Earthworms Make Nature’s Best Fertilizer FREE for Your Garden

Alright! This is John Kohler with, another exciting episode for you, I’m here
on Oahu, Hawaii, just five miles from Waikiki Beach, but yet I haven’t been to the beach
this trip, because I’m out making videos for you guys. You know we’re five miles
from Waikiki in downtown Honolulu, and the reason why I’m here today is I’m here
to visit Kokua Worms. And this is a business that’s on the second floor at 742 Queen
Street here, and this is a place that you can buy worms in Hawaii, and for those of
you guys that live in Hawaii you’re going to want to pay attention to this because it’s
very important, and for those of you guys that don’t live in Hawaii, this episode’s
going to be really full of good information for you guys so learn about the worms, learn
about how composting is really good, and learn about if you guys cook at home and have plants,
you guys should be worm composting and making your own precious verimcast, one of the most
nutritious things you can put in the garden, but more importantly, take a chunk out of
what you are throwing away, because when you throw things away, it really doesn’t go
away, it doesn’t disappear, they don’t send it into space, it goes into the landfill,
it rots, creates methane gas, really not a good thing. No better way to use your food
scraps than to enrich your soil or even if you don’t have a garden, create vermicastings
and give to friends and neighbors to enrich their soil or just throw in the park when
no one’s looking. Alright so let’s go ahead and head up to the second floor to Kokua
Worms. So now I’m upstairs on the second floor
at Kokua Worms, and they’re only open by appointment only, so don’t just come down
even though I gave you guys the address, you want to give them a call first or email them
to make sure they’re going to be here when you come down. So yeah once again, by appointment
only. So now we’re going to go ahead and go inside, this is a fairly small office,
but in this office space they have many different things to help you compost with worms, including
actually several different styles of systems that they’re showing, and including three
different types of worms. You guys know, they have three different types of worms for sale,
but there’s many different kinds of worms, and these three unique varieties of worms
are very good for your garden, and also for breaking down the trash. So maybe the first
thing I want to do is show you guys the worms, because that’s the reason why I’m here,
and worms are a part of your ecosystem in your garden right? We want to have biologically
alive soil, including bacteria, including microbes, including nematodes, including worms,
including arthropods and all the different creatures that are down in the soil doing
their job and this is part of a biologic organic garden that I like to teach you guys, and
worms are an essential part, I mean if you set up your garden properly yeah, some of
the worms will come on their own and find a home in your nice environment that you’re
giving to them, but one of the things I really like to do is implant the worms and get some
worms and just put them into my garden so that they can do their work and if you provide
a really good environment for them, guess what? They’re going to breed and multiply.
I like breeding and multiplying, and so do the worms. So let’s check out the worms
breeding and multiplying today. Alright so now I want to show you guys the
different kinds of worms, and they got three different kinds of worms here, they got the
composting worms which are the kind that are going to basically break down your food scraps
and turn them into nutrients for your garden, and one of the ones that’s really common
that many of you guys may know are known as the red wigglers, and those are in here. But
besides just the red wigglers they also have some Indian blues, and these are another kind
of worm that are tropical worms, so you’re not really going to want to get these if you
live in Michigan, because they don’t like freezing. But if you guys look there you can
see a whole bunch of the worms moving around, and the fast-moving worms are the blues, and
the slow-moving worms are the reds. And you know I recommend a diversity of worms in your
garden if you live in a climate such as a tropical climate where you don’t get freezes
that’ll support both these kinds. So it’s best to always have a diversity because what
you’re going to find is whether you’re growing your worms outside in your raised
bed garden or whether you have worms in a worm bin, the conditions that you create for
your worms are going to be more conducive to one or the other kind of worms and one
or the other kind of worms will dominate the bin. And by having more varieties, that way
you have higher chances of success. And if you are successful with your worms and they
really like what you’re doing, they’re also going to mate and lay eggs, so what I
have here on this paper, I don’t know if you guys are going to be able to see this,
let’s see if I can put it on my hand there. I have some specks of dirt in there, but if
you look very closely, you’ll see some little worm eggs and they look like almost clear
little round balls, like almost like little bubbles, right? And those are worm eggs, and
those will hatch into worms for your garden, and you could put them out in your garden
and they’re going to basically reproduce and multiply, and then you’ll be able to
divide your worms, have another worm bin and give them to friends, and that’s really
cool, so the composting worms that most people are familiar with, and the other kind of worm
that I really wanted to show you guys today are these guys, and I’ve always had these
worms, and I’ve had the red wigglers in my garden, but I’ve had these other kind
of worms in my garden that are kind of bigger and fatter and all this stuff, and I’m not
a worm guy, I didn’t go to school for worm ology or whatever they call it, but I saw
these guys and I don’t really know what they are until today actually, coming here
I learn something every place I go, and hopefully you guys are also learning something every
place I go by watching my videos, but these guys are called amenthis, and these guys are
actually the, these are not composting worms per se, but these are garden worms and they’re
aeration worms, very important, they primarily aerate your soil, makes air in your soil that
creates air channels that are good for the plant roots, that are good for the microbes
down in there, and they might eat some kind of wood shavings, pellets, and maybe even
some coffee grounds, but they’re not really around for composting food waste, so if you
get these guys, and I would recommend you guys get these guys if you don’t have these
guys in addition to the red wigglers, take these guys and bury them out in your raised
beds. I like to probably bury for a four foot by four foot raised bed, I would probably
bury a couple of ounces in each bed to give them a home and if you’re treating them
well, they’re going to breed and multiply and do all that aeration which is especially
important in a no till gardening like I recommend. So I guess the next thing I want to share
with you guys is worm habitats for your reds or your blue worms.
Alright so now you guys got to see the different kinds of worms, right, and you only want to
put the reds and the blues in one of these worm habitats or worm homes, because the other
kind, that’s for putting in your garden so you can do the aeration and all that kind
of stuff, very important right? They will not survive in one of these habitats. Now
there’s many different choices you guys can get for a worm habitat, or simply a worm
home. And I believe that by having a proper habitat and feeding them and treating your
worms properly, they’re going to thrive, and if you’ve had a worm habitat before
and your worms didn’t make it, that’s because something probably went wrong. You
overfed them, you didn’t have enough aeration, maybe you’re not giving them enough grit,
because they need some grit to clean themselves out much like we need fiber, there’s so
many different things, I’m not the worm expert, but if you come down here, you’re
going to want to talk to Leslie because she knows all there is to know about worms, she’s
the worm expert that I got to learn from today. But they have many different worm habitats
for your budget, and also more importantly for how much food waste you’re generating,
right? You don’t want to get a huge worm bin if it’s just you producing a little
cup full of food waste every couple of days, right? That’s not going to work. You want
to get your worm bin or your worm habitat sized properly. So yeah talk to Leslie, she’ll
answer all your questions to get you sized properly when you come down here to the shop.
But in general what I’ll tell you is this, the less people you have in your household,
the smaller your worm habitat’s going to be. So for example, for one or two people,
you could see this one right here, and this is something you guys could even make at home
if you’re not handy with drills and going out and sourcing all the different components,
I mean literally it’s just a little tote bin with holes drilled in the bottom, a couple
of things to bump this up of the bottom so it gets a good airflow, once again very important,
and you’re going to catch the liquid that comes off the bottom, also known as the leachate,
very important, this is known as leachate or worm pee or more specifically actually
it’s what the composting or rotting food is just draining off. And some people say
it’s good for gardening, some people say it’s bad for gardening. I tend to think
that if you dilute it properly you could just put it on stuff, but it’s not any kind of
major fertilizer that we’re going to talk about actually in a little bit. The vermicastings
and also the worm tea or compost tea that you can make with the verimcastings much more
important to your garden than just the leachate. So yeah this is a smaller system, and one
of the things that I learned about today was providing bedding for the worms, that’s
super-important out of a coconut core [inaudible] and maybe some shredded newspaper and having
a nice layer in there so that you can get some airflow in there plus the worms like
to live in this, and then you’re basically going to do lasagna style worms. You’re
going to put in the bedding, then some food, and then some more bedding and you’re going
to keep stacking it up on top. And one of the things I also learned today, very important
is don’t feed your worms every day. I know we like to be fed multiple times a day, but
too much food in your worm system can overload the worms, and they’re going to go “Oh
my gosh, there’s too much food, I’m freaking out” and then you might lose your worms.
So you could lose your worms for overfeeding, you could lose your worms for under feeding,
you could lose your worms for having too much water, and also if you overfeed it’s going
to stink, and nobody wants a stinky worm bin, right? So if you’ve had worm bins in the
past, and it stunk, you’re probably over feeding because the worms aren’t able to
digest food that quickly, and in general you know you’re going to also need to get the
proper amount of worms to start with, right? If you’re putting in a lot of food, you’re
going to need a lot more worms for them to digest the food. So it’s very important
to talk to somebody who knows how much worms you’re going to need to put in. For example
in a big system like this, the worm café, which is my favorite style system, because
it just makes things really easy, it drains out all the liquid on the bottom, you’re
going to need about one pound of worms to start with. And this is just not one pound
of worms with the bedding, this is one pound of worms straight up, right? Because a lot
of places will sell you worms and they’ll say “Oh yeah, one pound of worms,” but
it’s one pound of worms with their bedding, and I’ve bought worms like that before,
39.95 or whatever, went to a local lady she gave me a whole bunch, and I looked through
there I’m like “Man there’s 20 worms in here, I got ripped off.” So it’s much
better and always better to buy worms by the ounce, and yeah it’s going to cost you guys
more, but you really know what you’re getting, you’re getting live worms that are going
to do the job of breaking down your food, and plus if you treat them properly, they’re
going to mate and make eggs like I showed you guys earlier, and create more worms that
you can put out into your garden, give to friends and even make more worm bins to compost
other stuff through the vermiculture on your property because the reason why I like to
compost with worms is because it’s feeding them, it’s removing a food source that I
would need to get rid of that’s not going to a landfill, but more importantly I’m
creating the really rich vermicastings or the worm poop. And to me as a gardener, that’s
the most important, I believe everybody out there should be using some worm castings in
their garden, it is quite essential. The other thing I want to mention to you guys is that
the worm castings that you produce are only as good as what you’re feeding the worms,
super-important, super-critical, I learned this from George Han, I’ll put a link to
the video that I did with George, who basically makes worm castings on a commercial industrial
level, and sells the highest quality worm castings that I’ve found. He feeds the worms
things that are rich in cellulose, so like shredded cardboard or cardboard slurry as
well as things high in chitin. Very important to get some of those additives in there when
you’re feeding your worms. So these are some of the different systems, oh and another
thing very important that I learned today is when you’re feeding and you’re only
supposed to feed two to three times a week, right? That’s it. I know you guys make food
waste every day and don’t feed your worms every day, you might want to take your food
waste, put it in a sealed container in your fridge or sealed container in the freezer,
and then if it’s in the freezer take it out and thaw it out before you feed it to
your worms, this will kill any kind of bugs and all this kind of stuff, fly larvae that
may be in there if you freeze it, pull it out, let it thaw out and you’re going to
have more of a bug-free worm habitat. The other thing that’s very important is you
want to put the paper shreddings on top every time and have a nice layer and don’t pack
it on it there man, “I can [inaudible] pack more in there.” You want to leave it nice
and fluffy so that you can get some good air flow, because this is very important for the
worms. Another thing that I learned, a tip about feeding is when you’re feeding, say
that you’ve got a worm bin here and it’s really long, you’re going to want to feed,
one day you’re going to feed in the front half and put the shredded paper on top, and
then you’re going to wait a day or two, and then the next time you’re going to feed
in the second half, so now the worms have to keep traveling back and forth to get the
food, and if you lift up the first half, it’s almost fully gone or you can see somethings
happening and it’s not smelling, then it’s a good time to add back to feed them again.
But if nothing’s really happening, don’t overfeed your worms or put too much food scraps
in your worm bin, because it’s going to get stinky, and nobody likes a stinky worm
bin, especially your wife your husband in some cases. So yeah they’ve got basically
a few designs of the worm habitats, they’ve got the vertical design, which is the one
I just showed you, the homemade version here, the worm café well as the worm hangout, and
that’s a flow through design which every different kind of worm habitat has its own
pros and cons, and I’m not going to go over all the pros and cons in this video, but if
you are in the Honolulu area, you want to come here and talk to Leslie and she’ll
help you select the proper worm habitat for you so you can be optimally successful. But
in worms [inaudible] food and more importantly make the worm fertilizer. And that’s what
I really want to talk about next, because that’s what drew me to come here today is
the worm fertilizer or the verimcastings, and if you’re a gardener here on Oahu, you
can also come here and probably buy the best vermicastings on Oahu right here, so let me
go ahead and show you guys what it looks like. So now what we’re going to look at is the
vermicastings, and what in my opinion is one of the best nutrients or fertilizers if you
want to call that for your garden, and that’s the worm poop. I mean worms would be in your
ground naturally if there wasn’t topsoil degradation, there wasn’t bulldozing, and
there was naturally a lot of organic matter on your property. And they’re in there to
basically make nutrients for your plants, and this is how nature systems work, and this
is what I’m trying to duplicate in my garden. And I know some of you guys actually don’t
have worms and you can’t make your own, so that’s why you can actually come here
and get some really good vermicastings. And I want to let you guys know that vermicastings
and even things like compost are a living product, there’s a lot of different microbes
and bacteria and all these different creatures living in the vermicastings, so they definitely
need to be treated properly right? I’ve gone to places where they just have piles
of worm castings and they’re sitting in open air and they’re drying out, and this
is not good, they should remain moist, so here they have a covering over it to retain
some of the moisture that we’re now going to go ahead and pull off to reveal some really
nice black vermicastings, and I want to pick this up and show you guys, I mean look at
this stuff man, this is nice and dark, rich vermicastings. And the main benefit of the
vermicastings, and yes it contains some nutrients in there, but the main benefit is you’re
bringing in the biologic activity that may not be happening in your garden if you’re
not gardening in a microbial happy fashion right? I like to use products like you guys
saw previous in my series here on Oahu like the EM1 and of course making your own compost,
but vermicastings, super-important right, and should add in some with your soil mixture
when planting plants, especially when germinating new seedlings, I really like to put in with
new seedlings and even when transplanting, like if I have little pots that I bought,
and I dig a little hole and I’m putting in my plant, you know I like to put in a handful
of castings with a handful of rock dust, and those are my two main things I like to put
in that always have to go in. So besides just using the vermicastings, another thing that
you can do with your vermicastings if you don’t have a lot of them, to extend them
and make them go longer and basically brew your own biology is the compost tea made with
the vermicastings, and that’s what they do here with their vermicastings and activator
solution, they brew their own compost tea, so let me go ahead and show you guys how they
brew their compost tea and how you can make your very own compost tea at home as well.
So what we’re looking at now is the way that I recommend and every week treat my garden
to a bath and infusion of compost tea. I recommend you guys do it at home if you can, but if
you’re not able to you can come to a place like we are at today and you can buy high
quality worm casting compost tea, and when I say compost tea I don’t mean just compost
out of [inaudible] compost, I’m meaning using work castings to make the compost tea.
So they use their very own worm castings here, in addition they use this compost tea catalyst,
which provides other nutrients for the castings and more importantly for the bacteria so that
they can multiply and breed, and you could have a rich tea full of some small [inaudible]
nutrients, but mostly biology that can spray all over your garden on the plants and in
the soil to increase the biological activity, so now what’s going to happen is you’re
going to basically speed up nutrient cycling in your garden so your plants are going to
grow more vigorously, they’re going to be healthier, they’re going to produce more
delicious crops for you to eat, and of course there will be greater pest and disease resistance
as well. So yeah, come here to get your compost tea or better yet, make your own with your
own vermicastings. So the last thing I want to do in this episode
is share with you guys some books that are vital for your success in gardening that they’re
offering here on Oahu. So they have a few books that I’d like to share with you guys,
the first one is actually “Worms Eat Our Garbage,” and this perfect if you have kids
or you’re a teacher and have a classroom and want to introduce how worms work with
your kids. So this is classroom activities for better a better environment, “Worms
that Eat Our Garbage.” Next is for you guys that are gardeners out there and hopefully
all of you guys watching this episode are gardeners out there, two very important books,
“Teeming with Nutrients,” and “Teeming with Microbes.” These are two books that
I live by, these are two books that my whole gardening philosophy is based upon, it’s
basically by the food-soil web of gardening, and worms play a very important role in the
food-soil web and without them, the food-soil web literally wouldn’t work, because if
you take one piece out of a puzzle, it’s not going to be complete, right? And worms
are a big component of that puzzle. And I definitely recommend you guys get these books.
Now you guys might be seeing over here on the second shelf, they got Azomite, and yeah
you could buy the Azomite here to put in your garden, it’s a bit expensive to buy it in
a six pound box, but the reason why they have the Azomite as well as the worm farm and compost
conditioner, it basically provides a mineral or something with grit to feed the worms,
that’s very important for them. You could also use something like eggshells which may
have salmonella contamination so you’re supposed to leave those out for a period of
time, and then grind them up in a coffee grinder so that your worms can better digest them.
So I’m glad that Kokua Worms here is in downtown Honolulu to serve all of Oahu so
that you can get your worms, get your vermicastings, and that I was able to make an episode today
to share with you guys the different kinds of worms and houses, and I want to hopefully
encourage you guys, no matter where you live, to get a worm habitat today and start farming
worms, but more importantly, get some of those aeration worms, and get those in your garden
as soon as possible. If you want to learn more about the shop here, you want to visit
them at Hopefully you guys enjoyed this episode, once again my name is
John Kohler with, we’ll see you next time, and until then remember,
keep on growing.

52 thoughts on “Earthworms Make Nature’s Best Fertilizer FREE for Your Garden

  1. Thanks for sharing the info John.  I'm a new subscriber and I really like your channel!  I live in the deserts of Washington State and I like watching your desert gardening videos.  I'm definitely ordering both 'Teaming with' books you suggested.

  2. We just started our own kitchen worm bin a couple months ago 🙂  Here's a short vlog on our system:

  3. I dont have a source to buy worms in bulk so I use earth worms from my soil, I buy Canadian night crawlers and red worms and mix them all in my compost mix for next season. I use food scraps, veggies, fruits, worm castings, egg, oyster and crab shells, put in peat moss, garden scraps, eco scrap soil and let it live off of that. I feed it earth juice frets with mollases every two weeks. Then I add myco madness for micro life.

  4. @Learn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens – You should have contacted Zac at Ewa Blue Worms; Kokua worms is over priced, limited in knowledge and many have had negative experiences with their business, to include myself. 

    Zac runs the biggest worm operation on Oahu, possibly the entire state of Hawaii. His system is truly sustainable, and he supplies all the local business with worm castings.

    The best part is that Zac's pricing and product is the fairest (a pound of worms is a pound of worms, not worms (+) castings), and he is extremely professional, kind and easy to work with.

  5. yes Worms are a good thing in your garden. Transplanting them from another area of the world is Introducing Invasive breeds from one area to another. I think your pushing those to us and Not a good thing! Worms needed? Go digging locally, Not from across the world. Best to put in the stuff they like in you're own compost and gardens to encourage them to come to you. If you have Robins in the spring, you have enough worms.

  6. another great video, thanks john for sharing again… i am working on community based worm and casting production to help urban gardeners to have access to these things… workshops and controlled worm production to create casting for the community in my area… thanks to your videos, i have been able to create interest in more urban gardening and a shared resources for the community in this area… this is great education and ideas… thanks again william

  7. Why would I want worms imported from India? Show me the research which tells us that these blue worms are totally harmless to my soil ecosystem. What is sustainable about worms imported from India?

  8. Bah!  The beach is overrated and expensive(like everything else on the island).  Kudos to you for finding a great resource.

  9. John, you totally missed the best worm composting system there.  The Worm Hangout (Really it is The Worm Inn) is heads and shoulders better than any plastic bin.  Plastic bins are essentially buckets.  A few too many food scraps and you have a swamp.  The Worm Inn allows you to process ALL of your food waste (No more playing with your scraps a bit at a time).  Because the bag breathes, your food scraps break down slower, allowing the worms to keep up with all the waste.  PLUS, no smell.  Read the reviews on The Worm Inn.  It's awesome.

  10. Anyone else notice John use a similar phrase that jnull0 always uses on his channel ?   They say that copying someone is the best form of flattery .

  11. Question, sir! I'm planning a move to the Philippines. People there burn organic matter to get rid of it, and I'd like to spread the word about composting. Do you have any suggestions on how I could get started doing that?

  12. I have had composting worms for a couple years and in addition the benefits the casting provide and another way to use veggie waste…it is cool to put in some scrapes and a couple days later see the worms swarming over the stuff.

  13. I got my worms at pet smart, there was only 50 of them, the have bred like bunnies cause there is a ton of eggs and tiny worms! must be doing something right with that sterilite tub of worms

  14. 5 gallon worm towers in your garden is the way to go. I have one in each of my garden beds and they make the best vermi-compost. I do feed them some great food, they love it and I can harvest the compost on a regular basis for my other plants and parts of the garden plus the garden bed is full of worms and castings. Very little work or expense on your part.

  15. Thanks, John! This is just in time for my new garden plot. I was alarmed at the lack of worms I found in it. I've been playing with the idea of a "worm box," but now I'm sure I should start one.

  16. I put earthworms in my big containers (large pots I use to grow blueberries, peppers etc). Does anyone else do that? Seen a difference in yields & plant quality?

  17. Have a question regarding using grass clippings for compost bin. I fertilize my grass once a year when I use crabgrass killer and then I use weed killer for dandelions.  Is this grass safe to make organic compost? I only want to use organic things in my garden so I am not sure I Can use the clippings from my lawn.

  18. Nitrogen is for vegetative growth,  but not enough, you need Carbon for crops, how do you provide it for the soil besides the vermicompost?

  19. I bought herb seedlings and found worms in their soil when I repotted them. Are worms okay even if I will be growing the herbs in container pots only and have no plans of transferring them to the ground? I'm sorry if that sounds like a stupid question but I am a beginner and still quite clueless.

  20. Earthworms are invasive species in Minnesota and Michigan, probably in other areas in N. America too. They aren't good for forests. I'm not judging, but just thought I would share that, since it wasn't mentioned.

  21. put the scraps in a bucket with a lid and then feed one cup 2 per week! the more rotten the food the better for the worms!

  22. Nice video, I like to go into the bush and dig garbage cans full of them.  Usally find in marshy areas where fiddleheads etc would grow.

    How to Set Up a Home Made Worm Farm! ( Youtube video )
    Published on Oct 9, 2014
    This is a video on how to build and set up a home made worm farm. If you have any ideas on how to improve this design; leave them in the comment section below. Enjoy 🙂

  24. Hoping someone can answer this for me:

    Background — the yard on the side of our house (60' x 50') can't seem to grow anything but weeds and goatheads (think pointy legos). So we yanked weeds, tilled it out, and laid down black plastic to prevent more. Then we've built about a dozen 3'x12' boxes for raised beds, filling them with soil/compost, and surrounding the boxes with gravel.

    Question — One of these beds I recently (less than a week ago) put in a small container of earthworms, to see how they'd do. How do I tell if they're doing anything, or (heaven forbid!) have die

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