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Post  NanSFG on 10/27/2020, 2:22 pm

I finally have time again for my gardens and am able to join the group again.
One of my worm trays is finally full.  I also have to top my raised beds with more mix.  When I create a new bed I use 3 parts peat moss, 3 parts vermiculite, 2 parts compost, and 1 part chicken manure.  Now I have 2 questions:
1.  Do I use the worm castings in the same proportion as chicken manure?
2.  What are the proportions for the soil ingredients that I should use when "topping off" an old raised bed?
Thanks
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Post  OhioGardener on 10/27/2020, 2:49 pm

Hi, Nan!   One your first question, I use worm castings "in addition to" instead of "in place of" the raised bed ingredients.  Worm castings are very rich, and go a long way. When planting the raised bed, I apply the worm castings very lightly to the top of the soil - lightly enough that they do not completely cover it - and then rake it into the top couple inches of soil.

On your second question, when I top off a bed it is with just compost. Every 4 or 5 years I apply a thin layer of coarse vermiculite and coir (I don't use peat) before applying compost in order to refresh the soil.  But, the beds don't need the additional vermiculite and coir every year.  As the beds are worked during planting, etc., the compost as well as vermiculite and coir are worked into the soil.

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Post  NanSFG on 10/27/2020, 6:26 pm

Thanks for the advice.  Right now it is raining a lot, it's rained at least 2" in the past week (filled my pool).  The worm castings are water logged even though they are in a "protected" area.
Do you sun dry the worm castings before spreading them over the raised bed?  Or do you let them semi dry? 
Hard to believe just a couple of weeks ago the dirt under my dying grass was bone dry.  Now I can even pull the long rooted weeds out of the dirt with pliers.
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Post  OhioGardener on 10/27/2020, 6:52 pm

When I harvest the worm castings, they are fairly dry. I store them in a 35-gallon drum until I need them for the gardens, so they stay moist but not wet.   If your castings have become waterlogged, I would be concerned that a lot of the beneficial nutrients & microbes in them will have leached out.

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Post  Kelejan on 10/28/2020, 2:47 am

I Think that worm castings should be no more than 20% of the total compost.  It is like feeding a baby steak.  I am only going by memory so must look it up. It could be as low as 5%.
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Post  p14shooter on 10/28/2020, 8:02 pm

soooo, my calculations sound like they are a bit off. I was trying to only use worm castings for my compost without having to buy compost. I read somewhere about how much (cant remember where now) but i wrote the number down the amount I calculated which was 7lbs per 4x4. 35 llbs for my 5 beds plus a 1/4 cup at planting per square. Am I crazy as a cuckoo? BTW my worms are not producing that amount yet, but I am trying.

Paul
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Post  Kelejan on 10/28/2020, 8:06 pm

@p14shooter wrote:soooo, my calculations sound like they are a bit off. I was trying to only use worm castings for my compost without having to buy compost. I read somewhere about how much (cant remember where now) but i wrote the number down the amount I calculated which was 7lbs per 4x4. 35 llbs for my 5 beds plus a 1/4 cup at planting per square. Am I crazy as a cuckoo? BTW my worms are not producing that amount yet, but I am trying.

Paul
Dear p14shooter, do you mean 35 pounds of worm castings? That would cost you a fortune.  Shocked
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Post  p14shooter on 10/28/2020, 8:15 pm

i do mean 35 pounds.

I don't mean to imply that I am buying that amount. Just that I want to make my own so I don't have to buy any animal compost.
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Post  NanSFG on 10/29/2020, 2:17 am

Wow!  That sounds like a lot of worm castings.  Then I realized my tray is about 18" x 24", 2-3" deep and it weighs about 25 lbs.   That stuff is heavy.  No wonder it is used sparingly on an existing bed.

Now to find a suitable bucket with lid so I can empty that tray to reuse. 
My 2nd tray is not full yet, but it is getting too heavy.  Therefore, I'm not going to put any more food in it.  It will probably take another year before the worms are done.

Thanks for all the insight.
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Post  plantoid on 10/29/2020, 7:45 am

Some may recall I frequently experiment with my square foot gardening  .

All my beds are the soil less growth medium that Mel's came up with . I use chopped steam sterilized coir instead of peat moss .. coir decays faster than peat so needs a bit of a top up each year ( my beds are as old as my membership ) I make my compost in a conical composter device (aka Dalek's ) after the ritual turnings I removed it an stored it in heavy duty brick rubble sacks . I don't produce enough compost each year for my 250 plus square feet of veg beds to solely use if for topping up the beds with pure compost . But as my compost appears to be very rich it's no problem to dilute it with each years spent tomato growth medium ( old used coir ) .

Dropping in a few dozen worms I'd found in the compost as I transferred it from the Dalek's into each rubble bag . 
I then zip tied the bags so no rain could trickle into them by folding the necks over and left them alone in a stack of six or more tied up bags .  I now have a five year cycle of this type of bagged up compost cycle . 
 
The worms had been through the bagged compost big time ,   it had turned to a crumbly black light  slightly coarse granular powder , barely damp enough to compress it into a ball & stay balled up , very easy to break apart.
 
 I made the mistake of using a full bag ( about 5 gallons worth ) of this aged worm worked compost in each of four beds . 

Everything grown in those beds went crazy out growing what I would have considered normal size plants , in a lot of cases it meant things like cabbages would have 2 foot long stalks with a leaf every 2 inches . Cauliflowers were the same with only a tiny curd . Leeks bolted way too early beetroot were all leaf and no root . 

 The next year I topped the beds with spent chopped coir that I'd used for tomatoes in tubs in the glasshouse not adding any compost ... I got the most yellow onions I've ever had in 55 yrs of gardening  well over 55 pound of them .  The climbing beans , broad beans , runner beans peas salad stuff in th same treated beds also did very well .

 From that I conclude that a tremendous amount of worm worked compost complete with maximum amounts of cast is too rich for the beds

   This years mid autumn I will be putting about 2 gallons  of the well worm worked compost to two  X 4 gallon tubs of this years spent tomato growth medium in the four beds that will be getting compost .

 I have four beds that haven't had any compost for three years , they have given me some fantastic rhubarb sticks ... well in excess of 60 pounds off three crowns from three harvests & a dozen or more 16 inch long 3 inch thick parsnips this year ..just need a decent frost to get the parsnips in  tip top condition . for christmas . 

NB.
 For those that find this strange I found that because I want  an abundance of crops all ripening at the same time for canning , drying & freezing  I have to grow a block of the same crop in most of the beds . Very few of my beds have the rich variety that Mel's square foot beds were growing but then our veg needs are totally different hence the adaptation as to what suits me . 

I'm aiming to get two sixteen square foot  beds that have not been given compost for three years so I can get back to growing some 12 inch 1 & 1/2 pound carrots with only one root rather than  the 30 % or so that I currently get with three or more forked roots due to the beds being too rich .
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Post  OhioGardener on 10/29/2020, 10:20 am

@plantoid wrote: For those that find this strange I found that because I want  an abundance of crops all ripening at the same time for canning , drying & freezing  I have to grow a block of the same crop in most of the beds . Very few of my beds have the rich variety that Mel's square foot beds were growing but then our veg needs are totally different hence the adaptation as to what suits me .

I don't find that odd at all, because I do the same thing. For example, I normally have one 4'x12' bed planted with nothing but bush beans so that each harvest of beans will produce enough for freezing or canning.  Same with peppers, the is normally a 4'x8' bed of peppers (bell, banana, and Jalapeno) so that enough can be harvested at one time preserving peppers for winter use. Beets, carrots, onions, etc.? Yes, the same thing. We pick a few beans, a pepper or two, and pull a few onions for dinner, but the primary goal is preserving for winter.  Probably comes from my 60+ years of gardening.....

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Post  yolos on 10/29/2020, 6:18 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:
@plantoid wrote: For those that find this strange I found that because I want  an abundance of crops all ripening at the same time for canning , drying & freezing  I have to grow a block of the same crop in most of the beds . Very few of my beds have the rich variety that Mel's square foot beds were growing but then our veg needs are totally different hence the adaptation as to what suits me .

I don't find that odd at all, because I do the same thing. For example, I normally have one 4'x12' bed planted with nothing but bush beans so that each harvest of beans will produce enough for freezing or canning.  Same with peppers, the is normally a 4'x8' bed of peppers (bell, banana, and Jalapeno) so that enough can be harvested at one time preserving peppers for winter use. Beets, carrots, onions, etc.? Yes, the same thing. We pick a few beans, a pepper or two, and pull a few onions for dinner, but the primary goal is preserving for winter.  Probably comes from my 60+ years of gardening.....
I also grow one crop per bed.  Most of my beds are 4 x 8 or 3 x 8.  I may plant one bed of beans and another of corn etc.  I do not plant different crops in each square.
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