Vermigardening – 8-12-15

It’s been about three and a half weeks since I posted any sort of vermigardening update, so I figured I’d make this one a bit of a combo deal, and provide updates for both the hay bale vermigardening and the deep mulch projects.

Hay Bale Vermigardening

After an extended period of pretty dismal results (as compared to the results from my vermigardening efforts in previous seasons), it feels like we’re finally starting to “turn the corner” a bit with the hale bale beds.

There are likely a number of factors at work here.

1) For starters, I ended up adding some small fertilizer sticks to all bale plants. Most of them are made from naturally-derived materials (feather meal etc), but for the sake of comparison (and because my dad accidentally grabbed me a pack – haha) I used inorganic fertilizer sticks in the free-standing bale rows (ie the ones that DON’T surround the worms beds).

What’s funny is the instructions for the “natural” ones say to use EIGHT per plant! I only used one or two. The recommendation for the inorganic ones was two per plant – I only used one.

2) I also finally managed to fill up the worm beds (more weeds, more manure, more hay), so most of the inner sides of the bale walls are no longer exposed. My hunch is this helps to keep the inside of the bales a bit more “root-friendly”.

3) I’m sure the inner core of the bales has only continued to break down more and more, making what was once hay into a higher quality plant-growth medium. This seems to be supported by the fact that I’m no longer seeing mushrooms pop up every time the bales get soaked.

Although the plants aren’t nearly as big as they would normally be when grown in the soil, they are still producing fruit. Below you can see some cantaloupes growing in bales bordering the railway tie bed.

We have already harvested lots of tomatoes (and some cucumbers) so far as well. This makes me happy.

And in some ways it’s actually been a lot more fun not having to deal with “jurassic” plants! At this time of year I tend not to have a lot of time for pruning etc, so this helps me avoid dealing with the plants getting out of control (which can lead to disease etc).

I think things are only going to get more interesting from here!

Deep Mulch Vermigardening

Everything has been coming along beautifully in my mulched beds. As you can see in the next two images, my “dino kale” has only continued to get bigger, and the other plants are looking great too.

(in case you’re wondering about the color etc difference between pics – the shots were taken from two different angles using two different cameras…and on different days for that matter! haha)

The plants in my trench bed are almost to the point of being out of control – pretty amazing considering how dismal they looked originally, and how late they went in!

I’m starting to think that old vermicomposting trenches are pretty much the “ultimate” garden sites. Not only was there plenty of rich compost in there, but this low lying stretch receives a LOT of run-off when it rains.

What’s funny is I’ve done absolutely NOTHING with this bed (and next to nothing with the other mulch bed). Originally I had intended to keep adding mulch, and maybe some worm food (such as chick starter feed) – but I really don’t think it’s necessary at this point.

The tomatoes and the cucumber plants in the trench bed are both starting to take over the path beside the long bale bed (cucumber vines even venturing out through the fence in the other direction).

Will be interesting to see how things look in a few weeks!

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    • tom
    • August 13, 2015

    my straw bales started off slow to much rain, planted late, used vermicompost with seed in it but now thing looking up. Novembers coffee composting pile has worms the april fools pile stopped on the forth of july is 120 f new pile 130 to 140 f about the same amount of coffee grass clippings cardboard anything brown. worm on

    • Mr-Yan
    • August 14, 2015

    How would you add worm food to a deep vermi-mulched garden? Additional layers? Puree it, pour, and cover with straw / hey / leaves?

    • Bentley
    • August 15, 2015

    TOM – glad things are starting to come around for you! I never cease to be amazed by the “power of worms”. I’ve had to wait a little longer than usual, but I’m predicting this year will end up being even more of a triumph in the end than some of my recent seasons.

    MR-YAN – That’s an excellent question. With a REALLY deep layer of hay (etc) you could potentially bury well-chopped (or blended etc) food wastes, but depending on your location, this could result in some issues with local wildlife digging it up. The idea I had was to use some form of granular feed, like chick starter feed in between the layers. The worms and other critters would consume it, essentially converting it into a plant-friendly nutrition source.
    Certain kinds of manure (especially pellets – like those produced by rabbits, llamas, alpacas, goats etc etc) could also work really well.

    Composting worms could serve to really accelerate the conversion of these materials into a fantastic plant “fertilizer”.

    P.S. Just wanted to make it clear that I myself have not really added ANY “food” materials to my deep mulch plots, other than some soy milk powder (to the bed that now has the big kale plants in it) right at the start. Not sure if I’ll bother trying anything else at this point, but definitely something I want to test out next year.

    • Ron QAdams
    • September 4, 2015

    Love this site. I have always loved worms.

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