Earlier in the fall I wrote about some experimental microgreens/baby-greens trays I had set up to test if worms have any sort of obvious impact on the growth of young plants when living in the root zone (jury is still out on that one – but I am continuing to experiment).
As some of you may recall, apart from healthy looking worms (not a single one missing) I also found quite a few cocoons in the worm treatment. So, I thought it would be interesting to continue “playing” with the leftover plants + substrate. I mixed in some shredded cardboard and water, covered everything with a plastic bag, then waited for what I expected would be the decomposition of the plant matter.
What happened next surprised me!
Even with the plastic over top and very dim lighting, a lot of the buried greens started pushing their way up. Once I noticed this was happening I removed the plastic and positioned a small grow light up beside the tray (which sits on top of my styrofoam greens growing chamber). It was a far cry from “proper lighting”, but still seemed to be enough to encourage development of a dense growth of tiny lettuce and kale plants.
I’ve continued adding water to the tray periodically, and also started dumping in spent substrate (containing roots, plant and seed debris) from sunflower baby-greens I’ve been growing. Very recently I even stuck a heartleaf phiodendron shoot into the substrate to see if it might take root and actually grow (it would likely thrive with a lot less light than lettuce and kale).
Apart from the cocoons that were in the original worm-treatment substrate, my most recent batch of spent substrate from sunflower greens actually had some adult Red Worms in it, so it will be interesting to see how the worm population develops over time.
For now I will keep the plant-growing zone in the one corner of the bin, and continue adding finished greens substrate (etc) in the zones surrounding it, but as the materials continue to break down and get converted into rich compost (with the help of the worms) in these other sections I may try getting some plants to grow there as well.
I’ve really been enjoying my sunflower greens (I bought a big bag of sunflower seeds intended for bird feeders – lol) – and they grow quickly – so I suspect I will end up with a fair amount of great fodder for this system.
I’ve always been fascinated by the potential for integrating vermicomposting systems with active plant-growing systems (and have tested out a range of different approaches relating to this), so I am definitely interested to see how things develop.
At some point I’d like to add some uprights and position a clear bag over top to help with moisture-retention, and make it a bit more like a real terrarium. Would be fun to introduce some other critters, like isopods and springtails, as well.
Worms in Microgreens Trays?
Worms in Microgreens Trays – Update
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Bentley, I have been a huge fan of this site for over 7 years, and in that time I have done much of my own experimenting with my various worm populations. Recently I have become very interested in the potential for shredded brown cardboard as a main component of potting soil mixtures. I know you’re obviously a huge fan of shredded cardboard so I figured I’d ask if you’ve tried growing plants in (amended) brown cardboard. It feels like it suits many of the same roles as peat Moss or coir, and is much more widely available. Thanks, hope you hear from you about this.
A better question is how you managed to not have springtails to begin with, lol. They always seem to just appear suddenly, and then one has them forevermore. Looks like fun!
REO – Apologies for the lengthy delay! I haven’t really tried growing plants in cardboard but it sounds like a neat idea. I know you can pulverize it pretty effectively with something like a hammer mill, so I see no reason you couldn’t create a really nice potting mix with that as the base material. I really like having it in my integrated systems and am sure the worms convert it (along with food wastes etc) into some pretty amazing stuff for the plants. 😎
JAIME – Haha, good point! Yeah I’m actually pretty amazed how few other critters I am seeing so far (only white worms and some mites apart from the worms). Think it is time I boost the ecosystem a bit! 😉