In my “Vermi-Terrarium Wrap-Up” post I mentioned being excited about my plans for the next “hybrid system” experiment – some form of “bottomless” microgreens garden, using the same fridge drawer the last system was in.
Well, I’m happy to report that the ball is officially rolling with the new project, after getting things set up yesterday.
As regular readers may recall, this time I wanted to put more emphasis on the plant growing section of the system – so as to actually get some decent food value from it. I’m a huge fan of sunflower greens – and was reminded of just how easy they are to grow in the last system – so this felt like a “no-brainer” choice, at least initially.
Thinking about the new system a little while ago, I knew I wanted some sort of cardboard divider or at least some other way to keep the worm zone somewhat separated from the plant-growing zone. I figured it would probably just be a basic piece of cardboard sitting between the two sections, but yesterday I found an even better solution. I happened to spot a cardboard shoebox sitting down in the basement, and on a whim decided to see if it would fit in the tray.
It was perfect! It filled most of the volume, yet there was still a decent space at the back of the tray (see second image below).
This will be my designated “worm zone” – and one of the great perks about using the box is that the lid (which will be open when the plants are growing) will shade this zone at the back – keeping it nice and dark for the worms!
My initial preparation for the worm zone basically just involved stuffing it full of ripped up cardboard and paper, and soaking it down. I did also want to add something that might boost nutrition (and microbes) a bit as well – but didn’t want to mess around with food wastes (tis fruit fly season in my house – nuff said lol). Initially, I thought I might sprinkle in some baking yeast, but then I happened to spot an old bottle of probiotic pills – my wife bought for the kids ages ago – in the basement fridge and figured they might be fun to test out. So, I added the rest of them to this zone as well (before watering).
I was happy to see water flowing readily into the shoe box section. This not only means water levels will balance out, but worms should also easily be able to move into the plant zone while the box is still intact.
I got things started in the plant zone by adding a false-bottom of ripped up cardboard and paper. This will help to provide a bit of separation between the liquid pooling in the bottom and the the plant roots. It should also provide the worms with some additional habitat options early on as well.
I then laid down several jute grow mats (provided by my good friend, Alan Yokiosha of Urbafresh) over top and added more water. These mats are quite thick and should provide the sunflower seedlings with a solid anchor for their roots. Over time they will also become a really nice worm habitat material (Red Worms love rotten jute/burlap, and tend to lay a lot of cocoons in it).
Next I added a nice thick layer of sunflower seeds. Plenty of them ended down in the bedding layer below – but I am not at all concerned. The success of all those seedlings that came up in my last (far less optimized) system was a pretty good indicator that they are not particularly fussy.
Alan also provided me with some jute seed covers (just a single layer of jute fibers) – the openings will be too small for sunflower seedlings to push up through, but I figured I would at least use them to help keep the seeds moist and a bit more sheltered until they start sprouting.
This layer was watered as well.
Apart from the jute covers there is also the box lid itself, so conditions should be nice and dark (and quite moist) for the seeds.
Once everything was set-up I placed the system back on top of my grow mat (with a piece of styrofoam as a separator to help moderate the heating) and turned it on.
So, what about the worms?
Phase #1 will simply involve letting things “brew” for a little while, and waiting for quite a lot of the seeds to sprout. At this point (once the box lid is staying open) I will add my starter population of Red Worms. I thought it would be fun to see what sort of population growth I can achieve in this system, so I’ve decided to add a specific number of worms (likely somewhere between 10 and 25 “breeders” – haven’t made a firm decision yet) this time around.
Stay tuned for more updates!
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