Christophe's Compost Corner: Weekly Update June 9

  • Discussion of vermicompost teas used as soil drenches and foliar sprays is being put off to a future blog.

  • Last week we referred to  Farmer Al’s slide comparing thermophilic composting and vermicomposting.  The harvesting of vermicompost at Frog Hollow Farm is continuing for another few days.

  • Last week we harvested two 100 foot vermicompost beds. The beds were replaced by two new beds and seeded with worms that were removed from the old beds.

  • Fruits and vegetables (and maybe coffee grounds) that cannot be sold will be added to the two new beds. The fruits and vegetables will add a diverse community of microbes to the new beds, which only contain horse bedding at the present time, and will speed up decomposition performed by the worms.

  • Vermicompost is being harvested from two other beds.

  • We are addressing a worm irrigation problem that occurs in the heat of the summer. The moisture content of vermicomposts should be between 70-90% (much higher than thermophilic composts). The worm beds are irrigated with small sprinklers 4 times in 24 hours for 5 minutes. The horse bedding used as one of the food sources for worms is very dry because of the climactic conditions in Brentwood. We are working on ways to make sure that the water does not leach out of the horse bedding when the sprinklers are turned on. Leaching results in a waste of water and loss of nutrients for the worms.

  • Once the right moisture conditions are established in a worm bed, the amount of water used can be reduced because the worms will maintain optimal moisture conditions if they receive food residues  at the right times.

  • After the vermicompost is harvested at Frog Hollow, we store it in big piles that are monitored for the biology (microbe content and activity) and we check its salt content. The piles are kept moist so that the microbes and worms left over from trommelisation (separation of worms from the  vermicompost using a trommel-a drum like machine) can continue to decompose organic material and improve the vermicompost even further.

Some interesting facts about soil. When you crumble a piece of soil in your hand, the size and shape of the pieces describes its structure. A crumbly structure has spaces and pores among the solid ingredients (sand, silt, clay) through which air, water, roots and microbes freely move. The solid ingredients share about half of their space with air and water. Incredible numbers of microbes live in the spaces occupied by air and water. It has been calculated that a couple of tablespoonfuls of soil add up to quarter of a million of square feet (a city block). There is plenty of room for a lot of biology! (J.B. Nardi)

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.

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