Weed seeds in worm bins

“Weeds” in my Vermicompost!!

One of the “disadvantages” of vermicomposting, vs regular thermophilic (hot) composting is that the process does not kill off any of the seeds present in the waste materials being processed, so you can end up with a fair number of seedlings popping up in your garden (or even in your worm bin) as a result.

As someone who has tried germinating ALL manner of seeds over the years, and who partially enjoys “growing stuff” just for the sake of seeing more vibrant green foliage in my yard, I think this kind of adds to the fun – ESPECIALLY when the plant in question is some type of crop plant.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’ve certainly pulled my fair share of unwanted tomato seedlings (and of course, oodles of actual weeds). All I’m getting at here is that it CAN be enjoyable to let some of these plants grow – especially when you are not 100% sure what they are!

Some of you may recall my posts about the “watermelon plants” I had growing in one of my beds a couple of years ago. Sure, I ended up feeling a little disappointed once I realized they were buttercup squash (DOH!), but it was still fun watching them grow!

This year when I noticed a few squash-family plants springing to life in my beds I decided to welcome them with open arms! OK, so maybe I was going to yank the one in the flower bed (first pic) initially, but I figured it would just peter out on its own. Thus, when I saw that it was continuing to grow (and actually thrive), I developed a new-found respect for it – and decided to actually nurture it in an effort to see what would happen. This particular flower bed received (early in the spring) a LARGE quantity of old vermicompost from the old winter worm bed we set up at my dad’s place about a year and a half ago. My dad had some butternut squash growing in the bed last summer (and I’m pretty sure most if not all the squash fruit were left on the plants), so there is a reasonable chance that this is what I’ve got growing as well.

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In the windrow bed running alongside my row of corn, there are two squash family plants, and one of them is doing REALLY well (the hot, sunny, rainy weather probably doesn’t hurt)! I hope at least one of these turns out to be a cantaloupe – you would think I’d have one of these pop up at some point. I’ve certainly added enough of the seeds to my worm beds over the past few years. I’ve never grown a cantaloupe plant before, and the fruit is certainly a big hit in our household, so my fingers are crossed. Anyway – I guess we shall see!

The crop plants I HAVE actually been yanking like normal weeds this year are potatoes. I basically let them grow in wherever they wanted last year, and just ended up disappointed with the results. They take up a fair amount of room (or at least room that could be used by a more desirable plant), and are so readily (and cheaply) available at the grocery store, I just figured I’d much rather grow more tomatoes instead!

Yanking these potato plants sure makes you realize how much like weeds they really are sometimes! haha
Unless you dig all those tubers out, you can end up pulling plants all summer long! Oh well – at least they are not as annoying as those prickly thistle weeds!
8)

Anyway – I will certainly keep everyone posted!
I am curious to find out if others have these sorts of unexpected plants coming up in your gardens, and if so, whether or not you are letting them grow – please leave a comment if you’d like to share.

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Can composting worms be used to remove live weed seeds?

In vermiculture, if you put organic matter with live weed seeds into your worm farm, do the worms eat the weed seeds? It seems like they would, as seeds tend to be nutritious, and worms are animals, but I don’t know.

I don’t actually have a worm farm, and I have no plans to get one, but the thought came to me, and I’m curious if this is a viable way to eliminate weed seeds, and how viable it is.

I have used locally sourced worm castings quite a bit, and I rarely see any weeds sprout in it. I don’t know if any were supplied to the worms, however.

1 Answer 1

Possibly the answer is both yes and no. Worms have a gizzard, a specialized digestion chamber where the muscles are so arranged as to delay the passage of material while physical grinding takes place. Worms ingest both soft organic material and inorganic particles such as sand and grit, and the action in the gizzard is to place soft material side by side with the sharp edges of harder materials and just mill it around for a while to let the hard wear down the soft and allow digestive juices to work on the exposed tissues. The result will be quicker and more complete grinding when the soft is really soft and the hard has really sharp edges.

An example of really soft would be say lettuce leaves and the hard would be any of the sharp sands or stone grit. Seeds are highly variable, some of course too large to even pass into a worm, particularly the smaller varieties of worms frequently found in worm farms. It comes down to how hard the exterior surface of the seed is, how long the material stays in the gizzard, and the type of grinding paste used – that is the hardness of the grit. I won’t address the issue of worms with teeth; I’m just not expert enough to offer anything reliable.

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There are many worms in my garden but it is quite amazing how many amaranthus seeds, quite small enough to pass into a worm, also manage to pass out to germinate profusely the next year. For grass seeds, the pieces of root are far more of an issue than seeds.