UC Master Gardeners

How worm waste can help your garden grow

UC Master GardenerFebruary 5, 2014 

Worms are good for your garden in many ways, especially when it comes to making compost with their castings.

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Q: Is worm composting really worth the effort? — Janet R., Paso Robles

A: The answer is yes, absolutely! Worm composting, or vermiculture, is becoming more popular than ever for many reasons.

It’s an environmentally friendly practice that helps reduce landfill waste, which in turn reduces greenhouse gasses and provides an excellent, non-chemical soil amendment.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 21 percent of what goes into our landfills is food waste. In the United States, that equates to 36 million tons of food waste annually.

A byproduct of food decomposition is methane gas, which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The EPA also states: “13 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food.” Diverting food scraps from your trash bin and recycling them in a worm bin helps reduce the negative byproducts of food consumption. For more details from the EPA on reducing food waste, please go to www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/.

There is another reason to give worm composting a try: the compost itself. Compost is practically worth its weight in gold when it comes to the benefits it provides in your garden. The short and sweet of it is that organic matter in soil is a reservoir for plant nutrients. Organic matter in the soil is derived from decomposition of plant and animal materials. Therefore, adding organic matter to your soil in the form of compost is, in turn, adding the ingredients necessary for good plant nutrition and soil health.

Worm compost is very concentrated and rich in organic material so it is an excellent way to introduce composted materials into the garden. Mixing worm castings into your potting soil or directly into planting areas improves soil quality, which may reduce the need to purchase chemical fertilizers and costly soil amendments.

For a complete guide on composting, including information about how to set up and maintain a worm composting bin, please visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/newsletters/Garden_Practices42510.pdf. Master Gardeners will also cover this topic at the Advice to Grow By workshop on April 19.

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