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Swede Lake Vermiculture & Castings

1. What are worm castings?
‘Worm castings’ is a more pleasant way of saying worm poop. The worm castings we sell are pure castings; no eggs or worms are mixed in. Castings are tiny, football-shaped pellets with very unique and beneficial qualities.

2. Is it chemical-free and green?
Yes, no chemicals are in castings or used to produce them. They are very green because they are a completely natural product that helps the soil environment. Castings are also completely non-toxic. They will not harm any animals or people; in fact, they can be eaten without harm.

3. Does it smell?
Castings have no strong smell. They smell faintly of a forest after a rain: a fresh, earthy smell that is not unpleasant at all.

4. What do castings do?
Castings do a multitude of things to help the plants and the overall health of the soil. Castings contain readily available and slow-releasing micro and macro nutrients that your plants need. They also help to aerate the soil and hold water due to their unique shape, which helps root growth immensely. Perhaps most importantly, castings contain a multitude of living bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic creatures. These creatures are beneficial to plants and soil environment. They create a more balanced environment and prevent harmful microbes from taking hold. This leads to protection against harmful fungal and bacterial plant diseases. Castings can even be used to help soil recover in a place where heavy chemicals have killed off most of the microbes. Even pest insects are repelled from plants treated with castings.

5. Isn’t it the same as compost?
No, pure castings are much more beneficial and predictable than compost. For one thing, you know exactly what you are getting with Empowered Earth castings because the worms’ diet is consistent. With compost, the ingredients often change. Also, the worms provide beneficial microbes from their gut that go into the castings. Castings have a favorable shape for holding water and aerating soil and will not be washed away by rain, in contrast to compost. Castings are coated with a special oil from the worms that ensures a slow release of nutrients; compost does not have a similar mechanism. In short, castings are completely different and much more helpful (and less smelly) than compost.

6. What’s the difference between composting worms and your worms?
Our worms are a form of nightcrawler specially bred for producing castings. They are highly efficient and have different care requirements than other worms. They are not the red wrigglers commonly used for composting. Our worms are also great for fishing as they do not require refrigeration like normal fishing worms (usually Canadian nightcrawlers).

7. Is it a fertilizer?
A fertilizer is by definition a chemical or natural substance added to land to increase its fertility. In this case, yes, worm castings are fertilizer; they are a natural substance that increases fertility of the land. However, castings are not fertilizer in the conventional sense. They do not contain high amounts of N, P, and K. They do have nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but not in high concentrations. But, unlike chemical fertilizers, NPK in castings are readily useable by the plant and do not get washed away by water. Plants need more than the three conventional macronutrients to thrive and be healthy for us to eat. Castings contain many necessary micronutrients for plants. Also, one of the best things about castings is that it cannot burn plants. Fertilizers can burn plants and eradicate the beneficial soil microbes because of the high concentrations of salts and macronutrients. This is just the opposite with castings.

8. What nutrients do they have?
Worm castings have a variety of micro and macronutrients, and all are in a form that the plants can use right away and will stay in the soil for the whole season. Castings have the three essential macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), as well as many micronutrients like calcium, potash, magnesium, zinc, iron, carbon, nitrogen, manganese, copper, and cobalt.

9. What other benefits do castings provide?
Castings have an incredibly wide range of benefits for plants and the overall soil environment, many of which are addressed in the other questions in more detail. Some of the benefits include: soil aeration, water retention, disease and pest repellent, greatly increased plant growth and yield, beneficial microbes, will not burn plants, nutrients will not be washed away, nutrients are released gradually and in a useable form, greatly enhanced root growth, eliminates odor when mixed into compost, acts against soil compaction, and castings are non-toxic and chemical-free.

10. How does it effect pH?
Castings are pH neutral, meaning they have a pH of 7.0. You do not have to worry about castings causing a pH swing in your soil.

11. Does it protect plants from pests?
Studies have been done that show castings do indeed protect against pests, particularly those that feed on plant juices like aphids and white flies. This is because castings spur the production of chitinase in plants. Chitinase is a substance that insects find repulsive because it can start to dissolve their exoskeletons. If you apply castings or tea to a plant that has bug problems, the insects will leave within weeks or a month or so depending on the size of the plant.

12. How do I use castings and store it?
Castings can be used in a variety of ways to benefit all types of plants and is very potent without causing burning. For example, one tablespoon of pure worm castings can feed a six inch potted plant for more than two months! Castings can be mixed in with soil or poured in furrows before planting, side-dressed or top-dressed on established plants, spread on lawns, or applied to all plants on leaves and roots as castings tea. Castings tea has been shown to produce a 173% increase in plant growth over plants without tea. Storing castings is easy, but you have to keep in mind that it contains living things that need moisture and air just like we do. If kept in the right conditions, castings last virtually indefinitely. Keep your castings in a bag or other container that is not air-tight. Keep it out of direct sunlight and very high temperatures. Do not allow the castings to completely dry out. If kept this way, you can use the same bag of castings over multiple growing seasons. Probably the easiest way to keep castings is in the same bag you bought it in, just roll up or cover the opening. Our bags have airholes in them that allows the microbes to breath but still keep moisture up.

13. How much do I use?
The important thing to remember with castings is that you cannot use so much that it will burn the plants. Castings tend to feed the plant for one season, but some faster-growing plants can use two applications. You can also add more to larger plants.  With tea, simply spray (or sprinkle with a watering can) onto the whole plant, leaves and all, until it is thoroughly wet. It can also be used instead of water for normal watering.
For potted plants, have the soil mix be 1/4 to 1/3 castings and mix in. For established plants, sprinkle about a quarter inch of castings around the plant and gently mix with soil to top-dress, or side-dress about a half cup of castings three inches into the soil and gently mix. Put an inch or two of castings into furrows or holes right before planting or transplanting.

14. What plants can I use it on? Can I use it on my lawn and trees?
It can be used on any plant. Castings have even been used on aloe, cacti, and aquatic plants with great results. For trees, side-dress several cups (depending on the size of the tree) about six inches into the ground around the tree, or add three inches into the bottom of the hole before planting. For lawns, spread ten pounds of castings per 100 square feet over an established lawn, or put down the same amount and lightly mix with soil before applying grass seed and watering.

15. How much do I need for a 10’ x 10’ garden?
This depends on what plants will be used and how fast they grow. Generally, for a fully planted garden of that size, a thirty pound bag should be adequate for using right when transplanting and adding more as needed as the growing season goes on. You’ll probably have extra to use for castings tea, as well. And if you have any left over, you can store it properly and use it next growing season!

16. Can I use it in seed starter?
Yes, castings increase the amount of seeds that sprout, greatly speed up and increase growth, and make the seedlings stronger. However, it is best to lightly top-dress instead of mixing castings in to seed starter. Use about a quarter inch of castings lightly mixed in on the top. Once the seedlings are transplanted you can use castings like normal (completely mixing it in).

17. Can I add it to compost?
Castings are a great additive to compost. As well as including all the nutrients and microbes only worm castings can provide, they also neutralize the smell of the compost within days. Add about 10-20% worm castings to your compost.

18. Can I use it on flowers?
Worm castings are very beneficial to flowering plants. It helps to increase the amount, quality and color of the flowers as well as helping the health of the whole plant. There are no special instructions for flowers, just follow the guidelines above.

19. How do I make castings tea?
we can provide small tea kits for you or you can put together your own. To make five gallons of the absolute best castings tea, you’ll need: a five gallon bucket, a small aerator (a bubbler for a small fish tank works fine), a tablespoon of unsulphered or blackstrap molasses, a mesh bag or cheesecloth with a rubberband, five gallons of room-temperature or warmer water, and a half pound of castings. Pour the water in the bucket, turn on the bubbler so it aerates the water, mix in the molasses, and put the castings into the bag or cheesecloth and then into the bucket. Aeration is essential to grow beneficial microbes, and the molasses speeds up their growth. Brew for 24 hours and use within two days. It can be used in a sprayer or a watering can, just like water.

21. How do you get the castings from the worms?
Our process centers on feeding the worms every two weeks, where we take them out of the buckets they are stored in and put them into fresh buckets full of food. While we are transferring them, the castings, eggs, worms, and refuse are all separated. We supply you with only the best pure worm castings.

100 % PURE