The transition to Organic gardening....

Discussion in 'Organics' started by Chip Green, Jan 18, 2018.

    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    I've mentally committed to going Organic. There's no explaining why, anybody who is doing this already knows why. I've long been fascinated with natural science. I'm capable of maximum dork levels of gathering information. Just over a year ago, I had never heard of a COB LED, that's how I stumbled into RIU, researching new indoor light tech. Since then with, the help of the many knowledgeable forum members, I've built all of the lighting currently in use, for my chronic pain stricken Fathers' medicinal grow....
    I've been lurking in this section for quite some time,

    All of the reasons I had to NOT grow organically are gone....I now own a house, with a BIG Fn' yard, with zoning for Agricultural use, near my very small hometown in Da U.P. of Michigan.....
    Greenhouse, composting, worm farm, produce garden, I'm eventually going ALL IN on all of it, and even hoping to acquire the neighboring empty lots for further expansion...

    I'm changing my focus from "LED Dork" to full on "Soil Nerd", and I'm going to need some guidance, and this is obviously the place to get quality direction.

    So since its the DEAD of winter up here, I figure about the only thing I can do to get this ball rolling is get a worm bin started. Basic, and simple- a two plastic tote starter bin. The videos around will get me through that, I just have one question before I order some wigglers....

    How many worms should I start with?

    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    hello fellow michigander!!!! I love da UP! i live in LP currently... but it's my dream to live up there one day (likely in the marquette area or west of there). BEAUTIFUL county.

    as for the worm bin.... just depends on your bin size really. i started with 1k worms in a 15-20 gallon bin with about 10 gal of bedding. after my 2nd harvest i split the colony into two bins. i have harvest those bins once, and the next harvest i will split them again.

    when you get that first run of organic goodness... you will be reassured why you chose this venture. the quality on all fronts is 2nd to none, and i have many who attest to that constantly. plus, it's great for subsistence, water conservation, the environment, work load for the grower (being water only is a PLEASURE), all around just beneficial. and you provide a greater buffet of nutrients for your plants, which allows them to build compounds that traditional bottle feeds can not because of lack of mineral diversity. everything was better: flavors, terps, smoothness, stalk strength, you name it.j

    currently i'm making the switch to complete no till, which for me is the only way now haha. its just much less work. no more breaking down root balls and mixing soils every run... just topdress nutrients and compost and let her rip. chop and plant same day. could it be any simpler?

    good luck. there are many good folk in here (regardless of what you may have heard about the organic forum here lol).
    DonTesla and newgrow16 like this.
    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    Around the turn of the century, I was a stealth grower for a little while when I lived in WI. In those "weed head" days, in my circle of friends, I was(still am) the science guy. I grew the weed, and the shrooms.... "Earth Juice" was introduced, that was as close to all natural, as I got. I always believed there was a better way, just never had the means to truly accomplish natural methods.
    I would have liked to take that road from the beginning, in my latest journey, but it just wasn't possible realistically. I had to get up and running with whatever I had to use, to get some KNOWN safe Meds for the Ol' Man. Lots of "growers" around, very few caregivers....

    Ive been saving all the used medium in a barrel for springtime revival. Lots of Sphagnum Peat/ perlite/ compost mixes I tinkered with, then came the Coco, Ive got 50+ gallons of frozen rootballs In the garage, springtime rains to wash away the chems, then re-use in soil building.
    Our little Library has a surprisingly complete collection of Organic method gardening books, so Ive got that knowledge base building on the regular.
    The soil food web fascinates me, chomping at the bit to use it to its full potential
    All in due time, much preparation to be done.
    DonTesla, Richard Drysift and ShLUbY like this.

    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    used earth juice myself in the past. totally agree with you... lots of "growers"... very few who produce the real, quality medicine.

    do you already have some background in soil biology? if so, you'll transition to organics with ease!
    DonTesla likes this.
    Richard Drysift

    Richard Drysift Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the next level!
    I started out with 250 wigglers from uncle Jim but it took about 6 months for the population to be established and then they began really taking down food. Probly have several thousand in there now. I would get at least 500+ to start with but they do reproduce rather quickly if well fed.
    My DIY 2-tote worm bin didn't work out so well at first and instead I ended up ordering a worm factory 360 which work great. Be sure your DIY bin is well aerated; worms love airflow and it can get stuffy in there with all the moisture. If you see any escape it's because they are not happy in there. Starting a worm bin is the best move an organic grower can make...

    SSGrower Well-Known Member

    Seems like being geeked out on led and an understanding that organics is the best way is prety common. Says something about you light choice too.
    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    That process is direct result, of the shared experience on this forum!

    Fortunately, I have a background in hobby electronics, The Old Man was a Ham Radio technician, been soldering/ reading multimeters since I was a pre teen....
    Made the DIY route a no brainer.

    Learning about soil biology has always been an interest, had it put on the back burner for most of my adult life, since I hadn't had a reason to really grow anything at all. All that changed when I took on the caregiver role, its now a full on obsession.... I'm finding that the knowledge base available RIGHT HERE, will be invaluable...
    DonTesla, SSGrower and ShLUbY like this.

    Wetdog Well-Known Member


    First things first, 1lb of worms is fine. 1/2&1/2 Euros and red wrigglers is a great combo.

    I started out with the DIY double 18gal Rubbermaid totes. Still running them (6 bins now), 8 years later.

    However, Richard is more than correct in that they are prone to too much moisture and there is a steep learning curve with them. No experience with the Worm Farm 360, but it does seem more forgiving to noob worm wranglers, but with a much higher price tag. But, do consider your options & finances.

    Starting a worm bin IS the best move an organic grower can make. Full Stop!
    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    There's so many historic connections in my life, to the direction I'm taking now, its so neat.

    When I was a youngster, we actually had a pretty good sized contraption, my Dad constructed, to keep Nightcrawlers indoors in bedding. The bedding felt like shredded newspaper... It wasn't for making castings, just to keep all the crawlers we picked alive, sold as fishing bait, along with the huge minnow tanks we also had. Ill have to see if the old man remembers, maybe build another..... I remember it had aeration vents on the sides, and bottom.
    DonTesla and SSGrower like this.

    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    i know there's a lot of info on here... but if you can get access to teaming with microbes, teaming with nutrients, and teaming with fungi.... that is literally all the basics you will need to know about soil biology and plant nutrition.
    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    So I made a few steps forward toward the all natural side.....

    Until the springtime at least, I found it impractical to begin soil building myself. I'm going to save that endeavor until I can operate outside, so I can get a better sized batch working. I have plans for a pretty decent sized produce garden, so I think I can incorporate those projects into one. I have local screened topsoil and aged manure available, planning on a few pickup loads anyway, for the long-term brainchild of building a No till Veggie garden....

    In the meantime, for the indoor garden, I'm going to use FFOF and FFHF- 50/50 mixed as a base soil. I've read all the pros and cons I can find, seems to me many are doing just fine with the pre mix FF bags, there may be "better" alternatives, but its what I can afford, and its easy to get....There's a company called M3- Michigan Made Soil, that is available, but its ALOT more per bag than the FF, so I opted for the "commerch"....Its already ready already.
    Whats the consensus on adding more aeration?

    I got some dolomite lime on hand, gotta learn to use that when necessary....

    I also, got a .5 CUft bag of worm castings.... Ive read some about the bagged castings, of course they are less active than fresh, but these are better than most....
    Its from a worm farm in central WI, no brand name, and the contents are nice and moist...I figure they qualify as "mids" at worst....The storekeep is a straight shooter too, said it was a fresh batch that had come in the day prior, looks pretty fresh to me!

    So with the ready made mix, some dolomite and some castings, I have a base starter kit to keep the next new batch of babies chemical free, until I can get some more supplies for dressing and teas....

    I popped a pack of 12 Hazeman Mikado 3 weeks ago, had the seedlings in a 50/50 mix of FFOF and plain COCO, they recently went into 1 gal plastic squares, with the 50/50 FFOF and FFHF mix, until I can sex them out and pick the keeper.....They are doing very well, considering I don't have very good environmental control in my rooms just yet....Winter in Da Yoop is DRY, and COLD.....

    My tap water is around 180ppm. I have been harvesting clean snow, melted and filtering out debris for the other plants with the chem nutes, sometimes I mix the tap and snow water, seems to be working out alright.

    Still working on the plan for the worm bins. 20+ days away from chopping three monsters that got out of hand in VEG, limping them across the finish line, any way possible, then I can calm down and regroup....

    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    i think you'll do fine with the FF bags until you get about mid way through flower with decently sized plants. so i would plan on having some sort of "bloom" mix fertilizer to topdress about week 2 or 3 so it is bioavailable come week 4-5 when they really start burning through the nutrients. Dr. Earth makes a pretty sweet one and you can get it on amazon to your door rather cheaply.

    the castings sound great to me. better than unco. worm co. lol

    i would push the drainage material in the mix to 40% of the total mix volume. since we have so many materials that are great at holding water (the compost, the castings, the peat, the coco), a good volume of drainage material is crucial.

    sounds like you're well on your way into the transition :)
    CaptainSnap likes this.

    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    I start at 40% (perlite), and over time it usually ends up closer to 50% from other added aeration amendments. The mix does get denser as time goes on.

    Many, MANY problems with organic grows can be ultimately be traced back to poor aeration/drainage even though it's not obvious at first. You will avoid a host of bad stuff having sufficent aeration from the git go.

    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    Mixed around 40% plain perlite, into a 50/50 mix of the bagged soils, moistened well... then filled 8 one gallon squares. Transplanted the 9oz cups into those, and they have EXPLODED.... Less than a week, and the two bigger starts have roots poking out the drain holes already....Ive just today finally gave those two a full watering. The others are still holding onto a little moisture, waiting a little longer for those pots to be ready for water...... Its such a relief not be constantly in question of fert levels.

    I have no intention of running all 8 of these through flower. The seeds are REGs so, the goal is to get them to sexual maturity and pick a Momma. Am I safe in the belief that, the 1gal should be enough to get them to the alternating nodes without starvation?

    I have a bag of Espoma Garden Tone 3-4-4 that I can use if needed, and the supply of EWC which turns out, comes from less than 100 miles away.....

    I also have this old home medical compressor, which pushes 10psi through an airstone. Gets a pretty solid roll of water going in a 2 gallon bucket, so I can use that to make some basic brews with the EWC right?

    For now I'm doing NOTHING. My goal is to se how long I can keep them green with ZERO input other than water. In the last year of tinkering around, I have developed a pretty good feel for proper soil breathing, in my environments. My primary concern is ROOT HEALTH.
    White, fuzzy, roots.....
    Richard Drysift likes this.

    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    You may want to topdress some Espoma in the 1 gals since you cut that bagged soil by almost half. I'd be willing to bet that there will be def if you don't give them something extra, based on my own experience with larger plants relative to 1 gal size pots. Sometimes they can surprise me though and never show def. signs when they seem way too big.

    vegging at 18/6 apparently helps them show sex before flower stage, not always effective, but some strains respond to that. Usually people start that photoperiod after the plants have a half dozen or so nodes.
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    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    I can see some white fuzz lurking in the areas around the drain holes.....:clap:
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    Chip Green

    Chip Green Well-Known Member

    Been experimenting with some simple EWC and molasses tea....I rigged up a 2gal bucket bubbler/ brewer.... I happened to have an old home medical air compressor, puts out 10psi.... I stuck one of those long airstones on the end of the silicone tubing, it gets a pretty solid roll going, if the bucket is more than 2/3 full it rolls over the top....Keeps everything stirring and churning nicely, well at least I think so. Then again I am a rank amateur and am completely winging it....

    A small handful of the local(ish) EWC, with about a TBS of Brer Rabbit Molasses, in about a gallon and a half of water, bubbled for about 18hrs, in a 70f degree room, developed a 4" layer of froth....
    I have no idea if that's expected, but I know something is happening in there!
    The PH of that solution was over 8, is that unusual? Too much Molasses? Brew longer?
    Here's another unknown I have, to get the bubbler stone to stay near the bottom of the bucket, I had to trap it under a section of galvanized steel mesh, is there any reason I should find another way to keep the airstone in place?
    DonTesla likes this.

    Bugeye Well-Known Member

    Foam is usually just a function of the ingredients used, doesn't really mean anything. The important thing to do with a small bucket bubbler like yours is to suspend the ingredients in a mesh bag so they don't clump on the bottom and create anaerobic sludge. I've never ph checked my brews, just used standard recipes in a homemade 5 gallon vortex brewer.

    DonTesla Well-Known Member

    Thats a tried and true recipe. Nothing wrong with that. The foam could be from proteins, aminos, or even saponins, lol, @giglewigle right brother? but you should be fine.
    I like to see some foam, myself. Not from saponins, per se, all due respect to my brethren, here, but just from natural proteins and worms, its common.

    AS for the pH, I've never really worried or even tested cause I just used neutral RO, but tap water can be a ph of 8, quite easily, and carry a little extra calcium, do you know happen to know the ph beforehand..

    as for molasses, hmm, I would think sugar stuff would make it more acidic, not more alkaline, but I can be wrong, as often as anyone. A longer brew would have told more too. Nice temps though. Rockin!

    As for the air stone, I used to use chains, and wrap the tube to weigh the stone in the bottom, worked fairly well. A bag of coins could supply trace Fe Ni etc even, but now with vortex brewers theres no need for that so much. They really move the water.

    Last but not least, welcome to the light side, my friend! Organiiiiics!
    MustangStudFarm likes this.

    Trichometry101 Active Member

    Sounds like you got a good grasp on things.

    When you get to the point of understanding that molecules can smell each other, youll never go back.

    There are many facets of science worth studying. And every one of them fruitless without studying nature first and foremost.
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