Worm composting is one of those natural things happening in nature all the time. Whether or not we do it intentionally in tubs, compost worms are doing it out in nature anyway.
They have been all this time. Since long before we were all born.
Out there right now, there are a bajillion kazillion composting worms living amongst decaying organic matter on the ground, making short work of turning that organic decay back into living soil.
Them and the microbes. Working hand in hand renewing the soil, building more soil, taking part in a cycle of life that while usually going unnoticed by us, is the whole reason anything grows in the soil.
Soil is a living thing. Its not simply dirt.
You could say dirt is inert, not living. We can define dirt as the mineral component of soil. Broken down mountains, now pebbly and dusty, and even smaller sized, particles of all the minerals.
Maybe you’ve added minerals to your soil or potting mix to increase the health of your soil and plants.
The only thing that will grow in dirt is first lichens and mosses, and then the weeds begin to show up.
This is nature doing it’s natural progression of getting an armour in place so the progression towards healthy soil can continue.
Soil is obviously more than just the minerals. It’s also decaying and decayed organic matter. This brings more nutrients, and moisture, and some structure.
But this is dying stuff. This is end of life stuff.
What makes soil a living thing?
Microbes! Microbial life. Teeny tiny living creatures that are basically just an “in” end and an “out” end. These guys are so small their whole life might last only 4 hours of our life.
They are shredding and tearing and devouring that decaying organic matter. They are the ones causing that organic material to decompose.
In the soil there are 5 trophic levels of the life cycle. The first, bottom, level is all the dead organic matter. Things like dead plant roots, dead micrboes, dead bigger critters.
The next level up, level 2, is the microscopic bacteria and fungi. And these guys are eating the level below them, the organic matter.
The soil life cycle is a whole big subject that one can spend many years studying. With the internet being a thing now (it wasnt a thing when I was growing up and choosing what I wanted to learn about in high school) it’s very easy to dip your toe in to this knowledge set and learn a thing or two.
To keep things straightforward, we can define soil as the minerals, the organic matter, and the microbes.
It’s the microbes that make the nutrients (the minerals and the organic matter) available to the plants. Without microbes, plants cant uptake the nutrients in the soil. This is why pouring commercial fertilisers on our gardens is pretty much pointless.
Plants put out messages from their roots into the surrounding soil. The technical term for these messages is “exudates”.
These exudates are messages that say “hey, I need such and such nutrient”. The exudates are eaten by the bacteria and fungi, who are then eaten by the next trophic level up. Through the eating and pooping process, the nutrients the plants need are made available to the plants in forms that the plants can take up.
That’s the simplified version. And it’s all we need, to understand why our food gardens do so extremely well when we regularly add worm castings and/or worm castings tea.
Because in our worm composting bins there are millions and billions and trillions of the second trophic level microbes; the bacteria and fungi.
Two side notes here. These are aerobic microbes not anaerobic microbes, and our worm bins actually have a lot more bacteria than fungi, but both are there.
The value of worm compost aka worm castings is not just the microbes
It’s also the plant growth hormones and the humus and the enzymes and the nutrients.
But the whole cycle of life that goes on in the soil is driven by the soil biology, the microbes.
And so when we add our finished worm compost or the worm castings tea (the REAL stuff we make in a bucket with an aerator) we are directly feeding that cycle of life in the soil, and that’s what makes our plants grow.
Not just grow, but thrive and produce big yields of highly nutritious food for us.
When the soil is alive with those trophic levels of life all there, nutrients are cycled through that system with superb efficiency and effectiveness. Like nothing we humans can replicate.
But we can contribute. Which is exactly what we are doing when we keep adding our worm castings to the soil.
With that cycle of life in the soil pumping along at full health, disease in the soil and plants can’t take hold and pests find no way to get in on things.
This is why worm castings are touted (rightfully so) as effective pest and disease control. When the soil is healthy, it and the plants look after themselves in this regard.
Nature already has everything sorted and under control. When we just leave things alone, nature will eventually turn that barren dirt into an old growth forest, through a process we humans have barely begun to understand.
The soil knows how to protect itself and feed itself. We don’t need to try and force things by adding bagged and bottled s**t from the shop. It’s this behaviour on massive agricultural scales that is causing the problems we have now with worldwide lack of viable soils.
I don’t mean to plonk a big negative there.
I actually don’t see things as doomed or dreadful. I am optimistic and postive and enthusisastic and I have a lot of trust in life. We should all be worm composting.
Even if we arent growing a garden. We can just put the finished worm compost back on the earth. Can you see the benefit of doing even just that?
Can you imagine the dramatic, powerful, very fast, very positive impact of an operational worm bin at every second home, of every street, in every suburb, of every town, in every region, all across whichever country you’re in?
It’s this vision that is the reason I do what I do.
Such as writing this Letter.
And running worm composting workshops.
And guiding people through the revolutionary learning experience of The Worm Course.
And facilitating our community of worm people as everyone follows their worm composting curiosity.
We’ve even got a working group now where a number of us are meeting regularly (online) to work side by side on things like building visions of producing castings at scale and getting into our local communities to inspire and teach others how to worm compost properly,
There is an idea developing in our crew. It’s only in it’s dreaming-of-how stage at the moment… Some of us want to explore how we might be able to use the very grounding and peaceful aspect of worm composts to help in the arenas of physical and emotional healing.
That may sound a bit out there. But this is exactly what is happening for some of the people who come through The Worm Course.
And some of us are very interested in more deeply understanding this, and working out how we can intentially bring this aspect of a simple worm compost into peoples lives as a way to contribute to healing and wellbeing.
Compost worms and microbes.
They work side by side. Hand in hand. Already doing some of the most important work of nature.
It’s so easy for us to contrbute to this in a totally natural way.
Just run a worm compost. That’s it.
Just recycle your kitchen scraps through your worm bin and each time you harvest and restart, put the worm castings in your soil in the garden.
Or on the lawn.
Or fill your pockets and wander through the local park sprinkling worm castings on the ground.
Or give some to your neighbours garden.
Or the local community gardens.
Or the local school gardens.
I bet you your local golf course wouldn’t say no.
Or find a little garden somewhere that isn’t doing so well and take it under your wing, so to speak. My local feed stock store has a 4m x 4m garden out the front. It is struggling. We had a chat about it.
Now I am brewing 20L of tea for them each fortnight and they water it on that garden. We’ll keep this up for a few months and then review where it’s at.
And maybe by then I’ll have talked them into keeping a worm compost too 🙂
Check out The Worm Course & Community. It could be exactly what makes all the difference in your garden. You can find the details here.