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Worm castings (aka WORM POO) is a product and topic any serious gardener should want to know about. Some, the germaphobic and squeamish among us, will doubtless say yuck! But, as an experienced gardener with a science background I am here to tell you that worm castings are as good as it gets regarding natural fertilizer. The castings have the consistency and appearance of day old coffee grounds. Moreover, there is NO smell, slow release (does not burn the plants) so you can use as much as you want, helps repel plant pests, improves soil structure and chemistry, and, as I noted, is as organic as it gets. The plants will thank you -- both those indoors and out. Much of the enriching refinement of the castings occurs post digestion, once excreted, due to microbial interaction. And, unlike most compost (my topic next month) one does not need to worry about infestation from weed seed contamination when amending with worm castings.

Jay (and Janet) Gossett, owners of JJ's County Line Castings (Summitville, IN) display at the Binford Farmers Market on the NE side of Indianapolis on Saturday mornings. Jay is an interesting chap and quite knowledgeable on vermicomposting -- the use of worms to breakdown organic material (e.g., leaves, weeds and food waste). Savvy gardeners should check out the following online Purdue University post -- Master Gardener News in WEED EM' AND REAP for April 2016, see the March 23 Meeting Minutes. The article has background info and useful tips including Jay's innovative use of molasses as an enabler for his Castings Tea. I have been using unrefined sugar (1-2 tablespoons per gallon) as an amplifier for my mycorrhizal tea amendment for years. The fact that the Gossett's do not sell out of bags of castings on Saturdays at the Binford Market is indicative of how ignorant and misguided we are. A missed opportunity that hardcore gardeners in the area should take advantage. Depending on the quantity purchased, it will cost $1-2 per pound. A 33-pound bag = 2/3 cubic foot or 5 gallons, 80 cups per 33-pound bag, 2.5 cups per pound -- variable, largely due to the moisture in the castings. I add 1-2 cups per plant (e.g., a 1-gallon specimen) and increase the quantity for larger specimens. For already planted specimens I apply the castings mixed with water or as a tea. FYI: JJ's accepts only cash payment and I DO NOT have a financial arrangement with them (i.e., no recompense, merely promoting a good product and practice).

None other than Charles Darwin was fascinated by worms. His last publication was The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits -- commonly referred to as Worms. Published in 1881, it was his last scientific publication (released shortly before his death) the culmination of several decades of investigation. Worms (here I am referring to earthworms -- there are many other kinds of worms) are important for multiple reasons, including their role in the breakdown of rocks, gradual recycling of vegetation, preservation (burying) of objects (archeological remains), and improving soil conditions for plant growth. The last factor is one of the prime reasons we should reconsider the practice of annual tilling -- I expound on this in Chapter 4, Myth #18, in my Rantings book. Based on Darwin's observations, but a hundred years later, the term bioturbation was coined -- a fancy word used to describe the turning of soil by living organisms. This turning action is key in the aforementioned burying or gradual covering of objects that intrigued Darwin. Vegetation is pulled down into the ground by the worms and the castings are deposited at the surface -- nature's tiller..

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