Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our Friends the Worms : What Goes Into Good Soil…and Good Noni

We pride ourselves on our soil at Hawaiian Organic Noni.  Nutrient-dense soil means that the food grown in it will also be full of nutrients.  So we take the health of our soil very seriously.  We’ve spend years nurturing it, feeding it, and caring for it.  But we couldn’t have done it without our friends the worms.

What makes up good soil?

Science is just beginning to understand the full complexity of soil.  There are so many factors that go into determining the quality of soil:
  • ·         Texture
  • ·         Depth of topsoil
  • ·         Water storage and drainage
  • ·         Nutrient density (both macro and micronutrients)
  • ·         Volume of air
  • ·         Presence of living and decaying organic matter
  • ·         (Aggregation) how well soil particles stick to each other. 

You can improve the quality of your soil in some surprisingly simple ways. 

Composting Returns Nutrients to the Soil

Composting improves soil’s texture, air flow, water storage, and nutrient density.
The basic process is simple: Mix yard and kitchen scraps in a big pile, soak it with water, and turn it frequently.  The only problem is, composting takes a long time, and turning the pile can be hard work.
Luckily, worms give us an easier way to make top-quality compost.

Vermicomposting for Soil Health

Worms are faster compost-makers than fungi and bacteria, and their castings – called black gold – are one of the best soil additives created by man or nature.
Vermicomposting is making compost using worms.  Most people do this in worm bins – Google it to get some idea of the many options – which keeps the worms from leaving, provides them with the shade they love, and helps keep them moist. 
You can either buy worms or collect them from your garden, but we recommend using local varieties so they can fill their natural ecological niches.
The only thing left to add is food for the worms!  
Here are some likes:
  • ·         Most fruit and vegetable scraps
  • ·         Bread and pasta
  • ·         Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds (worms love grit!)
  • ·         Crushed/ground eggshells
  • ·         Hair, tissues, paper, shredded egg cartons, etc.
  • ·         Small amounts of lawn clippings, weeds, etc.
  • ·         Sawdust

And some dislikes:

  • ·         Highly acidic fruits
  • ·         Spicy or pungent vegetables
  • ·         Meat and dairy products
  • ·         Shiny paper
  • ·         Fats and oils

Feed them a little bit at a time (no more than the same volume of food as there are worms), only adding more food as it gets eaten.  Worms like to eat food that has just started to decompose, but which isn’t really yucky yet.

As the worms eat, they convert food into black gold.  Black gold looks like compost and should have very little smell.  Scatter the castings on your garden, mix them with potting soil, use them as mulch or fertilizer.  You can’t use too much – there’s no way for the castings to damage plants.

How We Use Worms

At Hawaiian Organic Noni, we keep indigenous earthworms in an area that we call the “Worm Hotel,” busily turning kitchen scraps into black gold.

We add the castings to our soil, where they deposit vital nutrients in a form that is easy for plants to absorb.  The noni trees love it, and produce more nutrient-dense fruit as a result of the more nutritious soil. 

How To Make Your Garden Worm-Friendly

You can also work on making your garden more worm-friendly, to naturally attract these hardworking creatures.  The key to attracting wild worms is to create a good habitat.

Here are some musts:
  • ·         Create mulched areas, covered with leaves, grass clippings, or other materials
  • ·         Keep the soil moist
  • ·         Minimize the amount of digging and tilling you do
  • ·        Keep your soil toxin-free

Wild worms will give your soil the same benefits as adding vermicompost you make in a worm bin, just slower and less concentrated. 

It’s definitely worth making the effort to attract worms to your garden, and it’s even more beneficial to vermicompost in worm bins.  We encourage you to give it a try!

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Do you have any questions about composting, vermicomposting, or soil health? Ask us in the comments!