots are becoming community gardens to feed the citizens, but the by-product of this movement is that people are learning to care again. They are getting to know their neighbors as they band together so that more can eat. They are getting to know their children as they opt out of the movie theater and opt in for family gardening. The dancing shoes are being put away and being replaced by a hoe; after all, who can afford to go out AND pay a babysitter? The backyard garden is becoming what the sit-down family dinner used to be in the 60’s.
And people care. They care more about the environment because they are thinking twice about what they put on the home-grown vegetables that they will put in their mouth. They see our natural resources shrinking, right along with their bank account, and hope that we are all not doing too little too late. And they are looking for solutions.
Here is a HUGE solutionan army of people working together to raise an army of worms that can supply the U.S. with all the natural, organic and chemical-free fertilizer that is needed to rebuild our tired soil and to fertilize every backyard garden, every community garden, every farmers’ crops and every acre of produce commercially grown.
Worm castings, worm compost, vermicompost and organic fertilizer are all terms for the same thing. It is the result of different types of worms, usually earthworms, particularly red wigglers, and white worms, being used to create nutrient rich compost. The worms break down organic matter, passing it through their digestive system, the end result being an organic fertilizer and soil amendment with 60 different minerals and nutrients essential to growing healthy plants. No dairy, meat, fats or oils are fed to the worms and what IS fed to the worms also determines the quality of the worm castings, as does the worm itself. Regular earthworms are not generally utilized for vermicomposting. The common earthworm cannot survive the heat that is necessary for the efficient decomposition of the organic materials. The Red Worm, on the other hand, has a voracious appetite, often eating one-half to one times their own weight in food every day, and thrives in the temperatures necessary to help their composting. Well fed worms also reproduce quicker, which means even more compost.
And what is fed to these worms? Every type of organic matter available. A lot of it would end up in landfills or down garbage disposals if it was not rescued for worm food. For example, the leaves removed from the outside of the head of lettuce and the core. Any type of perishable fruit or vegetable, even breads can be bound for the worm’s gullet if it is going to waste or has become overripe. And then some bedding material is added, to make the worms comfortable and to get things started. We have a selection of compost bins designed specifically for worm composting if you’d like to try this at home, but we also sell Earthworm Castings, made by that army of people and worms that I mentioned earlier, and which will require much less work on your part.
So, now that you know how the worm castings are created, let’s get to the benefits of using them.
Where chemical fertilizers destroy, the worm restores. Completely 100% planet-friendly, this whole process is naturally-occurring. Man is just here to help the worm do their job better, to distribute this worm-made black gold and to spread the word that worms can save the world! Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but I made my point.
Naturally rich in microbes, humus and nutrients, vermicompost improves and then maintains the fertility of your soil. Humus is quite complex, and I won’t even attempt to explain it, but to say that humus is what allows the roots of your plants to access the necessary nutrients from the soil. It allows your plants to feed themselves, rather than having to be “force fed” with a chemical fertilizer. The humus aides the soil’s ability to hold more moisture, air and nutrients, which then feeds all of the microbes that bring the nutrients to the plants’ roots. Wikipedia does a much better job of breaking it all down, but suffice to say that humus is the key to the most successful organic gardening.
You also won’t find humus in most manures or compost for sale commercially. Most of these products are simply dried manure or composted organic matter and once it looks like dirt, it can be sold to fertilize your lawns and gardens. The trick is to build the compost up to contain a high level of humus, which is exactly what the worms do!
And the list of benefits goes on:
- Many fungal diseases are suppressed, such as phythium, fusarium, dollar spot, etc.
- The use of worm castings reduces algae in lagoons, ponds and greenhouses because there is no nitrogen run-off. Using worm castings will not contaminate ground water.
- You can reduce water consumption up to 50% and increase drought-resistance.
- Worm castings improve the structure of the soil, allowing for better aeration, root development and nutritional uptake.
- Worm castings can even be applied to phosphate sensitive areas.
- Beneficial enzymes are produced by the plants that are fed by the worm castings, enabling them to naturally repel many of the pests that feed on the juices of the plants.
- It is odorless. You don’t have to wear a mask while applying it, indoors or out.
- You can even dissolve it in water and use it as ‘compost tea’.
The worm restores what chemicals have destroyed. I can’t think of any better reason to quit using chemical fertilizers and switch to worm castings.