duration of vermicompost in garden?

jadeite(6/7)March 4, 2013

We went through our second harvest of vermicompost from our RM tub setup. We have a LOT of worms! Most of them have been transferred to our outdoor bin where they seem to be happily consuming the smelly produce rotting in it.

My question is how long does the effect of vermicompost last after it's been worked into garden soil? Do the microbes die off over time, or does the one-time application of VC improve the soil forever? We probably harvested around 4 gal or VC and worked it into a bed of garlic, roughly 10' x 10'.

Thanks,
Cheryl

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equinoxequinox

"outdoor bin where they seem to be happily consuming the smelly produce rotting in it" Please add some bedding material of any type to this bin. Leaves, cardboard, old straw or dried grass clippings.

"
how long does the effect of vermicompost last after it's been worked into garden soil? Do the microbes die off over time, or does the one-time application of VC improve the soil forever?" I would venture to say that it does wear off over time. The advantage of having a vermicompost bin is the ability to keep on keeping more and more vermicompost on the garden. Like in nature where the tree leaves keep falling to the ground and birds keep depositing fertilizer and the worms keep transforming these materials into good stuff, the bin is where this is happening. Nature keeps adding a thin layer of material each year. You will want to do the same. The old stuff is still there but a bit more each year just keeps getting better and better. Each year of nature or each addition of vermicompost means thicker layers of fertility.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:50PM
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jadeite(6/7)

equinox - thank you for replying. The outdoor compost bin has a lot of garden waste - clippings, leaves, twigs etc. The worms have plenty of bedding and aeration.

I guess we have to keep amending our garden soil which is sadly lacking in organic matter.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 3:03PM
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compostgal(9a-CA Sierra Foothills)

Hi Cheryl,
Don't forget the summer drenches of aerated worm tea that will put additional microbes to work.

In addition to building up the organic matter, the addition of rock dust helps re-mineralize the soil.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:57PM
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jadeite(6/7)

compostgal - good point about worm tea. We dug in a fair amount of superphosphate when we prepared the garlic bed.

Our main garden needs improvement. Someone once planted perennials and roses, but over the years it's been neglected. The soil is compacted and dries out quickly. Even with a LOT of worms, it will take forever to improve the soil with VC. This is going to be a big project for the next decade.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 11:10AM
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mendopete

Hi Cheryl. You are right about it taking forever to improve much soil with VC. I believe it is best used as starter mix, top dressing, or tea.

If you want to improve your soil quicker, start layering your beds with LOTS of organic matter. If there are horses nearby, the owners would probably love to give it to you or sell cheap. Bring in truckloads and layer your garden with 6" or so in the spring. Then mulch real heavy and let nature improve your soil. I also use used coffee grounds free from a local coffee house. Basically turn your garden bed into a giant compost pile in the winter and when spring comes, your soil will be full of life, like mine is!

If you have not already done so, check out the soil,compost, and mulch forum. Lots of great people and ideas there. Good luck, Pete

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 2:13PM
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chickencoupe

Most who farm small-scale will utilize worm tea drenching the soil with it as much as possible and placing the spent vermicompost used to make tea back into the worm bin for reprocessing. Any eggs or worms in that batch of compost while brewing with a fish-tank aerator will survive.

I agree with mendopete. Piling stuff onto that ground is the best thing you can do. Come next spring you'll just shovel right down. Come the following spring, if you're still piling it on, you won't need a shovel. It's amazing how easy things are when ya just let things rot like they're supposed to.

You can also make fish emulsion and drench your soil with it. I've spent the last three years beefing up the "yarden" soil. it is now garden soil.. light, fluffy, aerated and holds moisture just right. I just piled crap on top of it and drenched it with compost teas and fish emulsions.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 4:43AM
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jadeite(6/7)

Thank you for the good advice. I'm used to composting which I used to build up gardens in two previous homes. But I thought that VC would (1) break down compostables faster; (2) add more nutrients to the soil than regular OM. That's why I started my worm bins, and that's why we put a LOT of worms into the big outdoor compost bin.

We generate a lot of kitchen waste and it is taking forever to break down. As we're rebuilding the garden, we're putting big piles of leaves, stalks, twigs into the bin as well.

Now it sounds like I should treat my VC as something very rare and precious, not to be wasted digging into the soil as I would treat regular compost? I'm not being argumentative, just trying to understand.

A bit OT, but my RM bins are going like gangbusters. I started with 3 pounds last spring. I've harvested VC 3 times. The most recent time I was picking up big wiggly handfuls of worms at the bottom of the bins. I would guess that we put around 10 lbs of worms into the outdoor bin where they are happily tucking into the hundreds of pounds of apple waste we had after last year's crop. I extracted pectin from the thinnings of about 300 lbs of green apples. I still have around 4-5 lbs of worms in bins which we keep indoors, in case the outdoor population is wiped out.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Niivek

I have two pieces of bamboo in a vase with water. I put about a tablespoon of wormcasts into the water. In a few days, the roots exploded and the stalks and leaves showed a bit of new growth. After about 2 or 3 weeks the new leaves have started to wither a bit. So, I'd say there is a duration. Don't know if that is evidence that a table spoon of wormcasts lasts for 2 or 3 weeks or if it is evidence that I don't have a very green thumb.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:35PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

I think that adding anything to the soil is not a 'once and done' proposition. Organic materials in particular need to be replenished. Compost will improve the soil tilth, texture, water holding capacity, as well as drainage. Vermicompost will not do anything (or very little) for soil tilth. It will increase the microbiological activity, which help plants grow and stay healthy. Both will help improve your soil in different ways and provide plants with nutrients.

If you have enough vermicompost, use it generously. Most of us don't have such a huge supply. I have always simply made an anaerobic tea, vermicompost dissolved in tap water for a few minutes and poured into the soil around plants. It's much simpler and easier than the aerobic process and works extremely well. Taking the time and expense to set up a system to make aerobic tea will make a more concentrated product, so your supply of vermicompost goes further. Either system will work. Over time, I am able to make more and more vermicompost, so the anaerobic method works really well for me. I also topdress with 3-6" of compost a couple of times a year. After 14 years, I have super rich, soft, wonderful soil. :)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 2:38AM
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jadeite(6/7)

I think I'm coming to grips with the benefits of VC as opposed to regular organic compost. VC is higher in microbes, and microbes enable plants to take up nutrients from the soil. If there isn't sufficient organic matter for microbes to feed on, they die out and the plants are starved for nutrients. Does that sound right?

We trucked in about 5 cu yds each of compost and mulch from the city, and have dug in a lot of the compost, and mulched some of the beds. I'll make worm tea with the VC the next time I harvest, probably in about a month when the RM bins go outside, and I divide the worms presently crowded in one bin into two bins. The good news is that the worms both in the outside and inside bins are doing well so I hope to have a continued supply of VC.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 6:15PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

"If there isn't sufficient organic matter for microbes to feed on, they die out and the plants are starved for nutrients. Does that sound right?"

Cheryl, I don't know about that. It's an interesting question and you could be right. What organic material does for sure is improve the texture of the soil, the drainage and, paradoxically, the ability to hold water. IME, it isn't an exact science. Whether you put compost or vermicompost and whatever quantities, it's all good. You'll see changes right away, but more and more over a few growing seasons.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 3:06AM
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