I am starting my booth at the farmers market and one of the things I will be selling is worm castings. I would like them to be as fresh and microbial-rich as possible for my customers. So I am trying to find out what moisture level is ideal for the castings; I have not been able to find that information on the internet. I only read about that the bins like a 45-55% humidity. Is that what I am looking to keep the moisture level at in the castings also?
The other thing I would appreciate feedback on is the packaging. I got kraft paper bags (100% recycled) that are lined with wax so the moisture of the castings does not weaken the paper after a while. They have the tin clip closure. Since I know the castings should have a bit of air, I am wondering if I should put some very small holes into the bag, maybe even as small as pin-prick size, to keep a bit of air going into the bag. Or do you think whatever comes through the top is enough, being it is not a zipper type closure?
I appreciate any information about how to keep the life in the castings happy. I know what amazing things the worm castings can do and would love to provide the best quality castings for my customers' plants as well.
That's a great idea with the selling of worm castings out of the farmers' market. If you wanted to experiment or diversify your product line a bit, you could probably also do a worm casting tea stabilised with molasses as a liquid probiotic to your worm casting prebiotic.
All the information you could possibly need is in the collection of threads by Bryant Redhawk, whose comprehension of soil biology likely outstrips everyone's. I have posted a link below.
I think your current approach will work, but you will want to monitor humidity regularly, especially on smaller packages, if your intent is to keep the soil life alive, if dormant.
You might also want to consider selling worm castings with some few worms left in it. They will continue to condition the soil, and continue to impart enzymes from their digestive tract to their castings, which will help keep it all going.
Let us know how it all goes. Good luck, and keep us posted.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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Thank you very much, Chris, for your reply. It sounds like I am on the general right track in keeping the castings as vibrant as possible. Keeping the moisture up along the way once they are packaged is a great idea! I will bring a spray bottle and spritz into the bag every so often. As far as putting a couple of worms in with the castings, emm, well, I am not sure how the customers would feel about finding them in there. They may not be ready for that level of naturalness , at least not the customer base that came to my booth last year. Also, I am not sure I am willing to have some of the worms be sacrificial additions; I doubt they would make it since they don't do so well in the cold winter months in our zone, and I love my little worm friends! The tea is another interesting idea. I will see how the castings sell, then maybe start providing some tea for sale also! Thank you!
Great Idea Annie, to keep the castings at the "proper" moisture level you might consider using a piece of sponge that you wet then wring out before putting in the bag, the piece of sponge would only need to be about 1/4 inch wide and 1/2 inch long (you would get a lot of them from a single kitchen sponge).
Using the sponge means no spritzing needed and it will create a humidity chamber effect inside your closed bag.
The best way to insure the probiotics within the worm castings are alive and vibrant, is to keep the harvested worm castings within the same temperature and environmental range of the worm bin. If up to 60% moisture is allowable for your worm bin, from my research you can let your harvested castings drop down to around 30%, so they look moist, are attractive and easily incorporated into a soil mix; however, its not absolutely necessary unless your trying to cut weight for shipping. Also selling and using the worm castings within a reasonable time frame is also recomended.
It will be impossible to eliminate worms from the harvested castings, because some egg casings will end up in the worm castings and hatch out after harvest. That's the way I know for certian the worm casting are fresh, good an vibrant, is the presents of tiny hungry baby worms, and it's always a welcome addition to my soil mix.
Selling worm casting tea, like a previous poster suggested, will be a hard feat, because the tea has a short window of oppertunity to be viable once taken off the aerator. Without aeration, the probiotic culters quickly die, and some experts think it has a maximum viability of 4 hours once removed from aeration.
I wanted to thank you Chris, Bryant, and R. Steele, for your input, ideas, and help. The sponge idea was creative, as so often is the case on this site - thank you, Bryant!
I took the castings to the market, and I think it will take a bit of time to get them going there. It seems the only reason I sold a couple of bags was because of the incredibly cute art I have as part of the label, which is of a worm and flower. The couple of people that bought the castings couldn't pass up the "endearing expressions" of the creatures. I don't normally go for 'cute', but I thought it may help people in the case of the worm castings. Hopefully once they see how effective the castings are, they will buy more and also spread the word.