A Q&A with wormologist Gary Green
Triple-S Compost is proud to partner with Magic Worm Ranch, an organic business that showcases the many benefits of using worm castings as a premium, all-organic plant super food that naturally optimizes soil quality and growing conditions. Gary Green, the business’s owner and a self-described “wormologist,” has long lauded the many benefits of nature’s soil recyclers, so we’re thrilled to be able to spend some time with him to “dig a little deeper” about the worms and their role as overachiever in the gardening and landscaping world.
What do gardeners need to know about the important work earthworms provide to the ecosystem? Worms are simply one of the hardest and most important workers in the animal kingdom. Charles Darwin devoted his last years to research of these amazing critters. We’ve all seen them burrowing through the earth and probably didn’t stop to consider how that burrowing naturally aerates and improves the quality of the soil. But the worms also leave behind something even more valuable—worm castings, basically earthworm manure.
How are they more valuable? The earthworms are not only nature’s recyclers, eating and regurgitating soil, but the end product of that natural recycling has powerful benefits for the entire ecosystem. The castings are a complete soil enrichment that is produced naturally as earthworms move through the soil. Castings are organic materials consumed and passed through the digestive tract of a worm. Remember, whatever goes in at the front of the worm, comes out at the rear of the worm. That’s why we use Triple-S organic compost. In the most basic form, castings are worm poop, but they look, feel and smell like black topsoil. The end product is “super humus,” an extremely fertile soil amendment, properly conditioned for best root growth, containing in rich proportion and water-soluble form all the elements required of the earth for optimum plant nutrition.
What kind of elements? Worm castings are packed with nutrient-dense minerals that are essential for plant growth, such as concentrated nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They also contain manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, iron, carbon and nitrogen. But while chemical fertilizers and animal manure have to be broken down in the soil before plants can absorb them, worm castings are available to the plant immediately, without risk of burning the plant. That means healthier plants with bigger, better harvests, whether you’re planting herbs or vegetables or looking for better blooming and color in your yard.
So worm castings improve the underlying soil, too? Exactly. Organic farmers have known the value of worms as nature’s recyclers dating back centuries. Unfortunately, in more recent times, we’ve seen the rising popularity of man-made chemical insecticides and fertilizers, which temporarily solve one problem but create another by upsetting the natural balance and depleting soil quality over time. Using worm castings allows you to reduce the use of pesticides and chemical-based fertilizers, and regenerate the health of your underlying soil. Feed the soil, not the plant. It’s a win for your plants, your soil and the environment.
Sounds like these worms are getting more popular—and more valuable! They’ve always been valuable, but more and more people are learning about them, and realizing how organic methods are so much better for home gardens and individual projects, and for communities. Land planners, landscape architects and certified arborists—professionals who know the value of good dirt—are using worm casting-improved soils and composts for an increasing number of projects. For example, the Texas Department of Transportation is beginning to specify these products because of their overall benefits and value over time. They help cities, subdivisions and communities reduce their overall carbon footprint and reach their sustainability goals.
So for our home gardeners out there, what’s the best way to use worm castings? Worm castings are similar in use to garden compost or mulch, but they are more beneficial when worked into the soil before planting. Generally we advise adding castings at a rate of 10 pounds per 100 square feet, or blend ¼ cup into a six-inch gardening pot. We’re happy to discuss your needs and answer questions here at the ranch, or come out for a tour and see how the magic happens!