utilizing worm compost water secretions

Asked July 27, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

Hello, I recently harvested the "worm tea" from my worm composter. Trying to figure out the best way to utilize it, I looked online and found some info to dilute it 1 to ten parts water and then let it sit for several days. It also said to not use it on vegetable plants because of harmful pathogens. My husband put some around the base of the plants, not directly on the plant itself. That didn't seem to jibe with what I had read. So I'm checking to see if it is alright to put at the base of the plants.

Lane County Oregon

2 Responses

What is your goal in using the leachate from your worm composter? Are you looking for a fertilizer, disease suppression or generally improving soil health?

In general, the research based information on the use of compost leachates is pretty minimal. Plant based composts and worm based composts can vary in the final content (depends on what source materials are used in the initial composting material.) so this makes research comparisons difficult. In general, vermicomposting leachate is not considered to be high enough in nutrients to act as a fertilizer (foliar applied or soil applied.)
There is the possibility of plant and animal pathogens (like bacteria or fungi) being present in any type of compost (again it depends on what the initial material was). You may find that letting the leachate sit for several days results in the liquid starting to anaerobically ferment. This will have a foul odor and it's recommended to not use it on your plants. A best practice is to take the leachate from the compost, dilute it and use immediately. Apply to the soil, not the foliage/edible portions to avoid potential pathogen issues.
I hope this helps and thanks for using Ask An Expert!

Thanks for your response, Brooke. We are looking for whatever benefits we can get from the leachate. We were thinking fertilizer but sounds like that isn't the case. We have only been composting vegetation (banana peels, lettuce, avocado pits and rinds … oh yeah, eggshells not vegetation) but no meat or anything with animal fat in it. So, perhaps we'll just put it in empty spots in our garden ( where plants were done and we've taken them out) for more soil health.