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Vermicomposting uses worms to help break down food, and it’s easy to do inside your home or apartment. But the fact that vermicomposting basically involves harvesting worm poop (known as “castings”), it might make you wonder if it’s a good idea for all plants or if it’s only for specially-suited situations.
Is vermicomposting good for all plants? Vermicompost provides nutrients that all plants can benefit from. However, there are some instances where castings are not the ideal option and can be harmful if added to plants with healthy soil.
If you want to start composting your kitchen scraps, vermicompost is an excellent option. It’s easy to start, doesn’t take up much space, and it can be done inside. When managed correctly, you can enjoy the benefits of an odorless composting process that you can later add to the soil in your garden. But let’s make sure you fully understand the facts.
What Is Vermicompost?
Before you use vermicompost on any plant, you should have a basic understanding of what it is. Vermicomposting is sometimes called worm composting, and it involves worms that help break down your kitchen scraps. The worms turn your food waste into usable fertilizer that you can put in your garden.
When you put fruits or vegetables into a bin for vermicomposting, the worms will eat the food. The worms will then deposit the worm castings. Those worm castings will be the fertilizer for your garden or plants.
Vermicompost is rich in nutrients, which can add valuable nutrients to the soil for your plants. Worm castings help drain thicker soils, retain moisture in sandy soils, and they can even help with soil structure. You can use the vermicompost as your primary form of soil for some plants, while other plants work better with a combination of vermicompost and traditional soils. It’s actually kind of a wonder fertilizer.
Getting started with vermicomposting is relatively easy, and you don’t need a ton of supplies. If you want to know more about the basics of worm composting we have a complete library of articles to help you.
How to Use Vermicompost in Potted Plants
For any plant, vermicompost can offer extra nutrients and help plants grow. Vermicompost can help potted plants just like any other plant, though there are some considerations you may have to make (source).
Here are just a few of the ways you can take advantage of worm castings as a nutrient source:
- You can sprinkle some vermicompost over the top of the soil. This way, the nutrients will work their way down to the roots of the plant.
- If you have a new plant, you can mix vermicompost with regular topsoil. This requires a bit more compost, but it can help when potting plants.
- When you have seeds, you can combine vermicompost with the seed starting mix. That can help the seedlings grow.
- You can brew the vermicompost like you would brew tea. Then, you can spray the liquid fertilizer on the plants to protect them from airborne diseases.
The Benefits of Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting can be suitable for most plants in almost any situation. It gives you an easy way to get rid of food scraps and you’ll have an excellent organic fertilizer to use in your garden, flower beds, or potted plants.
There are also other benefits to consider when determining where to use the vermicompost. Different plants have different nutrient needs, so you should consider those factors when deciding if vermicompost will be suitable for an individual plant.
Worm Castings Increase Nutrients
Vermicompost can help add nutrients and organic content to the soil. This can help give your plants a nutrient-rich environment for growing. The compost can work well with clay soil to provide more organic content to your plants.
- More nutrients can help your plants grow. Whether you grow flowers or produce, you can use vermicompost to feed your plants.
- Like us, plants need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy.
- Soil can provide many nutrients to plants, so we can think of vermicompost as an additional nutrient source.
- However, worm castings can be especially beneficial if the soil you’re using doesn’t have many nutrients.
- While plants can absorb some nutrients from the sun, there are nutrients that plants get directly from the soil and/or fertilizer.
Since vermicomposting is almost always done at moderate temperatures, it can produce higher levels of nitrogen. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for many plants, so the extra content can be an excellent reason to use vermicompost in your garden.
If you’ve ever had a nutrient deficiency, you know that it can cause some awful symptoms. The same thing happens in plants when they don’t get enough of a specific nutrient. Vermicompost can be very good for plants that may need that extra nutrient boost, and they can help plants that are healthy but may have lower than average levels.
Great for Starting Seeds
Because vermicompost gives extra nutrients to the soil and plants, it’s an excellent option for when you first plant seeds. The added nutrients can help promote plant growth. For potted plants, you can add a bit of vermicompost with the soil.
Another reason vermicompost is excellent for growing new plants is that you can use it at any time of the year. If you want to start growing an indoor plant during the winter, you can use vermicompost. You can feed food scraps to the worms all year round, so you don’t have to wait until the next growing season to harvest vermicompost.
Can Be Added at Anytime
While vermicompost can help seeds start to grow, you can add it later, too. If your plants are actively growing, now’s a great time to add a bit of vermicompost on top of the soil. The vermicompost can be very beneficial at this stage.
If you want to use vermicompost on top of the soil, apply a bit to the area around the outside of the plant. This can help distribute nutrients more evenly.
Helps Soil Retain Moisture
We all know that we need to water plants enough so that they stay alive and healthy. Vermicompost is good for plants that need a lot of water. Since vermicompost can help the soil retain moisture, it can cut down on the amount of water you need to use to take care of your plant. You may also not need to water your plants as often because of the castings’ incredible moisture-holding ability.
It Can Kill Some Pathogens
Many garden plants will encounter plant pathogens at one point or another. Like us, plants can get sick, too. Luckily, when used correctly, vermicompost can help kill some pathogens.
- A recent study looked at the digestion of earthworms and the change in microbes. They found that there were no nematodes, and other pathogens were decreased.
- While worms might ingest a lot of microbes, that same study found that the same microbes didn’t necessarily exist in the worm castings.
- These benefits seem to occur when mixed with soil. If used without soil, the vermicompost might not help with killing pathogens.
The Disadvantages of Vermicomposting
While vermicompost can be useful and beneficial, there are some instances where using it in your garden might not be the best decision. In rare cases, it can do more harm than good.
Luckily, the downside to vermicomposting doesn’t apply directly to plants. Instead, it refers to other features involved in developing and using the vermicompost.
Not for Healthy Soil
Vermicompost can be the perfect pair to some soil. It can add extra nutrients and help with the consistency of the soil. However, it can be a problem if your soil is on the healthier side.
- Vermicompost adds extra nutrients. Of course, that can help. However, you can have too much of a good thing, and so can your plants.
- Too many nutrients can be toxic, depending on the specific nutrient.
- Be sure to check the organic content of your soil before you add vermicompost or any compost for that matter.
Vermicompost certainly has some positive properties. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the mixture can cause issues. If you add vermicompost to soil with healthy levels of organic matter, it may harm your plants. It’s crazy, but it’s basically nutrient poisoning. Sort of like overfertilizing a lawn.
Because of the various levels of nitrogen and other nutrients in the vermicompost, you should be careful when using it on indoor plants. Too much compost can burn houseplants.
Since vermicomposting is a more labor-intensive process than regular compost, you should also save the compost you get for the plants that need it most. Typically, those are outside plants. If you have more vermicompost than necessary for outdoor plants, you can use it on indoor plants but you don’t want to go overboard. Vermicompost is rich in nutrients, and a little can go a long way, especially for smaller, potted plants.
Requires Specific Temperature
During the production process, vermicompost can be tricky. While you can put it almost anywhere, you should consider that it needs to be kept in moderate temperatures. If it gets too hot in the bin, the worms can dry out and die.
While vermicomposting is a natural composting method, it requires specific care to maintain. You need to keep the worms fed and alive, and you have to manage the temperature. If you don’t have a temperature-controlled space for the compost, it may not be right for you or your plants. For more insight, read our in-depth article: Where to Keep a Worm Bin: 8 Ideal Places.
Vermicomposting is a great way to deal with food waste and create organic fertilizer. Under the right conditions, you can use it with almost any plant, including potted plants. However, it’s important not to add too much at once to any single plant. My best advice is to begin with small amounts of worm castings and increase the quantity based on how your plants respond.