Worm Tea Vs Leachate
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In this issue of the Poop Scoop I am
going to talk about the differences between worm tea and how it is completely
different than leachate. I see it everywhere on the internet and in
videos and even some companies trying to say that leachate is worm tea. So this
is why I want to cover this topic in a greater depth so that you can clearly
understand what worm tea and leachate is and how to properly use it on your
plants and in your gardens.
First of all let's go over the two
definitions (in my own words) so you can identify what I am talking about.
Leachate - The liquid run off that
settles at or below the vermicompost or worm castings. This is a form of
Worm Tea - The end result or product
of suspending worm castings for extracting in highly oxygenated water. This is a form of
Alright, so if you noticed not only do these
words have different meanings, but they are entirely two different processes.
One is "seeping" and the other is "steeping" in which one can only occur by
So let me first talk about Leachate.
I'll admit it. When I first started my own
worm bin I was in love with the fact that I could fill the bin almost to the top
with straight tap water and collect all the leachate at the bottom to feed my
plants and no, the worms did not like taking a bath once a month. I soon found out that this would not work. My plants, especially the
tomatoes, succumbed to diseases. So, what is it about leachate that is potentially not good for the plants?
Leachate contains phytotoxins (toxins that
can harm plants). Some of these toxins are created by bacteria. Yes, not all
bacteria are good. When a worm farm becomes anaerobic (lack of oxygen) it
creates chaos, or when there is too much nitrogen rich food, the good bacteria
are at war with the bad bacteria. Ultimately if you don't keep the conditions
right for the good bacteria then they will lose. in any case though, every worm
bin has good and bad microbes no matter how well you take care of you worm farm.
This is ok of course, as long as the good ones out number the bad ones. Some
leachate can contain harmful pathogens. Landfills always lay down a barrier
underneath the compost to keep the leachate from entering into lakes and
When you ad fresh food to the worm bin it
starts to break down and goes into a mesophilic process. A mesophile is an
organism that thrives in temperatures between 70-104 degrees Fahrenheit. So the
bin heats up quite a bit allowing these organisms to multiply exponentially
until it can cool back down. Any temperature above this range would then be
called a thermophilic process. "Thermophiles" begin to multiply between 105-170
degrees Fahrenheit. These are good temperatures to have in a compost pile
outside. It kills off harmful pathogens and unwanted seeds.
The worms move through the compost allowing
for greater aeration bringing in more oxygen to the compost. This allows the
good organisms to thrive, but Generally, during these higher temperatures, the
worms stay away from the decaying matter until it has cooled and stabilized enough to allow
the worms back in. This instability is usually accompanied by a smelly or foul
odor. This is a great sign that indicates that the bin in that particular area
is teaming with the bad organisms until they have a chance to pass through the
gut of a worm.
So when you seep water through the bin during
these unstable conditions to feed directly to your plants you are gambling with
a set of cards you haven't even seen.
2. Now I'll give you
the good news, Worm Tea
Worm Tea is its most popular name along with
vermitea, vermicompost tea (which I'm not sure why people use that name), worm
poop tea, liquid gold, vermicast tea, worm castings tea, worm liquor, Worm
"liqueous" (I don't even think that's a word), and here's a good one
"vermicastings aqueous extracts" and on and on.
Worm tea is created by either suspending a
porous bag full of worm castings or simply dumping the castings into a container
of clean chemical free water. Molasses (a food source) is then added to the
water as a catalyst to stimulate growth. Then last, an air pumping system is
installed to increase an aerobic (oxygenated) environment for the inoculation of
Worm tea is beneficial in so many ways. From
the root all the way up to the ends of the leaves. Worm tea contains all the
helpful microorganisms that are found in worm castings like:
Did you know?
These tiny organisms make up 90% of what you and I think soil really is. The
rest is metals and minerals.
The purpose behind creating worm tea is to
speed up the growth rate of these microbes and to multiply their numbers
exponentially. One reason for applying the tea to your plants is rapid
absorption by the plant unlike the castings which is a time released process.
Just like you and I would take supplements in a liquid form, the plants receive its
supplements in a liquid form as well for faster intake.
When you spray or pour the tea on the soil
not only are you feeding the plant, but you help the soil increase in beneficial
microbes, thus crowding out the bad microbes where there are just too many good ones to
compete against. It has been proven by universities, such as Ohio Sate, and in
the field, and by gardeners like you and I that the tea along with the castings
can significantly increase plant growth, as well as crop yields, in the short
term (a season) and especially the long term over a period of seasons.
along with these great benefits come a boost
in the plants own immune system to be able to resist parasites like the infamous
aphid, and tomato cyst eelworm and root knot nematodes. Plants produce certain
hormones (like the jasmonic hormone) that insects find distasteful. It also
helps it to resist diseases such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia.
When sprayed on leaves and foliage the bad
disease causing microbes are again out numbered and cannot populate to the
levels of taking over a single plant. The tea also aids the plant in creating
the "cuticle", the waxy layer on top of their epidermis. This waxy
surface protects the leaves from severe elements (drying out) and reduces attacks by
certain harmful microorganisms and insects.
learn how to
make worm tea for yourself
So there you have it. These are the
differences between "leachate" and "worm tea". So the next time you turn on the
spigot and collect the juice at the bottom of your worm bin think twice about
where you want to put the leachate. You have no idea of what might be in the
mysterious liquid, but you can be 100% sure of what's in the the
Hope this addition of the Poop Scoop has been
helpful. Till then see you next issue and always remember,
Happy worm farming,
Pauly (The Worm whisperer)
P.S. I recently added an
About Me page for
those of you who would like to get to know me a little better. Sorry so late:.(
Also I'm happy to announce that a new product is coming. The Worm Factory
and the worm Inn for those wanting a flow through system without having
to build one. They look really nice too.