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Weed barrier? and earthworms?

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Post  lakemom Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:57 am

While digging up the grass where my beds are going I was finding an amazing number of fat healthy earthworms. I was planning on putting weed barrier cloth down before adding the Mel's Mix into the beds, but am now wondering if I should just put the mix on top of the topsoil so the worms can move on up into the mix. Or don't I want worms in my Mel's mix? Or should I save them in a bucket and add them to the Mel's Mix once it is in the bed. I really don't want the any grass roots that I may have missed taking over my SFG but I love earthworms!
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Post  chocolatepop Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:39 am

Hi! I too, wanted the benefits of "squiggles" as my daughter called them, so in some boxes we used cardboard and newspaper as weed barrier. It will biodegrade leaving the worms able to maneuver up into the square foot, but because you've basically "killed" the grass and weeds from the cradboard and newspaper, you don't have to worry about it Wink
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Post  Lavender Debs Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:03 am

That is a great question.

I always toss them into the compost when I come across them while weeding. Amazing how four to five worms explode into hundreds in the compost. The compost is nice and damp. It worried me a little to see how dry it was for them when I mixed the compost with the peat and vermiculite.

I've always been careful to feed my soil instead of my plants. Mulch was for the hungry wormies. What will they eat in this mix? I do the same in my pots but I top dress with alfalfa meal, corn meal and a little sifted compost and bagged manure....which is good for the plants but is also good for the worms who keep the pots nicely aerated and alive.

Guess I'll see how it goes for them this year.

Deborah ...who does have the barrier on the bottom of the new box.
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Post  boffer Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:17 am

We started to get into a debate about this in the old forum, but it petered out.

The point was made that by using finished compost, there was nothing left for the worms to eat in mel's mix.

Thoughts?
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Post  boffer Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:22 am

I like worms in my beds, too. And as how most of mine are TTs, and I never see worms walking up the steel legs, I add worms to my boxes when I can. I keep a small compost pile of kitchen scraps just to harvest worms. Maybe it's a waste of time but it makes me feel good.

We have had some nice days, and I have done some weeding in my raised beds. It's interesting how all the worms I find are all around the root structure of the weeds. Alas, few weeds in my TTs, and few worms.
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Post  Josh Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:11 pm

We don't use weed cloth barrier either, we used several layers of damp newspaper. We have never had any problems with weeds in the SFGs, maybe once in a while there would be one or two show up from a weed seed that had landed in there.

The worms need to go deep into the ground when the temperatures are too high or if the soil becomes to dry, if they can't, they will die. They may climb out of the box if they need to if the weed cloth barrier prevents them from going deeper.

They may find things to eat by eating on dead leaves that have fallen or dead roots left from a plant. My SFGs have worms in them all the time, but I add worm compost and there are the worm cocoons in the worm compost and they may hatch out and that is where they come from.
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Post  donnainzone5 Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:16 pm

I use weed barrier in my SFGs and have quite a few worms. In answer to my question about how worms would get into the boxes of Mel's Mix, Mel once said, "They will come." They did.

I use worm castings as one ingredient in the Mel's Mix, which may help.
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Post  sjdarji Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:27 pm

I have a large open compost bin and the worms are really enjoying themselves in there. When I add the compost to the boxes when I rotate crops, should I just leave the worms in there? Don't fish them out and put them back in the compost bin?

I worry they wouldn't have enough food in there.

Thanks!
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Post  bullfrogbabe Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:14 pm

I removed the sod and installed weed barrier under the two 4x4 boxes I installed last year but had grass and fir roots invade my garden anyways.

I just spent the last 2 days emptying one 4x4 box and sifting the roots/grass out of the Mel's mix so I could re-install a thicker root barrier to start fresh again this year. When I cleaned out the box to see how the grass and roots were getting in, they had grown right through the weed barrier cloth; I guess the cheap stuff doesn't work as well? I had to go shopping to buy a thicker root barrier (hopefully it will work better).

I'm really ticked off and tired out, and still have one more box to empty, sift out grass/roots, and reinstall. The grass grows like crap in my lawn but is strong enough to grow under my boxes and through the weed cloth to invade my SFG that is supposed to be weed-free!

I caution folks not to skimp on the weed barrier especially if the grass you have is aggressive -- emptying boxes, sifting roots/grass from soil, and re-installing them is a lot of work! Not something I was planning on having to do, when I just installed the boxes last year.

Sorry about the rant, but I found several worms under the old root barrier cloth, so I added them into the soil when I reloaded the box. The weed barrier had kept them out, I didn't see any worms while I was sifting through the soil removing grass runners and roots.

Worm castings have potential to contain worm eggs, maybe that's how they are getting into your boxes?
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Post  Jeff Buffington Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:28 pm

bullfrogbabe wrote:I just spent the last 2 days emptying one 4x4 box and sifting the roots/grass out of the Mel's mix so I could re-install a thicker root barrier to start fresh again this year. When I cleaned out the box to see how the grass and roots were getting in, they had grown right through the weed barrier cloth; I guess the cheap stuff doesn't work as well? I had to go shopping to buy a thicker root barrier (hopefully it will work better).
I think I may be in the same boat later this year... I found a weed sprouting in one of my squares... tried to pull it and discovered it was deeper than I thought... kept pulling, and kept breaking off... finally, I decided I would just keep tabs on if for now.

I put down newspaper AND weed barrier... and was expecting to be able to easily pull the weeds out. However, with all the rain we had last week, and the aggresiveness of the weeds here, I think I may have found my first problem child.

I'm really ticked off and tired out, and still have one more box to empty, sift out grass/roots, and reinstall. The grass grows like crap in my lawn but is strong enough to grow under my boxes and through the weed cloth to invade my SFG that is supposed to be weed-free!
Yep.. sounds all too familiar.

I caution folks not to skimp on the weed barrier especially if the grass you have is aggressive -- emptying boxes, sifting roots/grass from soil, and re-installing them is a lot of work! Not something I was planning on having to do, when I just installed the boxes last year.
I'm thinking that I really should've gone for the cardboard, or doing the elevated beds with plywood bottoms now.
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Post  boffer Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:03 am

Hey Jeff,
I've joked before about using a concrete pad to set sfg boxes on for weed control. I wonder if it's worth seriously considering? Getting pre-mix from the big box store would cost $2 plus change per square foot. And would help protect your boxes from the high water tides in your backyard!
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Post  Jeff Buffington Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:16 am

boffer wrote:Hey Jeff,
I've joked before about using a concrete pad to set sfg boxes on for weed control. I wonder if it's worth seriously considering? Getting pre-mix from the big box store would cost $2 plus change per square foot. And would help protect your boxes from the high water tides in your backyard!

Ironically, half of my pictures were taken from the cement slab quasi-driveway on the south side of my house! Of course, it's at an angle (sloped away from the house)... but still, I found it humorous that someone bothered to put a driveway along that side of the house, without tying it into the real driveway, as well as without reinforcing it. I broke a good chunk of it, last year, backing up onto it with my peat moss and compost in the rear of my SUV. Shocked

My best guess is the original owner only used it to park his Bass boat on.. and the original owner is likely the son of my landlord... so... go figure. :o (Well, that and the name of his now ex-wife is written in another slab of concrete in front of my house. Laughing )
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Post  cliftyman Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:36 pm

It may come back to haunt me but I didn't put bottoms in my boxes... I just built frames and I didn't put down a weed barrier. What I did was lay my frames out and took my mattock out of the shed and dug up about 6 inches of soil underneath the frames and tried to remove all the grass I could.

I figured there wasn't many types of seed that could tunnel up through a foot of soil....

Now I don't have to worry about drainage and those worms can get up into my box if they want to (and they are in it cause everytime I dig in it I find at least 4 or 5 big squigglers....
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Post  mckr3441 Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:06 am

Don't skimp on weed barrier! Isn't that the truth.

Last year we dug out daylilly bulbs from about an 8' diameter area and put a 2x6 box in there. Well, we didn't get all the bulbs (of course!) and now they are popping up outside the box from under cardboard, plastic (with little holes in it "so the water can get thru" -- uh huh) weed barrier, and six inches of wood chipped cypress mulch!!! They better not show up IN my box.

It was all the weed barrier left at the end of summer and now I know why. I bought the first woven weed barrier I found this spring. No more plastic with holes for me!!! Weed barrier?  and earthworms? Icon_evil
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Post  timwardell Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:43 am

Amen Claire! The plastic stuff with the tiny holes in it is CRAP compared to the woven/cloth/fabric type of weed barrier. Yes, the good stuff is more expensive but you get what you pay for and it's going to be down their FOREVER (or until you move the raised beds). The little extra money more than pays for itself when you don't have to re-do the entire set up.
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Post  ander217 Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:23 pm

Oh, no. My DH bought the plastic stuff with the little holes in it. This is our first year with SFG and I didn't realize there were different qualities of weed barrier.

Woe is me.

At least we only have one 4 x 4' box built and planted in a corner of our row-style garden. Thanks for the tip, and I'll look around for the good stuff. Anybody have a good source for it?
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Post  blackcat54 Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:45 pm

Why is a weed barrier necessary between the bottom of a garden bed and the earth? Isn't 6" of Mel's Mix sufficient to act as a mulch to prevent any weed seeds lying underneath from sprouting through to the upside? 

I don't want to block the migration of earthworms to and from my raised beds. My compost pile has no weed barrier and is chock full of earthworms and once placed into the garden bed I worry about restricting them to the limited confines of the garden bed with a weed barrier.

Thoughts?
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Post  sanderson Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:10 pm

It's a trade off, I guess. My larger boxes are set directly on the dirt, then lined with weed fabric bringing it up a couple of inches on the sides. This fall I found a large earthworm in one of the boxes. I guess he squeezed in between the box and fabric.

Some folks use worm tubes with composting (fishing) little red worms. What I'm trying on one bed is an open bottom 3" worm tube. I cut out a 3" circle in the weed fabric and set the worm tube over it. So what ever worm wants to come into the tube to feed is welcomed to stay in the box or go back into the dirt
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Post  Goosegirl Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:14 pm

A weed barrier is not necessary, but could be beneficial if you have nasties that will make it even through 6 inches of mulch.  A few that come to mind are:  Bermuda grass, quack grass, bindweed, wild mints, dandelions.  I deal with all of these except the bermuda grass, but several forum members deal with it.  Since I had been doing lasagna gardening where I sat my boxes, I had fairly good textured compost/peat mix already under them.  Except one box that is ALWAYS battling bindweed, the other boxes are down to just an errant mint or dandelion now and then.  I have VERY active worms in all my boxes, and approximately 10-12" total MM growing depth in all my boxes.  I have no real regrets at having bottomless boxes, but I do have to say that if I had known how bad the bindweed was going to be in that one box, I would have put a cast iron bottom on it!!!  This year I am going to sift the box to remove as much of the remaining bindweed roots as I can, and I may line it before refilling.

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Post  sanderson Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:15 pm

It's a trade off, I guess. My larger boxes are set directly on the dirt, then lined inside with weed fabric bringing it up a couple of inches on the sides. This fall I found a large earthworm in one of the boxes. I guess he squeezed in between the box and fabric!

Some folks use worm tubes with composting (fishing) little red worms. What I'm trying in one bed is an open bottom 3" worm tube. I cut out a 3" circle in the weed fabric and set the worm tube over it. So what ever worm wants to come into the tube to feed is welcomed to stay in the box or go back into the dirt.


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Post  talentetta Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:45 am

If you want to harvest earthworms, just lay a tarp on your driveway. I had some compost sitting there all winter, and when I went to use it in my MM, there were worms galore under the tarp! I have TTs, and was considering adding them, since they were there. Also, rainy day driveway is a great source. I would squish 'em if I wasn't looking where I was steppin'!Weed barrier?  and earthworms? Icon_wink
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Post  AtlantaMarie Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:09 pm

I've got 2 layers of weed barrier between the dirt & my MM.  And grass STILL was able to get in and rooted...  But I also got worms, which was quite unexpected!  And I found baby worms as I was de-rooting the beds a few days ago.
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Post  Elizabeth Fri Apr 03, 2015 4:38 pm

My 2 cents.

When it comes to weed barrier DO NOT skimp.  Spend a little more and get heavy, woven, contractor grade cloth.  The stuff you get at big box stores that looks like felt is junk and not worth the $$ or time and effort to fool with it.

I have big, juicy, beautiful earthworms at the bottom of my compost bins.  When it rains I walk around the driveway and concrete patio and "Rescue" stranded earthworms.  They either go into the compost bins or the garden boxes.


As soon as G is feeling well enough we will install new boxes.  I will take a couple of handfuls of native soil from beneath my compost and turn in with my Mel's Mix.  I LIKE having worms in the garden.
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Post  ralitaco Fri Apr 17, 2015 11:33 pm

Elizabeth wrote:When it comes to weed barrier DO NOT skimp.  Spend a little more and get heavy, woven, contractor grade cloth.  The stuff you get at big box stores that looks like felt is junk and not worth the $$ or time and effort to fool with it.
Where do you get the contractor grade cloth? 
Do you have a brand name? 
How about a picture so I know what to look for.

I have the wimpy felt stuff but am planning on building 2 more boxes soon.
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Post  MrBooker Wed Mar 30, 2016 5:45 am

sanderson wrote:It's a trade off, I guess.   My larger boxes are set directly on the dirt, then lined with weed fabric bringing it up a couple of inches on the sides.  This fall I found a large earthworm in one of the boxes.  I guess he squeezed in between the box and fabric.

Some folks use worm tubes with composting (fishing) little red worms.  What I'm trying on one bed is an open bottom 3" worm tube.  I cut out a 3" circle in the weed fabric and set the worm tube over it.  So what ever worm wants to come into the tube to feed is welcomed to stay in the box or go back into the dirt

A "worm tube"..  Good idea. I have three boxes with weed barriers, one of which is already planted. I still have a few empty squares in the other two boxes and will try the "worm tubes" today. Thanks.
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