Cape Mayhem Gardens Update – Vermicompost, Beans, Corn and Lady Bugs

Agridude - VermicompostSorry for the uber late post…This was from 2 Sundays ago after I did all that worm work.  It was my birthday last Friday and the celebration started on Thursday which didn’t leave a lot of time to post.  I ended up going to the nursery for a few supplies and ended up buying a 6 pack of pole beans and an edamame plant, a bunch of lady bugs, and 2 giant stakes to tie the tomato plants to.  The picture on the left is the vermicompost that I harvested from my Worm Factory 360.  I bought the lady bugs to eat the catepillars that were eating the tomato leaves and fruit.  After learning that legumes put nitrogen back into the soil, I decided to buy some bean plants to help put some nutrients back in the ground.  I also want to experiment with the Native American method of the 3 sisters garden, except I’ll only be using corn and beans.

Agridude - Holes for VermicompostThe directions from the Worm Factory 360 say to dig holes near your plants and then fill them in with the vermicompost that was harvested.  To the right, you will see a hole next to my green zebra tomato plant.  By placing the vermicompost in the whole, when I water moving forward, the water should pass through the compost and bring the nutrients down to the roots.

Here is a picture of me filling in the whole with my vermicompost:

Agridude - Applying Vermicompost

Agridude - Corn GrowingTo the right is my corn growing.  I think it is doing pretty good for the late planting it received.  The three sisters garden is a Native American technique of growing corn, beans, and squash or pumpkins together.  The corn acts as a pole for the beans to climb, the beans put nitrogen in the soil for the corn to grow, and the squash provides ground cover to retain moisture.  You can’t see the beans in this picture, sorry, I’ll get a better picture next time.

Agridude - Lady Bugs on CornIn the picture on the left, you can see some lady bugs crawling on the leaves.  I noticed some holes in our tomatoes and on leaves on many different plants.  We have had this in the past and we used to look for the caterpillars by hand, but I learned last year that lady bugs will eat them.  I bought a pint size container of them from my nursery and dumped them on plant leaves in the evening.  They will stick around the garden as long as there are bugs for them to eat.  I saw some on Saturday so I was happy that they are still hanging out.

Here are two pictures of my tomatoes.  I am trying to show how bare the bottoms of my plants are.  Do they look normal?  Seems kind of bare to me…but there is tons of fruit so I’m not sure…

Agridude - Spindly Tomato VinesAgridude - More Spindly Tomato VinesIn the above picture, notice the one ripe tomato, it’s a Crnkovic Yugoslavian’s, we used this tomato for a topping on our burgers that night.  Here is a picture of Mike and I near the grill, and the second is of  kelly cutting the tomato into slices for the burgers:

Agridude - Mike and Paul Grilling BurgersAgridude - Kelly Cutting Tomato for BurgersNext post Ill update you guys on the beans, how the new cucumbers are doing, if I still see lady bugs around, and if I see any noticeable difference in the plants after using the vermicompost

Worm Factory 360 – Adding a new tray

Agridude - Starting second binThis past Saturday, I decided that it was time to add a second tray to my Worm Factory 360.  The first tray was pretty full since I received so much worm bedding when I purchased my worms.  It is fairly straight forward to add a second tray, the DVD that came with my worm factory has a special section on how to do this.  I started by taking some of the compost from the first tray and added it to the new tray.

Agridude - Starting second bin 2I took a couple scoops of compost with my hand shovel and placed it in the new tray.  This brings up some of the beneficial micro organisms that help break down food.  This will help prepare the new food scraps that I will be adding.  Hope you like my sleeveless corona shirt, it’s perfect for Saturday morning worm tasks.

The next step is to prepare the bedding that will line the bottom of the tray.  I used some of the coir that I had bought when I got the worm bin, and also added some shredded newspaper, then poured water over it to make it nice and moist.  You have to pour water over the coir for it to expand and then you can break it apart.  If you don’t have coir, you can use shredded cardboard, newspaper, office paper etc.

Agridude - Watering Coir

Agridude - Peeling Coir

Agridude - Adding Newspaper Shreds to Coir

Agridude - Watering Coir and Newspaper

Once you have made your new bedding, it is time to put it in the new tray.  I made sure to put down a thin layer over the entire bottom of the new tray.

Agridude - Adding bedding to second tray

You will put your food scraps on top of the bedding next.  I used my food processor to chop up 3 banana peels and an apple core.  I also added some pumice to the bedding since I had leftover from the bag that came with the worm factory.

Agridude - Food and Pumice

Agridude - Adding Food to Tray

After adding the food and pumice, I added some coffee grounds to the tray. I should have also added some egg shells, but I didn’t have any so I will do that when I get some eggs.

Agridude - Adding Coffee Grounds over Food

Once your food layer is done, it is time to add more bedding on top of that and then you are finished.  Be sure to lay some newspaper over the top to cover everything and wet it down pretty good.

Agridude - Covering Food with Bedding

Agridude - Putting on Newspaper Cover

I’ll try to take some pictures soon and let you know how the migration from the first bin to the second bin is going.  I also should let you know that I opened the nozzle to see if I had any leachate (liquid that collects in the bottom of the bin and is used as fertilizer), and I had quite a bit.  I will dilute this and use as fertilizer at the garden and in my potted plants on the deck.

Agridude Brian also purchased a worm factory 360 and is going to start posting his experience as well.  Looking forward to it!

Vermi Composting with the Worm Factory 360

I had seen worms (red wigglers) for sale at my local nursery, Walter Andersen Nursery, and had heard that worms were good for the garden so I bought some two years ago to throw in.  The worm castings are some of the best fertilizer you can use.  Compared to topsoil, tests have show that worm castings are 5 times richer in nitrogen content, 7 times richer in phosphate content, and 11 times richer in potassium content.

The first year that I threw them in the garden was not the best environment for them.  They survive on eating decaying organic matter which wasn’t prevalent in my garden soil.  This year when I turned over my soil, I found a few huge worms that were eating a rotting tree stump, but not that many others.  I was told that they would aerate and provide the nutrient rich castings, but they most likely ended dieing.

After seeing my Uncle’s farm in Hawaii, I started doing some research into vermi composting aka worm composting.  I found out that the city of Encinitas and Carlsbad subsidize compost bins, both regular and worm bins. Jude and I went to a two hour composting class at the San Diego Botanical Gardens.

Agridude - Worm Factory 360Between the class and my online reading (RedWormComposting.com – here is his blog post on setting up the WF360), I felt like I had a enough knowledge to start a worm bin.  I found someone who was buying a bin, and asked if she would buy an extra for me and she did! It is called the Worm Factory 360 I also bought some coir for the bedding.

 

Agridude - Worm Factory SetupThe bin is pretty easy to set up.  They pretty much give you everything you need, including your own coir so what I bought was unnecessary. The bin has a leachate (the liquid that may drip to the bottom and can be diluted to be used as a fertilizer as well) catcher  I thought it would be stringy like coconut hair, but it’s like rotted cork and crumbles into tiny pieces.  I started moistening it in the sink, but quickly realized that it was going to be a nasty outcome.  I decided to put the coir in a glass baking dish and slowly pouring the water over that.

Agridude - Coir SinkAgridude - Coir Glass Dish

As you do, it will turn into what basically feels like dirt.  The worms apparently love this.  You could use moist shredded paper, newspaper, and cardboard (ripped into smaller pieces and pretty wet) too.

Agridude - Empty BinHere are the trays that come with the bin.  There are four of these and they make it a tiered system.  You start with one bin, and when it fills up you add another.  The worms will move up through the holes and begin feeding in the new bin.  This makes it easier to collect the compost by not having to go through and pick out the worms.  In the bottom bin, you put a layer of newspaper down so that the worms don’t fall through the holes.

Agridude - Bin Newspaper Bottom Lining

Agridude - More Picking through WormsThe worms I bought came with 10 pounds of worm bedding that contained 200 worms of all ages and worm eggs.  I was initially going to try to pick out the worms and leave as much bedding behind, but they said that it was easier for the worms to adjust to their new environment, so I ended up throwing most of it in the bin.  Agridude - PumiceI added some pumice, small lava rock pieces that came with the bin.  Once everything was in the bin, I added some food to the corners.  I cut my food into smaller pieces and freeze them to break down the cell walls so it is easier for the worms to eat.  Also be sure to add crushed egg shells for the calcium (to help with the acidity) and provides some grit for them while eating since they have no teeth.  They also like coffee grounds with or without the filter, same thing with tea bags (you will want to Agridude - Cutting Foodremove the staple).

After all that, it was time to put a top layer of moist newspaper on and close the lid.  This was 3 weeks ago.  The worms have grown much bigger and they are all over the food.  Ill continue posting my results. I will be adding a new tray shortly so I will post those pictures and more detailed instructions. Here are all the pictures from the setup day:

 

Agridude - Adding Food

Agridude - Putting First Tray On

Agridude - Paul with Knife and Fork

Agridude - Placing Newspaper on Top

Agridude - Worm Closeup

Agridude - All Set Up