Vermicompost Tea

barbararose21101March 27, 2014

I wrote Linda. Some of the studies were of WORM tea with ambiguous results. Paul, can you offer an anecdotal experiment of your own that will add to our understanding and expectations ? Same question to Chuckle/Chuckie.

Spring is here: want to design an experiment ? I have dozens of tomato seedlings. Most are determinate. I know from experience that the size they will grow to depends on how much root space they have. I can get quite a few tomatoes from this variety in a pot. A few are indeterminate: I want to taste a Brandywine that has had optimal conditions and no other hands on it. I've prepared the Brandywine a 4 x 4 bed raised with sandbags and garden sox. It will have 4 iron posts and wire all around. That's how big these get in optimum conditions. (last year's were the wrong variety !)

How would you test worm compost tea with these plants ?
Presume I'll be brewing 5# in 5 gallons 24 hours with 2 Tbsp molasses.
I can harvest 5# at a time from the Worm Inn.

(BTW on the issue of harvesting from a Worm Inn: mine is lined with a piece of mosquito netting big enough to lift the lot out all at once. I did this to keep the moisture even. I can take out 5# at any level of the bin. To "milk it" I would need a pulley. I can't reach both the bottom and the top at comfortable levels. It's heavy, even part full.)

So we can have a three-way test ? I won't do a no-supplement plant. I can do:

1. Garden Grove Booster Blend by directions;
2. Organic commercial custom tomato fertilizer by directions;
3. Worm tea by directions designed by participants in the forum.
Dilute ? Frequency ? Foliar and to roots ?

I'll take pictures. I might be able to count fruits, depends on what else is going on.

Any other suggestions ?

Paul: I am entirely sympathetic with your quarrels with Science. All the problems with science as science are with the Humans and hubris, our society that is more competitive than cooperative, and capitalism which probably breeds greed.
(tho that's a reach) I want you to know that Linda herself is doing Good in the setting she is in. I, at least, value her work and the work of others like her, even though you and I agree it is not as perfect as some would pretend.

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Probably the most important response I can initially make is to thank you for your measured response.

Second, everyone has their "favorite" scientist. The problem is systemic, and if someone is functioning "well" in their scientific JOB, they are compromising the Truth. Period. Many will say that "compromise" is necessary in "life". That's deflection/deception. One never needs to compromise the Truth in order to live.

Third, other than my initial remark about retching at the arrogance, my "attack" wasn't particularly directed at "Linda". There is no doubt that she is 'pushing back the frontiers of ignorance', but without COMPLETE honesty, we have 'convenient' truths, AT BEST.

Finally, I'm afraid I have NO experience, scientific or anecdotal to add to "our understanding and expectations". The credentials I have that allow the rant are in the context of being a scientist, not a vermiculturist. I am only about to start my very first worm 'farm' within the next couple of weeks. However, I do have "plant growth" anecdotes. Here is just the simplest:

I have friends that "hate" commercial fertilizers. They refuse to use any, and just use what they can generate through composting. Most of their houseplants die overwinter. Not all, but most. I use Miracle Grow exclusively on my HOUSE plants. Few if any die over winter, and I can get plants to FLOURISH, that others do not.

Early in my scientific career, I was a researcher in the International Biome project. I worked on the RATE (Research on Arctic Tundra Environment). The program was an attempt to mathematically model the arctic tundra from primary producers to top predators. While what I personally worked on was plant water relations, there were obviously lots of other scientists working on nutrition etc. What I 'took away' from this research was: 1) Plants in the arctic are SERIOUSLY nutrient limited. 2) Nutrients are nutrients REGARDLESS of what the source is. 3) Arctic plants supplied with nutrients GROW.

I look at this issue with plant nutrients like I look at the use of "white", processed, sugar (WPS hereafter), by humans. It's this simple: the human body can take up ONLY glucose. PERIOD. Whatever sugar one ingests, be it sucrose, lactose, fructose, etc., the body HAS to convert it to glucose to use it. No "work-arounds". WPS is almost pure glucose. WPS is not "bad" in and of itself. What OTHER sweeteners have in ADDITION to glucose is what makes them BETTER than WPS. (Of course, over-doses of WPS - as with ANYTHING - are physiologically/metabolically "bad", but not "poison" as so many want to assert.) In the end, it is all of the vitamins, minerals, and other "extras" that make other sweeteners a better CHOICE than WPS, but WPS is not "bad". It's just not as "good". (I have one personal exception to note: Honey is "magic". Of course this is not a man-made product, but honey is truly a "miracle" not to be reproduced by Man.)

The "bottom line" is this: "natural" soil additives - like vermicompost - have "more to offer" than commercial fertilizers like Miracle Grow. Compared to Miracle Grow, it is the equivalent of "brown sugar" or maybe even honey, relative to WPS. But if GROWTH is the narrowly-focused goal, "pure" nutrients, those that are needed for growth - not taste, or color, etc. - then providing unadulterated nutrients will maximize growth and minimize effort.

Since most of the time my focus is not solely growth, I want to "feed" using a food that has all the additional "vitamins and minerals". If I want growth, or "strength" for overwintering in low light, I feed what they need the MOST during times of stress - the RAW nutrients they need.

I look at it this way: If I go to a country like the Sudan, and there are hundreds of thousands of starving people, what they need is FOOD. There is a way to get them "good" food - HIGH caloric content - fast: Feed them "Macdonald's" hamburgers. I can get high-caloric FOOD to a million people FAST, or I can get complex nutritional food to eight people sorta fast. Given that choice, I choose "Macdonald's". Is it the "best" food they could have? No. Does it provide them with ALL the vitamins and minerals they need? No. Does it keep them from starving TO DEATH? YES! Does it provide the time of LIVING until I can get an infrastructure established so they can GET the "nutrients" they need? Yes.

"Things" that prevent death aren't "bad", unless they are used as the "standard" or over-used.

I am unfamiliar with "Garden Grove Booster Blend". (I will look it up.) I assume it is some sort of "artificial" fertilizer. Your experiment seems reasonable. When designing an experiment, one should always look to QUANTIFIABLE results. One way to quantify the difference - if one exists - between your treatments is to "count fruit". This measure has hidden uncertainties, but as long as those are acknowledged, the results could have some value.

Another way to quantify your results would be to pull the plants at the end of the season and weigh them. It would be best to desiccate/dehydrate them to minimize the variance induced by water content.

Another way to quantify results would be to measure the total length of the plants. That means measuring not just the height, but also the length of all the secondary and tertiary branches. This number SHOULD correlate highly with the weight.

You should carefully note (quantify) how much of each "treatment" you use, and take some care to make the doses within treatments as uniform as possible.

This is tedious work. That's why people get paid to do it. I'm retired, and once a trained scientist, always a scientist, so I do this sort of 'stuff' all the time. I cannot, not do it, and plants are one of the 'things' I like to conduct experiments on. However, I am just ramping up my "system" this year, and probably won't be ready for anything too quantitative until next year.

I have one more completely unscientific anecdote to 'report'. I have been trying to grow orchids - actually, I have been trying to just keep them ALIVE - for 40 years. I have NEVER succeeded. This last fall, I purchased yet another "grocery store" orchid fully expecting it to die once the blossoms were gone and the low light of winter set in. To my surprise, on a very modest 'diet' of Miracle Grow, I was able to keep it alive after blooming. It even added a leaf. However, two separate flower spikes failed to produce flowers, and the plant seemed to be 'fading'. Then I read on line about watering one's orchids with water from a fish tank. Since I have fish tanks, I thought I'd give it a try. Nothing to lose. It has produced a flower spike that has a bud on it! After decades of disappointment, I am careful not to get too excited, but it's difficult not to.

It would be foolish to "make" anything of this OTHER THAN the fact that the results I have gotten are consistent with what was "predicted". BUT, and it is a VERY BIG "but"; this is a sample size of ONE, and is TRULY meaningless other than encouragement to continue the "experiment" with "fish water". I strongly suspect, that "worm tea" has benefits that are just as difficult to quantify.

Thanks again for your measured response,

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:42PM
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I'm going to try to add a long post from the
Garden Professors' Facebook page about PEER REVIEW.
I do so to assure you you are not alone in your understanding of peer review.

I just LOVE your ways of doing things and will be attempting to follow your model. . . except . . . I have too many interests to keep a narrow focus.

Last year's tomatoes that were supposed to be red Brandywine
were yellow. Minimal flavor. Once I saw the plant was wrong, I let it go: it got Enormous even with wicked pruning. And it made lots of tomatoes, many of which rotted because they were on the ground & I didn't care. What didn't rot I gave away to a less persnickity eater. In sheer volume, those plants were giants. However, having learned from that, this year's Brandywine, from a different company, will get the Jail
and supports as described in the other post.

Re fishtanks: there is a post somewhere on this forum by someone who, as I seem to recall, runs his fishtank through vermi compost ? He didn't post a picture yet, I think. I am tempted to add a fishtank . . . to my multiple activities.

Garden Grove Booster blend is a commercial compost made from cow? manure and Seattle yard waste. That and fish food fertilizer were the only nutrients on last year's veges.
I did use a Black Lake Organic and something else ( don't remember at the moment) on the strawberries plus extra bone meal.. Also I had a rain barrel with a soaker hose attached that encircled the bed: I watered via the barrel: That made it more evenly damp than periodic watering. Probably there are pros and cons to that. The slugs & wild worms liked it.
King County (WA) does a lot of research on composting public sewage: the experiments test for every trace. Those researchers use their results in their own gardens.

It looks like I can add a link but not a pdf. You'll have to scroll down to the Peer Review article by Raymond Eckhart.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Professors Blog

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:07AM
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Barbararose21101 - I like the soaker hose idea. I started using those a few years back, and haven't 'looked back'.

I understand completely about "narrow focus".

I'll read the Garden Professors Blog.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:17AM
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