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Preparing and Sending Worm Castings as a Gift E-mail
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Sunday, 11 September 2005

by S. Zorba Frankel, from our issue #30

Q. How do I send castings as a holiday gift? Do I wrap them in cloth, paper or plastic? Do I need to keep them moist?
A. Castings can be prepared and sent in self-sealing bags without losing much of their power as a plant growth enhancer. First, let them dry out by leaving them out in a warm room, spread out on a table, a tray or newspaper. Do not heat them above 90°F, as this will kill much of the microbiology in there, which is a significant part of the benefit. Don’t dry them completely, for the same reason. You want the castings to dry out until they don’t feel damp anymore. Then, if you want a nicer looking material, make a screen by attaching 1/4" or 1/8" hardware cloth to a square wooden frame. Screen the castings, then put them in a plastic bag (e.g. ziploc-type bag) with a bunch of tiny holes poked in it.
Remember to tell your friends that castings may be hydrophobic at first! Below a certain moisture content, castings will repel water. That’s just what those microorganisms do in the casting. If you work it into moist soil, the castings will soon be damp again.

Q. How much viability is lost from my castings in the drying process? Should I remoisten castings before using them? If I store castings for my own use, is it better to keep them moist rather than dry, or does the moisture invite further decomposition?
A. Try this experiment: drop some castings in water. You’ll observe that they’ll float awhile, then slowly get wet and drop down. When fed to potted plants, water rolls off of castings at first. After a day or so, they’ll admit water again. For storage, if castings are kept very slightly moist (20-40% moisture content), they’ll actually increase in biological activity for a long while (up to a year). As the nutrients in there are stablilized, much of the population of organisms go dormant. If you don’t kill lots of them by drying it out too much, then when you put it into your plants’ soil, the organisms find new food and wake up. (Thanks to Dr. Scott Subler for assistance with this question.)
Last Updated ( Sunday, 18 September 2005 )
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