What’s that magic powder?
We have a few tricks here at Ligaya Garden that we want to share with you. Here’s one for you, our Premium supporters.
The crumbly grey-brown stuff is the only waste product of Mealworm farming. It’s called ‘frass’ and is the collected exoskeletons from the moults and the feces of the mealworms themselves. There’s probably a few Mealworm eggs in there too, they’re so tiny that a few will always make it through the sieve.
So, what makes the frass so good for the garden?
Besides it’s obvious fertilizer value, being nitrogen rich feces and maybe urine too (I’m not sure if insects urinate), it is full of chitin. Chitin is the material that insect exoskeletons are composed of. It’s that tough armour plating on their bodies.
Chitin has an interesting effect on plants. When they encounter it, they ramp up their defenses and immune system. Maybe a taste of chitin is a signal for an insect attack. It makes sense that the plant would recognise it.
That boosting of defenses and immunity has big benefits for us. The plant is stronger and more resistant to other types of attacks plus most of the herbal, medicinal qualities of plants are actually aspects of their defense mechanisms that we’ve learned are to our advantage.
These defensive chemicals are called ‘secondary metabolites’, meaning that they’re products of plant metabolism that isn’t directly related to the taking in of nutrients, producing energy or structural growth.
All I do to use frass in the garden is to spread it around by the handful. I try to avoid windy days that will blow it out of the garden, though a little breeze will help distribute it.
It’s powdery and dry so I try to dust it directly on leaves infested by things like Peach Slugs and even around known Slug havens.
The best ideal time to spread it as just before a rain storm. That’s pretty well when I spread any fertilizer so that it combines with the goodness of the rain and gets into the soil more effectively.
I’ve found that just putting frass around the roots of the plants isn’t as effective as dusting the leaves with it, though it does work.
Adding frass to your garden has one other huge benefit – it feeds fungi. Fungi love to feast on lignin and chitin which they incorporate into their structure. Adding frass to a garden already full of wood chips, branches and sticks, as Ligaya Garden is,