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Vermicompost+BIOchar =LOTS of Fruit Coming!

Sunday, April 19th, 2015


Do your fruit trees look like this? They should! I’m going to need to thin this pomegranate tree soon, or else I will risk branch’s breaking due to the weight of the fruit that will soon set. No synthetic fertilizer here….just Vermicompost and BIOchar. That’s it.

SIP’s are COOL!

Saturday, February 12th, 2011


You are about to see the COOLEST EXPERIMENT I’ve ever done. If you like growing things, watching things grow, enjoy gardening, know someone that works with children (Teacher, Counselor, Home Schooling)..or even if you simply enjoy eating the freshest vegetables possible…this is a fantastic experiment.

What you are looking at is Sub Irrigation Planting, or SIP’s for short.   In sub irrigation planting, plants get watered from the bottom up by drawing water from a reservoir. 

How does Sub Irrigation Planting Work?  Instead of the traditional method of watering from the top down,  Sub Irrigation Planting uses a water filled reservoir along with a medium density media (“Soil”) to “Wick” the water upwards.  As the media becomes saturated, any excess goes back into the reservoir.  This constant movement of water keeps the growing area hydrated at all times, but because the media never gets overly saturated, the roots of the plants are not sitting in an anaerobic environment.

Why use Sub Irrigation Planting?  The plants get the EXACT amount of water they need,  the “Soil” (More on this later), stays damp but not wet around the roots,  but only damp to dry on top,  No wasting water due to evaporation, no fungus gnats,  AND…. the plants grow faster and larger because they are in the PERFECT growing environment.

As you can see, I spent BIG MONEY to do this experiment.  😉   $1.50 for a 2 Litre soda bottle, plus a couple of dollars in peat and vermiculite and of course, some worm castings.

After securing my 2 litre bottle, I had to figure out a way to safely cut it.  After trying many things, what I’ve found works best is using a  Ginsu knife!    These are the knives advertised as being able to cut cans, and just about anything else.   Everyone should have one of these.   The Ginsu knife goes cuts through plastic quickly, easily, and safely.




After cutting the bottle, you invert the bottom and use it as your reservoir. 

Fill the reservoir with water.

The top part of the bottle is used to hold your “Soil” and seeds.  I uses parenthesis around the word “soil” because with Sub Irrigation Planting, regular soil is not used.  If you go into your yard and dig out some dirt, that dirt does not draw water properly.  Clay soil will tend to stay too wet and harden into a clump.  Sandy soil will not hold water well.  What you want is a media that is fast draining, yet retains water so that it stays moist, not wet.  What I have found is that peat moss, mixed with some compost, a handful of castings, and a little vermiculite is a perfect media for a SIP.  I use 2 parts peat, 1 part compost, 1/4 part vermiculite, and 1/4 part castings.  You can vary this depending on the height of your SIP.  A taller unit will work better with some additional vermiculite.



Now comes the FUN!  Invert the top of the bottle so that what was once the narrow top of the bottle now sits upside down in the reservoir.  If you want to keep the reservoir clean, keep the screw lid on the bottle, and just drill a 1/4 inch hole so it can “SIP” from the reservoir.  If you don’t care if the reservoir gets a little dirty, simply disgard the bottle cap altogether.  A bit of the “Soil” will fall into the water, but it will soon form a plug in the neck of the bottle.


Your plants will sprout quickly in this environment, and once they take off…well…check this out!



This is even more gorgeous and larger in person than you can tell in the picture.  I simply cut it off at the top, and it provided an entire bowl of salad.  In a week or two, it should come back to produce another salad.   Imagine how much fun your students can have with this!

Is It Halloween Yet? Cause I’ve Got PUMPKINS!

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Funny story.   A couple of weekends ago we had some friends over.  They brought their little girl with them.  As they walked around the backyard and saw my huge pumpkin plant, the girl told her mom, “I wish we had a pumpkin patch like this”!

We literally do have a pumpkin patch this year.  Will likely produce two dozen large pumpkins out of an area about 15′ x 6′.  This is the same area that my Alabama Jumpers have been raised in.  Think there is a correlation between healthy soil and impressive plant production?  I’ve got no doubts.

What’s the Difference Between Castings and Vermicompost?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

There are two words in Vermiculture that you will hear used interchangeably: Castings and Vermicompost.

Let’s discuss the similarities, differences, and issues with the verbiage.

Castings: Quite simply…Worm Poop! Basically, it is the end result(Pardon the pun), of all material that has been processed through the worms gut, and out it’s anus. Herein lies the problem. Pure castings are rare.. In fact, I can honestly say I don’t believe I have ever seen 100% castings. In order to make castings “Pure”, you basically have to leave the worms in their excrement to the point that all available food and bedding has been processed. Once this happens, worms die. Since less than 100% pure castings (Depending on the bedding used) will work wonderfully in your garden, there is no reason to sacrifice your worms. Close is good enough.

There are no current standards for worm castings. I’ve seen products called “Castings”, that ranged from very well processed material, to what looked like peat moss…that may or may not have been touched by a worm. These lack of standards are a problem in the worm industry, and another reason to buy your castings from a pro. Otherwise, you may get a product that can actually harm your plants.

How so? Products like manure tend to be extremely high in nitrogen and high in salts. Worms do a great job processing both, but…if a good portion of the manure has not actually been through the worms digestive system, you’ve essentially just added straight manure to your soil. For some plants, this would not be a huge problem. For others, especially tender starts, you’ve just created a disaster. This is one reason why I prefer to grow worms in a neutral bedding such as paper or cardboard. If any unprocessed remnants remain, you’ve done no harm to any plants

Vermicompost: The end result of all material that has been processed through the worms gut, and out it’s anus, PLUS any uncomposted worm bedding material.

Just as you buy a steak with a little marbling, and still consider it “Steak”, you usually buy Castings with a little uncomposted worm bedding mixed in. And just as you do not want a ton of fat on your steak, you do not want a ton of unprocessed bedding mixed in your castings.

What % purity should you be looking for? I’m going to take an educated, but unscientific stab at this. If your castings are around 95% pure, your grower has done a pretty good job of letting the worms do theirs!