Thursday, August 11, 2011

Build a base - A "Beyond Compost,+" update

If you bought the book, "Beyond Compost,+", there is an Appendix that describes building a VermiChester base unit in great detail, but sometimes a picture is helpful. The Appendix deals with how to determine the correct sizes for different sized "bakery trays".
Orbis 1080-5

I used Orbis 1080-5 bakery trays, but they have become hard to get and expensive.

You could begin by building something different. I have built some too heavy to lift, some that were soggy, some that leaked leachate all over, some that dried out around the sides, and made lots of errors that you could repeat if you are stubborn.

Some of my other photos show earlier versions that didn't work as well as I wanted them to. This is a work in progress, so if you come up with something we can all benefit from please share it.

These photos are based on building 5 VermiChester systems:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Beyond Compost, +" y "Mas Alla del Compost"

I have written two instruction manuals, called "Beyond Compost,+" that are for sale at and at the Website
The newest edition is called "Beyond Compost, +" because I've added some chapters on biochar and "BioPreta".

The Spanish translation of the same manual is "Mas Alla del Compost"

For more information, click on the tab above.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Inorganic Soluble Salts

Have you ever wondered what was being sprayed on the farmer's fields?

Plant roots can only absorb "inorganic soluble chemical salts" (not table salt, of course), so the chemical spray is not organic material. It is a "quick-release" of a few inorganic chemicals. The spray is a quick-fix, and adds no living material to the soil.

Organic material must be converted by soil microorganisms into these inorganic salts, so it follows that if soil contains lots of microorganisms it will grow better plants. Putting organic material like compost into the soil will release these salts for as long as five years. Vermicomposting increases the microorganism content by 8-20 times. The best farmers incorporate lots of composted organic material into their soils for a long-lasting improvement of their yields. Bad farmers consider this too much work and want short-term profits.

For best results, get a soil test to see what your garden needs. Every soil is different.

The VermiChester story is not about commercial composting. It is about MEDIUM-SIZED vermicomposting for large gardens and small truck farming.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What is BIOCHAR ?

In 2011 I saw the word "biochar" for the first time (or at least it was the first time I paid any attention to it). I could give you a sermon on it, but you will do better to look it up for yourself. Start with Wikipedia. There is a quick link up above. Strangely enough, your next stop may be YouTube. It will keep you fascinated for hours. I am not exaggerating when I say that this may be the most important information you have ever seen.
I have given my version on the website BioPreta SuperSoil

Note: The first comment is from a person who is well-known in the field and deserves your attention. He has included many valuable references for us.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Compost Tea

If you happen to be in the Battle Creek, Michigan, area, visit the Leila Arboretum. Along the east boundary is a large greenhouse where there was a working VermiChester system. The cover of my book has a photo of the system. Unfortunately, funding shortages required the closing of the greenhouse and removal of my herd in the fall of 2009. The VermiCompost was harvested with a VermiHarvester, bagged and sold as a fundraiser. The constantly dripping VermiJuice (my name for Compost Tea), was collected and incorporated into the irrigating system. Those plants that received the benefit of this liquid seemed to exhibit a lack of white flies, compared to other areas of the greenhouse.

Stacey Rocklin, the former Horticulturist, was experimenting with enhancing the growth of beneficial microorganisms by bubbling air through the liquid, and adding some blackstrap molasses and fish emulsion.

In 2010, I have met some people who are growers of "medical" marijuana and who endorse indoor soilless gardening. Unlike larger hydroponic growers of plants who use inorganic chemical ingredients for their nutrient solutions, the cannabis growers favor organic nutrients such as bat guano, etc. Many of them have encouraged me to pursue the use of VermiJuice as a source of "soluble inorganic salts" immediately available to the roots of plants in a soilless, or hydroponic, growing system. The inorganic soluble salts that plants must have in order to absorb the nutrients are converted from organic compounds by the microbes, therefore more microbes = more nutrition.

Compost Tea
is made in three ways. Merely hanging a bag of compost in a pail of water, or just dumping it in, is called "steeping" like making tea in a cup with a teabag. Adding water to a VermiChester worm bin that percolates down through the VermiCompost into a pail accomplishes the same thing in reverse.

The other two methods are by using VermiCompost (eight times more microorganisms than typical compost), either by simple steeping or by a more complex method called "brewing". Testing the values of nutrients in Compost Tea is done in a number of ways for Nitrogen-Potassium-Phosphorus (NPK). VermiCompost that has no manures in it is generally lacking in the Nitrogen category (but, the trace elements are abundant in a compost that receives a variety of organic wastes). After testing, any nutrients that are lacking can be added to the brew where oxygen is bubbling to create a really potent solution that is readily available to plant roots or foliage.

We really need to share the results of this brewing.

Friday, August 5, 2011


There are many dynamic variables in agriculture, and "worm farming" is no exception. People ask me for exact data, but there is none. I tried to answer the questions in the book, but worms have no minds of their own. In the springtime in Michigan they seem to hatch from cocoons and get really active as juveniles, and in the autumn they seem to produce more cocoons. Try to accept that the real work is being done by tiny microorganisms inside the worms, and even in a system like that in La Palmichal where they are as thick as spaghetti, time is measured in weeks, or months, not in hours or days. If you are planning to get rich or convert a huge garbage system, you need to think industrial.

A school has a waste stream that is 60% paper. Shredded paper is a favorite worm bedding material. School kids tend to eat only part of their lunch. The rest makes excellent worm food if it is composted and kept covered with shredded paper to keep the flies away. We have a project at the Meadow Brook Elementary School in Forest Hills, Michigan that is being done by third graders.