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Soil for adding to the garden this year

 
pollinator
Posts: 256
Location: The Arkansas Ozarks
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As I am prepping the garden for the coming growing season, I have a question for all my permies gardening colleagues.  I have/am prepping the existing beds by chopping down the old growth and mulching over with fairly well (16+ months old) composted woodchips from the local utility company and fresh slightly chopped up leaves.

My question involves the tomato beds and two piles of manufactured soil that I made about a year ago.  The soil was made from a 50/50 mix of older wood chips and well composted cow manure.  It is now really nice and black friable with not too much more than say 5 to 10% of quite small pieces of twigs remaining in it.  My thought is to buy a bunch of red wigglers and European night crawlers and put them in the piles and cover the piles with straw.  I figure in 3 months it should make truly black gold for starting the rows of seeds in and mounds for squash, cukes, beans, etc.

I was thinking of seeding some of the soil on the tomato beds and innoculating it with worms and covering with more wood chips and possibly straw also.

What do you all think?  Is it worth it or am I wasting time and money with the worms for the marginal utility of upgrading what looks like pretty darn good soil already?  Perhaps I should simply inoculate it with mushrooms?

I will provide some photos tomorrow of the piles of material with some close up shots of the soil.

Thanks in advance.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
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Personally, if it already looks that good, I wouldn't spend money on the worms, just to put them in the bed to finish it up.
Fungal inoculation would be good; though it's possible you already have a strong fungal network in place if the wood has been broken down that much.
I would just rake out the biggest chunks to put on the surface as mulch, plant in it, then add more mulch to the top.

I do keep a bin of E. hortensis, plus several bins of fetida; and usually have to thin the populations in the bins a few times a year. It seems they do best when I put them in the places I'm composting rabbit manure & other organics in bulk. They tend to have a steady food supply in a shaded & moist spot, resulting in them breeding even more. I occasionally find a group of them in the gardens, but I suspect they are from cocoons and/or babies that were in castings I put in the garden.
 
Posts: 97
Location: South Mississippi
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Ralph Kettell wrote:As I am prepping the garden for the coming growing season, I have a question for all my permies gardening colleagues.  I have/am prepping the existing beds by chopping down the old growth and mulching over with fairly well (16+ months old) composted woodchips from the local utility company and fresh slightly chopped up leaves.

My question involves the tomato beds and two piles of manufactured soil that I made about a year ago.  The soil was made from a 50/50 mix of older wood chips and well composted cow manure.  It is now really nice and black friable with not too much more than say 5 to 10% of quite small pieces of twigs remaining in it.  My thought is to buy a bunch of red wigglers and European night crawlers and put them in the piles and cover the piles with straw.  I figure in 3 months it should make truly black gold for starting the rows of seeds in and mounds for squash, cukes, beans, etc.

I was thinking of seeding some of the soil on the tomato beds and innoculating it with worms and covering with more wood chips and possibly straw also.

Thanks in advance.

Sincerely,

Ralph


Just remember, that the NEW straw, wood chips and chopped up leaves at first will USE nitrogen lowering the amounts available in the soil needed by heavy feeding plants (like tomatoes) . So you will need to add Nitrogen along with the high carbon materials you are talking about. Also if the old wood chips and manure are well composted then adding many worms to it will only cause them to die as there isn't much "FOOD" for them to eat and turn into vermicompost. I might add some (like a can or 2 of fishing bait red wigglers) to it but unless you add some fresh(er) materials (green) or manure, I don't think the worms would stay there or if they can't leave they may even DIE. If the straw and/or wood chips/leaves are used as a mulch then that shouldn't harm the (N) Nitrogen levels in the soil and as they decompose would attract worms.
 
gardener
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I would simply use the compost you already have (the older chips and  manure) and plant directly then cover with a loose mulch material such as loose straw or fluffed up compost.

You can add worms if you desire, but most likely your growing plants in that compost you have will almost certainly draw worms to it from the wild.

Every spot I have a compost heap there are plenty of worms under and in the compost, I've never had to add any worms in the 4 years we have been working on our farm.

Redhawk
 
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Ralph,

I am going to second what everyone else has already said.  Sounds like you already have the garden gold already.

I think that mushrooms are a great idea, especially if you continue to add woodchips, straw, etc for the mushrooms to munch on.

I am pretty certain that if you add your miracle soil, woodchips/straw and mushrooms you will attract plenty of worms.  Worms like to eat, and if you provide food then they will show up for dinner.  If you add worms without food the worms will scoot away.  My experience regarding worms is that a worm is pretty much a worm.  Whatever earthworms you can attract will be good.  My personal thoughts are that it is not really worth buying worms for an outside garden (dedicated worm bins are another matter).

Congratulations on getting awesome garden soil!  I think you are on the way to having a happy, healthy garden.

Keep us updated!

Eric
 
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