Soil Biology Overview

Just a very quick post to point you in the direction of what looks to be a cool resource. Credit for the find goes to ‘Mark from Kansas’. He is in “research mode” at the moment (in case you are wondering why he has been so quite as of late), and came across a really interesting section all about Soil Biology on the USDA website: Soil Biology.

Some of you might wonder what “soil biology” has to do with worm composting (after all, we’re not using soil, right?) – well, there are certainly a lot of parallels, and a solid understanding of soil biology can indeed help a great deal when it comes to understanding the inner workings of your composting systems.

Anyway – just wanted to provide that link for those who might be interested. Thanks again to Mark for tracking it down.

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    • T.E. Higgins
    • February 23, 2010

    I have been composting with worm bins for over 20 years. The last few years I have run into a new problem. The worms went away. The bin is the same. Last year I took out all the old soil and buried it thinking there may have been some anti-worm substance that got in and created a hostile environment for the worms. Then I started a new pile with organic compost from the nursery. Still no worms. I introduced some red wigglers that I found in the soil of the yard but they did not thrive.
    In the past I have always had worms find the bin and set up a colony there. I still put household waste in the bin, the same as always, no meat scraps, etc., you know the drill. But, no worms. The soil I make is good but it takes a long, long time to mature. I loved the worms. I am reluctant to buy a box of them only to see them perish (along with the money I spent on them!). Any suggestions? Thanks for any help you can offer. TH

  1. Great Resource–thanks Mark and Bentley…I am getting ready to send some VC off and spoke in depth to the soil analyst about all the things I wanted covered. As far as nutrients, his lab can handle it, but I really want a total count for beneficial micro-organisms, he suggested:

    These seem to be in conjunction with the USDA website

    Good luck, Mark!

    • Bentley
    • February 26, 2010

    TH – Are you saying system in the past has simply attracted “wild” worms, or did you stock Red Worms at some point and have a successful population of them in the system?
    I personally wouldn’t use much “compost” as a bedding material (although it can be a great way to inoculated a system with microbes), especially not from an unknown source (assuming you don’t know where the nursery got it). I typically just set up my systems like a giant worm bin – bedding (shredded cardboard, straw, leaves etc), food waste etc. I use a lot of aged manure in outdoor systems – the worms go crazy for it.
    Hope this helps a bit!
    HEATHER – Soil Food Web is definitely an awesome resource. People get so hung up on nutrients in compost (I’m certainly not trying to say they are unimportant though), but as the SFW people demonstrate, it’s the microbial community that is perhaps the most important component of a good (worm) compost – since they play a really important role in providing the nutrients for the plants.

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