Whether you are a hobby gardener, commercial grower, lawn care enthusiastic, arborist….we all share a love for growing plants, and although in different quantities, all our plants require the same things to grow. Some people in the world *cough, cough* the synthetic fertilizer industry, would like us to believe that all a plant needs to grow is sun, water and some NPK in the form of one of their handy synthetic fertilizers. But plants need more than just nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK). They require 16 different elements to perform all their necessary functions to their full potential, like grow, flower, fruit, and effectively fight off pest and diseases. The 16 essential elements are as follows.
- Carbon (C)
- Hydrogen (H)
- Oxygen (O)
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
- Calcium (Ca)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Boron (B)
- Chlorine (Cl)
- Copper (Cu)
- Iron (Fe)
- Manganese (Mn)
- Zinc (Zn)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Nickel (Ni)
There is a law that every grower, from every corner should know. It is Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, which simply states, plant growth is limited by the least abundant mineral (element), no matter how abundant the other minerals might be. Think of an old fashion barrel. Each plank making up the barrel represents an essential element. The height of the plank represents how much of that element is available to a plant, and the water level represents the plant’s health, yield, and quality. You can only fill the barrel with as much water as the shortest plank. Regardless of how tall the rest of the boards are. In other words, the plant can grow only as much as its limiting nutrient allows it too.
Our vermicastings contain all 16 essential elements. Different studies in the US, reported in Vermitechnology, Vermiculture, vermicomposting and Earthworms, found that vermicastings were 5x richer in available nitrogen, 7x richer in available phosphates, and 11x richer in available potash than typical top soil. The benefits don’t need there!
Vermicastings contain billions of plant helpers called microorganisms. Plants have a symbiotic relationship with many different species of microorganisms. A symbiotic relationship is a mutually beneficial relationship between two different species. Plants aren’t very good at going out into the soil and collecting nutrients. So, they hire different microorganisms to go out and mine these nutrients for them. In return, the plant gives the microorganisms carbon. Plants send 60% of the carbon they capture from the atmosphere down into the soil to pay the microbes. The microbes need a healthy environment to live in for all of this to take place. Most live in organic matter (humus) and vermicastings are the Beverly Hills mansions of the soil microbe world. This is why, they support much higher and more diverse populations of microorganisms. These larger and more diverse microorganism populations help to control plant and soil pest and diseases through intense predator-prey interactions and other mechanisms provided by vermicastings.
The Ohio State University tested the effects of food waste vermicompost on bell peppers at different concentrations in MM360 growth media. They found that a potting mixture of 40% food waste vermicastings and 60% MM360 growth media yielded 45% higher pepper weights and had 17% greater numbers of peppers per plant, on average, than those grown in 100% MM360. Wow, that is a big difference in yield! They found significant increases in pepper weight and number in just 10% vermicastings and 90% MM360 as well. A little bit can go a long way! Similar studies have been done on all sorts of different plants. In the how-to section, we go over favored ratios of some other common plants.
It is no wonder than the utilization of vermicastings has increased rapidly in the horticultural industry since the publication of multiple studies that have discovered these benefits proved by vermicastings. Growers are seeing much greater economic returns, due to faster germination rates, earlier flowering, larger yields, and better-quality crops. On top of this our product is 100% organic.
LAWNS: If seeding a new lawn, put on about 10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of lawn. Work it into the topsoil with grass seed mixed right in. If you have an established lawn, use 8 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of lawn as top dress, a day or two before your next mowing. For either new or old lawns, make sure to water well. This will lead to a greener, lusher lawn that is more drought resistant than your neighbors.
TRANSPLANTS: Apply a thin layer (about ½ inch deep) of vermicastings at the bottom of the hole before planting and sprinkle on the top of the transplant growth media before covering the transplant. For tree and shrub transplants we recommend a 1-inch deep layer instead of ½ inch, at the bottom, and sprinkling it in as you fill the hole around the edges.
FLOWER POTS: If you are making your own potting mix from scratch, we recommend mixing 1-part vermicastings with 2 parts your favorite growth media.
GARDENS: For best results, most fruits and vegetables produce their maximum yield at 40% vermicastings 60% your favorite growth media. Studies have shown that there are significant increases in health and yield at lower concentrations, down to about 10% vermicastings to 90% your favorite growth media. We believe the most cost-effective ratio is around a concentration of 20% vermicastings. For existing gardens apply a 1-inch layer of vermicastings to the surface then immediately tile into the soil. If plants are already planted, apply a 1-inch layer around the base of stem in a 1-1.5 foot radius and scratch into the surface of the soil.
All of these application rates are based off science, research, and good old experience. If you don’t use them at the recommended rates it will not be the end of the world. You can see significant results at lower rates. A little can go a long way, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Remember, the more contact your plant's roots have with the vermicastings, the stronger your results will be. Also, we don’t recommend ever planting in 100% vermicastings. A high-quality vermicast contains natural plant growth hormones, which can harm plants if the levels are too high. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Any company that claims that you should plant in 100% vermicastings is either selling a poor-quality product or trying to boost their sales or both!
VERMICAST TEA: Vermicast tea is basically a liquid version of solid vermicastings. You make it like you would a cup of tea. Because many of the nutrients and natural plant growth hormones are water soluble and a large portion of the microbes can live in water you end up with many of the benefits of solid vermicastings in a liquid version. A liquid version means it can easily be applied directly to your plant’s foliage via a backpack sprayer. Studies have shown that vermicast teas are effective at kickstarting seed germination, early growth stages and deters many pests that would very much like to feast on your plants. Common pest like aphids, two-spotted spider mites, and others. Having problems with pest on your fruit trees? Doss it in a coat of vermicast tea and see future damages diminish while maintaining safe chemical free fruits for you and your family to enjoy!
“By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations.”
The largest waste stream to be landfilled in 2015 was food waste. It made up 22% of the landfilled material, equating to 32.4 million tons. Only 5% of the food waste we generated was composted.
When food waste is taken to the landfill, they bury it which deprives it of oxygen. Since the food waste doesn’t have access to oxygen it begins to decompose anaerobically. A biproduct of anaerobic decomposition is methane, which a large portion of escapes into our atmosphere, as a gas. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas just like carbon dioxide, except it is 23x more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Every 1 pound of methane gas released into the atmosphere has the same effect as 23 pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
This 27’x27’x27’ cube represents one metric ton (MT) of carbon dioxide, which is how much an average American produces in two weeks. The person on the bottom right is to show scale.
When food waste is vermicomposted it is fed to worms that grind it up and increase its surface area greatly, allowing for may more microorganisms to inhabit it, which in turn allows it to decompose much quicker than normal composting. This decomposition process takes place in the presence of oxygen which means that there is no harmful methane biproduct. The end product is worm castings (vermicastings). We talk about how vermicastings help store carbon in the next section.
One MT of landfilled food waste PRODUCES 0.82 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. One MT of vermicomposted food waste STORES approximately 0.17 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Diverting 1 MT of food waste from a landfill and to a vermicomposting facility equates to a positive change of roughly 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent.
By the end of 2022, Back to Earth Vermicastings will have stopped 1,420 MT of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere. That is a lot of cubes!
When you buy Back to Earth Vermicastings, you aren’t only giving your plants the best food and home for their health, you are shrinking your own carbon cube(footprint) at the same time!