I visited Urban Worm in Berkeley, CA recently because I wanted to buy some fresh worm castings to amend the tomato beds.
If you think about the fact that vermicompost or worm castings have lots of microbes which make nitrogen more available to plant roots, an anaerobic environment or a dried out vermicompost has likely lost most if not all of its microbial value. This New York Times article even states that the base material that the worms feed on make a difference in the effectiveness of the vermicompost and that it is leading to “boutique composting” with different blends for different kinds of plants.You can find worm castings at various retailers in plastic bags, but who knows how long those worm castings have been roasting in anaerobic storage?
I’ve read a few articles about the difference between fresh earthworm castings and how worthless the bagged commercial earthworm castings could be.
Here is a blog post about why you’d want to use fresh worm castings.
Urban Adamah is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational farm and community center in Berkeley, California, that integrates the practices of Jewish tradition, sustainable agriculture, mindfulness and social action to build loving, just and sustainable communities.
We provide educational programs and community celebrations for more than 5,000 visitors a year, as well as a residential fellowship program for young adults that combines organic farming, progressive Jewish living and social justice. Urban Adamah also offers innovative, farm-based programs for school-age children. Our organic farm produces a diverse yield of crops, all of which we donate to the local community through food banks and our weekly Free Farm Stand.
Urban Worm has workshops for those who would like to start vermicomposting. They also sell vermicompost, worms, and worm bins. Perusing their site, I do think they have an extremely interesting worm bin made of wood which would allow you to do it outdoors. We previously tried one of those black tower worm bins outdoors and it was a disaster even in the shade. Our worms got cooked.
Here is a photo tour of the site:
Urban Worm’s vermicompost is based on coffee grounds and juicer pulp. The fresh castings and they are moist, dark, and pleasant smelling. You can smell traces of the pulp when you open the bag and we added one 35 lb bag (probably a little over 1 cu foot) of castings per 4’x12′ bed.
There were two interesting things I saw that I feel could be very useful for the urban gardening food movement in abandoned lots. The pallet raised bed is ingenious. It allows the raised bed to be moved if necessary so that crops aren’t lost. Last week I heard a story about the University of Berkeley plowing under some plants that the “Occupy the Farm” group had grown on one of their lots. This pallet method would have allowed them to move their garden elsewhere.
The other smart thing was to have their entire chicken house structure made in such a way that they could also take it down quickly if necessary for portability. They also roofed their entire run which I’m sure the chickens appreciated. My chickens often try and hide from the sun.
So far our tomatoes are doing great and I highly recommend both a visit to Urban Worm if you are in the area and a purchase to support their non-profit.