Whenever I take someone on a tour of the Good Weed garden, there is one thing people don’t forget. The worms. We employ real, live worms in our soil. To an organic gardener, this may seem like second nature. Within the realm of permaculture, worms are, after all, an excellent indicator species. Meaning that large numbers of them feeding and reproducing generally means you have a healthy soil food web. In our first blog, Why No-Till Grows Better Marijuana, we covered just how important the soil health is to properly achieve genetic potential, which ultimately translates to the cleanest, most medicinal cannabis.
Healthy living soil, for the sake of this conversation, has three components to keep in balance; nutrients, biology, and aeration.
Worms are the single biggest contributor to all three of these, making the decision to use them in our soil recipe a no-brainer. From a physical perspective, worms are the biggest reason we don’t have to till our soil. African Night crawlers, one of two species used in our soil, work vertically, keeping the soil constantly aerated. As they move up and down throughout the entire soil pot, using their strong muscles to move around rocks and soil organic material. They leave behind tunnels that water, oxygen, and other subterranean organisms use to move throughout the soil with ease. Worms, and the other soil organisms that use these “highways” also carry beneficial bacteria and fungal spores along the way, helping to establish a strong network of nutrient recyclers and extended root systems. The roots from the plants then grow into these tunnels, because they are met with less resistance, meaning the root systems can dive deeper than they would be able on their own, extracting nutrients that may be otherwise too deep for the plant’s roots to reach.
The slime that coats their skin, and eventually lines the tunnels they create is very rich in calcium carbonate.
This same slime also acts as a natural soil pH buffer .Biologically, worms and their byproducts are very rich in nutrients and microorganisms. Vermicompost, (aka worm castings, worm poop) has nutrients in plant available form, and contains more beneficial microorganisms than the food it is eating. It is odorless, helps with water retention, and contains protozoa and beneficial nematodes that are natural fungicides. Worm castings have been shown to suppress several root diseases in other agricultural applications.
Worm castings are inexpensive, but often times garden centers carry sterilized and homogenized versions, containing little to no biological activity. The diet of the worms being used could be of low quality, resulting in low quality bioavailability. The best way to get the most out of your castings, from a fertilizer point-of-view, is to customize the worms’ diets to your needs, and apply them while they are fresh and biologically active. Doing our best to imitate nature’s forest floor, Good Weed grows a cover crop blend, as companion plants. These plants serve many purposes, but serve a vital role in pulling nutrients from the soil. These less valuable crops eventually become worm food when they are dwarfed by the giant marijuana plants towering over them. Once digested, worms redeposit those nutrients and minerals that were pulled from deep within the soil on the surface, where decomposition most rapidly occurs, and they again become available to the plant in a beautiful symbiotic dance of nutrient recycling. Worms can eat one and a half times their body weight per day. And, because worm composting is done at low temperatures,
the end result is a compost richer in organic matter, available nutrients, and biologic activity than thermophilic compost.
In one gram of compost there is an estimated one million fungi, and one billion bacteria. Scientists know they’re there, but even with current, modern lab techniques, we are only able to study what 0.1% – 1% of these are actually doing in the soil ecosystem. Dr. Elaine Ingham herself, who first founded the idea of the soil food web, didn’t receive her PhD from Colorado State University until 1981. All of this soil science is relatively new, it is very complicated, and still emerging. We take our notes from the redwoods. Nobody fertilizes a forest. Nobody tills a timber. Nature does it for us. Worms don’t take days off or call in sick. They work through the night. They don’t complain. They simply eat, reproduce, and poop. Thats a life we could all appreciate.
Co-Founder at Good Weed