Potted Plant Worm Castings – Using Worm Castings In Container Gardening
By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Wormcastings, your basic worm poop, is loaded with nutrients and othercomponents that promote healthy, chemical-free plant growth. There’s no reasonnot to use worm castings in containers, and you may notice increased bloomingand considerable improvement in overall plant health. Read on to learn moreabout this potent naturalfertilizer.
Using Worm Castings in Container Gardening
Worms create spaces for water and air as they tunnel throughthe soil. In their wake they deposit rich manure, or castings, that look a lotlike coffee grounds. How do worm castings in containers help your pottedplants?
Worm castings are rich in nutrients, including not only thebasics but also substances like zinc, copper, manganese, carbon, cobalt, andiron. They are absorbed into potting soil immediately, making nutrients availableto roots right away.
Unlike synthetic fertilizers or animal manure, worm castingswon’t burn plant roots. They contain microorganisms that support healthy soil(including potting soil). They also may discourage root rot and other plantdiseases, as well as provide natural resistance to pests including aphids,mealybugs,and mites.Water retention can be improved, meaning potted plants may require lessfrequent irrigation.
How to Use Worm Castings in Containers
Using worm castings for potted plants is really no differentthan using regular compost. With worm castings fertilizer, use about ¼ cup (0.6ml.) for every six inches (15 cm.) of container diameter. Mix the castings intothe potting soil. Alternatively, sprinkle one to three tablespoons (15-45 ml.)of worm castings around the stem of container plants, then water well.
Refresh the potting soil by adding a small amount of wormcastings to the top of the soil monthly throughout the growing season. Don’tworry if you add a little extra, unlike chemical fertilizers, worm castingswon’t harm your plants.
Wormcasting tea is made by steeping worm castings in water. The tea can bepoured over the potting soil or sprayed directly on foliage. To make wormcasting tea, mix two cups (0.5 L.) of castings with about five gallons (19 L.)of water. You can add the castings directly to the water or put them in a mesh“tea” bag. Let the mixture steep overnight.
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A few years ago a young woman asked me for help with her large, potted acacia tree. “I’ve had it for several years, and it was doing fine until recently. Now, the leaves are yellowing and dropping, and it’s just not thriving.”
This geranium blooms nonstop, thanks to regular fertilizing and top-dressing with worm castings.
“Let me guess, I’ll bet you’ve taken good care of it, and have been feeding it with liquid fertilizer, but despite your best efforts, it’s still suffering, correct?”
I knew immediately what was wrong. Handing her a 25-pound bag of dried worm castings and 20-quart bag of potting soil, I instructed her to re-pot the tree in a 50/50 mix of the two, add the recommended amount of her liquid fertilizer, water it well, and call me in a month.
Worm Castings Vs. Compost – Which Is Better?
Joe Skinner Jun 26, '20
Looking to maximize the health of your garden or landscaping? Wondering if you should use compost or worm castings? In this guide from The Soil King, we’ll take a look at worm castings vs. compost, and help you understand more about each one, and which product may be right for your garden.
What Are Worm Castings?
Worm castings are also known as “vermicast” or “vermicompost.” Worm castings are the byproduct of the decomposition process of various worms. In other words, they’re worm poop. When worms eat vegetable matter, they excrete nutrient-rich waste that contains lots of water-soluble nutrients, and has very low levels of contaminants.
Worm castings also have a high concentration of “humus,” a spongy carbon-based substance that helps the material stay hydrated and properly aerated. Because worm castings contain high levels of nutrients and are beneficial for plant hydration and aeration, they’re a great choice for smaller-scale vegetable gardens.
However, worm castings can vary quite a bit in quality, and they are usually more expensive than compost and other soil additives.
What Is Compost?
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed into a concentrated mass of humus. When grass cuttings, flowers, sticks, vegetable peels, and other such material are loaded into a pile, they begin to break down into compost – often assisted by worms, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that feed on decaying matter.
One of the best things about compost is that you can make it yourself by simply dumping vegetables, plant trimmings, grass, and other organic material into a pile. Depending on how much plant waste you generate, you may be able to get your entire supply of compost for free.
Compost is also made industrially and sold, however, so you can purchase it in bulk to augment the topsoil for your garden, flower beds, and landscaping.
Which Is Better – Compost Or Worm Castings?
Vermicompost has higher levels of nutrients and an improved humus profile, which helps with hydration and aeration. However, it’s usually more expensive to buy in bulk, and vermicomposting on your own is not easy.
Seven ways to use Worm Castings
- Use them when planting new plants – simply put a handful in the planting hole.
- Use them when you are propagating seeds, mix them with coir as a seed raising mix, 2 parts coir to 1 part worm castings
- Use them as a general soil conditioner by digging them in through the soil.
- Use them before you mulch, spread them thinly and then mulch over the top.
- Use it for container grown plants, 25 % worm castings to 75% potting soil
- Use them as a tonic when watering, a handful in a watering can and then use it on the garden.
- Use it as a foliar spray, a handful in a 25 litre (1 gallon ) bucket, add a capful or two of seaweed or fish fertiliser and use it as a foliar spray.
You can also use the leachate, use it when its fresh and dilute it at a 10 parts water to 1 part leachate ratio . Fresh leachate is beneficial, old leachate is not.
How To Apply Worm Castings to Plants
The best way to apply worm castings is by either adding them to the initial potting mix or by using them as a mulch. If you already potted your plant, or are going to use the worm castings for plants in your garden, mulch is the best way to go. This is because mulching doesn’t disturb the often ignored soil ecosystem and beneficial microbes.
If you’re using worm castings in your potting mix, a good amount to aim for is at least 15% of the soil. Like compost, having more worm castings in the soil won’t hurt your plants. The more the better.
When applying worm castings or compost, the two biggest rules to remember are to check the soil’s pH and to not let these soil amendments touch the plant’s base as they can introduce mold.
If you’re applying worm castings in a garden, 15% might not be a useful number for you. In this case, apply 1-2 inches as a mulch in your garden. If you don’t have enough castings to cover the entire garden, focus them near the plants you’d like to support or the area with the weakest soil health. The best place to do this is underneath the canopy, or drip-line, of the plant.
Here are some steps to apply worm castings as a mulch:
- Measure the worm castings you’re applying (either at least 15% or 1-2 inches)
- Apply evenly over your garden or potted plants
- Avoid the trunks or base of plants
- Water well to help the castings and nutrients work their way into the soil
- Apply every 2 months for best results
Although applying worm castings every two months is beneficial, this can be expensive depending on the amount you’re using. Because castings can stay in the soil for up to 6 months, applying twice a year in addition to fertilizer is a good approach as well.
If you’re planning on continually using worm castings, the best way is to get your own vermicompost bin. I made mine in 5 minutes for $19, so there’s not much of a barrier here. If you’d like a quick video on how to do this, you can check out a YouTube short I made here:
You don’t need many worms, just a dozen will do (get red wigglers if you can). They’ll reproduce quickly and you’ll have plenty in your soil in no time.
Remember, don’t till your soil as it will disturb and kill off the beneficial bacteria by exposing them to the elements. Your plants use these bacteria as a way to process and absorb more nutrients in the soil. Simply apply the worm castings on top of the soil or in the initial potting mix (the same goes if you’re using compost).
After years of fatigue and declining health, Tyler found that good, fresh food was his answer. He learned more about healthy food by obtaining a certification in health coaching, and from there decided to grow his own food and become more self-sufficient. From gardening to learning about living off-grid, homesteading has become a good fit and pairs well with Tyler's odd childhood dream – to one day own a goat. Read more.
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