Texan Vermi Squash Garden

One of our readers, Megan, wrote in a little while ago and shared her experiences with growing squash this year – with the assistance of some of her wiggly friends, that is! I was really impressed with her info and the photos she provided, and asked if she’d be ok with me sharing her email as a guest post here on the blog. You can probably guess what her response was!

Hello Bentley,

I thought I’d share with you my first results with using vermicompost in a garden. I’ve never grown summer squash before so I don’t know how these photos compare to non-composted squash, but let’s say I didn’t plan on the plants growing quite so large. The tiny row contains a couple of Zucchini plants (Straiata d’Italia and Golden Zucchini) and some Crookneck squash (Early Golden Summer). I’ve had to cut a bunch of stems and leaves off to keep the plants from smothering the neighboring vegetables. We might move in a month or two, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to harvest anything, but I’m impressed with the results nonetheless. In the future I’ll remember to give squash *much* more room! (I probably should grow fewer plants, too.)

Squash a few weeks old

Squash two and a half weeks later (vermicompost has been buried near plants)

Squash three and a half weeks later, now huge and taking over other plants. Whoops.

Squash leaf size (around eleven inches stem to tip)

Baby squash. I don’t know how long it takes to reach maturity.

Squash plants, now overgrown

I planted more squash than recommended because I assumed I’d lose some plants, so I should have thinned them by now. They’re so intertwined now that it would be difficult to remove a plant without damaging others.

I have the worm bin (plastic) outdoors in full shade, so the worms do fine in our Texas heat (it’s around 90 to 95 each day). The resulting vermicompost is fine-textured and crumbly; there isn’t any sludge at the bottom of the bin, but there’s enough moisture in the bedding that I don’t worry about the worms getting too hot. I check them often right now to make sure the bin hasn’t dried out, but other than that they’re pretty carefree.

Megan sent me an update recently, informing me that she was indeed moving – to an even HOTTER part of Texas apparently! Nevertheless, she is looking forward to getting her garden set up again next year and experimenting some more with the use of vermicompost for growing plants. Hopefully she will write in and share those results with us as well. Thanks again, Megan!

If you would like to write a guest post on the Red Worm Composting blog about something vermi-related, be sure to send me an email with “guest blog post” in the subject line.

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  1. Wow! This is a fantastic illistration of how magic vermicompost is. I’m going to show this to my brother who just cant understand why i bother with the worms. I am also going to conduct my own little experiment as soon as the cocoons hatch from the two tubs of casting i have.

    • Bob Packard
    • July 20, 2009

    Bentley, I read this post with great interest for a number of reasons:
    1. It’s from afellow Texan. 2. Temperatures similiar to mine, though Megan’s have been our daily lows. We have set records in June and July for most days exceeding 100 degrees and night time temps don’t really cool down much, high 70’s to mid 80’s. Extreme drought conditions and water restrictions don’t help either. 3. She mentions that her outside worm bins are full shade in plastic bins. If I cover my bins I lose airflow and my wormcicles melt quicker. Even my drought and heat tolerant plants struggle to get enough moisture. I did notice some drip irrigation in her pictures, but even that is restricted here in San Antonio. With all of that said I would like to here more from Megan about how she is handling the drought conditions that most of Texas has experienced these past several months.

    • Megan
    • July 20, 2009

    Hi Bob,

    I’m in the panhandle and we’re lucky to have hit our average for water — it’s dry, but it’s always dry here, not the extreme drought of downstate Texas. That said, I beat the heat by hanging shade cloths from the house to the fence when we do hit the 100s, and the house itself creates full shade in the late afternoon. The flower portion of the garden is a drought-tolerent bee garden that takes care of itself, and the stuff in the blue boxes is long dead now thanks to hail and bad luck. I’ve also been experimenting with some large homemade self-watering tubs. They used surprising little water, so if I do more container gardening in the the future I’ll be making more use of them. One thing I could do to improve water retention is to mulch the garden soil, but I purposely leave it bare for ground-nesting bees.

    As for the worm bin, I don’t put a lid on it. The bin has a large holes drilled into its sides and bottom and it sits on top of a couple of bricks. A larger cardboard box with the top and bottom cut off surrounds the plastic bin (for extra shade) allowing about six inches of air space between the box and bin. I have a large leftover plastic lid partially covering the top of the cardboard box for airflow (but mostly to keep rain and hail out). Also, I cut some large cardboard pieces to lay in the bin on top of the bedding with about an inch outermost border of bedding that isn’t covered at all — this seems to keep the bedding moist to the top of the bin, as opposed to the dry inch or two layer of newspaper and cardboard shreddings I struggled with before, and the worms now come to the top of the bedding. I can remove a piece of cardboard to feed a portion of the bin while leaving the rest of the bin covered.

    I don’t use any other methods to keep the bin cool and I rarely have to add water — the food scraps, currently melon rinds, lettuce, ground eggshells, and coffee grounds, provide all the extra moisture for the bin. I might have drilled too many holes in the plastic bin, so there may be too much airflow (which might be why there’s no sludge at the bottom of the bin), but the worms seem fine with the arrangement so far!

    • jake
    • August 10, 2009

    Megan, Your story and photos look amazing. Is there a way to email you? i wanted to ask you about your great layout of your garden and exactly how you did it. I want that.

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