Tomato Bucket Vermi Experiment

I have a sneaking suspicion you guys are going to be pretty sick of hearing about tomato growing fairly soon, so I better quickly write about a couple more vermi-tomato topics before we reach the saturation point here!
😆

At the end of my recent “Vermi Tomato Buckets” post I mentioned the bucket “experiment” I had started up, and refused to say any more about it. I have little doubt that most, if not ALL of you haven’t been able to sleep since as a result of that cliff-hanger (yuk yuk).

Goofiness aside, I do want to tell you about this fun (and definitely not scientifically rigorous) experiment I set up. The concept (as per usual) is pretty simple – I want to see if the presence of a population of Red Worms affects the growth (ideally, in a positive manner) of bucket-grown tomato plants.

I started by adding a small amount of “black earth” potting soil at the bottom of four small buckets. I then drenched the soil and allowed it drain a couple of times. I just wanted to make sure the soil was “worm friendly” for the Red Wigglers in the worm treatments (potting soils often come with fertilizer salts in them).

Next, I planted “tomatoberry” plants in two of the buckets, filling the remaining space with more of the black earth.

The other two buckets were set up in a very similar manner to those I wrote about in my Vermi Tomato Buckets post – that is to say that they were basically just filled the rest of the way with a coarse worm compost mix that was removed from the bottom of my big wooden backyard worm bin.

Lastly, I added a small quantity of alpaca poopy pebbles (just some scientific lingo for you – haha) at the top of each bucket. These should act as a slow-release fertilizer, and of course a “food” material for the worms. I may add other “food” materials as well (to ALL buckets of course), but we shall see.

One concern is that worms will somehow find their way into the non-worm treatments. I’m sure some of you might recall what happened with my “Manure Chard Challenge” last year! As such I’ve been keeping the two non-worm buckets up on the railing of my deck so as to (hopefully) avoid any vermi-contamination. In doing so, I have basically given these plants a bit of an edge over the other pair since this location gets a bit more sun each day. I have also hampered the worm side a bit by using a slightly smaller bucket for one of the plants. Don’t worry – if the manure-only side triumphs, I promise not to use either of those as excuses! haha

Anyway, it should be interesting to see what happens! Nothing too dramatic to report thus far. The plants in the worm treatment do seem somewhat more vigorous and robust but I certainly won’t be jumping to conclusions any time soon.

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Comments

    • LARRY D.
    • June 24, 2010

    Bentley,you are now what we officially call a bucket farmer.You will never look at a bucket of cat litter or other bucket without figuring out if parsley or carrots will fit nicely into them.
    Next thing you know,you’ll be walking out on your deck to pick cucumbers.
    Hey,think of it.Buckets also have a “Bucket List” they want to do before they go!

    • Travis
    • June 24, 2010

    What is this “black earth” composed of? Thanks!

  1. I’m interested to see how this turns out. I sort the worms out of our castings before using in our container garden. We must miss some of the cocoons, because I always find worms in the containers.

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • June 28, 2010

    Can’t wait to see the results Bentley! My Tomatoes are doing very well in the Lasagna bed I added the worms to, and not as well in the one I didn’t. I have other differences between those beds, so I can’t completely credit the worms. It’s pretty convincing to me though.

    • Bentley
    • June 28, 2010

    LARRY – I know what you mean! I found another one of these buckets (with a big crack in the bottom, no less) down in the basement and my heart skipped a beat.
    So far I am really sold on this approach in general – so cool when you can just pick up the plant and move it wherever you want.
    Also seems to be great for the tomato plants – the first ones I set up are huge now! Only issue seems to be water usage on hot dry days (doesn’t take long for the big plants to suck the bucket dry).
    ————————-
    TRAVIS – I think “Black Earth” in this case is mostly just a marketing term to make potting soil sound high quality. It can also refer to a type of soil, rich in organic matter that is excavated from certain locations (such as boggy/swampy areas)
    ————————–
    JILLIAN – That is definitely one of the dilemmas of worm composting. Next to impossible to remove all the cocoons and baby worms from vermicompost before using it. Given the fact that I have so much good composting worm habitat out in my yard now, this isn’t something I worry about anymore though.
    —————————
    PAUL – Good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how your lasagna beds have been doing. Glad everything seems to be going well thus far.

    • Barb V.
    • July 4, 2010

    The sight of those tomatoes planted in that black soil got me itching to do likewise. I just transplanted leaf lettuce seedlings into very wormy verm-post. They will get light, but no sun on my patio. And my salads will be rich in nutrients. Mmmmm!

  2. I, too, am looking forward to the progress you see. I have one upside-down tomato bucket going (out of five that I started with) and one tomato in a bottle.

    The upside down buckets seem to have suffered from wet-feet, except one that I only filled half way with my vermipost potting soil mix.

    The bottle plant (in a 5 gallon watercooler bottle with an access hole in the shoulder) is soing nicely, but none of these comes close to the plants in the lasagna gardens. I just don’t think that trying to reproduce mother nature can match mother nature.

    Jeff

    • Bentley
    • July 7, 2010

    Hi Jeff,
    I hope to post an update this week. It’s been interesting thus far. I am starting to think that in general, when attempting these hybrid system (composting plus plant growing) it works best when a really large system is employed – especially with plants like tomatoes and their crazy network of roots.
    I am also doing some hanging tomato gardens myself, and it will be interesting to see if these can work.

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