• Due to the heat and the drought we have to pay more attention as to how we water the vermicompost beds. Our aim is to water the worm beds 3 times a day for 5 minutes using small water emitters. As of now we are watering 4 times a day for 5 minutes because the shredded cardboard and all the other food materials (horse bedding, fruit residues, almond paste) have not been watered sufficiently during construction of the beds. The shredded cardboard and the horse bedding become very dry in Brentwood and these materials are almost hydrophobic if they are not soaked properly during construction of the worm beds. The fruit residues also have to be mashed with a shovel so that they don’t dry up in a fresh worm pile. When water is added to a worm bed that has not been wetted properly, it is “lazy” and it leaches out through channels of least resistance. This is similar to what happens when one makes filter coffee. If the coffee grounds are not fine enough and are very dry, the water just rushes through the grounds and does not percolate or extract the coffee grounds. We don’t have the same problem with thermophilic compost because we thoroughly mix the windrows with a mechanical turner and almost every particle in the compost is moistened while the turner is watering and turning.
• Once the worm beds have been well watered, the worms take over and give structure to the compost and the water holding capacity of the vermicompost increases dramatically (less leaching after watering). And of course, when well prepared vermicompost is added to the soil, the water holding capacity of the soil also increases.
• The thermophilic windrows we construct are turned with the mechanical turner 5 times every time they reach 130 F or more during their life-cycle. The moisture content of these windrows is determined periodically to make sure they are not too dry and they get watered only when necessary. Fruit trees grow in fungally dominated soils (ratio of beneficial fungi to beneficial bacteria is more than one) and we make sure that the compost is fungally dominated by adding compost tea (fungal to bacterial ratio 3:1 or more). Two windrows reached the end of their life cycle (5 turns) this week and were treated with 5 gallons each of fungal compost tea. The tea is analyzed for bacteria, fungi, protozoa and beneficial nematodes (qualitative analysis) at the time that it is applied to the windrows and this is followed by quantitative analysis which takes about 4 days.
• Is climate change like a compost pile? Yes, and we will print the cartoons adapted from the eBook “The cartoon introduction to climate change” by Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein. This is an entertaining book full of facts presented in a humorous way. You can read it and so can your children in an afternoon. We had a problem opening the book through Digital Editions. Let’s wait till next week.
• We are still working on a discussion of vermicompost tea and its attributes. The goal is to present the scientific research in a concise and clear way and that takes time.
• Are fruits and vegetables trying to kill us? In a way yes but, believe it or not that improves our health. A little bit of speculation next week.
Author: Christophe Kreis MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada. Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.