The Modern Victory Garden


Worm Castings And A New Garden Bed

Posted on September 8, 2011 at 8:05 AM

Around the last part of June, we set up a worm box in an area that is too shaded (back side of the house) to grow anything in.           




Since then, we have been putting all of our kitchen compost pail contents into it along with some chicken manure we pick up from walk way areas occassionally and a small part of the garden trimmings.   The rest of the garden debris is partially split to the hens for treats and the majority of it goes to the regular compost piles still.    With this strategy I am keeping the worm box fueled, the hens happy, and the regular compost has continued accumulating nicely.   When the layer of food and garden wastes in the worm box gets to about 4 inches deep evenly across the bin, a covering of thoroughly wetted peat moss is added and the layering process is started over again on top of it.   Once the left side of the bin was substantially full, we began layering on the right side of the bin.   The worms have been busy doing their work and two months later from the set up (end of August), the left side now contains a finished castings and peat mixture, while the right side is getting fairly full with newer accumulated layers of wastes.         




It is now time to begin harvesting the finished worm casting compost from the left bin.   To do that, I raked the surface to expose any worms in the top layer to light and thus encourage them to burrow down deeper into the pile.   I waited ten minutes and then came back and scraped off the topmost portion of the finished pile into a bucket.            




Any larger chunks of items that were not quite finished that I encountered, were just added back into the bin on the right side to continue being worked by the worms.   I stopped with this one full bucket for the time being, because I had a project I needed this for and wanted to get on with it.        




I will finish harvesting the rest of the finished castings over the course of the next two weeks.   About the time that the finished pile is completely removed, the right hand bin should be pretty full up and it will be time to shift the food waste layering back to the then empty left side bin.   The process of accumulating items will then occur on that side while the worms finish working the right side pile.   


 The finished worm casting compost was collected to provide amendments for a new garden bed I constructed on Monday.   It was a holiday and I wanted to tackle this project while the weather was fine and I had time to get it done.   Specifically, the project was to build an 8-foot by 2-foot bed in a corner area of the back garden abutting the fence, which is to become the permanent artichoke bed.   It is possible to grow artichokes as a perennial in my region if they are given some minimal winter protection.   The three artichokes I grew this year were in large black pots, which was not an ideal way to over winter them as the roots close to the sides of a container are subject to freezing without the insulating effect of soil all around them.   If I was going to try and over winter these plants, they really needed to be transplanted into a permanent “in the ground” location.   The spot chosen for them was the place the containers were already situated in.                




I wrestled the container plantings out of the way, and then constructed a framed bed using extra lumber I had on hand in the shop.   I then used a shovel to dig down into the very compacted soil.   Working my way down the bed initially to just loosen and aerate the soil.         






I then dug very large holes and used the worm casting compost along with some organic fertilizer to amend the bottom of the holes thoroughly.   It was really difficult to wrestle those large plants out of their containers and into the prepared planting spots.    I broke off several branches in the process but managed to get them in place and intact (for the most part!).          




I intend to lay a soaker hose down on this bed eventually since it is a permanent planting bed, but I need a shorter length hose than any I happen to have on hand, so it will have to wait until I purchase one.              


Not sure if those plants will survive the transplanting or not, but they were done with production for the year anyways and if I should lose them, I will just start some new ones next year and use this bed to plant them up in right from the start.   Hopefully though, they will survive my manhandling and get firmly rooted and settled in before winter arrives. 




Categories: Worm Box, Transplanting, Garden Beds