About 6 months ago, I got into a discussion with a Master Gardener that had come over to purchase some worms. I showed her the pineapple plants that I had successfully overwintered (The tops came off of store bought pineapples). She said, “You can grow the plants here (Northern California), but you cannot get them to fruit”.
I thought differently. Most plants, as long as they are thriving, will eventually produce fruit. Look at how cute my little pineapple fruit is!
How do I keep my plants thriving? Worm Castings!
Now, worm castings alone will not keep a pineapple plant alive through the winter. What I did was put the container next to my house all winter. The heat from the house radiated just enough to help this pineapple plant survive the cold. We have moderate temps in San Jose, but they are nothing like Hawaii, the home of the pineapple.
Everyone that sees the stuff that I grow says, “You have a green thumb”. They should say, “You have a black thumb”….the color of my Worm Castings!
Last week I received an order for several boxes of worm castings from a frequent customer, Shelli from San Luis Obispo.
I wrote back to Shelli thanking her, and telling her when her worm castings would be shipped. Shelli wrote back with some great photo’s of her garden. According to Shelli, I (The castings), help her grow almost everything.
These were special castings though. Shelli’s hubby purchased them for her. They even have a special name for the castings, “Garden Chocolate”. How cute is that!
When I educate people about the value of worm castings, I always tell them that you can apply castings around even the most tender of plants such as an orchid or a fern. Because castings are low nitrogen, you need not worry about burning your plants roots. Obviously, Shelli’s Orchids and Camellias are doing fantastic.
Thanks to Shelli and her hubby for the great pics!
….Hey Hon, I think you should grow some artichokes. And of course, never to be satisfied with a single artichoke plant, I plant a dozen of them, along with a bunch of garlic to deter bugs. I then added some castings and let the Alabama Jumpers do their thing in the planting beds, and BAM!…Artichoke forest!
If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll see that these kinds of results are not rare. They happen all the time. Now if I just stopped the overplanting habit, everything would be good. After all, who really needs 24 large garlic plants? 🙂
People that have never tried using worm castings always ask this question, “Do Worm Castings REALLY Work”? Few people are interested in hearing about the science behind worm castings, so the best way I can think of to answer that question is by SHOWING people the results.
The video’s above were taken a week ago, and the tree in the back still looks like a stick, and the tree in the front is even more blossomed!
Castings are not magic, but they sure seem like it!
You are about to see the COOLEST EXPERIMENT I’ve ever done. If you like growing things, watching things grow, enjoy gardening, know someone that works with children (Teacher, Counselor, Home Schooling)..or even if you simply enjoy eating the freshest vegetables possible…this is a fantastic experiment.
What you are looking at is Sub Irrigation Planting, or SIP’s for short. In sub irrigation planting, plants get watered from the bottom up by drawing water from a reservoir.
How does Sub Irrigation Planting Work? Instead of the traditional method of watering from the top down, Sub Irrigation Planting uses a water filled reservoir along with a medium density media (“Soil”) to “Wick” the water upwards. As the media becomes saturated, any excess goes back into the reservoir. This constant movement of water keeps the growing area hydrated at all times, but because the media never gets overly saturated, the roots of the plants are not sitting in an anaerobic environment.
Why use Sub Irrigation Planting? The plants get the EXACT amount of water they need, the “Soil” (More on this later), stays damp but not wet around the roots, but only damp to dry on top, No wasting water due to evaporation, no fungus gnats, AND…. the plants grow faster and larger because they are in the PERFECT growing environment.
As you can see, I spent BIG MONEY to do this experiment. 😉 $1.50 for a 2 Litre soda bottle, plus a couple of dollars in peat and vermiculite and of course, some worm castings.
After securing my 2 litre bottle, I had to figure out a way to safely cut it. After trying many things, what I’ve found works best is using a Ginsu knife! These are the knives advertised as being able to cut cans, and just about anything else. Everyone should have one of these. The Ginsu knife goes cuts through plastic quickly, easily, and safely.
After cutting the bottle, you invert the bottom and use it as your reservoir.
Fill the reservoir with water.
The top part of the bottle is used to hold your “Soil” and seeds. I uses parenthesis around the word “soil” because with Sub Irrigation Planting, regular soil is not used. If you go into your yard and dig out some dirt, that dirt does not draw water properly. Clay soil will tend to stay too wet and harden into a clump. Sandy soil will not hold water well. What you want is a media that is fast draining, yet retains water so that it stays moist, not wet. What I have found is that peat moss, mixed with some compost, a handful of castings, and a little vermiculite is a perfect media for a SIP. I use 2 parts peat, 1 part compost, 1/4 part vermiculite, and 1/4 part castings. You can vary this depending on the height of your SIP. A taller unit will work better with some additional vermiculite.
Now comes the FUN! Invert the top of the bottle so that what was once the narrow top of the bottle now sits upside down in the reservoir. If you want to keep the reservoir clean, keep the screw lid on the bottle, and just drill a 1/4 inch hole so it can “SIP” from the reservoir. If you don’t care if the reservoir gets a little dirty, simply disgard the bottle cap altogether. A bit of the “Soil” will fall into the water, but it will soon form a plug in the neck of the bottle.
Your plants will sprout quickly in this environment, and once they take off…well…check this out!
This is even more gorgeous and larger in person than you can tell in the picture. I simply cut it off at the top, and it provided an entire bowl of salad. In a week or two, it should come back to produce another salad. Imagine how much fun your students can have with this!
Do you get excited when you see plants blooming well beyond anything you ever thought possible?
Do you wish your daisies looked like this?
I walked out front this morning and thought, “These plants are so healthy, I need to take a picture”. This is the result of using worm castings on plants. Are worm castings “Miraculous”? Nah, I reserve Miracle status for things that don’t occur all the time. When I use worm castings, results like this occur EVERY time. It’s just expected.
I hate wasting money on liquid chemicals in plastic bottles. You never know what the results will be. We’ve all killed plants using liquid chemicals. By using worm castings, you are assured of NOT killing your plants and NOT harming the environment. You are simply adding beneficial bacteria and microorganisms to make your soil healthy…..and you’ll make your PLANTS HAPPY!
Now that you know, why would you ever go back to synthetic chemicals in a bottle?
Worm websites often cover issues such as:
What to feed your worms?
What types of beddings to use?
How to resolve problems?
Most writers assume that anyone buying worms has done some research, and has a basic knowledge of vermiculture. I’m guilty of this too, no doubt about it.
After working with local governments, and people in the community being taught how to compost their food scraps with worms, it hit me like an epiphany…DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING!
Let me get some composting basics cleared up:
Yard waste: Use Outdoor Compost Pile (Such as an Earth Machine).
Kitchen Scraps: Worm Bin (Such as a Wriggly Wranch)…
You can put your kitchen scraps in your compost pile, but you miss the fun of watchings your worms swarm on their food, plus you miss harvesting loads of “Black Gold” worm castings (There I go again with the assumptions….worm castings are actually, the “Poop” from a worm). Worm castings are high in microorganisms, and beneficial bacteria needed for healthy soil.
Because castings do such a great job making your soil healthy, they have been nicknamed “Black Gold”.
Just because you can put your kitchen scraps in a compost pile, doesn’t mean you can put your yard waste in a worm bin. In fact, yard waste in a worm bin (In large amounts), is usually discouraged. This is because most yard waste is high in nitrogen, and if the yard waste goes through a heat cycle, you can end up “Cooking” your worms.
But, I digress. The picture on the top left is called an “Earth Machine”. It is a large plastic shell, made for yard waste composting.
The picture on the right is a “Wriggly Wranch”. It is a type of worm bin.
Although both bins are made of black plastic, the similarity stops there.
To some reading this, what I just wrote seems silly and redundant. The reality is, if I was given a dollar for every person that bought an “Earth Machine” when they meant to buy a “Wriggly Wranch” (Or another style worm bin)….let’s just say I would be retired, sipping Mai-Tai’s on the beach.