Vermicompost as primary compost source?

Discussion in 'Organics' started by TheBeardedBudzman, Jul 22, 2018.


    TheBeardedBudzman Well-Known Member

    Hi there everyone. New user here. I did a few months worth of rigorous studying in preparing for my first grow, with the help of these forums. So thanks for all the info so far. Got my first question for you all.

    I recently moved to south central Florida from Boston. My first job when I got here was at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm- maybe lots of you are familiar with the red wriggler distributor. It’s an enormous 150 flat acres of a sea of worm beds. Harvesting worms with tractors and pitchforks, putting them through motorized sorters, Hand sorting them in the sun in 55gallon bins cut in half. Weighing, processing, packaging. Man what a nightmare of a job that was....**shudders**

    I’ve moved on to far greater things job wise, but I’ve maintained a cordial relationship with good old Uncle Jim. So I’ve got access to billions of worms and mountains of worm shit. I also own horses and chickens and I am surrounded by cow pasture, so unlimited manure. And I want to stick to organic soil growing... So what I’m wondering is:

    Can I rely 100% on worms to compost all of my compost-able material? Shredded leaves, kitchen scraps, manure, etc?

    Or should I stick to traditional composting, like 3-bin system, with some worms thrown in for my actual COMPOST, and then keep a few big fat worm bins to harvest castings, and consider the castings more of a compost nitrogen-rich additive?

    Does anyone have any huge tips for me in my given situation? I know lots of people vermicompost- is there anything you all ever think, like, “man if I had access to 50 lbs of worms”

    I know 1K is weighed at a pound. Roughly. I can have as many as I want. I guess I’m just hoping to hear that worms can be my 100% compost source rather than having to do traditional cooking

    Sorry for long typing I’m stoned and am terrible at being blunt and direct and concise.

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    TheBeardedBudzman Well-Known Member

    And while Youre all here looking ;) if I’m going to build a ”super soil” but I’m not really buying into Subcools recipe, would you call it a good base at 50% compost, 25% peat and 25% perlite(or pumice or lava rock)? Thoughts on biochar?

    And again, can all 50% of compost be worm castings if variety of materials fed to worms? If not, what percentage of my compost can be worm castings?

    Thank You all so much.

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    Dmannn Well-Known Member

    You are on the right track. Typically don't want to use more than 30% worm castings in a soil mix, i am sure you know this. As far as alternative compost, If you have access to manure, a lot is going to be already composted. If not, start piling it it in big heaps in the shade. Mix in with dry straw, and leaves and natural soil and some castings. Try to stay away from bark and wood chips, although a little is helpful for fugal inoculation..

    Super soil recipes are great but can be expensive for first timers. There are some things you may want to consider adding. Kelp, fish meal/guano, oystershell flower, gypsum. A lot of which can be purchased cheap, in bulk, in the off season.

    Light airy, but water retentive soil is the key. Perlite is ok and cheap and is good for drip systems. Mushroom compost is airy and really cheap. I haven't tried bio char. I have used expand clay pellets and soils with natural volcanic rock both work good for flood irrigation.

    TheBeardedBudzman Well-Known Member

    Thanks a lot for your reply. Each of the amendments you mentioned, I’ve got on my list. I’m leaning toward perlite alternatives.

    The plan is to build a great organic soil and add no nutes, just teas and worms.

    4x4 tent, 10 gallon pots, 1000w hps with aircooled hood (with glass), a few strategically placed supplemental LED strips for lower canopy light, two 450 inline fans, one in one out. Going to mainline and baby 4 girls into an even canopy of 16 mains each, into a 64-square screen.

    I’m hoping that building my own soil, raising my own worms, recycling my waste, and using it all to grow my own budz will give me the best smoke I’ve ever tried in my life.

    So maybe 50% compost (half WC)
    20% pumice ;)

    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    Your intended mix leaves me less than impressed mainly because over the years I've tried similar with less than stellar results.

    I've only been doing organics for ~10 years, but have been growing "stuff" and using the same basic mix for over 45 years. Haven't made every mistake there is to make but sure have made a bunch over the years and still manage to find new ones. LOL

    My basic mix now is roughly
    40% peat moss
    40% aeration (perlite)
    20% humus (10% vermicompost, 10% pine bark fines) I use no "thermal" compost at all.

    I'm unable to make my own compost (disabled), and avoid using anything I don't make from scratch, so, no bagged compost.

    The vermicompost gets varied somewhat because I have 6 bins ranging from a few months old to well over a year, so I have actual 'vermicompost' to nearly pure EWC to choose from. The pure EWC is so dense even using 10% is kinda pushing it.

    Your 20% pumice simply is not going to give you adequate aeration. I would really suggest closer to 40% aeration using perlite till you see how all this works together. These LOS mixes get very dense over time and not enough aeration is a root cause of many problems and many that look like something else entirely. Get it right first with the perlite and then experiment with the pumice. I'm from SoFl and can tell you that pumice is really spendy down there, especially compared to perlite.

    Anyway, HTH


    TheBeardedBudzman Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the reply!

    Wow 80% peat and perlite? I can definitely see the need for added aeration and water retention, but I didn’t realize as low as 20% of the base made up the nutritional content of the soil.

    I’d have to say I’m more comfortable with the typical 1:1:1 humus: peat :aeration, but still id even lean more toward 2 parts organic composted material to 1 part each peat and aeration...

    I’m learning. Thanks!


    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    That's my BASE mix, I didn't include the nutritional/mineral amendments, but still there are only 11 ingredients to my mix. !2 if I have biochar handy.

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    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    Wetdog is the resident worm farmer! He has good advice and I think that he has been doing longer than anyone here.
    I've been composting for a while and my re-occuring problem is high phosphorus and low trace minerals. I know this for a fact because I have been testing my soil. Anyways, just use manure very sparingly! Also, if you use bagged peat moss, there is preparation step that you have to do in washing the crap out of it. I mixed dolomite and oyster shell flour with my peat and run water through it for several days. I kept sending in my soil samples and the Ph was always low and had an excess of Sulfur, pretty sure that it all came from the peat. I'm basically making my own ProMix.

    So, I age the peat with dolomite and oyster flour. Next time, I am going to add the aeration and saponin before I age it because it is very hard to get pure peat to take on water. It is easier with aeration. DSC01015.JPG

    After I make the completed mix, I water the SHIT out of it. I was high on sulfur and sodium(kelp?) on my last test and I only had to run water through it. The article that I read said that I should shoot for 48" of water.

    After the initial watering, my Ph was reading 5.8. Then, after about a week of watering the Ph was 6.2. I know that I am washing the sulfur away because the Ph is rising. This is an important step in aging your soil and I didn't understand that it needed a lot of water during this time. I expect my next soil test to be a lot closer than it was last time. I am having trouble getting micro's and I was stumped because I used plenty of rock dusts and kelp, but I think that it takes too long to break down and too much kelp will give you high sodium. So, I went against my morals and started using Mn sulfate, Zn sulfate, and Copper sulfate. I was already high in sulfur, but it washes away pretty easy if you have plenty of calcium. I also didn't use any compost this round and I am waiting on my worm bin to finish.

    Here is my worm bin that made out of plastic pallets. I filled it last October when the leaves fell and I have been adding grass clippings to it. It seems like it is going to take it forever to finish, but I know that it will be worth it.

    Wetdog Well-Known Member


    Just what was this article that calls for 48" of water? In 45 years of making this same basic mix (peat, perlite, pine bark fines, lime), I have never heard of such a thing, or even suggested.

    I'd certainly like to see that. I mean, besides saponins or other wetting agents used to get peat moist the first time (Ivory dish soap was the go to in 1972), I've never seen anything about 'washing' peat moss or any need to. But, new information is always welcome.


    TheBeardedBudzman Well-Known Member

    Thanks Stang good info!.. I’m wondering why on earth peat would need to be flushed though!?
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    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    I used kelp and I imagine that other people use kelp. My sodium was very high and I imagine that other people's are too but they don't test their soil, that's cool, I'm going to start keeping this info to myself! Really, who has tested their soil more than I have. Do you think that I take a salt shaker to my soil before I have it tested?

    Leaching: Leaching can be used to reduce the salts in soils. You must add enough low-salt water to the soil surface to dissolve the salts and move them below the root zone. The water must be relatively free of salts (1,500 - 2,000 ppm total salts), particularly sodium salts. A water test can determine the level of salts in your water. Leaching works well on saline soils that have good structure and internal drainage. To leach a highly saline soil, you may need to apply as much as 48 acreinches of water. An acre-inch is the volume of water that would cover 1 square acre to a depth of 1 inch (27,152 gallons). Testing is often needed to determine how much water is needed to correct a particular soil. The testing laboratory can advise on how much water to add. After an application, the soil often must be retested to determine whether enough salts were leached out. Highly saline soils should be leached using several applications, so that the water can drain well. Here again, drainage can be a problem. If the water cannot infiltrate the soil, the salts cannot be dissolved and leached out of the soil.

    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    In your 45yrs how many times have you tested your soil?

    maxamus1 Well-Known Member

    Hey boss i would highly recommend listening to wetdog about the aeration. im going through my soil mix now and adding more and still dont think i have enough. I went with coots recipe at the1:1:1 ratio and i can tell you first hand that it definitely needs more aeration then what he calls for.
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    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    In this article, they are talking about different methods of measuring the amount of sulfur in peat moss. So, the question is not if it is present but rather how much of it you have. I know that peat bogs vary from bog to bog, but it looks like most of them have a sulfur build up. It makes sense because the Ph of peat moss is very low.

    Open and closed incubation systems were studied as means of quantifying sulfate fractions in sphagnum peat moss. Sulfate was extracted in the closed system with a 0.15% CaCl2‐H2O or a 500 mg P/L extractant. Sulfate was extracted in the open system with 10 mM KC1, 0.15% , CaCl2‐H2O, or 500 mg P/L extractant. Extractants were quantified by ion chromatography. Phosphate extractant released more sulfate than CaCl2, in the closed system. There was a significant increase over time of sulfate released by the CaCl2 extractant. In the open system, there was no significant difference in release and total amounts leached of sulfate‐S between extractants. The closed system released more sulfate‐S than the open system. Phosphate extractants in both systems mineralized 43% of initial sulfur content

    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    The soil test that I shown was a result of not washing the soil. I try to learn from my mistakes and share them, but I keep running into rude ass people that try to make me look stupid rather than solve a problem! Might be time to start utilizing the "Ignore" button again...

    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    Would you agree that peat moss has sulfur and that the Ph is low? From this conclusion, you think that there is zero reason to wash the peat???

    I truly hope that you use anti-bacterial soap!

    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    Myself, I've found zero reason to wash the peat. You take an article on how to remedy an overly saline soil and try to make it apply to peat moss, or a peat based mix? It simply does not compute or compare. I do have some little experience with salt in soils from being a landscape supervisor on Miami Beach for 12 years. Storms and salt water flooding happened often enough and yes, we leached what we could and let rain take care of the rest. Fresh water on the beach was precious.

    Kelp meal does contain some sodium, but not enough to cause concern unless you massively over apply it. Peat moss contains some sulfur and is acidic. So? That's why you use the dolomite lime to balance and buffer the pH. Adding all those various sulfates, Mn sulfate, copper sulfate, and Zn sulfate, certainly didn't do your sulfur levels any favors.

    I'll have to read it again to be sure, but didn't that sulfur extraction bit you posted put the sulfur at 0.15% in the peat moss? IDK, that just struck me as being a very small amount.

    Caught me! LOL I've never had my soil tested, never felt the need. Either the plants looked fine and healthy, or, if not, it was something I did and it got corrected and I gained experience on what not to do again.

    But please, you really need to stop trying to make studies done for soil relevant to the container mixes your canna is growing in. Apply them to the side yard garden where they belong.

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    Dmannn Well-Known Member

    Kinda like this:

    30% total compost and amendments (ECW, manure, other compost and amendments)
    30% aeration (low nutrient value filler, mushroom compost, perlite ect.
    30% dirt.

    That was my mix this year..

    I always go a bit heavy on the calcium from lime, shell flower ect..

    Look in to AACT and LABS..

    nitrogen-rich additive? Composted manures.

    MustangStudFarm Well-Known Member

    This was my soil test from May and it was BEFORE I added Mn, Zn, and Cu sulfate.

    60% Peat/40% perlite

    (I mix them together and add 1c/cuft)
    fish meal
    alfalfa meal

    barley seed(2-3c)

    (Mix and add 2c/cuft)
    Oyster shell flour
    glacial rock dust

    I kept my mix very simple.. Where the hell did all of that sulfur and Na come from??? I didn't use any S inputs. I have scientific evidence that my soil has sulfur in it and I didn't add it. I only have 8yrs exp but I don't think that anything on my list had S or large amounts of Na... Please, tell me where it came from!!! How close am I to your mix, what do you think that yours would test like? How similar would they be??? I am only missing EWC right now.

    Miyagismokes Well-Known Member

    No disrespect meant, testing is wise, but these tests giving results in elements is actually superbly stupid.
    Specifically for reasons like this.

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