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Choosing the perfect fertilizer is a centuries-old dilemma that amateur and professional farmers both face. Do you pick the worm poop of the humble but mighty earthworm or the rich, black earthy compost derived from decomposed food and garden scraps? We'll show you how the superior results of worm castings make them a clear winner over the compost. 

Traditional Compost vs. Worm Castings

Although both products are fertilizers, their origins are very different. Worm castings are essentially worm poop. Also known as vermicompost, the tiny football-shaped pellets are rich in nutrients and nitrates, which help boost plant growth. Meanwhile, traditional compost is a fertile, loamy soil created by the decomposition process of organic materials. Compost enriches the soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

In addition, compost has higher nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium values, also referred to as NPK, compared to worm castings. These minerals are needed to grow a healthy plant and are the main component of all fertilizers. Worm castings, however, are an all-rounder fertilizer, boosting the soil amendment naturally and organically.

In fact, plants grow faster and produce a better yield with worm manure. Worm poop has up to 50% more humus, a rich, crumbly finely milled topsoil. Earthworm castings are gold dust for plant growth and the best organic fertilizer, providing beneficial bacteria for healthy soil.

Traditional Compost

Compost has to be one of the most popular and oldest methods of fertilizing soil. Walk into any gardening supply store, and you'll find piles of plastic sacks filled with soft, black earth.

Also, composting is an excellent way of recycling kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and animal waste products such as cow manure. It is also the perfect dumping space for your weed seeds, which die in the composting process that goes up to 140° F. What's more, you can even make your own compost - either by building compost piles in the garden or setting up compost bins inside.

In fact, domestic composting is relatively straightforward. Just throw together dead branches, twigs, and leaves with vegetable waste, eggshells, coffee grounds, and teabags. Keep in mind the three main ingredients: brown, green, and water. With some mixing and constant monitoring, a balanced mix of the three comes together to form compost.

However, if you don't want to deal with the hassle of composting, pop into your local gardening supply store and purchase it in small or large bags.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • An average household can throw 30% of its rubbish in a compost heap instead of a landfill. Composting cuts down on the amount of methane gas produced by waste dumped in landfills. The gas combines with the atmosphere to produce ozone. Creating compost piles helps combat climate change.

  • Safer than chemical fertilizers
  • Making your own compost heap means you know what's inside the fertilizer. Building a compost heap from kitchen scraps, leaves, and organic material encourages the growth of beneficial microbes that nourish plants.

  • You can compost anywhere
  • You don't need outside space. You can buy a compost bin from your hardware or gardening store and start immediately. If done correctly, you can use the crumbly compost in five weeks. Why buy synthetic fertilizers when you can make your own?

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Composting boosts the growth of beneficial bacteria in the soil that decompose organic matter to create humus. This rich organic matter stimulates plant growth and improves soil structure. Compost also increases the level of moisture, helping the soil retain water.

  • Helps reduce plant disease and pests
  • The nutrients in compost contribute to healthy plants, helping them become less susceptible to pests or plant disease. The dark organic matter creates air pockets in the soil filled with beneficial microbes, leading to healthy plant roots.

    Cons

  • Might not be enough for your plants
  • Although an excellent fertilizer, compost might not provide the complete range of nutrients your plants require. Flower beds, for example, usually need specialist seed compost to help boost plant growth. In contrast, vegetable gardens might require a fertilizer with a slightly acidic pH. Sourcing these different types of compost can be expensive.

  • Can be pricey
  • Finding suitable compost for your garden soil and the plants you want to grow isn't cheap. The fertilizer has to improve the soil structure for healthy root and plant growth, so you need to test the pH level before purchasing. Also, the industrial process of making compost and the travel costs are two factors that push up the price of a bag.

  • Possible contamination
  • Store-bought compost can contain several foreign objects ranging from minute glass shards, plastic, and metal, which affect the overall health of your soil. Some types of compost also include sewage sludge - a big no-no for organic farming. Furthermore, traces of certain herbicides used on the composted plants might still be present in the final product.

  • Long-term use can deteriorate soil health
  • Overusing compost negatively affects the soil, leading to high levels of salt, heavy metals, and an imbalance of its nutrient profile.

    Worm Castings

    Although not as well known as other traditional fertilizers, worm castings are one of the best ways to supplement and boost healthy soil and plant growth. Worms process organic matter and soil through their digestive system and poop out pellet-shaped vermicast or vermicompost. Earthworm castings are high in nutrients and low in contaminants.

    Scientists consider nitrogen one of the most vital components for plant growth. It is the main chemical used to transform sunlight into sugar. Worm castings have higher nitrogen levels than other fertilizers, including compost. However, too much nitrogen causes plant dehydration as the mineral absorbs other nutrients from the soil, stunting growth. 

    Nevertheless, this is not a problem with worm castings. The droppings slowly release their nutrients into the earth, allowing the plant roots to absorb the necessary nutrients and minerals.

    So, how do you apply worm castings? It is straightforward. Mix it up to 1/2 cup in every 100 square feet of topsoil when planting in the garden. Sprinkle a good handful around the stem and top up once a month for container plants. Dig a small trench next to the seeds in your flower beds, or pop it into your potting mix to help your plants grow.

    Another way of adding castings to plants is by making worm tea. Mix a teaspoon of worm castings with hot water in a glass jar and let it steep for a few minutes. The liquid will change color and become muddy. Pour it in the plant and let the worm tea work its magic. A word of warning, if the casting tea has a foul odor, the hot water might have activated harmful microbes. In that case, dump it and make a fresh batch.

    Pros

  • Worm castings' shape improves soil health
  • The elongated shape of the worm manure improves the soil's texture and creates aggregates. These soil clumps hold air pockets vital for beneficial microbes while preventing soil erosion. Also, worms eat organic matter, making their droppings additive and chemical-free.

  • Vermicompost is a natural pH regulator
  • Most fertilizers tend to increase the soil's level of acidity. Worm castings, however, naturally regulate the soil's pH level, correcting it to the plants' requirements.

  • Nutrients leach gently into the earth
  • Whether used on potted plants, farm vegetables, trees, or flower beds, worm castings are the superfood to boost your plant's health. Vermicasts slowly release their nutrients into the soil, absorbed by plant roots on a need-to-grow basis. Worm castings also nourish the soil with humic acid, stimulating plant growth and beneficial microbes.

  • Do not cause fertilizer burn
  • Too much traditional fertilizer, including compost, can burn plants, leaching essential nutrients. The salt in the compost also absorbs water, leaving the plant dehydrated, dry, and yellow. Worm castings are organic matter and will never cause fertilizer burn, regardless of the quantity used.

  • Perfect pest repellant
  • Pests such as mealybugs, mites, and aphids hate worm castings and move away from the soil, leaving the plant safe. This worm manure also repels harmful fungi, toxins, and bacteria, replacing it with healthy microbes.

  • Ideal for indoor and outdoor gardening
  • Due to their small size and slow-release, worm castings are ideal for indoor plants and gardens. In addition, the castings are odorless, so using them inside will not cause any inconvenience.

    Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Vermicompost is expensive compared to traditional fertilizers because of the number of earthworms required. It also takes time for a worm farm to produce many castings. 

    Worm Castings and Other Worm Byproducts

    Organic Matter

    Using organic worm castings from a reputable worm farm is crucial for optimal results. Find a company that only feeds organic material to the earthworms. Worms eat everything, so beware of shortcuts. Some farms feed compost to the earthworms, which means there could be trace chemicals or additives in the castings.

    Also, not all brands are 100% worm castings. Some include a mix of soil, dirt, tiny stones, and other debris. Make sure you purchase an organic product with 100% worm castings.

    Or, if you have the time and patience, you can build your worm farm.

    Worm Farm

    Setting up and maintaining your worm farm takes some work, but it is doable. Planning for the long-term is vital for vermicomposting as the worms take up to six months to digest and produce a soil amendment.

    The process takes place in a worm bin, which you can purchase from any gardening supply store. Wood, as long as it is not cedarwood, and plastic is suitable. Styrofoam is also a good alternative. Drill holes in the bottom of the bin to drain excess moisture. 

    Fill it up halfway with damp shredded newspaper and add a good handful of garden soil. Dump in the worms and keep the container in a cool dark place. Feed the worms every ten days with food scraps placed under a top layer of shredded newspaper.

    Please do not give them dairy, oily or fatty foods as it will attract pests and predators and give off a bad smell. Also, your worms will not like these foods; stick to the green and browns.

    Pros

    • High-quality home-grown worm castings

    Cons

    • Harvesting is a slow process
    • Produces foul odor if not ventilated well
    • Initial part of the process can be high maintenance
    • Can attract pests unless adequate protection is used

    What About a Mixture of Worm Castings and Traditional Compost?

    Depending on your soil type, sometimes worm castings are just not enough. If the soil lacks macronutrients, these need to be supplemented by other methods. A good way of balancing out the use of compost is to combine it with vermicompost. Mix worm castings with the compost and feed your plants a multivitamin mix.

    Conclusion

    Vermicompost is one of the most underrated organic fertilizers for your garden. It has the most benefits and nutrients for soil and plant health. Traditional compost can be tricky to use and, if not handled carefully, can cause more harm than good. You can never go wrong with worm castings. If you're willing to do a little work and use worm castings instead of compost, you can really add a new life to your garden.

    Grow Bigger Plants with Simple Grow

    Do you wish your plants would grow bigger? Was your garden less than it should've been last year?

    If you're tired of growing puny vegetables and fruits, it's time for an upgrade...Simple Grow Worm Castings!

    What are worm castings? Another term for worm manure. Why would you want to use it in your garden, raised beds, and house plants? Because it makes them grow bigger, faster and healthier...with no chemicals!

    How do worm castings do this? It's like giving your plants a powerful multivitamin with everything they need to grow. Trace minerals, nutrients, and most importantly...worm castings are chock full of beneficial microbes. Why does that make a difference?

    In recent years, we've learned the importance of gut bacteria for humans and know that it impacts so many different parts of our health. The same thing applies with worms. Gut bacteria from the worm's digestive tract gets into the soil from the worm castings and promotes plant health. Plants have a symbiotic relationship with the microbes from the worm's digestive tract. Plants respond to it and grow really big...really fast!

    If you've never tried worm castings before, you owe it to yourself to give them a try. Instead of using traditional chemical fertilizers from the big box store, why not try fresh, certified organic worm castings this year? You'll be able to grow bigger, healthier plants that you actually can feel good about eating. 

    Take advantage of our special bundle sale on 25lb bags today!

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