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Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens (article)

Recently I was trying to learn more about how to turn my balcony into a healthy, useful garden…and that’s when I found balconycontainergardening.com .  Since I’m a complete newbie when it comes to gardening, I ended up spending hours reading articles on the site, which prompted me to write a letter of kudos to the owner, Cassandra Radcliff.  I also asked her if she’d like to host some articles for my readers. 🙂

I was extremely pleased when she wrote back with a yes, and now she will be periodically contributing guest articles.  I often receive questions from readers pertaining to gardening, so now I hope to address some of those questions while at the same time learning from her in the process.  Below is her first contribution to the site entitled, “Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens”.  I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Why Compost Is Essential to Container Gardens
by Cassandra Radcliff

The best thing that ever happened to my container garden was my worm bin. The red worms that reside on my balcony help me cut down on my kitchen waste (they absolutely love spinach and coffee grounds just like me!). Every week I toss in a bit of food, some water and torn up newspaper, and the red worms reward me with black gold, which contains the castings that they create after breaking down the kitchen waste.

Worm bins aren’t the most attractive things to keep in small-space, but they can help make your container plants healthier and look better. Potting soil is very rich when it comes straight out of the bag, but plants deplete the nutrients quickly in small containers. If you keep finicky plants like roses or certain rare species, you may want to buy special fertilizers, but most plants just need a good dose of worm castings, and they will flourish. With worm castings, plant foliage will be more lush, and flower blooms will be more abundant and showy.

Worms don’t just help plants get more nutrients, they also can help aid in soil health. Consider adding a couple of your red worms to your plant containers. Actually, if you’ve ever added worm castings to your container plants, you probably already have some worms in your plant pots. When you separate the worms from the castings and give their black gold to your container plants, there were probably some eggs in the castings. This is actually a good thing. The worms will burrow in the soil, helping combat soil compaction, aid in aeration (great for plant root health) and they will make the soil slightly more acidic, which is beneficial for most plants.

So if you keep a container garden, cut down on your waste and aid your garden by setting up a worm bin (see “Steps to Vermicomposting” on BalconyContainerGardening.com for more information). It’s cheap, easy and rewarding. And if worms give you the willies, just remember that you’re doing your part to help the environment. And just imagine how much more beautiful your plants will be at their peak during the next growing season!

The Advanced Vermicomposting Facility VERMIC3.2 HD

The advanced vermi composting facility VERMIC 3.2 HD

In Austria, it looks like vermicomposting is picking up momentum!  It’s strange to me though, because they use earthworms instead of red wigglers.

The thermophilic compost is created from alfalfa, manure and straw before being fed to the earthworms to turn into a super fine casting.

Alfred Grand appears to be a pretty stoic dude, doesn’t he?

Worm Cocoons in Vermicompost?

Worm castings are tricky, aren’t they?  They can be soggy and have lots of unprocessed material encased in castings, used in containers to grow stuff, dry out and show what they’re really like.  I’ve noticed that my worm castings that I recently removed from the Worm Inn system dried out in the sun quite fast and revealed a bunch of little purple eggs.

What are these things?  After doing a little reading and talking to the dude Bentley over at redwormcomposting.com, I learned that they were worm cocoons.  So is this a good thing or a bad thing?  I don’t really know.  Reproduction is obviously a good thing.  However, I’m learning that the cocoons may be worms laying more eggs in response to a dry or unhealthy worm system.  They also seem to lurk around the cardboard…but wouldn’t the best place for eggs be inside those corrugated tubes?

My castings seem to harden up in big chunks, and it has to be from the cardboard…I think I’m going to try chilling out on the cardboard for a bit to see if I can make a better end product…I think the worms must be getting bored of eating my cardboard scraps!