Some of my friends think I’m a little too strict about what I won’t use in my vegetable garden. I purchase only heirloom seeds, I don’t use pesticides, and I will only use truly organic fertilizer. My rationale is that I’m going to all the work to grow produce for my family so I’m not going to feed them things that are genetically modified or chemically treated. I’m a big fan of the beneficial microbes in soil as well as of the beneficial insects. This post will explain how I can keep my garden healthy and strong.
I’m determined to keep pests out of the garden and fertilize without the use of chemicals. For the pest issue I use companion planting; using plants that attract beneficial insects, birds, and bees while deterring the insects that would destroy my crops. For fertilizing, one of the best things I’ve found is worm vermicompost tea.
Worm vermicompost is an excellent addition to the soil in your garden, whether you’re growing vegetables or flowers. Worm vermicompost tea is just the next step in using this black gold. It dramatically improves growth rate of your plants and it helps reduce diseases. It can even help deter common garden pests.
Worm vermicompost tea improves the natural microbial life in the soil, stem, flower, and leaves. This prevents bad microbes from dominating. Potential infection sites are dominated and occupied by beneficial microbes. The beneficial microbes have used up the available food and pathogens starve. The nutrients in vermicompost tea encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms. Plants take up nutrition from the tea and they are less susceptible to pathogens.
Applied to the leaves of your plants the nutrients are retained on the leaves and released slowly over time. Your plants get more nutrition when needed. The soil structure is improved increasing oxygen to plant roots and stopping anaerobes from causing toxin build up in the soil. Water retention is also improved. Roots grow deeper and stronger giving greater access to water and nutrients. Worm vermicompost also helps dead organic material to decay more quickly.
I love worm vermicompost tea! In fact, I’m so crazy about this tea that my son and I are starting our own little worm farm so I can make it whenever I need it. Making the worm farm will be in an upcoming post. In the meantime, here’s how you can make worm vermicompost tea.
Here are the things you need:
- Worm castings, which are a mass of soil, mud, or sand thrown up by an earthworm, on the surface, after passing through the worm’s body. In other words, it’s worm poop. You can buy worm castings but fresh, from your own worm farm, is best.
- Cheese cloth or nylon bag (I like the nylon paint straining bags as they’re more convenient)
- A large bucket up to a 50 gallon aquarium (depending on how much tea you need)
- Rain water (or other “pure” water)
- Aquarium pump with dual air hose capacity
- Air Stone
- Non-sulphured molasses
How to brew:
- Place 2 ounces per gallon of tea being brewed in the cheesecloth or nylon bag and close tightly.
- Put the bag in the container of water (bucket, aquarium, etc.).
- Attach the tubing to the aquarium pump and to the air stone and place in the water container. This increases the amount of oxygen which helps the beneficial microbes to multiply.
- Mix 1 tsp. of the molasses per 5 gallons of water in a little warm water to dissolve it and pour into the container. Beneficial microbes will feed on the molasses.
- Allow the tea to brew for at least 12 hours and up to 24 if you’re making a larger quantity. The brewing is extracting nutrients and microorganisms which is exactly what you want for the garden.
How to use your worm vermicompost tea:
- Apply the tea directly to the soil at about 1quart of tea for every 4 inch seedling. You may reapply the tea every week or every month depending on the health of your soil. With really healthy soil you’ll only need to apply it once. Adding organic matter to the soil helps extend the benefits of the worm tea microbes so if your garden is lacking organic matter you should add a bit. If you have sandy soil the tea will soak deeper than if your soil is mostly clay. Then it will stay close to the surface.
- You can apply the tea to the leaves and stems of plants preventing microbes that cause diseases from attacking those vulnerable areas. It also feeds the leaves. You don’t even need to dilute the tea to use it this way. You want as many beneficial microbes as you can get so the higher concentration is best. Cover every part of the leaves to ensure that the beneficial microbes are the ones consuming the available food blocking pathogens from growing and spreading.
The best time to add worm vermicompost tea is before you have planted anything in the garden. Just turn the soil a bit and drench it with the tea. This gives your plants a big boost right out of the gate by minimizing any risk of diseases and other problems. If you have already planted just use the tea as described above. Either way, you’re going to so be amazed at the results you’ll want to thank a worm!