In addition to traditional composting, which I have written several posts about, there is also another form of composting which is even better, and is so easy to do that almost anyone at almost any age and physical ability level could do it successfully. That is vermicomposting, or worm composting.
For the past several months I have been contemplating either building or purchasing a worm composting bin. I had a worm bin set up at my last house before I moved and I really miss the benefits of having it around.
Worm castings or vermicompost is an extremely beneficial fertilizer for gardens and house plants. Many gardeners will purchase worm castings to add to their garden beds each season to give their plants what they need to achieve their full potential.
Many growers have found that it shortens the germination cycle for new plants, increases yield on their crop overall, and does it all while protecting the plants from disease. As if that wasn't enough, worm castings are also chemical-free. This makes it an especially attractive option for organic growers, specifically.
An Ohio State University study found that worm castings have a substantial effect on the yield of crops. They found that increased yield was due to plant growth regulators produced by microorganisms within the castings. In short, the castings have billions of tiny, healthy bacteria within them that contribute to the rapid germination and growth of plants.
In addition to the beneficial microbes, the USDA says that worm castings are "several times higher in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than topsoil." The nutrients in all-natural worm castings are substantial and they provide the perfect mix that plants need.
Worm castings have the ability to protect your plants from both diseases and pests without the use of harmful chemicals. This study from Cornell University found that earthworm castings can stop many common plant diseases.
According to the study, castings "can colonize a seed's surface and protect it from infection by releasing a substance that interferes with the chemical signaling between the host and the pathogen." These pathogens are a common issue for many greenhouse growers when attempting to grow plants indoors.
Worm castings help form a protective barrier at the microbial level, that will keep your plants growing even if they're exposed to potentially harmful diseases.
In addition to protecting against disease, castings also help keep pests at bay. Microbes in worm castings naturally stimulate the production of chitinase, which breaks down the exoskeletons of many insects.
This provides a natural and safe form of pesticide without all the synthetic chemicals. You can save money on pesticide, while at the same time keeping your plants healthy for consumption.
When being cost-conscious, you don't want to spend to much on fertilizer or soil supplements. If you're in need of a cost-effective solution, worm castings are the way to go. While you really can't use too much, you don't have to overdo it either. Many gardeners use a mix of 25% earthworm castings to 75% soil. That's typically enough to make a big difference for the plants.
Another nice thing about worm castings is that you really can't screw it up. If you put too much in the soil, it's not going to burn the plants. It's totally safe to handle and it won't have any negative affect on the plants if you accidentally put too much in.
In fact, you could grow your plants directly in worm castings if you wanted to, although it's probably not the most cost-effective route to do it on a large scale. If you try worm castings on your plants, you can tweak the mix to get just the right formula. The good news is that it'll work well, regardless of what you do. It's a foolproof easy way to give your plants what they need.
One of the benefits of having a worm composting bin of your own is that you never have to purchase those worm castings that from the store ever again. Not only are you saving money on purchasing worm castings, but you control what goes into the worm castings.
Just like you, our garden plants benefit the most from a rounded healthy diet which consist of lots of different things. Unfortunately, many commercial worm casting production companies just do not understand that concept and produce their worm castings by feeding their worms with a mono-diet of just one ingredient. One very popular company whose product is available nationwide proudly boasts that they produce their worm castings with "100% Michigan Peat". While yes, peat is a good ingredient to use in a worm bin and worms do love eating it, and it makes good worm castings, those castings only contain nutrients found in peat and nothing else.
Could you imagine what your health would be like and how malnourished you would be if you only ate the same thing every single day? Your plants are the same way, they need lots of different nutrients from different sources for them to be able to grow their best and produce the best food for you and your family. Imagine if you only ate lettuce for the rest of your life and never ate any other vegetables, meat, legumes, grains, etc. You would be getting plenty of nutritious content from the lettuce, but lettuce does not contain all of the nutritional content that your body needs to live. Your plants can also not live and produce to their fullest potential on a mono-diet.
By having your own worm bin at home creating your own worm castings you control the diet of your worms and therefore you control the nutrition content in their castings so you are able to ensure the very best possible worm castings for your plants. But worm castings is not the only thing that worm bins produce.
Another byproduct of worm bins is a dark brown liquid that comes out the bottom of a worm bin that some people mistakingly call worm tea. The liquid that drains from the bottom of a worm bin is more accurately called worm leachate. Worm leachate is considered a superfood for organic gardens and many in the gardening world refer to it as "Liquid Gold". Worm tea is a wonderful liquid plant fertilizer that is easily made from worm leachate. I will discuss how to create and use worm tea in a future posting.
Below is a screenshot of a report from the University of Georgia back in 2015 when they tested a sample of worm leachate that was sent to them so that we could see exactly what it contained. In addition to all of the normal nutrients that were expected, the report also showed that the liquid contained a lot of beneficial trace elements that commercially produced liquid fertilizers just do not have in them.
The addition of these beneficial trace elements along with the additional beneficial microorganisms that are in the worm leachate are why this is so much better for your plants and helps to grow huge, healthy, disease resistant plants.
Many people do not have room for, or do not want to have a compost pile in their yard. A worm bin gives you the benefits of having compost to use for their plants without the hassles associated with traditional composting. A worm bin can be used in an apartment or house, a garage, a basement, or outside because you do not have the odors and mess typically associated with composting.
Other people have a compost pile that they use for yard and garden waste but they do not want to put food scraps in it for fear of attracting rodents, stray animals, and other pests. The compost pile could be utilized to take care of their yard and garden waste and the worm bin could be used to take care of food scraps. This is more of the way that I always used my worm bin. Basically, if it came from outside in the yard it went in the compost pile, and if it came from the kitchen it went into the worm bin. By utilizing both I was able to reap the benefits of both forms of compost and I continually had the best fertilizers to feed my plants with.
As you can see, there are numerous benefits to having a worm bin of your own. As I researched worm bin designs and talked to other people who were using worm bins I tried to find the best solution to my needs which were:
I wanted something easy to assemble.
I wanted something that was going to be easy for me to use.
I wanted a system that allowed easy collection of both cured worm castings as well as worm leachate.
I wanted something that looked nice so the HOA did not complain.
I wanted something that was going to last for many years.
I was trying to decide if I wanted to build my own system again, or just purchase a commercially made worm bin. After researching all my options I have decided for now to go with a commercially made worm bin. I will be testing out several different types of worm bins to see which works the best for my needs and uploading my progress with each one to keep you informed as I conduct the trials and do a review of each one.
The first one I am going to start off with is the Hungry Bin made in New Zealand. I have heard a lot of good reports about this bin and if it lives up to its reputation, it will be a perfect match to my needs.
Here is a video produced by Hungry Bin describing the bin and how it works.
I have ordered one and it should be here ready to start setting up in a week or two. I will do regular postings as I get that system up and running so you can see what all is involved with setting it up, using it, and hopefully harvesting from it.
The Hungry Bin would be considered the Mercedes Benz or the BMW of the worm composting world, so they are not cheap. Because of its high cost, it has a lot to live up to as far as I am concerned. My review will not be altered or biased in any way from any financial motivation as I paid full price for the Hungry Bin and with shipping to Hawaii was $498.
Unfortunately, I will be sourcing my worms from a local worm grower as it is illegal to import worms to Hawaii due to strict laws regarding introducing non native worms into the soil. Worm growers here in Hawaii are taking advantage of this law and are definitely gouging the price of the worms by charging an exorbitant amount of $160 per pound for the exact same worms that can be purchased on the mainland for $35 per pound. They are the exact same species of worms. I think this is just wrong to do and they are doing a disservice to both the gardening and composting industries by their greed.