Category: Microbes

Aerating Worm Tea


The benefits of using worm tea in your garden are well known. It is certainly the easiest way to bring nutriments and minerals directly to the roots of your plants – precisely where they are needed – and with no risk of burning the delicate root hairs. But it is equally important to realise that the worm tea also carries with it a huge load  of microscopic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These tiny micro-organisms are beneficial agents with the unique ability to promote the process of nitrogen fixing. a natural process that dramatically enhances the fertility of your soil by creating the valuable nitrates and higher level organic compounds that are needed for plant growth and photosynthesis. These highly beneficial bacteria, originating in the guts of your worms, are excreted in their millions by the worms – carried both within the solids (worm compost) and also within the liquid portion of the excrement (the worm tea).

The answer for getting the best out of your worm tea is to aerate the liquid before feeding it to your plants.

However, after being excreted by the worms, these beneficial microbes, being aerobic bacteria,  need plenty of oxygen to continue to prosper and bloom. In the absence of a source of oxygen, if left in a stagnant collecting sump (or worse – bottled for any length of time), then the microbes will start to die back and their population in the liquid will consequently be drastically reduced. If the mix becomes too anaerobic (lacking oxygen) it will become smelly and putrid and without a healthy load of bacteria, your worm tea will be of  much less benefit to your plants. So a way must be found to give them the oxygen they need.

Check out the following page reference for more on this topic – and please don’t forget to let us have your comments if you find it useful.

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The Importance of Microbes in Your Worm Farm

The Importance of Microbes in Your Worm Farm
By []Steve Coe

Earthworms of all kinds, including the various red compost worms used in vermiculture, rely on a symbiotic relationship with specialized micro-organisms (microbes or bacteria), to enable them to digest their food. This relationship is a beautiful example of a partnership that is of equal benefit for both life-forms (symbiosis). The worms carry millions of microscopic bacteria on their skin, in their gut, in the mucous secretions that keep their skin moist and especially in their faeces (tailings) which ultimately is the vermicompost.

Worms cannot masticate raw food as they have no teeth, but the activity of the microbes actually breaks down raw organic waste into a form that the worms can readily ingest into their digestive tract. The worms rely entirely on the bacteria swarming around them to actually break down the foodstuff that we put in our worm farms. Without them they would starve. The micro-organisms attack the “food material” and it is deconstituted and reduced into a slimy gruel that can be slurped up by the worms. The slimy paste that is ingested by the worms is teaming with bacteria, which are thus introduced directly into the worms gut.

Within the warm and secure environment of the worms’ digestive tract, the bacteria multiply tenfold and continue the process of deconstituting the ingested organic sludge – changing complex matter into its basic components – enzymes, compounds and trace elements. The resultant “soup” is highly nutritious to both the worms and to the microbes themselves and it provides the energy needed by both life-forms to grow and multiply. This is a perfect example of a natural synergy arising from active cooperation between species. The rewards are equally shared and are essential to both organisms.

Within the tailings or faeces of the worms, masses of bacteria are returned to the worm bin and are now ready to begin the process all over again. The tailing (also called worm casts or castings ) are actually the vermicompost sought by the worm farmer and are packed full of simple elements and compounds that are readily taken up by plants as a highly nutritious fertilizer.

Large numbers of these bacteria are released back into the worm bin, together with the waste products in the feces or castings – our vermicompost. The microbes will have multiplied in the ideal environment of the worm’s gut and now, greatly increased in numbers, are once again ready to attack new food sources and start the process all over. Moreover there is an added benefit for the garden, in that pathogenic bacteria and toxic compounds that may originally have existed in the original waste material that was offered as “worm food”, will by now have been broken down into simpler forms and their threat to plant and human health, neutralized by the action of all the beneficial micro-organisms in the worms’ gut. Furthermore, when the fresh vermicompost is put into the soil to feed the plants, the “good” microbes continue the process in the immediate vicinity of the plant’s roots and actually “disinfect” the soil by attacking any pathogenic bacteria. Could you really ask for anything more?

It has been said that the activity of these bacteria are responsible for producing CO2, (carbon dioxide) a greenhouse gas, which will inevitably escape from the composting process and add to the problem of global warming. But consider what would be the alternative, if the organic wastes were simply put in a dumpster and allowed to putrify in the anaerobic conditions of a landfill. The putrification process in this instance would take place in the absence (or scarcity) of oxygen and the anaerobic bacteria that operate in these conditions would produce large quantities of methane – a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Besides all the methane given off, anaerobic putrification (unlike aerobic decomposition) is smelly and can produce very nasty toxins and pathogenetic bacteria, which pollute the soil and groundwater and pose a long lasting health threat. So trust your worms and their millions of microscopic helpers and stay green.

Worm farming will produce a richly nutritious organic plant food for your garden, whilst getting rid of kitchen scraps and other organic waste in a way that is entirely eco-friendly and convenient.

You can read all about these tiny hard-working organisms and a great deal more about the fun science of vermiculture at the highly informative website –

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Microbes – Their Role in Vermiculture

The relationship between earthworms (including  the various composting worms) and the aerobic microbes or bacteria that accompany them is one of nature’s most perfect examples of symbiosis. The worms have millions of beneficial bacteria associated with them, both externally, on their skin, in the mucus secretions that keep them moist and also swarming internally inside their gut. These microbes, are essential for the processing of the worms’ raw  “food”  material  into a form that the worms can actually ingest into their bodies.

Worms have no teeth, bills or jaws, nor a true stomach and rely solely on the bacteria swarming around them to actually break down the foodstuff that we put in our bins. Prior to ingestion by the worms, the  foodstuff is deconstituted and  altered considerably by the microbes, such that it can be sucked up by the worms as a slimy paste-like substance. It goes directly into their gizzard and passed onward through the worms’ very rudimentary digestive tract, together with  masses of the bacteria, swarming within the slime.

Inside the worm’s gut the breakdown process continues and the worms’ digestive tract, provides a perfect environment for the ingested bacteria, who multiply further and continue to convert  the complex cell structure of the original foodstuff into its basic elements and compounds, altering it into a simpler form that can be used directly by both the worms and the bacteria for nourishment. These simple elements and compounds provide the basic building blocks to  sustain both worms and bacteria and are reconstituted according to the messages carried by the DNA to build up the complex cell structures that create the living physiology of both worm and bacterium. A true win / win situation for both organisms.

Large numbers of these bacteria are released back into the worm bin, together with the waste products in the faeces or castings – our vermicompost. The microbes will have multiplied in the ideal environment of the worm’s gut and now, greatly increased in numbers, are once again ready to attack new food sources and start the process all over.

Of great importance, these waste products, or vermicompost, excreted by the worms have been thoroughly processed by the microbes and are now in the form of simple elements and compounds, that are readily taken up by our garden plants, providing a highly nutritious food for them. Moreover any dangerous toxins and infected material would have been simultaneously neutralised by the bacteria within the worms gut, as complex forms of pathogenic material are also broken down into simpler, more basic (harmless) components by the microbes. In the soil the process continues and worm compost, with its load of beneficial bacteria will also tend to improve the health of soil around the roots of  plants by removing  pathogens. This is the beauty of using worms and their huge army of tiny microscopic helpers, for your composting.

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