Worm castings

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    Has anyone got any comments they'd like to make on this post? It's from a butterfly gardener USA:

    << Has anyone ever used worm castings as fertilizer for host plants? This is what I read that makes me question whether or not they should be used on host plants:

    ?Insect Repellency: Testing has shown that several microorganisms found in worm castings stimulate the organisms in plants that work as repellants for a large array of insects. The repellants increase to a level that the insects find the plant nectar distasteful. The insects then leave. The effectiveness has been seen for aphids, white fly, and other bugs that feed on the plant juices.?

    I?d love to hear back from anyone who has used worm castings. >>

    Anything posted here I will pass on to her. Thanks.


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    That's great, thanks Jacquie, – no need for editing at all – best to keep things in context.
    Worm farming is easy to do if you know what, and what not, to feed them.



    I would if I could but it's a closed email discussion, but I'm sharing what's been shared so far. If you would like to contact any of these people, please email me and I'll pass on their contact details.

    I'm posting them unedited as my hands are full right now, so sorry if there's irrelevant chat in there!


    Hi Connie,

    Along with butterflies, we also grow organic lettuce. We attended a workshop a year or so ago and toured a vermiculture here in Michigan. Afterwards we were doing some research and I came across this site http://www.yelmworms.com/ and talked to the folks there about some of the same claims you are asking about. >From what I remember, it's actually a "tea" you make out of the castings to be used as an insect repellent. There are so many variables in making the tea that we didn't think the outcome would be dependable enough to use on the milkweed plants. We have used the casting in our soil mix for our lettuce and thought it worked well……..it's just too costly to use it all the time, we really should just do it on our own.

    The guy I talked to at Yelm Earthworm was VERY knowledgeable, and I see they have a few new products etc. since I talked to them, so it may be worthwhile to call them again. It's an interesting concept! I'd love to hear if you find out anything new!




    I vermicompost and the castings goes on all our plants. I have never heard this and do not know any of the science but we have butterfly gardens and have no lack of "critters" in the gardens. I promote using an Insectary, which we have planted and as a result we do have lots of predators which eat aphids etc. so it is a balancing act.

    To make sure I have the terminology correct- host plants are for the larvae to eat and nectar plants are for the adults to use. Is that correct? That being said our host plants which are planted throughout the gardens have no lack of insects and have identified over 30 butterflies and moths in the gardens. We make our own worm castings and teach vermicomposting through our area. the purpose is to make the soil a healthier grwoing medium for the plants. We have less disease problems but no lack of insects.

    This is my experience and I truly believe castings are black gold. That being said, I make my own, know what we feed the worms and our farm is as "natural" as can be- no spraying, no chemical fertilizer etc.



    I read an article in MacLeans Magazine I think it was about a University Student (at the time) who was making "worm tea" and had turned it into a booming "green" business by making the tea (it is kind of a cold steeping process I think) – and then bottling it in recycled 2 litre "soda" bottles. I have seen it in the big box stores like Home Depot and Rona – and I heard he is doing very well with it. He sells it as a fertilizer – which is my understanding as to why people would use it. I didn't know about the repellant factor at all. I am anxious to hear more.



    Yes, it is a soil booster and a deterrent to diseases in the garden, by providing micro-nutrients and a disease preventative especially dampening off with seedlings.

    It is easy to make a tea with the castings but as a "tea" it really needs to be used fresh to get the most benefit. Once it has been bottled and sits, it still has a benefit but it loses almost half of it's efficacy.

    The castings themselves are sold dry and used as a soil amendment and organic fertilizer and they are wonderful because they can not burn or hurt the plants the way chemical fertilizers can. We do not use any kind of chemical fertilizers in the gardens especially Miracle Grow.

    It is truly black gold,



    Hi all.

    Well, this is right up our alley.

    Worm castings and compost tea are the lifeline of our nursery. Without it we would have no chance to grow plants naturally in a greenhouse environment. Worm farming became part of our butterfly farming as a necessity to grow healthy host/nectar plants for our nursery without using pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers and growing plants that can compete with other nurseries because they are healthier and lusher and more disease resistant.

    We use the worm castings to make compost tea. The worms are fed cardboard, grocery greens (trimmings from the local supermarket), coffee grinds and anything organic (kitchen scraps). They convert this to a high bacterial based compost in their castings (poop). We use a pound of this in a 50 gallon tank, add some molasses, and blow air into it for 24 hours…and we have tea to feed our plants. We check the quality of our tea in the lab using a light microscope, counting microbes!!!

    What the compost tea does is that it puts BIOLOGY back into the soil. Simply put, the bacteria converts the nutrients the plant needs into a form that the plant can use. So, you still need compost in your soil and no soluble fertilizers…soluble fertilizer kills biology. Compost tea can also be used as a foliage spray.
    The idea is to create healthy plants. It doesn't repel the insects or kill any insects, it gives the plant a better chance, a healthy immune system, to repel them naturally. Remember, before the second World War, there were no soluble fertilizers. After the war bomb making chemicals were available in huge amounts and they had to find an application for these chemicals.

    A very nice source of information is http://www.soilfoodweb.com. We have been to their workshop in Oregon…fascinating stuff!

    Be careful before buying compost tea. The shelf life is very short. And it is very easy to make your own tea. I actually started with a kitty litter pail to breed worms in and a fish tank air pump in another pail to make the tea. A little takes you a long way.



    Gloria, in the 1990s I saw rabbit manure tea being made and used with great results at ECHO, a research and demonstration garden in North Fort Myers, Florida, about two hours south of Tampa by car on the Gulf coast. ECHO?s mission is to research gardening methods and to teach people in developing nations how to produce food easily and inexpensively using resources at hand. (They started working in Haiti a quarter century ago.)

    Making rabbit manure tea is a cold-steeping process. Rabbit droppings are collected and soaked in water for a time. Plants are then watered and fertilized simultaneously using the resulting brown organic tea.

    Their flat rooftop gardens where tomatoes grow without soil in discarded tires filled with crumpled soda cans for anchorage are impressive. If you are ever in southwest Florida, I recommend a taking a tour of the place. Here?s their website for a virtual look: http://www.echonet.org/



    Thanks Cornelius,

    As I stated earlier I have made and used our worm castings for what seems like forever and never had a problem. I can't imagine growing our plants without the castings and it's by products. Great info- it affirms how we "farm" too.

    Healthy soil provides a healthier plant which then provides the necessary "food" for the larvae and finally nectar for the "flying flowers" we have in the gardens. A definite win- win. Although we do not have the operation you do, our method serves us at our present scale and I hope to some day have a larger operation.

    As an environmental educator in schools the butterfly life cycle is just one part of the cycle they learn. By being exposed to nature's cycles of plant/ animal interdependence they see how nature works when Man doesn't mess it up. It amazes me how nature does the job when we get out of the way. Worms eat our garbage, they provide us an alternative to chemicals which feed the soil and the cycle begins again – amazing.

    Thanks again,



    The guy that I deal with here in Canada is in a little town outside of Edmonton called Ardrossen. It is "Dirt Willy Game Bird Farm and Hatchery" – and he also supplies me with worms. He is very knowledgeable. He even has a website dirtwilly.com – and can be e-mailed at rick@dirtwilly.com His worms are always very healthy and vigourous. If you visit his website please rest assured that he is really quite nice looking in real life – and doesn't look like the logo. I love his business name and logo though. When I say I get my worms from "Dirt Willy"…

    I don't think he could ship into the states – but he could certainly recommend someone I would think. (In the composter they will freeze as they can't get deep enough to get away from the cold – I have mine inside most of the time… The Red Wigglers don't like the cold at the best of times – and we don't find them "wild" up here. If you dump them into your yard in Edmonton they will slowly expire over time – and eventually you will find them only in "warmer" places like a big compost pile or someplace warm.)

    There must be "worm sellers" in the states as well if you are interested in getting into it. Also – if you know someone who has them already – they are usually more than willing to "share".




    Any chance of a link to that discussion?



    That original query inspired a very interesting discussion in that other group I belong to… when I have time I will put some of the feedback that she got. The woman who posted the original question was new to 'natural gardening'.




    That is interesting about the nutrient value your tests revealed, Jane. Even better than I expected.
    Yep – the same ? 1-10 dilution rate.
    I have had worm farms for 12 years and just love them.
    Was the person not asking if the use of vermicast could harm or be distasteful for desired caterpillars? That?s how I read it.
    Haven?t ever used liquid for foliar spraying ? might try it one swan plant and see if the caterpillars choose to move nextdoor.



    I concur with DarrrenG that there is some doubt about what is meant.

    I have had a worm farm for 20 years and used all products from it on my vegetables and on swanplants too, but only at the root zone and not as a foliar spray.

    Whilst a hort student, I sent some worm castings and some of the vermiliquid to the Ruakura soil research centre for analysis as a nutrient feed. The results were quite startling. In short, the vermicasts and vermiliquid were found to have an equal nutrient value, (as an application at the rootzone, and for use in potting mixture at a rate of 10%), as Osmacote, which is quite an expensive granular fertilizer. The nutrient values would differ according to the diet given to the worms, however this was an interesting exercise overall.

    I have never noticed any repellent action in my plants, and certainly nothing in relation to vege growing – perhaps I SHOULD try it as a foliar application and see if it repels aphids. If anyone else has tried this and found that it works I would be very pleased to hear about the results. – Jane



    Gosh, I have never really thought about it in those terms.
    Not sure if I have used the actual castings for Swan plant planting -but I use them all time in my vege garden, and use diluted 'worm tea' as a fertiliser for swan plants.
    I have always read the castings and liquid should be used diluted.
    I shall pay more attention as to whether it works as an insect repellant. It doesn't seem to put butterflies off.
    I love my worm farm.



    I've seen numerous reports on vermicast's pest repellent benefits, both as a foliar spray and in terms of boosting the plant's overall health and natural defences. Pests and predators tend to go for the weakest and sickest individuals.

    The author says that the nectar can become distasteful, but then goes on to use aphids and whitefly as an example, which are sap feeders. So I'm not quite sure what her point is? Does she think a healthy host plant will be less attractive to the caterpillars?

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