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Posts: 28
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Hello all,

I've posted previously about the new garden flat that I'll be buying soon in the UK. I think it'll be late spring/early summer by the time I buy it - May or June. When I get my new garden, what should I do first? Suggestions of books for new permaculturist gardeners would be welcome! I'm not going to have a normal growing year in my first year of owning garden - but I'm thinking of things like trying to improve the soil in the first year, so that I can perhaps have a more normal growing year in the second year. I would also like to plant a couple of fruit trees and decide on a site for a frog pond asap - so advice on those things would be gratefully received, too. (By the way, ideally, I would like to do some growing in the first year, too, but perhaps just annuals, and maybe in containers until I know the garden and microclimates a bit better before committing to perennials in the second year onwards.)

On the pond issue - I added a small pond to my current garden using a rubber liner. I have liked having a pond - I would have one again just for aesthetic reasons but I actually intended it to be a wildlife pond. Various insects and creatures live in it, but no frogs found it and I never introduced any. I think urban foxes like drinking from it, but I didn't built it for them haha! With my next pond I would like to try and introduce some frogs - partly as a slug-management tactic. Any thoughts on the sustainability/value of ponds made with artificial liners? I could be persuaded to make it with a clay liner if there are good reasons to, but I suspect it becomes a much more labour-intensive process compared to using an articificial liner.

Any advice on some/all of the above would be very welcome!
 
pollinator
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Congrats on the future garden!

Depending on the soil and your available time, you could dig up a patch and plant potatoes and some pumpkins. However, you can not improve your soil with other techniques while you have those potatoes.
Get a compost going. Here is a nice article and things you could source to fill them up quite quickly: https://treadingmyownpath.com/2020/01/23/creating-compost/ (scroll down a bit).

Re pond: Absolutely you should have one! It improves wildlife in so many ways!
Depending on the existing amphibe population around, you could get toads, frogs and newts by natural migration. In my second year our rubber-lined pond already had a frog (sadly its partner was killed, probably by a cat) and a pair of newts! Those are very secretive and you might have ones even if you don't see them (not sure how wide-spread they are in the UK).

And then of course it serves both as drinking place to insects, hedgehogs etc. and as habitat for dragonflies.

The rubber lining (they come in different qualities) is the quickest. My husband and friend dug our tiny pond in one day and laid out the lining.
I know of another natural gardener who uses concrete "bowls" because he wants to be able to clear out the mud that forms after some years and to be able to pump them dry - some amphibe tadpoles are an easy prey to dragonfly larvae and won't make it to adulthood, and the dragonfly larvae live up to two years with increasing appetite. When you renew the water every year you remove those larvae and make life easier for amphibes.

I would look for inspirations from your climate zone, safest bet.
Good luck and have fun planning!
 
gardener
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Have you read my soil series of threads? they should give you lots of ideas for your soil.

I like the rubber pond liners as long as you make them look natural around the rim, most don't even look like there is a liner once the plants are placed (in containers for easy cleaning is my preference).
Some strategically placed stones in the bottom of the pond give shelter as well as helping the natural look, if you are going to have tadpoles, they will appreciate the hiding spots the stones will provide. (so will dragonfly larve but they are part of the ecosystem your pond will attract)

As Anita mentioned, compost is going to be a good thing to have on hand and potatoes are a good first crop when planting later in the season then there are squashes, cukes, beans, all can produce even when planted late.
For the fall crops you will be able to pick the items you want and get them into the soil right on time. (Kale is a great cover crop if you don't like eating it, you can always use it as chop and drop)

Redhawk
 
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Gavin,

Congrats on the new garden!  I wholeheartedly agree with everything that has been said.  I will offer one more suggestion.

If you cannot get a garden going when you first get the land, or if you start a small garden bed with plans on expanding it, I am going to suggest something very simple.  Build a compost pile where you plan to have a future garden.  I say this not because of the compost you will get (but make no mistake, that compost is great too), but because a compost pile just sitting and doing its thing does wonders for the soil beneath.  Next season, remove what residual compost you need and plant right in the ground that previously hosted the compost pile.  It is tempting to think of a compost pile as something to be built, let to run its course, and then torn apart and spread once the process is complete.

This method does work, but perhaps the most helpful part of composting is the fact that the pile and soil sort of biologically grown together.  When I make a compost pile now, I build it right in the bed and I build it not so much for the compost, but rather for what the compost does for the soil beneath.  I will relate a little story.

Years ago we had a very wet spring, the grass grew like mad but I couldn’t get out to mow it.  When I finally did mow, I had absolute hayfields and I needed to rake (normally I just let the clippings sit and decompose in place).  With the huge volume of clippings, I loaded them all up in my tractor bucket and hauled it out to an obscure corner of an orchard.  This was not a proper compost pile.  It was composed almost entirely of grass clippings. When the pile reduced in size from a 6’ tall pile to about a 4” pile, I scraped the remnants off and used them in the garden where they were helpful but not spectacular.

The spot that hosted the pile was incredibly fertile and grew dark, rich green grass for the next 3 years or so.  Better, the pile was located ever so slightly uphill from a baby peach tree about 10-15’ away and the pile leached down that hill and left a stripe of extremely dark rich grass that likewise grew extremely healthy for the next several years.

But best of all, the stripe just barely reached a single baby peach tree, one of several of the same variety in a row.  That particular peach tree grew easily twice as fast and vastly more healthy than any tree in the row.  People would walk by and ask “what kind of peach tree is that?!”  There was nothing special about the tree, but that compost leachate left the ground magically fertile for years to come.

I now place compost piles right in the garden and I don’t care about making the best quality compost,  what decomposes decomposes.  At the end of piles life I either spread the remaining compost or use it to start a new pile.

I know this is a long winded story, but I don’t care anymore about the compost itself, but rather for what the compost pile does for the ground beneath.  If you can do so, I recommend getting a compost pile right where you want your future garden as the pile and soil sort of knit themselves into one and the ground benefits tremendously.

This is all just a suggestion and by all means, do what you think is appropriate.  I look forward to seeing your results, please keep us updated!

Eric
 
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Gavin Prentice wrote:Hello all,

I've posted previously about the new garden flat that I'll be buying soon in the UK. I think it'll be late spring/early summer by the time I buy it - May or June. When I get my new garden, what should I do first? Suggestions of books for new permaculturist gardeners would be welcome! I'm not going to have a normal growing year in my first year of owning garden - but I'm thinking of things like trying to improve the soil in the first year, so that I can perhaps have a more normal growing year in the second year. I would also like to plant a couple of fruit trees and decide on a site for a frog pond asap - so advice on those things would be gratefully received, too. (By the way, ideally, I would like to do some growing in the first year, too, but perhaps just annuals, and maybe in containers until I know the garden and microclimates a bit better before committing to perennials in the second year onwards.)

On the pond issue - I added a small pond to my current garden using a rubber liner. I have liked having a pond - I would have one again just for aesthetic reasons but I actually intended it to be a wildlife pond. Various insects and creatures live in it, but no frogs found it and I never introduced any. I think urban foxes like drinking from it, but I didn't built it for them haha! With my next pond I would like to try and introduce some frogs - partly as a slug-management tactic. Any thoughts on the sustainability/value of ponds made with artificial liners? I could be persuaded to make it with a clay liner if there are good reasons to, but I suspect it becomes a much more labour-intensive process compared to using an articificial liner.

Any advice on some/all of the above would be very welcome!



Good morning Gavin, and welcome to permies!

You are on such a better track than I was when I first started growing!

Now is the time to focus on design and soil fertility.

The following reading recommendations are not in any particular order.

To completely reprogram everything you may have ever learned about gardening, I suggest getting a copy of JADAM.
The following link is just for reference, I would recommend giving other stores a chance to beat Amazon's prices, you'll be surprised.
https://www.amazon.com/JADAM-Organic-Farming-all-Natural-Ultra-Low-Cost/dp/8989220203/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=jadam+organic+gardening&qid=1580389851&sr=8-1
As I implied earlier, this book completely changed the way I looked at organic gardening. Why buy expensive organic products when you can make them yourself?

As Redhawk already mentioned, his soil series is great. It will greatly expand your knowledge gained from JADAM.
https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil

Paul's book is so great for giving you a list of awesome ideas you may have never heard of. This is a great book to find new ideas to try.
https://permies.com/w/better-world

Gaia's garden is another great introductory book. It introduces the Gaia organic gardening method; and should help you with the design of Fruit Tree guilds, ponds, gardens, livestock, and other things of that nature.
https://www.amazon.com/Gaias-Garden-Guide-Home-Scale-Permaculture/dp/1603580298/ref=sr_1_2?crid=IZ3W4I2GHOE0&keywords=gaia%27s+garden+guide+to+home-scale+permaculture&qid=1580390276&sprefix=gaia%27s+garden%2Caps%2C183&sr=8-2


For other suggestions, I would recommend checking out the Permies book review grid.
https://permies.com/w/book-reviews
Check out any book that sparks your interest!

Books by: Bill Mollison , Masanobu Fukuoka , and Sepp Holzer will introduce you to the roots of the Permaculture movement.


And of course, with all this being said, for me: I am a hands on learner, so I am going to assume everyone else is too. I would suggest trying everything out as soon as possible and learning from your mistakes.

Good luck!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I want to explain the reasons for building compost heaps where you plan to garden instead of somewhere other than where you plan to garden. Eric brought up the idea but I have always found it better to know the why we do something so it makes sense to my mind.

I recently wrote up a thread on Humus titled "What the Heck is Humus", in that article I brought up not only the fleeting nature of Humus but I also mentioned that most of any humus formed wants to seep down into the soil and that when it does make it to the soil, it changes almost instantly and is no longer "humus".
Almost any compost heap breaking down from bacterial and fungal actions is going to produce some humus materials and these are going to be in liquid form which means they are going to seep down through the compost heap and soak into the soil below.
Humus conditions soil in several ways; it feeds the organisms of the microbiome, it clumps clay particles so the excretions of the fungi's mycelium can turn them into conglomerates which allows more moisture to be able to seep into the soil, and it provides the building blocks for more compounds to be formed through chemical reactions. All of these things are great for those of us that want to grow things the best way we can.
If we build our compost heaps right where we want soil improvement, we are already two steps ahead of the soil building game since we have provided the means for humus formation and we are keeping the soil moist so maximum micro organism interactions can occur.

If you are in a position that you can't have your compost heaps where you are going to garden, all is not lost, we can place an impermeable membrane (like plastic sheeting or rubber pond liner material) so it is under the compost heap, this will catch those liquids that seep through the materials, some of which will be humus.
Now we have the ability to draw off that liquid and pour it into the garden space, we can even dilute it somewhat so we can cover more soil than if we simply used it "straight". This is how we managed to capture humus for studying what it is and what it is made up of in the lab.

Redhawk
 
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Hey I love that composting in place suggestion from Redhawk. So much easier on the back!
In addition to all the terrific guidance so far, here is one more idea that I found very helpful in my gardening saga. Anita wisely mentions the importance of climate zone. To narrow down my broad zone 7, I also looked at latitude and altitude. In my case, there are only two places on the globe with the same altitude and latitude: one in Afghanistan and one in China. I learned about some remarkable plants from these places that are now thriving in my New Mexico garden: garlic, types of peppers and perennial greens, Afghan pine,... Satellite photos showed greenhouses near the locations. I really enjoyed the internet research about the plants and the recipes for using them.
Have fun Gavin!
Amy
 
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I love having 4 - 6 inch polypipe with no top or bottom and holes in its sides dug into my garden beds as worm towers. Into these I put my kitchen scraps and it is amazing how well the worms deal with them
 
Eric Hanson
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I want to thank Readhawk for expounding on my garden bed compost suggestion.  Just to give an idea of how basic and simply it can be implemented.

In my anecdote, I didn’t really build a compost pile.  Instead I just piled up grass clippings in an irregular cone about 6ish feet high by about 5ish feet in diameter.  The clippings were soaking wet.  I added no browns.  It really was not a particularly well built compost pile at all, just a pile of stuff to get it off the lawn.

After a few days I checked on it on a whim.  I was surprised to see that the pile had shrunk a bit over a foot and I could feel the heat radiated out of the pile.  Again, on a whim, I stuck my hand into the pile and quickly pulled it out to prevent burning myself!

I did poke in a few odds ends just to see what would happen, but the pile continued to shrink rapidly and by midsummer the pile was reduced to a white, ash like looking substance less than a foot high,  It was hard to believe how the pile seemed to almost evaporate.  I did scrape up the residue and applied it to my garden where it helped, but not dramatically.

My point in all of this is that this was anything but a good compost pile, yet it was positively miraculous on the soil beneath.  I do have to wonder what would have happened if I built a proper compost heap and not just dumped clippings.

Now I try to at least make a reasonable facsimile of a true compost pile.  I have never been very good at getting a compost pile to turn into some substance that resembled coffee grounds.  I do try to at least reasonably get the greens and browns approximately correct, but other than that I just let the pile be.  I want to credit RedHawk for giving a good, factual and scientific and explanation for why a compost pile sitting on a garden bed works so well.

I do have to wonder though, how much the ground helps the pile.  I certainly don’t have all of RedHawk’s knowledge, and while the seeping humus certainly helps the soil, I do have to wonder if soil organisms help the pile.  My compost piles seem to gradually merge with with the soil.  There is no discernible separation point between the bottom of the compost pile and the top of the soil.  I frequently see worms making their way into the pile and I imagine that plenty of other soil boots do the same (fungi and bacteria, etc.).  

I am still not great at making compost, but I don’t care.  The pile itself does wonders for the soil.  Whatever remains at the end of the compost either gets placed on other parts of the garden or I use it to start another pile.

Either way, the compost really helps the fertility of the garden bed.  The soil and pile seem to merge together.

Eric
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau Eric, yes, the organisms in the soil migrate back and forth, into a heap then back to their home ground and they do that over and over until there isn't any more food for them in the heap.
If you were fortunate enough to have microscopic seeing eyes, you would even find the mycelium strands that function as highways for the bacteria and other soil dwelling organisms (including the large, single celled organisms like amoeba and flagellates).

Grass clippings do actually create a lot of good things for soil in liquid form.
This comes from the liquid inside the blades coming out from the heating process and once those liquids find their way to the soil they are gobbled up and/or are converted to other forms of nutrients by enzymatic actions of the microbiome organisms.

In the grand scheme My belief is that anything we can use that comes from the soil will also feed the soil if we give it back.
Grass is one of the items I use to build compost heaps and I usually put a giant gob of grass right in the center as I build a heap, the grass is going to heat towards the spontaneous combustion heat level and that allows me to compost animals with out any worries.

Oh, and by the by Kola, if you are making heaps, you are doing great, doesn't matter if they are "text book correct" or just stuff tossed into a pile. Organic stuff rots and that is what we really want it to do, compost is where we just decide where we want the stuff to rot.  

Redhawk
 
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I make compost heaps in the garden and plant directly into them, digging a hole which I fill with good quality soil.  This method works best with transplants or large-seeded crops like squash or beans.  Or I dig a hole in the soil and fill it with kitchen scraps and weeds, and top it off with a few inches of good soil and plant in that.

Either of these methods will result in improved soil while being able to garden immediately.
 
Eric Hanson
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Tyler,

That is a great approach to gardening. I suspect that in your part of Texas that this really helps in retaining moisture.

Nice post!

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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RedHawk,

You mentioned the fungal strands connecting soil and compost.  I suspected as much but did not know for certain.  Glad that you can see the benefit of just throwing things together and letting them rot as opposed to getting a perfect balance or perfect lasagna style.  I have tried to get the perfect lasagna style but I never had the “correct” balance. There were times in the past when I delayed making compost in order to get the perfect balance.  Ultimately I got no compost because I never had the balance.  Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

And thanks kola for continuing to help me along, even if indirectly.  It’s nice to get feedback on what are sometimes a hunch or a random observation.

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Glad that you can see the benefit of just throwing things together and letting them rot as opposed to getting a perfect balance or perfect lasagna style.  
Eric



My place has improved immensely since I stopped worrying about getting every single thing right, and just got out and did what I wanted as well as I could.  A pleasant side effect is that the more times you do something "good enough", the better you get at it.  It took a number of years, but I finally make compost that is truly great.  I would never have gotten there if I hadn't gotten to the point where I thought, "I'll just pile a bunch of crap up and it will rot sooner or later".  Every time I just piled crap up, I observed carefully, and in time figured out how to do better.  This was years after I read everything I could find about making perfect compost.  

If I could give anyone starting out one piece of advice that I wish someone had given to me, it would be that nature is extremely forgiving and all this has been getting done without our help for millions of years, so stop worrying about doing it perfectly, and just do it.  I don't mean just about compost either.  I mean all aspects of planting, growing, gardens, food forests, all of it.  Stop fighting so hard and trust nature.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Trace,

This is really good insight, and your transformation sounds quite similar, identical even to my own experience.  Gardening in general is quite forgiving (nature does not make perfect lasagna styles of random piles of organic material—what falls falls and decomposes anyway).  I had to unlearn a lot of what I learned.

Eric
 
G Prentice
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Thanks for all the comments, they are so helpful - especially as I don't have a lot of experience of conventional gardening, let alone gardening using a permaculture approach.

I've started the move (from my current flat), and some of my pot plants are being stored temporarily on a 6th floor balcony (until I buy my new garden flat). I'm getting some good first-hand experience of the affect that wind has on plants - it's an exposed NW-facing balcony, and currently winter in the UK, so tough conditions. I need to create some sort of windbreak to reduce the punishment that they're getting. Luckily, all the plants are pretty hardy, so hopefully they'll survive.
 
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Gavin - when you say garden flat, do you mean that your garden is a large balcony over another building, or on a roof?
 
G Prentice
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No, it will be a ground floor flat which has a normal garden.
 
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Hi, Gavin. I, too,am starting a new garden!  As you suggested, I'm working on soil improvement.  For a first year yield, I'm planting beans, peas, and peanuts along with a lot of annuals in raised beds. I'm also planting Goumi, a nitrogen-fixing berry shrub ; soil improvement is the first few years, and berries after that!

Hope you enjoy your new garden as much as I am enjoying mine!
Cori
 
G Prentice
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Hi Cori,

Nice to hear from other newbies! I will also grow some annuals in pots while I'm deciding on a longer-term layout/design for the garden and improving soil etc.

You mentioned berries after a few years, are they very sensitive to soil condition/quality? Fruit bushes were one of the things that I was hoping to plant quite soon. Any tips gratefully received! I planted raspberry bushes in my current garden and I thought they gave a fairly decent yield each year, but I didn't do much research on what conditions they like - I just planted them on the sunny side of the garden and kept them watered in the summer.

I had strawberries in clay pots, too  - but they stopped producing berries after a couple of years. My blackcurrant bush produced only a few berries, but it was a small plant when I planted it, so it probably needed more time to mature.
 
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Gavin, congrats! Waiting a season is a wise idea. I had a similarly-timed move that forced me to wait a growing season (albeit with a decent patch of annual veggies), and though I felt very impatient that first year, I gained a lot of value from observing the site throughout the growing season. When the next year rolled around, I had a really good plan ready to go and knew a bunch of site-specific information that helped me make good decisions.

Getting compost started is a great suggestion. Now would also be the best time to have your soil tested if you intend to do that. The other task I'd suggest is putting down sheet mulch on any areas you know you want to plant if they have sod or weeds or otherwise need help. It's possible to do this at the same time as planting, but it's much nicer to deal with if the sheet mulch has had time to fully kill what's underneath and have everything start to break down. If you get it put down in summer or fall, by spring you'll have a lovely bed ready to plant. Plus, giving stuff time to break down in place is like free compost that you don't have to turn or haul around.

I have a couple book recommendations. They're both focused on North America, but I think a lot of the information (and certainly most of the design advice) still ought to have value for you. Gaia's Garden is a classic and a really nice readable introduction to permaculture concepts, if you need that. If you want to get really serious about planning, Edible Forest Gardens Volume 2 is an incredible resource. Volume 1 is more theory, which is good if you want it, but is not entirely necessary to take advantage of the practical advice in Volume 2. Volume 2 not only has extensive and detailed information about useful plants, but it also walks you through a comprehensive design process that can be as detailed or as simple as you want to make it. As someone new to landscape design, I found it hugely helpful in giving me tools to think about my site, my wishes, and how to develop solutions that fit both.
 
Cori Warner
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Hey, Gavin. The Goumi berries I mentioned are not particular about soil at all. Aronia is supposedly fairly tolerant. I'm working on beds for blueberries, which are very pick about soil. I'm also planting ground cherries and garden huckleberries, whhich are annuals while I'm waiting on soil improvements so I can plant othere fruits and berries.

 
pollinator
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Along the lines that Redhawk and Eric have said concerning compost, I would suggest something you can do now before you close on your property and have a kickstart on your first years garden.  It is super compost that you can start now.   It won't take up too much space in your home and you have a 3 to 4 months headstart in which to do it.

Make worm castings for your garden, or in other words become a worm farmer. Make as many worm bins as you have room for in your current location and do it immediately.  I and others on Permies can help you do it without the failures that most first time wormers encounter.  For example if you invest in 4 tubs and the worms for them, the cost would be roughly $150.  You would be able to produce about 6 cu ft of castings by June.   You can add it to the soil when you plant individual plants and you can make a foliar worm tea with it or worm tea to water/fertilize the plants with.   Going forward you can keep the same production rate of 6 cu ft/ 4 months or you can expand.  My motto is you can never have too much worm castings.

I would also suggest you go online an purchase some Russian comfrey (bocking 4 or 14)root cuttings and get them started in a window box or equivalent.  They take a while to get started so you can gain a whole year by starting now.  In 4 months they will be nice sized plants and you can plant them in the existing soil as they will grow most anywhere.  When they are late in the second year you can start chop and drop and they also make great compost tea for feeding your garden.  So that is two things you can do today to make a difference in your garden with a small amount of space.

Congratulations and best wishes,

Ralph
 
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Ralph Kettell wrote:Along the lines that Redhawk and Eric have said concerning compost, I would suggest something you can do now before you close on your property and have a kickstart on your first years garden.  It is super compost that you can start now.   It won't take up too much space in your home and you have a 3 to 4 months headstart in which to do it.

Make worm castings for your garden, or in other words become a worm farmer. Make as many worm bins as you have room for in your current location and do it immediately.  I and others on Permies can help you do it without the failures that most first time wormers encounter.  For example if you invest in 4 tubs and the worms for them, the cost would be roughly $150.  You would be able to produce about 6 cu ft of castings by June.   You can add it to the soil when you plant individual plants and you can make a foliar worm tea with it or worm tea to water/fertilize the plants with.   Going forward you can keep the same production rate of 6 cu ft/ 4 months or you can expand.  My motto is you can never have too much worm castings.

I would also suggest you go online an purchase some Russian comfrey (bocking 4 or 14)root cuttings and get them started in a window box or equivalent.  They take a while to get started so you can gain a whole year by starting now.  In 4 months they will be nice sized plants and you can plant them in the existing soil as they will grow most anywhere.  When they are late in the second year you can start chop and drop and they also make great compost tea for feeding your garden.  So that is two things you can do today to make a difference in your garden with a small amount of space.

Congratulations and best wishes,

Ralph



I just started my own worm farm yesterday and I am so excited about it. I am in the process of building a new compost bin for our property (has to be in a stationary position away from my other community members per my boss otherwise I love the compost piles right in the garden area idea) and I plan on planting comfrey around the edges of the wall. I guess I should get some seeds now!
 
Ralph Kettell
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Rachel Hankins wrote:
I just started my own worm farm yesterday and I am so excited about it. I am in the process of building a new compost bin for our property (has to be in a stationary position away from my other community members per my boss otherwise I love the compost piles right in the garden area idea) and I plan on planting comfrey around the edges of the wall. I guess I should get some seeds now!



Hi Rachel,

I can give you a few pointers that I have learned since raising worms for the past year plus.

First some questions, what type of container are you using for your worm farm?  What is your bedding material?  How often are you feeding them and how much?  How many worms and what type are you starting with? Where are you keeping them (mainly for environmental/temperature reasons)?

With that info, i can provide you with more specific suggestions.

I now have 5 bins going and about to expand to 7 or 9.  I plan on producing a lot of worms castings for this growing season.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
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Ralph Kettell wrote:

Rachel Hankins wrote:
I just started my own worm farm yesterday and I am so excited about it. I am in the process of building a new compost bin for our property (has to be in a stationary position away from my other community members per my boss otherwise I love the compost piles right in the garden area idea) and I plan on planting comfrey around the edges of the wall. I guess I should get some seeds now!



Hi Rachel,

I can give you a few pointers that I have learned since raising worms for the past year plus.

First some questions, what type of container are you using for your worm farm?  What is your bedding material?  How often are you feeding them and how much?  How many worms and what type are you starting with? Where are you keeping them (mainly for environmental/temperature reasons)?

With that info, i can provide you with more specific suggestions.

I now have 5 bins going and about to expand to 7 or 9.  I plan on producing a lot of worms castings for this growing season.

Sincerely,

Ralph



I got one of those vermihut 5 tray huts and 250 worms from Uncle Jim's. I figured pre-set up would be easier for a beginner like me.

I used the coconut coir to start. I put some shredded paper, eggshells and some carrots scraps in there as well with a layer of wet newspaper on top. I am keeping them in the basement of the woman's dorm (we have a germination room down there) so they stay warm and toasty during NH winter.  I have a covered bin that I will be putting in our kitchen once they get settled in and going on those scraps. On the front I have what's allowable for the worms and have been talking up the worms to the women residents (they think I'm weird and slightly creeped out that I am keeping them where they live) My instagram photos of it:  https://www.instagram.com/p/B8PkR88pxAI/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link



I would love to expand from 250 worms so I can add them to our future bigger compost and fields and lawns etc
 
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Rachel Hankins wrote:

I used the coconut coir to start. I put some shredded paper, eggshells and some carrots scraps in there as well with a layer of wet newspaper on top. I am keeping them in the basement of the woman's dorm (we have a germination room down there) so they stay warm and toasty during NH winter.  I have a covered bin that I will be putting in our kitchen once they get settled in and going on those scraps. On the front I have what's allowable for the worms and have been talking up the worms to the women residents (they think I'm weird and slightly creeped out that I am keeping them where they live) My instagram photos of it:  https://www.instagram.com/p/B8PkR88pxAI/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I would love to expand from 250 worms so I can add them to our future bigger compost and fields and lawns etc



Hi Rachel, it sounds like you are off to a good start with the worms. They also really like moistened cardboard. I put in larger pieces for my worms (they live in a 4ft. cubed compost pile and I add 6-12" pieces here and there, now and again).  Also, keep in mind that they are composting worms and don't want to live in lawns, earth, etc. They have different living needs/preferences than earthworms.
Enjoy them- I love my worms!
 
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Hi Rachel,

Sorry for the delay in responding, but the weekends are a busy time here. As Annie said you are off to a good start.  Also I agree with her comment on cardboard although I shred my cardboard in a paper shredder.  It is my primary bedding material.  Coco coir and peat moss make good bedding but they don't have much nutrition for the little guys.  That's why I I prefer cardboard.  It is bedding that turns into food and then worm castings.  If you have a source of manure, try composting the cardboard with the manure.  Once it is no longer hot, add it to the bin.  The cardboard will have begun to break down and the manure will have gone through its initial break down which is too hot for the little wigglers.

I clean of all the tape and labels and use mostly unpainted cardboard.  I have a medium size paper shredder and it does just fine shredding most cardboard.  You have to remember to lubricate it, and feed reasonable sized pieces into it and it should shred for you.  Mine over heats after a while and then I give it a rest and start again after it has cooled down.  I now try to do it in smaller batches and rarely have it over heat.

With the worm setup you have purchased you will not have the problem that is common in many start-up worm bins which use plastic bins.  The problem with plastic bins is lack of ventilation.  You will, however, have to keep your bedding moist in the worm tower  by adding water every few days.  Don't drench it, and check it after a day or two to make sure it is not too wet.  If it is too wet mix it up a bit, move the wettest bedding to the top where it will dry out more readily and if need be add some sprinkles of dry bedding to the wettest spots to soak up some of the excess moisture.

The biggest problem most people have with their worms is over feeding.  At the moment you only have 250 worms.  They will not die of starvation  and if you add some cardboard they will have something to munch on if the preferred food, scraps, run out.  You will know if you are overfeeding if the bin starts to stink.  Check the old food and make sure most of it is gone before adding more.  Feed in a different location from the last feeding.  Keep then moving around.

The trick to speeding up the castings production process a bit is using a blender to grind up the food before feeding it to the worms or freeze it which will help break down the food when it thaws.  In summer time it is not a bad idea to add the frozen food to the bin when still frozen.  It will act as temporary cooling for a warmer summer bin.

Never ever place your bin in the sun. If it is outside, keep it in the shade.

Happy worming

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
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Annie Collins wrote: Hi Rachel, it sounds like you are off to a good start with the worms. They also really like moistened cardboard. I put in larger pieces for my worms (they live in a 4ft. cubed compost pile and I add 6-12" pieces here and there, now and again).  Also, keep in mind that they are composting worms and don't want to live in lawns, earth, etc. They have different living needs/preferences than earthworms.
Enjoy them- I love my worms!



Thanks for the tip! It led me to a google search on my type of worms and how it is actually an invasive species for NH (as a northern forest) and should be kept in a closed compost system. I guess there are no indigenous earth worms for the North due to post ice age conditions and any worms you find are probably from Europe or Asia.
 
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Ralph Kettell wrote:Hi Rachel,

Sorry for the delay in responding, but the weekends are a busy time here. As Annie said you are off to a good start.  Also I agree with her comment on cardboard although I shred my cardboard in a paper shredder.  It is my primary bedding material.  Coco coir and peat moss make good bedding but they don't have much nutrition for the little guys.  That's why I I prefer cardboard.  It is bedding that turns into food and then worm castings.  If you have a source of manure, try composting the cardboard with the manure.  Once it is no longer hot, add it to the bin.  The cardboard will have begun to break down and the manure will have gone through its initial break down which is too hot for the little wigglers.

I clean of all the tape and labels and use mostly unpainted cardboard.  I have a medium size paper shredder and it does just fine shredding most cardboard.  You have to remember to lubricate it, and feed reasonable sized pieces into it and it should shred for you.  Mine over heats after a while and then I give it a rest and start again after it has cooled down.  I now try to do it in smaller batches and rarely have it over heat.

With the worm setup you have purchased you will not have the problem that is common in many start-up worm bins which use plastic bins.  The problem with plastic bins is lack of ventilation.  You will, however, have to keep your bedding moist in the worm tower  by adding water every few days.  Don't drench it, and check it after a day or two to make sure it is not too wet.  If it is too wet mix it up a bit, move the wettest bedding to the top where it will dry out more readily and if need be add some sprinkles of dry bedding to the wettest spots to soak up some of the excess moisture.

The biggest problem most people have with their worms is over feeding.  At the moment you only have 250 worms.  They will not die of starvation  and if you add some cardboard they will have something to munch on if the preferred food, scraps, run out.  You will know if you are overfeeding if the bin starts to stink.  Check the old food and make sure most of it is gone before adding more.  Feed in a different location from the last feeding.  Keep then moving around.

The trick to speeding up the castings production process a bit is using a blender to grind up the food before feeding it to the worms or freeze it which will help break down the food when it thaws.  In summer time it is not a bad idea to add the frozen food to the bin when still frozen.  It will act as temporary cooling for a warmer summer bin.

Never ever place your bin in the sun. If it is outside, keep it in the shade.

Happy worming

Sincerely,

Ralph



Thank you so much! I don't have a grinder (yet - but I am keeping an eye out on craigslist). Freezing the food is genius.

I have a chipper that I can use for cardboard. I just added some hand ripped strips with a little bit of coffee grinds and a cup of water this morning. They had tried to escape a Friday but seem to have accepted their new surroundings. I left a few dead worm bodies around the tower as a warning ;)  We "make" lots of cardboard on our hill (I think we get an amazon delivery every day) so that is a never ending source plus the kitchen scraps. I am holding back the compost bin from Kitchen until they start eating their other food. We also have cows so I am going to check how long that pile of manure has been sitting out there (I've only just got back to the hill in December).

 
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Amy Gardener wrote:Hey I love that composting in place suggestion from Redhawk. So much easier on the back!
...To narrow down my broad zone 7, I also looked at latitude and altitude. In my case, there are only two places on the globe with the same altitude and latitude: one in Afghanistan and one in China. Amy


Hey Amy -- I live southwest of you and 2000' higher altitude.  I like your idea about finding matching latitude/altitude places around the globe to see what they successfully grow there.  How did you go about finding those places? Thanks!
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