MARKLEVILLE — Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
Well, if Mary is using worm castings, her garden likely is growing quite nicely.
Worm castings is a more pleasant term to describe what it actually is, worm feces.
If you add it to your soil, it is a very healthy way to grow a garden.
Kevin Ginder and Buck Evans have done the research and have started a business, Heartland Worm Farm, located at 2370 East U.S. 36 in Markleville.
“I garden a lot and I was trying to figure out different ways to go a little more organic. I started doing research and heard about worm casting,” Ginder said. “I bought a bin (of worms). You feed them from the top and what they eat and compost goes to the bottom then you harvest it.
Leaves, sawdust, ground up egg shells, and coffee grounds are some of what the hungry worms feast on.
“I started doing that and the stuff was remarkable. It adds microbes and the enzymes from worms in your soil. It’s not fertilizer. It’s a soil enhancer,” Ginder said.
The long-time friends have known each other for 45 years. They went to school and played on the same sports teams growing up. They went to elementary and middle school in Markleville and were part of Markleville’s last eighth-grade class. They graduated from high school at Pendleton Heights.
Ginder knew Evans was a gardener, too, and might be interest in not only using the worm castings but possibly starting a business — selling the ingredient and educating people on using a more natural, healthier way to improve their gardens.
“The true story is he showed up one day and said, ‘Where are we going to put these worms?” Evans said, laughing.
“It’s all about the microbial life,” Ginder added. “I started doing this and it is working great. I started researching and there are businesses that do this. There is one in Texas, one in Michigan, one in Wisconsin and not a whole lot in this area.”
Ginder and Evans have been in business for about nine months.
They said the natural fertilizer additive is for better healthier plants including fruits, vegetable and even newly planted trees.
“Mainly we’re trying to educate people. It’s about education and soil health,” Ginder added.
To get started, Ginder bought two bins, which consisted of about 16,000 worms. The worms reproduce every three months and, if the conditions are right with things such as temperature and food source, the population of red-wigglers and African night crawlers will double.
“It’s a natural organic way to have a healthy garden. That’s really why I started it,” Ginder said. “It was more of an education thing. We want people to try to be more organic, all natural way of growing your gardens. We can show people how to do that.”
Heartland Worm Farm has now grown to 39 bins.
Ginder and Evans are selling the compost by buckets and quarts, as well as a worm tea that has a molasses additive. The worm castings are $10 for five quarts, $20 for 10 quarts and a five-gallon bucket can be purchased for $35. The tea, to be poured on the plant you’re encouraging to grow, is $7 for a one-gallon jug.
The worm farmers said in their gardens, among the plants they’ve seen improvement from are their tomatoes and peppers.
“Your harvest, actual number of tomatoes on your plant, is larger,” Evans said. He added that plants are not just larger, but also healthier.
“Some of the people we sold to said, ‘I didn’t notice that my plant got that much bigger but there were twice as many tomatoes on my cherry tomato plant,” Evans added.
“We told one lady to put it on one plant and not another,” Evans shared. “Sure enough, she said the plant looked the same, but the number of tomatoes was double or more than the other one.”
Ginder added that another client bought castings for her orchard to put around her trees. “She said it saved her peach trees.”
Ginder began using the castings for his garden for a year before reaching out to Evans with the thought of going into business.
Evans is retired from IMI (Irving Materials Inc.) and now farms. He is also a member of the South Madison Community School Corp. Board of School Trustees. He said, along with ordering the product from their website at heartlandworms.com, they plan on making their worm castings available on eBay at the start of 2022.
There is also more information about their business on the website.
Ginder has a degree in business management and special education. He currently works as a teacher at CIF (Correctional Industrial Facility) in Pendleton.
He said along with selling product, they’d like to get into the schools and educate people on how to harvest a healthier garden and better environment.