The Word on Worm Castings: How do they work? What can they be used for?

Worm castings are the richest natural fertilizer known to humans. That’s right: as little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 6″ potted plant for more than two months. 

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Worm castings stimulate plant growth more than any other natural product on the market. Unlike animal manure and artificial fertilizers it is absorbed easily and immediately by plants.

 

What Can Worm Castings Be Used For?

Worm Castings can be used as an ingredient of potting soil (as plant nutrients) for plants in and around the house. It can also be used as a planting additive for trees, vegetables, shrubs and flowers and because Worm Castings will never burn plants, you can use as much of it as you like.

Benefits of Worm Castings

  1. Removal of toxins & bacteria
    • The humus in the worm castings extracts toxins and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil. Worm Castings therefore have the ability to fight off plant diseases.
  2. Assists with nutrient absorption
    • The worm castings have the ability to fix heavy metals in organic waste. This prevents plants from absorbing more of these chemical compounds than they need. These compounds can then be released later when the plants need them.
  3. Works as a barrier in undesirable soil pH levels
    • Worm Castings act as a barrier to help plants grow in soil where the pH levels are too high or too low. They prevent extreme pH levels from making it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil.
  4. Stimulates plant growth
    • The humic acid in Worm Castings stimulate plant growth, even in very low concentrations. The humic acid is in an ionically distributed state in which it can easily be absorbed by the plant, over and above any normal mineral nutrients. Humic acid also stimulates the development of micro flora populations in the soil.
  5. Increases water retention
    • Worm Castings increase the ability of soil to retain water. The worm castings form aggregates, which are mineral clusters that combine in such a way that they can withstand water erosion and compaction, and also increase water retention.
  6. Reduces carbon and increases nitrogen in soil
    • Worm Castings reduce the acid-forming carbon in the soil, and increase the nitrogen levels in a state that the plant can easily use. Organic plant wastes usually have a carbon-nitrogen ratio of more than 20 to 1. Because of this ratio, the nitrogen is unavailable to plants, and the soil around the organic waste becomes acidic.

How to use Worm Castings:

For Germinationwiggle magic_01

Use 20 to 30% Worm Castings with sand as an excellent germination mixture. It will also ensure continuous and lush growth for about three months, without you having to add any other plant food.

As a Soil Conditioner

If you hoe a layer of barren soil, add a layer of Worm Castings and give it some water, you will be surprised at the growth of your first season’s plants.

As a Fertilizer

Sprinkle Worm Castings around the base of plants or lightly dig it in, and then add water. They can also be sprinkled on a large scale with a spreader. Remember: you cannot use too much Worm Castings, they cannot damage your plants.

As a Liquid Fertilizer

Worm Castings can easily be mixed with water. Use 1 cup Worm Castings for every gallon of water and wait 1 week. This liquid mixture can be used as an excellent fertilizer or leaf foliate spray. It also helps to control insects. Many people prefer this method of application.

We have known for hundreds of years that earthworms are the best way to improve plant growth and to increase plant yield, such as fruit.

How to fertilize palms the RIGHT way!

windmill-palm-1Elements your palms need to stay healthy

Applied in correct combination; magnesium, iron, and manganese will keep fronds from yellowing or curling. How much and when depends on where you live.

Cheap fertilizer can wash away after 3 rains

It’s better for the environment and more economical to use fertilizer that has a continuous release formula that feeds your palm tree for few months rather than using a ‘cheap’ fertilizer that will wash away after 3 rains. Improper fertilization can lead to burn, which is most evident in the new spears, turning them brown and crispy.

Steps to establishing a new palm:

  1. Water plays huge role in establishing a new palm. Water every day for 45 days until the risk of transplant shock has passed.
  2. Apply the fertilizer away from the base of the palm, staying around 18″ away from the base. Banding fertilizer around the base of the palm tree is considered a poor practice because it can damage the roots.
  3. Wait about 4 to 6 weeks after planting to fertilize.

Fertilizing palms DO’s:

  • Thoroughly read the directions on the fertilizer bag.
  • Water BEFORE AND AFTER fertilizing, especially when using a quick release material. Under-fertilize rather than over-fertilize.
  • Under-fertilized plants just don’t grow as fast; over-fertilize them and they may die. Pick a fertilizer with an approximate NPK ratio (like an 8-8-8).
  • sago-palmAn ideal palm fertilizer has the right mix of microelements, magnesium and calcium.
  • Slow release fertilizers are preferred, a bit more expensive but better for the plants in the long run.
  • You can also augment with organic fertilizers such as blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, and worm castings.
  • Fertilize completely around the plant, distributing the granules over the entire root distribution area (approximately the size covered by the mid-day shadow of the plant).
  • Work fertilizer into the soil if possible.
  • Rake the garden of debris, apply their fertilizer, and finish with a top dressing.
  • Soil test for salt content, especially in container plants. Inexpensive pronged meters easily tell you when you have problems.
  • Keep turf well away from your palm trees. This will make it easier to fertilize your palms and will help keep diseases away from your palm.

 Fertilizing palms DON’Ts:

  • DON’T fertilize on dry soil, as it can lead to plant burn and death.
  • DON’T over-fertilize as this can lead to plant injury.
  • DON’T Throw granular fertilizer down the crown of the plant.
  • DON’T Throw all the fertilizer in one pile at the base of the plant. Scatter it.
  • DON’T Throw the fertilizer against the trunk of the plant in a big pile as this can lead to necrosis or scaring of the trunk.
  • DON’T Use the cheapest, highest concentration quick release fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate 30:0:0 (lawn fertilizer), as this can lead to plant burn or injury.
  • DON’T Put fertilizer directly in contact with the roots when repotting a container plant, especially if using a quick release fertilizer.
  • DON’T Put manure into the hole when planting a palm. Too often the generated heat and solute concentration are damaging to the palms roots.
  • DON’T assume that foliar spray fertilizers are adequate for all the plant’s needs.
  • DON’T allow rain to fall on your stored bags of fertilizer as this may solidify the granules or leach out the fertilizer. Protect the bags with a tarp.

Are You Planting Shrubs Too Close Together?

It’s easy to do – planting small plants too close together.  It’s hard to believe that 12” plant will be 4-5’ tall and wide within a few years.  You might try pruning to maintain them for a while, but that gets really tiring and the plant doesn’t look right when it isn’t allowed to grow to its preferred size.

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INCORRECTLY SPACED PLANTS

We all want instant gratification so here’s some tips on how to create a fuller looking landscape while waiting on your shrubs to reach maturity:

  • Plant small annual flowers in groupings of 3s to fill gaps between your shrubs and edge of the bed.  This will also add a pop of color to your landscape.
  • Plant small annual flowers in front of your shrubs to form a colorful border.
  • Use liriope as accent plants – either as a border or in groupings.
  • Plant larger annuals (coleus, penta, dusty miller) which can grow to 1’ tall and wide in the bed to take up empty space.
  • Mulch your bed, besides helping retain moisture and block out weeds it gives the bed a finished look.
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CORRECTLY SPACED PLANTS

When setting out your plants in your flowerbed read the plant tag and plan on the plant reaching the largest size.  We have a long growing season and most plants will reach their full maturity size in our area.

Choose plants that will not require frequent pruning to “fit” into your space.  There are so many different species of plants in all textures and sizes to choose from.  Make sure and ask questions when choosing your plants.

A word of caution – the plant tag gives general information about the plant.  The same tag is used nationally and the plant can perform differently depending upon the climate of the area.  Not all plants like our Texas summer heat but this will not be listed on the plant tag.  Again, ask questions if you are unsure if a plant is right for a specific area.

To summarize – make sure to measure when planting your shrubs and plan for their growth.  Use the tips to make the bed look fuller until the shrubs mature.  Ask questions and ask for help when making your plant choices.  Follow these steps and you will have a beautiful landscape you can enjoy for years to come.

 

Fall in Love with Perennials

Perennials plants are such a versatile group of plants.  Hardier than annuals they return year after year to give color to your landscape and containers.  They are a good investment – buy them once and enjoy them for years.

If you aren’t familiar with perennials here’s some info:

  • Some are large and shrub-like and will bloom throughout the summer and come back next year and do it all over again.
  • Others are evergreen and stay green year-round – never dying back.
  • There are those that are smaller, sturdy plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds with their vibrant flowers.
  • Some varieties are lower growing and make good ground covers.
  • Many perennials are drought hardy and love the sun and heat (even in Texas!)
  • There are shade perennials that brighten up those shady areas too.

By adding perennials to your landscape you can create different looks as the seasons image1.JPGchange.  You can do so with color transitions as the weather turns from the coolness of spring to the heat of summer.  Plant pastel color perennials that finish their bloom cycle as the brighter yellow, oranges and reds of summer begin to bloom.

As your perennials age they can be divided into smaller plants – thus giving you FREE plants to use in your landscape and containers or to share with friends.  Who doesn’t love FREE plants!  Most divisions need to be done in the fall after the plant has completed its growing cycle for the year.

Perennials can be planted in groupings in your landscape or used as lower growing plants in front of your taller shrubbery to create depth in your flower beds.

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Use perennials in containers along with annual flowers to create more interesting plant combinations.  These showy plants can also be planted alone in containers – group these containers together and move them around to create different looks for your deck, patio and even in your landscape beds.

Many perennials are deer resistant which in our area is an added bonus!  They also attract butterflies and hummingbirds and are definitely pollinator friendly.

Perennials, with all of their uses, should be high on your “must have” list.  If you have questions about where and how to use them in your landscape we’d be happy to make suggestions.

Landscape Design Basics

One question I hear most often is “how do I choose what to plant in the landscape beds around my house?” Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones? Where do I start? Here’s some easy to follow tips that all landscape designers use.

Plant shrubs that stay short in front of windows, porches, decks, and entryways so you don’t block the view.

Plant larger (taller) shrubs in front of areas without windows

These small and larger shrubs become your “foundation” plants that will be in your landscape for many years to come. As these plants mature you will see differences in the height of the plants which gives variety to your landscape.

You then can plant small perennials and annuals in front of the foundation plants. This will add depth to the bed along with colorful flowers.

  • Perennials bloom at different times of the year and most die back in the winter but reappear in spring and bring you blooms for years to come.
  • Annuals also bloom at different times of the year but usually do not last more than 1 growing season.

I suggest using a combination of perennials and annuals in your bed. The perennials since they come back year after year and the annuals for the “wow” factor their blooms bring to the bed.

You can follow these tips whether your flower bed is shady or sunny. Other things to consider are choosing plants that are not all green – mix it up with plants that have purple, yellow or variegated leaves. Use of different shaped plants (fat, thin, wispy) will also add to the beauty and interest of the landscape.

Follow these basic guidelines and your landscape will look like a professional designed it.

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Man’s Best Friend: In The Backyard

Tips & Tricks for a Dog-Friendly Yard

Landscaping while keeping your furry-friend in mind, isn’t, and shouldn’t be hard! It’s easy once you decide what your little friend’s needs might be, i.e. room for running, a place for digging, a shady spot to sit in, etc. rs=w_400,cg_true

Some of the BEST features to include for your four-legged friend are soft foliage plants and smooth landscape stones. A place for them to drink, such as a water station, is a fantastic addition too.

  • Pick materials that are paw-pad friendly. Anything spiny, prickly, or sharp you might want to skip out on in your landscape. Use mulch, and designate safe-spaces for your dog to play in. We can help you pick out a mulch that fits your needs!
  • Do you have an ever-digging doggie? Try landscape gravel instead of mulch as your top-dress for your beds — it makes for a great deterrent!
  • Get rid of any potential hazards. Having a completely paved backyard area may make it uncomfortable for your animal’s paws during the summer months. Check fences for holes or weak areas.
  • Create an easy way to access water. A healthy dog drinks about a half to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day — so a 50 lb dog will need 5 cups (or more!) of water daily (depending on how active they are). A water element such as a pond or waterfall can do the trick, or just make sure there’s a water bowl that’s always filled.
  • Designate a shady spot for cooling off. In Texas, the hot summer months can make for an uncomfortable doggy if they’re spending most of their time outside — make sure there’s a nice, shady spot under a tree or bush. Installing a doggy door or just putting up an old-fashioned dog house in the shade are great for your friend Fido, too. A plastic wading pool is also a great thing to have for your friend to cool off in!
  • Make sure they’re warm for the colder months! Rain and cold weather call for a heated space — a small heater is a great solution for easy warmth. Thick, cotton blankets are another great addition to Fido’s doghouse so they can cuddle up when it’s chilly out.

Contact us for more solutions! 903-753-2223 OR email@thgc.net — 7 days a week!