Worm Tea for Hydroponics?

by RJ
(San Francisco & Mi Wuk, California)

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe
The Set Up

I have a small hyrdo-garden; tomatoes, orchids, basil, parsley. Ebb and flow system.

Can I use worm tea instead of the chemicals in my watering solution?

What is the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium) of Worm Tea (in general, I know this will vary from farm to farm)?

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Jan 11, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea
by: Bill Lombard

I've used worm tea for hydroponics, in both the traditional method and the Kratky method, with good success. I'd like to hear from others, especially researchers in this area, since it seems like such a good idea.

It also would be great to find a reliable analysis of worm tea and what it provides to plants.

Jan 11, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea - reply
by: RJ

Bill:

To make sure we are talking about the same thing:
Leachate vs Worm Tea, I just learned the difference.

Also read: "Without a doubt vermiponics works best in conjunction with aquaponics."
http://vermicomposters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/using-worm-castings-in-hydroponics

Have you gone that route as well?

The Kratky method looks like one short step to aquaponics.

Jan 12, 2014
Hooked On Ponics
by: Pauly

Hey Rj,

Thanks for posting your pics. Although I haven't tried hooked on ponics yet, your system looks very fun.

I won't begin to comment on NPK ratios as not all worm tea or worm castings is created equal and therein lies the difficulty of determining NPK ratios as it would be a guess at best.

I will tell you though that "Worm Tea" and I DO hope that we all know what "True" worm tea is. If not then please know the difference here:
Worm Tea

As I was saying worm tea, when brewed correctly, can and does create a type of Super Food for plants in a hydroponic, aquaponic, or vermiponic system.

But here is one thing that concerns me with your question RJ. You asked, "Can I use worm tea instead of the chemicals in my watering solution?

Well the the answer is yes but I'm assuming that you have already used the chemical fertilizers in your system judging on%2

Jan 14, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea
by: Bill

Hi RJ,
Yes, I use worm castings, alfalfa meal, and rock dust to make tea, so I'm not using leachate.
Kratky's method works well and is nice in water-restricted areas, and is a nice way to go for folks who don't want to mess with pumps and pipes.
Bill

Jan 14, 2014
Introducing microbes to the hydro system?
by: Pauly

My last post was cut off for some reason.

Anyway, I know the chemical fertilizers kill microbes. I'm not sure you would want to start now.

Introducing the microbes to the hydro system may stall your plants for quite some time. You would be changing their food source and it just may take a while for them to adjust.

Chemical fertilizers are high in salts and ammonia. Not very microbe friendly just keep this in mind.

If it were me, I would just start over. Clean the system of all chemicals and just go organic with worm tea and castings and minerals.

All the best,
~Pauly


Jan 14, 2014
Microbes/Kratky
by: RJ

Bill/Pauly:

Thanks for all your input. The plan is to start-over, going organic with worm tea and castings and minerals.

There will also be a very small side foray into aqua.

For now I'll continue with ebb and flow but I want to test my bathes for N/P/K in San Francisco. Any suggestions? Home Kit?

Jan 14, 2014
Testing Worm Castings and Worm Tea
by: Pauly

Check with your local county's extension office. Call the numbers listed in the link below.

They will probably steer you in the right direction and maybe get someone to test for free.

But don't worry about the NPK ratios of worm tea. If brewed properly the only fear you have is drowning your plants.

But it is nice to know what's in the MIX :)

http://cecentralsierra.ucanr.org/files/115331.pdf

~Pauly

Jun 23, 2014
Experience
by: Michael

Well, I have been "playing" with hydroponics for the last 25 years and was never able to find viable and affordable organic alternatives to the commercially available water soluble fertilizers necessary for hydroponics. That is until 3 years ago when I discovered composting red wiggler worms, and I set up my first worm bin.

I definitely do things contrary to popular advice of separating out the worm castings, put them in a sack and soak with a bubbler for 24 hours --- way too slow and too much trouble. I just installed a valve near the base of one end of my 36 gallon plastic worm bin and every morning pour about 5 gallons of water over the top of the worm bin. I leave the valve open and draining into a 5 gallon bucket and VOILA, instant and abundantly available WORM TEA without all the mess and hassle. Plus my worm bin stays fresh and moist and I don't have to disturb the little buggers too much.

For the last 3 years I have used nothing but my Worm Tea for both my small hydroponic fence top garden (20 feet of 4 inch pvc pipe with 2 inch holes cut every 3 inches and solar powered) and my 14 container Patio Garden with excellent results. I also seem to have almost no pest problems, I guess they just don't like worm tea. Anyway, it works.

Just don't worry about the analysis as it really doesn't matter, as long as you have such spectacular results as I have had. If your water is iron or magnesium deficient, you could add some mild steel nails and epsom salts to your solution, but I'm not sure if even that is necessary. The worms seem to have it all, somehow, almost miraculously.


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