Garden Gnome: Worm castings make good fertilizer

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Robert Rogers is making black gold these days, or rather millions of his worms are.

Robert Rogers uses worm castings to make a tea for fertilizer.  SANDY HODSON/STAFF
Robert Rogers uses worm castings to make a tea for fertilizer.

Using worm castings – also known as worm manure or simply worm poop – can do fabulous things for all things green. You should see the size of Robert’s collards if you doubt.

According to several universities with agriculture departments, using worm castings is more beneficial that using any other kind of fertilizer.

Robert, a master gardener’s master gardener, is not the type of person to do things halfway. He now has five bins of worms, three of which are dedicated to fattening up the worms.

If you start worm farming with 1,000 breeder worms in January, by the end of the year there will be more than 3 million of the little wigglers, he said. The best worms to use are the red worms that can eat their weight in food in a day.

Robert uses cotton gin trash for food, supplementing it with feed for brooding chickens. He also adds peat moss in some bins.

Every three months he separates the castings from the worms and the worm eggs. There are various ways to do this by hand, but with an operation the size of Robert’s, a special, motorized screened tube does the separating. The screens are 1/4 and 1/8 inch. The smaller size separates the castings out in a fine size that is richly black, and the larger one sets the worms and their eggs free.

Unlike working with animal manures, the worm castings don’t smell.

The worms are housed in covered bins, about 10 inches deep. They don’t seem affected by temperature extremes, Robert said. They do like it dark and moist, however.

Knowing how much to feed the worms is easy. If Robert sees food left in the morning, he leaves them be.

Robert makes a castings tea for fertilizing by adding about 8 tablespoons of castings to a gallon of water. According to some university reports, it is a great delivery method for plants.

There have been some scam operators out there who claim you can buy a worm operation from them and they’ll buy back the additional worms later. It’s been called a Ponzi scheme in several states.

For more information about worm farming and how to get started, searching educational sites is best.

You probably won’t find worm castings at the box stores, and when you do find worm castings, it can be expensive, which is another great reason to farm your own worms.

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