A couple of months ago, I put down a layer of coco coir, a thick layer of leaves, and a handful of red wigglers. Here is what they look like now. The red wigglers are nice and healthy, and the leaves are getting broken down.
I did a mini experiment to see how well worms process and live in a pile of leaves, so here is what I did.
Dry leaves by themselves will not work for keeping worms alive as worms need moisture, but not excessive moisture. So, I started with a layer of soaked coir (Available on my website) to maintain a healthy moisture level. The soaked coir basically acts as a huge sponge. The coir should stay damp for a week or two, which means I don’t need to do anything but wait and watch.
I added some shredded leaves. Why shredded? Remember, worms are living and breathing creatures. If I were to just add a full sized thick pile of wet leaves, it could turn into a mat, cutting off air flow. So, I used the coir base to maintain a moisture level, and added the shredded leaves on top. Lots of air flow in this mixture.
I then added a handful of worms into the material. Not exactly scientific, but I just wanted to see if I would end up with lots of worms, or few to zero live worms. I’m not experimenting on worm reproduction rates, I only want to see how the worms do in this material.
The worms did their thing and dug down through the leaves and into the coir mixture. In just a few minutes, it looked like this again.
What’s next? I’m simply going to wait and watch. No additional food to add. If the coir below gets dry, I’ll mist the mixture with a bit of water. Every week, I’ll do a quick check to see if the worms are alive. It will be interesting to see if the layer of leaves get eaten and dragged down into the coir level.
Assuming the worms survive, it will also be interesting to see the transfer from old dry leaves, to rich worm processed material.
We sell hundreds of thousands of Alabama Jumpers every year. People LOVE Alabama Jumpers because they are EXACTLY what customers are looking for when they think of active earthworms to aerate their soil.
The number one question regarding Alabama Jumpers is: “How do I create a worm friendly environment for the Jumpers”?
Before investing money on worms, you need to make sure you are not adding pesticides and/or synthetic fertilizers to your soil. If you use those, your soil is likely to be void of most life. If you have stopped using these poisons in an attempt to let nature restore your soil over time, best to wait until you see a lot of insect activity before buying Alabama Jumpers. How long you will need to wait is dependent on a ton of variables. The chemicals have you been applying to your soil, how long, how much, soil type, etc…..
When you are ready to create your worm friendly environment, I suggest gathering a bunch of leaves, and adding them to the top of your soil. You want to avoid leaves such as pine needles, Eucalyptus (strong smelling), and Oak (Tannins). It is important that you layer the leaves on top of your soil (As a thick mulch) instead of simply mixing them in. You want the leaves to break down over time. If you simply till a bunch of fresh leaves into your soil, the nitrogen in your soil will be tied up breaking down the leaves, robbing your soil (And your plants) of the necessary nitrogen plants need for growth.
Here’s a secret that I’ve only shared with a few. If you shred your leaves into small pieces (I consider 1/2″ pieces small), they break down INCREDIBLY fast!
You could invest in a leaf shredder, but they are pretty expensive, take up space, tie you to a nearby power supply, or run on gasoline and oil. But…You may already have a tool to shred your leaves and not even know it.
Here’s my secret. Most people have leaf blowers. Our leaf blower happens to be rechargeable, no cord, no gas, and no power cord needed. Leaf blowers blow, but they also SUCK (via a vacuum kit)! Some leaf blowers come with the kit (A vacuum tube and bag), others make you buy the vacuum kit separately, but they are not normally that expensive.
I use my Leaf sucker to make our landscape look neat, but more importantly, I add the shredded leaves as a mulch around all my trees. As it breaks down, it makes the most beautiful moisture retaining Humus (You cannot buy this stuff anywhere), and greatly reduces the need/frequency of watering.
Green thumb? Nope. Special products to attract worms? Nope. I just know the secret to making Humus (decomposed leaf litter that worms and plants LOVE) quickly. And now YOU also know the secret!
The mornings have been getting cooler (Mid 40’s), but look at my gorgeous tomato’s! Lots of worm castings, BIOchar, and Azomite added to my compost based bedding is the secret. Fruit production has slowed due to the chilly mornings, but I still have some green tomato’s on the vine waiting for a few warm days to ripen.
I’m constantly telling people with soil problems that if they add Leaf Litter Mulch to their garden (Or their lawn), on a regular basis, that their soil will greatly improve and become worm friendly.
I was asked today where to get Leaf Litter Mulch?
Unfortunately, most garden centers and Big Box Hardware Stores do not sell Leaf Litter Mulch as they sell only what the major manufacturers provide them. That’s primarily ground up pallets sold as “Mulch” (The manufacturers get paid dump fees for taking the pallets, grind them up, and get paid AGAIN selling the ground pallets in bags).
Ground up pallets are a sad excuse for a good soil amendment, but that is the junk available at your local big box hardware stores and garden centers.
So what can you do?
If you see a gardener, ask him if he has a bunch of leaves he wants to get rid of. Just make sure the leaves are not mixed in with grass trimmings because so many people put synthetic fertilizers on their lawn. If you get some trimmings, simply put them in a pile and run over the pile with your car. You can smother a lawn with whole leaves, but when crunched up, they make a great compost put a couple of inches deep on top of your lawn or garden.
Walk down your street. Find a leaf pile, grab the leaves, and run over them with your car. Easy.
If you have a leaf blower (We have a good rechargeable blower), you also have a leaf “Sucker”. Ours comes with an wide hose attachment and a burlap bag. I simply vacuum up the leaves and they are ground up by the impeller. Great leaf mulch in seconds.
Leaves break down fast, and leaves that are crunched up break down even faster. Layered on top of your soil, they will decompose as the winter rain hits. Soon, you will have created a great, worm friendly environment.
Summer will end soon, but I’ve been wanting to share the secret for GREAT tomato plants.
The secret is extremely aggressive foliage trimming.
What gardeners typically do:
Most of us plant our tomato’s, and never touch them until they are producing. What you end up with are overgrown plants (You know you do), that end up producing a bunch of fruit that you don’t even see, until you reach in and put your thumb in a big old rotten tomato.
What gardeners SHOULD do:
Aggressively trim the foliage, starting with anything that grows below the bottom layer of fruit. By cutting back the leaves so they don’t make contact with the ground, you open up the air flow to your plants. Additionally, you should cut any sucker branch’s so that your fruit is clearly exposed. By trimming back worthless foliage, your plants will have more energy to produce superior fruit! Plus, the fruit is easy to see, and right in front of you for easy picking.