It takes effort to keep the soil fertile when growing food organically. That’s especially true for us, as we don’t use any off-farm inputs for fertilizer, even those approved for organic use.
With 10-10-10 not an option, we have a fertility toolkit that might seem strange to a conventional farmer these days, but would have made perfect sense to a farmer a couple of generations ago. We use cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, manure and chicken litter–as farmers have since the dawn of agriculture.
And now we’re also using aerated “worm tea,” taking advantage of our composting worm bin.
We start with an old chest freezer in the basement, which serves as our worm bin. Of course it’s not necessary to have an old chest freezer to have a worm bin. Simple directions for making them out of plastic bins are HERE. (We have this kind of bin too).
We dump our tea leaves and coffee grounds (with filters) into the bin. The worms eat the tea and coffee and turn it into worm castings–nature’s finest plant food. Of course the worms will eat anything that decomposes, but we just limit ours to tea, coffee, paper and some occasional eggshells. It’s a good way for us to get rid of those items and we don’t have to worry about smell or attracting flies.
To make the tea, you’ll need an air pump, air stone and a piece of piping to connect them. These are inexpensive and can be found anywhere that sells aquarium supplies.
Put the stone into a bucket (I use a five gallon bucket) and connect it to the pipe and pump. You’ll have to weight the air stone down with a rock.
Add water to the bucket along with worm castings. You can either put the castings into an old sock or stocking tied off at the top, or just dump them into the water. I’ve done it both ways but you’ll have to strain it either way if you’re going to use a sprayer, so I don’t see an advantage to the sock method.
Add a couple of spoonfuls of molasses and let the concoction brew for 24 hours or more. The beneficial aerobic microbes will be activated and will multiply during the process.
Then just feed the tea to growing plants. I strain ours and apply it with a garden sprayer. The plants love it.
It’s a win-win situation. We provide a worm-friendly living environment and in exchange they give us worm poo to fertilize our gardens. For more info, just google “worm tea” and you’ll find lots of websites with all the info you could ask for. One of many examples is HERE.