Sunday, March 21, 2010

intervention cannot be far behind

My winter wormery*, about which I seem not to have written (bad blogger! no chocolate), proved to be a hospitable home for more than Verne. The immature insects may or may not live through the planned solarization**--I'm baiting away such of the wriggle as is willing to be moved, but the rest shall be sacrificed. Had considered, briefly, trying the usual soil-cover/weight/time salvage technique, but it turns out I need the container.

See, the insulated cooler's a good size and well suited for large-plant hydroponics, and I've just learned of a variation on the aquaponics model I simply have to try. Not quite as described, of course; fermenting food doesn't require rabbits around here. I have buckets for that!

My adventures in low-tech hydro don't get a lot of space on the 'slope, mostly because they're neither wholly failures nor great successes, and therefore don't make great reading. -G- Also, they don't use a great deal of bokashi, though I have been known to add a few drops of very diluted bokashi juice to a feed-mix. But hydroponics has a lot of benefits for the soil-poor gardener. Beginning with the fact that it doesn't take any soil.

I'm far too lazy to be forever brewing up and aerating seaweed and vermicompost teas for optimum nutrition; hence the appeal of aquaponics, where my goldfish fertilizes the water for me. But my aquarium bucket's only good for a few heads of lettuce or other "wet-footed" plants at a time. Can't drain off much of the water for additional plants, either, lest the fish succumb to terminal stress.

Vermicompost tea is one of the more common non-commercial feed-mixes, but I found only one authority willing to substitute fermentation for aeration in the process. (Which doesn't necessarily mean it isn't possible. Someone has to be first!) For the most part, homebrew recipes for hydroponic nutrient solutions are relatively labor-intensive, though it's generally assumed that labor will be mechanical.

But this model lets the worms do all the work. No tea-aeration necessary. For that matter, no brewing. I absolutely have to try it. Or maybe I just couldn't resist the name. Vermiponics, isn't it great?

Now if only I could figure out where I'm going to put this newest experiment. To grow plants, I need sunlight...

Feeling rootbound and overly shaded,


Note that this image is of a blackworm, Lumbriculus variegatus, not Verne. But, hey, how many swimming worm animations have you seen lately? It comes from the Charles Drewes' collection of educational materials.

*The Igloo was an insulated cooler donated by a neighbor. ("It has a spigot. I thought of you.") No airholes added, but container not filled, to allow an airpocket of sorts. Mesh frame to allow for drainage; standard worm bedding of moistened cardboard and newspaper, soil for grit, etc. Started with leaves and bokashi, pre-composted in the container before the worms were added. Fed infrequent large batches of compostables. Happy worms, finished vermicompost with some patches of pure 'cast, babies, and more insects than I've seen in a wormery since I gave up on the indoor model. Not something I'm doing again!

**Simple plan: carboard over pavement, far away from my plants. Very thin layer of insect-ridden bedding more or less free of worms. Clear plastic cover. Weights. More time than you'd think.

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