An Experiment to Overcome 'Replant Syndrome' at Our Organic Farm

Today we began a new experiment with worms, compost and vermicompost in one of the blocks of trees we removed this fall to replant in February.

Here's some background on how the experiment came around:

In replant situations like this, where the ground is replanted within months of the prior trees’ removal, there almost always occurs very poor growth of the replanted trees. This poor growth response may last for several years. It’s called the “replant syndrome” and no one seems to know what causes it, even though universities have done extensive research on it.


My theory is that it has to do more with the microbial activity in the soil than with any mineral problem.

So our imaginative and creative molecular biologist, Christophe, and his microbiologist wife, Monique, have come up with a potential solution using the worms.

1. On the exact spot where each new tree is to be planted, we pile up four shovelfuls of partially decomposed thermophilic compost (that’s our regular compost). By hand we make a small basin in the top of this, so that now the small pile, (1 ½” feet in diameter) looks like a volcano with a crater.

2. Put 2 big handfuls of worms in that crater and cover with compost.

3. Water thoroughly.

The theory and our hope is that the worms (red wrigglers) will eat the compost and turn it into vermicompost, which has a very rich flora and fauna of microbes from the worms gut. Thus inoculating the soil with a whole new rich population of microbes and hopefully overcoming the dreaded “replant syndrome”.

By May or June of this coming summer we’ll know the outcome and report back to you.

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