Composting Worms in Raised Beds

OK – finally getting my reader questions experiment underway! I recently found a very nifty online “screen capture” program called Screenr, which basically lets you make little screencasts that then get posted on Twitter. This is great since it allows me to hit two birds with one stone (actually more than that as I’ll explain in a minute). Not only does it help me to be a bit more active on Twitter (I very rarely post anything), but I also end up with a video I can post here on the blog. I noticed that you can also very easily upload the videos to YouTube as well (another “bird”), and with a handy dandy Twitter-Facebook Page app installed, it should post a link on the RWC Facebook Fan page!
Am I a GEEK or what?!?!

Only problem – for a motor mouth like me – is that the time limit is only 5 minutes! Actually a blessing in disguise since it forces me to present info in a more concise manner!
Let’s just say it took a FEW takes to get this first video finished (and it was still kinda cut off at the end! haha).

Anyway – this is my response to some questions from RWC newsletter reader, Damon. He was wondering about using composting worms in raised beds. As I explain in the video, this is fairly straight-forward – as always (with vermi-gardening) the key is to make sure there are good quality “plant zones” and good quality “worm zones”. Composting worms don’t thrive in regular soil, so you definitely need a sort of hybrid system.

One approach mentioned near the end is the “Worm Tower” idea (see the links to old posts down below). I think this could work REALLY well in a raised bed, and it’s nice and easy to set up. I’m definitely aiming to experiment with this approach next growing season.

Anyway – hope Damon (and others) find this helpful! I can’t promise ALL my responses will be Screenr videos, but we’ll see how everything comes together.

Posts That May Be of Interest
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Worm Towers Revisted
Worm Tower

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    • Julie
    • February 3, 2011

    This is cool. This was a great summary, and a superb starting point post 🙂 I like short introductory or summarizing videos 🙂 and when I find a subject I like, I really get into the 9-10 minute tutorials and experiment updates.

    I received the email requesting reader questions ideas, but didn’t know how to phrase what I’m interested in in simple basic questions, and I couldn’t bring the number down from 1000 to 1 to 5. 😉 I knew others had the same and this is just one example.

    I had read these related posts before, and intended to try it at some point, just for the fun of it, but had forgotten about it among all the other things…also I’m just finishing shoveling my driveway for the third time since yesterday, so summer subjects are not my priority… I went back and re-read the posts on trenches and worm towers, looked at the implementation pictures (I’m starting to enjoy visually seeing things!) and re-searched other websites I’d found info on these topics.

    This is also coming at a good point, this year I am actually trying to plan a garden (or multiple gardens), and I was starting early (because it takes me months to decide on things). I had also intended to try vermi-trenches, but not “as part” of a garden, just as a separate experiment…

    now I’m revising myself and trying to integrate directly the trenches and the boxes into my garden plannings… and more ideas are starting to form 🙂
    Thank you.

    • Bryan
    • February 3, 2011

    Great job! I really like the audio with images.
    Hope you keep this as a regular addition to the site.

  1. Thanks, man!

    Julie, yeah, now’s the best time to get those gardening plans finalized. I usually start planning my gardens at about the beginning of December, just thinking about what worked and what didn’t. The first seeds order goes in just before Christmas.

    About this time changes and adjustments are made to the garden plans, soil samples sent off, and for my area the end of February is when I get the spring garden in.

    What other ways have you guys used to plan your vegetable gardens?

    • Steve K
    • February 4, 2011

    Very cool, Bentley. Now that I have built up my indoor, BOM-6000 system, I am looking forward to the spring thaw and getting an outdoor setup going for yard waste. This has given me some new ideas.

    Also, what are you using to give your slideshow? I noticed that the ’07 version of PowerPoint lets you draw on the screen during presentations. I have used this while giving lectures and wonder if it might be helpful for Screenr presentations as well.

  2. Julie – I still have an email of yours with some great topic ideas, so you’ll likely see some of these vids focused on areas of interest
    Damon – Glad you stopped by and saw the reply!
    I myself am pretty lousy with winter garden planning. Always last minute for me. I know some things I definitely want to do this year (eg. vermi-lasagna garden and worm towers) but no overall masterplan.
    Steve – actually just putting together a vid based on one of YOUR questions. Hope to post that on Monday. Pretty sure my MS Office is 2003, but PP seems to have the writing option you are referring to – if I had a tablet and pen I’d likely do some “white board” type videos, but I’m sure some mouse-produced scribbles will end up in some of these vids as well!
    For those who don’t have MS Office, “Open Office” is definitely a great alternative (has something similar to Powerpoint)

    • John Duffy
    • February 5, 2011

    Hi Bentley. I kinda like the 5 minute video since I’m a bit on the impatient side. I’m looking forward to the worm tower experiment because it seems like such a simple and useful idea. How far apart do you suppose they should be spaced?
    How are your two little worm buddies doing? (no, not Larry & Paula 😉

    • Larry D.
    • February 8, 2011

    He He He! Good one John! I just checked.Paula’s fine! LOL!
    Love the screenr.It is a great tool! Also love the raised beds!Hope i have a good bit of them this year.But slacked off,and didn’t get the manure i was supposed to.Hey,it happens!
    Bentley always has some beautiful tomatoes.My wife loves roses and tomatoes.So i better love them as well! HA HA!

    • Cassandra
    • February 15, 2011

    Worm towers in raised beds are wonderful. I space mine about every 8 to 10 square feet. The worms don’t travel far from the towers. Be sure to mulch well around the towers and water well even in the tower. Towers are great for beginning vermigardeners because they provide a window into what’s going on with the worms. It makes it easy to know if something is lacking.

    • Ken Erlenbusch
    • February 15, 2011

    I garden in raised beds. I also live in South Dakota where the temperatures can easily dip into the -20 to- 30 degrees. Would you harvest your worms after the growing season or would you let them fend for themselves and hope for the best. I keep my worm bins in my garage so they are pretty happy year-around. I could harvest what I find and bring them indoors in the fall.

    Any advice would be appreciated.


    • Tracy Mills
    • February 15, 2011

    Hi Bentley! Love the video and am very interested in the worm towers. I’ve already got 2 55 gal barrels full of vermi-action, but really like the idea of having a tower in each of my raised beds. What I want to know is temperature and shade needs. We’re on Maui and my raised gardens get lots of sun and rain. No shade. Would the worms survive or to them would it seem a “Tower of Inferno”? Also, don’t you think it would be nice to draw a face on each bucket (lid) for the towers? Maybe fashion some arms and they could double as a “Scarecrow” or would just make you laugh to look at them?

  3. Ken – When I lived in northern AZ, which got pretty darn cold, I would “corral” my worms in the fall. I did this by feeding and then pulling out the food with worms in a day or 2 and repeating the process until I got most of the worms. As I mentioned, they don’t stray too far from the tower. However, you might be able to insulate your beds with a bunch of food and then covering with straw. Check out Bentley’s winter worm windrows. I was always too chicken to try it.

    • Martin
    • February 16, 2011

    I’ve been wondering what my out door bin would hold in store for me as the temps dipped to -7 and didn’t get above freezing for a week and half. I only had it covered with a sheet of plywood just so my dog wouldn’t start digging in it. I dug down in the middle and the dirt came up like a big rock, still frozen, but to my surprise it was covered with worms, they weren’t moving very fast but there was several of them.
    My out door bin is 4′ X 8′ X 8″, I filled it with horse manure last spring then I dumped about a pound of red wigglers in it,It was pretty well composted when I dumped it in. I plan on planting tomatoes there in the spring, and I like the idea of the worm towers. My question is should I harvest the worms and put them into the towers before I plant, or just install the towers and start adding food for the worms in them

  4. Marty, sounds like an experiment to me. Why not separate out some and put in towers on one end. And do nothing but feed towers on the other and see what happens? I figure with the towers with nothing but food, it may take a while for worms to show up, but maybe not.

    • Martin
    • February 18, 2011

    That sounds like a plan, once the weather settles down in a month or so I’ll do just that. Going from 7 below to 70 in a week are just part of the extremes in northern New Mexico, up next will be the 40mph winds lol.

    • Damon
    • February 18, 2011

    Just ordered my worms today, 5lbs! My beds are 32 square feet each, I’m figuring about four towers each made out of four inch PVC.

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