From ReBinder to Worm Tea

June 18, 2009 3 min read

worm tea

Summer is officially less than a week away.  Although, you wouldn't know it living in Seattle. We've had 29 continuous days of no rain!  The warmer the days, the more watering we have to do.  While water quenches the thirst for us and our gardens on hot summer days, consider treating your plants and veggies to some Worm Tea.  Worm Tea or castings is a biproduct of worms eating organic matter. 

Ok, it's worm poop.  Before you stick your nose up at what I'm telling you, worm tea does not smell.  In fact, it just smells like muddy water.  Using worm castings on your plants can increase plant productivity 4-10 times more. Worm tea is richer in nitrogen, phosphate, calcium, magnesium and potash than the upper 6 inches of top soil.  All these beneficial nutrients are what will make your plants thrive. 

As an added bonus, worm tea is also a natural repellent for spider mites, aphids, scale and white flies.  It won't kill these insects but the smell, not detected by humans, repells these pests.

worm tea top layer

So, how does all of this work?  The easiest way is to purchase worm castings liquid concentrate at your local nursery.  The liquid can be diluted with water and applied to plants using a watering can. For those "do-it-yourselfers", there are several worm bins on the market to choose from.  I've seen them as inexpensive as $35 up to $150.  I managed to pick my Can-o-Worms up at a garage sale for $20 ($150 new).  Each worm bin comes with multiple, stackable trays.  Each tray has small holes that cover the bottom of each tray, allowing worms and any liquid to pass through like a seive. 

The liquid is collected at the bottom of the container and can be easily dispensed by turning the spigot at the base of the bin. Setting up your worm bin for what is called vermicomposting (using earthworms to turn organic wastes into high quality compost) is quite easy and the results are fruitful.  The ingredients you'll be able to find around your house and yard. 

Start with shredded recycled paper, dried leaves or even an old, shredded ReBinder mixed with a few handfuls of dirt.  You'll want to moisten the mixture, but be careful not to make it so wet that it's soggy. 

Two of the three trays will contain this paper/dirt mixture.  The top layer (just below the lid) you'll want to fill with old fruit and vegetable waste.  (Avoid citrus, onions, meats and pastas, as these are tougher for the worms to break down.)  Remember, the finer the chopped waste, the quicker they will eat it!  Be sure to keep the waste covered with wet newspaper.  This will help keep the food moist and keep fruit flies from coming near.  The worms you'll need are called Red Wigglers. These aren't your everyday Earthworm.  Red Wigglers are special composting worms that don't live in the soil, but in the top organic layer where the food is. 

Local nurseries in your area may carry them.  I purchased mine on eBay and they arrived by mail within a couple of days.  A few hundred worms will multiply into the thousands in the coming months. 

Add your worms to the wet paper/dirt mixture you've created.  They will work their way up to feed on the fruit and vegetable waste while breaking down the paper mixture into usable soil.  Watch and with in a matter of weeks you'll have your own worm castings.

red wriggler worms

When you start to see the recycled paper mixture turn into soil, then it's a good time to prepare a replacement batch.   You can dilute the soil castings with water and add it to your plants.  Be sure to save your worms. They won't survive too well in the wild because they never dig too deep.  Add a few to your compost pile.  They'll love it.  Be sure to keep your worm bin in a shaded, sheltered location away from the hot sun and rain that could drown them.  Keep a heavy brick on top to keep predators from getting in.  In the colder months, move your bin inside the garage or basement so they don't freeze.  Share your worms with friends and keep the cycle going!

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