Worms are the miracle workers of the garden and compost pile. Their relentless effort improves soil structure and efficiently recaptures nutrients that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
I know what you’re think, “But really, worms?” and I get it. Worms aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think composting. In fact, most people probably don’t how worms actually function in a composting system. It might surprise you to know that worms are one of the most efficient composters on the planet.
The Key Benefits of Vermiculture
Worms can make quick work of organic material, capturing the valuable nutrients hidden in the scraps, stalks, and other inedible parts of plants that would normally just be tossed. The process of composting with worms is called vermiculture and it far easier to accomplish than you think.
Worm castings are packed with nutrients
Soil that a worm ingests is suddenly 5 times richer in nitrogen, 10 times richer in potassium, has 7 times more phosphate, 1.5 times as much calcium and 3 times the magnesium. This is exactly why gardeners call worm casting black gold!
Compost tea is easy to make
Tea from compost? Not your “cup of tea” as they say? I don’t blame you but compost tea is the perfect nutrient, microbe, and enzyme delivery vehicle for transporting the value of that black gold into your garden beds and raised planters. Compost tea is an extract made from soaking worm castings in water and boosting the microbial activity with aeration and a little molasses. The result is a liquid fertilizer that contains countless bacteria, fungi, and protozoa that stimulate the soil food web wherever it is applied.
Not so small scale nutrient recovery
Many folks might see vermiculture as a small scale effort undertaken only by those truly dedicated to gardening. But in truth, composting with worms at home can reduce the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill by as much as 30%. Not so small scale if you ask me! And think about just how many recaptured nutrients are being returned to your garden and raised planters. That means less store bought fertilizers and soil amendments are needed in the long run saving you money.
Worms process waste faster than hot composting
When most people think of composting they imagine those large piles of grass clippings, leaves, and food scraps in the corner of the garden. And there’s nothing wrong with that method, often referred to as hot composting. But the hot composting method requires that the pile be turned and watered periodically. Worms are self-sufficient for the most part. As long as you keep their bedding moist and add new levels when needed, the only other input they require is food scraps so they can work their magic. And the best part, they can turn your scraps into black gold in 90 days, a much faster process than that of hot composting.
Castings can be applied as a soil amendment
Don’t see yourself as the patient type? Me either. Lucky for us, worm castings can be applied directly to the soil without much fuss. Just work the castings into the top few inches of soil in your raised planter and it will improve the soil structure. Castings serve a multitude of functions in soil by stabilizing toxins, eliminating harmful fungi, sequestering heavy metals and acid-forming carbon, stimulating plant growth, fostering microbial development, retaining moisture, and preventing soil erosion.
Worm bins can be managed inside all year long
The vermiculture method of composting doesn’t need to be outside. In fact, temperature regulation is key so locating your bins inside is the best solution. When the temperatures drop in early fall your worms will be quite content and still turning waste into black gold through the winter while your garden compost pile struggles to maintain the requisite temperature. We wouldn’t recommend bringing your host compost pile indoors though!
Perfect for urban dwellers and the space challenged
A worm bin takes up just a few square feet which makes it a perfect solution for urbanites. They can be tucked into a corner without a problem, even in the smallest classroom. It’s a much bigger challenge finding a place for a heap of scraps and organic material required for hot composting.
Worms regulate their population
Worms regulate their own population based on space, moisture, pH, temperature, bedding material, and amount of food available. Novel concept really if you think about it. They regulate based on what is available to them, careful not to overpopulate. If conditions are optimal they will reproduce. If not, they don’t. Even the cocoons that hold the potential for new worms have a shelf life so to speak. The eggs and sperm remain separated inside until the conditions are right. These cocoons can remain “dormant” so to speak for months before fertilization occurs. Under optimal conditions though, your worm population can double every 90 days.