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Worm Tea, a Great Drink

Worm tea is a great drink for your garden plants! It sounds disgusting, but it is one of the best organic fertilizers you can give your plants. A few weeks ago my children and I had the opportunity to take a garden class called “Garden Plan-it” at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA and learn about enviro-gardening and in particular about vermicomposting. Vermi-What? Vermicomposting is creating soil using worm poop. Yes, you read that correctly.

Okay, now that I’ve grossed you out, you can understand why my kids or kids in general would think that this was a great fieldtrip. Well, all but one of my children, who was too scared to get close to the worms, although she did enjoy the rest.

They started out by asking the children what they thought the basic needs of plants were. They came up with 4 basic needs: Sun, water, soil or something to grow in (most of the time), and air. Most people don’t think about plants needing air, but they do. Plants need to take in carbon dioxide. Isn’t that great! We as people take in oxygen, and we breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide, and release oxygen into the air. This is why it is great to have house plants to help clean our air!

Next they handed out a piece of paper divided into 4 squares. They gave us 3 samples of soil. We were to place a teaspoon of soil on each of the squares, leaving one blank for a very special soil they would give us later. The children were to write down a word each for the color, texture, and what they saw in the soil. Then repeat for the other two soils.

The children classified each of the 3 soils and everyone shared their findings. Two of the soils were just ground rock, an inorganic material, of different colors and grain sizes. The other soil was a composition of organic matter. Mostly tree bark that was decomposing.

Then the enviromentalists handed out dishes with the 4th soil. This soil was black in color and very damp. I must say it reminded me of a new baby’s poop. However, there was no smell to this soil. They gave the children a stick that resembled a chopstick and let them move the soil around. “Eeek, cool”, children screamed. It moved! Inside the soil were some red worms. We also noticed some other tiny bugs crawling around. This black soil was the worm poop or vermicompost. The children learned that the mouth of the worm is nearer the fatter end and the end where the poop comes out is narrower. They even attempted to measure their worms. My sons’ worm was 7 centimeters long. These were special worms, not just the ones you find on the sidewalk after a rain. These are red worms, red wrigglers, or manure worms. You want to make sure you get the correct kind or you could end up with worms all over your house, yuck! You can get them through garden centers or from ordering online. Just google them and you’ll find what you are looking for.

After looking at the soil they showed us their worm bin and we returned our worms to their home. The worm bin is filled with worms, shredded newspaper (or bedding as they call it), and vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and other leftovers that do NOT include bones, meat, or fat. The University of Nebraska has a nice article on it. I must tell you the worm bin did NOT smell. Even with all that waste in there.

The enviromentalist then told the children they were going to make worm tea. They handed out recycled plastic bottles filled with maybe 2 cups of water and then instructed everyone to put their worm poop in the water, making sure NOT to add any worms as it would drown them. Put on the lid and shake. Now you have worm tea! We then got to go see their private enviro-garden and help water their plants with this great organic fertilizer. The children got to see plants such as strawberries, spinach, kale, mint, peas and carrots. They picked some and the kids got to sample it at lunch time. My kids had never tasted Kale before and they were amazingly surprised, and so was I, that they liked kale. So now we are going to grow kale in our garden.

That was the end of our garden class. It was fun and very informative. We then got to go learn about green energy resources in the Bill Nye Climate Lab and see a great short movie about telescopes.

My friend Marcie teaches worm composting to the local elementary school. She sent me a link to a humorous YouTube video on how to make your own worm bin. Watch and enjoy!

We are going to be making our own worm bin in the next couple weeks!
What do you think about vermicomposting?

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