Worm Bed Potato Gardens

Worm Box Garden
Is it a worm bin or a garden…or both? We shall see!

My eco-gardening expansion continues unabated, despite the fact that we are essentially into the month of July already. I’m not sure what’s gotten into me this year, but suddenly I’ve become a gardening fanatic!

As I wrote in a recent newsletter, Red Worms are playing an important role in all of my gardening efforts this season. Most people are familiar with my vermicomposting trenches, but I haven’t yet talked about some of the other methods I’m testing out.

After seeing my brother-in-law’s ginormous potato plants (imagine what potato plants would have looked like during the Jurassic period – haha) during a recent visit, I decided I needed some potato beds this year as well. Some of you may recall that I was somewhat disappointed with my ‘sandbox garden’ potato crop last year. Well, as it turns out, it was enough of a ‘bummer’ to initially make me not want to bother with them this season.

Once I saw the tiny box garden my brother-in-law was doing so well with, I concluded that perhaps all I needed was a new approach. I remembered that there were two big wooden boxes – previously used to grow worms – still sitting down in my dad’s basement, and decided they would be perfect for the job.

Of course, rather than building a run-of-the-mill garden bed as most people would do, I knew I had to try something with a vermi-twist!

I’ve written previously about compost bin potatoes and tomatoes, and have seen enough monster plants growing beside the bin to know that an active vermicomposting system can actual work quite well as a grow bed. As such, I’ve decided to actually try and grow potatoes (and bush beans, as you can see above) in my worm boxes this year. It should be interesting to see what happens.

While the worm-worked manure will no doubt be appreciated by the plants, the somewhat unstable nature of the grow bed may cause trouble. Apart from all the worm movement down below, the contents of the system will also continue to settle as particle size becomes reduced. I will need to continue layering new material on top, and I’m not sure how the plants will handle this. Presumably they will continue to grow towards the sun, but they will likely end up with really long stems (most of the length sitting below the surface). At least with manure you don’t see nearly the volume reduction as you would with food waste, so that should help. It will also help that most of the material added to the boxes was already pretty well processed.

From a vermicomposting perspective, I’ve worried that the bins will get too hot for the worms since they are sitting in direct sunlight all day, and have a thick layer of straw on top. The straw of course is a double-edged sword. It’s great for keeping everything moist down below, and for shading the worms from the sun, but it will also reduce evaporative cooling, which can be important for a worm bin on hot summer days.

Anyway – we’ll see how it goes. No matter what happens, I have little doubt that it will be a fun learning experience, as always.

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  1. What kind of potatoes did you plant? There are some kinds that produce potatoes from their stems. As they grow, you cover the stems with something so that the sun doesn’t shine on the stems. People use dirt or straw or leaves or various other things. As the worms process the manure and expose more stems, keep them covered with straw, and you might get more potatoes than you would have otherwise. The leggier the potatoes get, the more straw you should add — try to keep the stems covered so that no more than 4-inches of plant sticks out.

    • Bentley
    • July 2, 2009

    Hi Katxena,
    I planted multiple types of potatoes – Yukon Gold, Russet, Fingerlings and another small type (‘Pearl’ or something like that). Thanks for your tips!
    Maybe this will work out really well after all.

  2. Katxena is correct. Potato plants will love it if the stems are continually covered with material as they grow upward. Potatoes will form all along the stem and by summer’s end, you’ll have a bin chock full of potatoes. Good luck!

  3. Please explain how you set the bin up with bedding and food and planting in the correct order so I can try this as well. Thinking it would be great to have taters and peanuts all year round. and maybe do an indoor garden in small scale too. Sounds interesting.

    • Bentley
    • July 9, 2009

    MIKE – I simply use aged manure (with some other miscellaneous food materials) that had been well processed by the worms and contained lots of worms still. I have not even added anything that would be considered new “food” yet but will likely just add a layer of aged manure once the potato foliage emerges from the straw. So far so good – everything seems to be doing ok, including the worms.

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