On Thursday, October 29, just in time for Halloween, the Ceres Garden Club met for an outing to the Worm Beds at the Diamond Bar Arena, owned and operated by Shane Parsons, and family. Our gracious host treated Club members to a most appreciated and nutritious lunch, of which the homemade salsa was a big hit! Ever concerned for the comfort of visitors, Shane Parsons personally drove the covered open-air people mover ‘out back’ to the worm boxes. Stopping to point out numerous re-purposing projects, it was abundantly clear that innovation and clever use of talent and materials is a Parson family strength.
Turning the worm piles to expose the worms while explaining the process of vermiculture and its benefits, Mr. Parsons continued to amaze in revealing multiple links in the vermiculture process, i.e. Salida Schools who provide a sweet smelling, soft, dry, totally organic waste being tested for worm food, and BTY Landscape Materials who bag and market the finished product. Brothers, Nick and Ryan Thornberry of BTY Landscape Materials were on hand to answer questions and offer additional information on how to use at home and in container gardening.
Known also as worm compost, vermicast, worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, vermicompost is similar to plain compost, except that it uses worms to turn organic waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Vermicompost, or vermiculture, most often uses two species of worms: Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Red Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus) which are rarely found in soil and are adapted to the special conditions in rotting vegetation, compost and manure piles.
In vermicomposting the worms eat the same organic waste that is used in a compost pile — which includes just about all food waste. They chew on it for awhile, and when they’re all done eating, they poop (hey, everybody does it) and there you go: vermicompost.
A benefit of vermicompost is increased nutrient levels. As the worms deposit their castings, their mucous is a beneficial component, which is absent in compost. The mucous component slows the release of nutrients preventing them from washing away with the first watering.
Worm compost is usually too rich for use alone as a seed starter. It is useful as a top dressing and as an addition to potting mixes at a rate of one part castings to 4 parts mix. Plants love it.
Vermicompost is a fine peat like material with a decrease of bioavailable heavy metals than in compost, and there is evidence that the final product may contain hormone like compounds which accelerate plant growth. This very much intrigued every gardener on the tour. Surprisingly, this was a most intriguing, although somewhat unusual, tour and learning experience.