Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I've been working on finishing up the new raised beds on days we've had nice weather. Today I filled the last of the 3 beds that we put where the lilacs used to be. Each one got a layer of newspaper (for good measure) followed by layers of old hay, the horse manure compost from the straw bale bin, coffee grounds, leaves, pine needles and the contents of the two 4x4 boxes we built and filled in the fall in their temporary location just outside the gate (pretty much the same materials, they've just been mixed for a few months). Today's box also got a little of the dirt I dug out from the spot we put the lilacs (yep, that lovely stuff in the pictures...). I probably added about 16 shovels full of the dirt I think. I was careful to layer and mix it well with the manure compost so it wouldn't have the chance to return to it's former state. I do try to remember to add some form of dirt into the beds just for the mineral content.

I was pretty happy with the condition of the contents of the temporary boxes. From the top, it didn't appear much had broken down but throughout the center, most of the materials had broken down very nicely.
I also added a little bit of finished compost (last year's batch) to the first two (I forgot today) and some of the mostly finished from my current bin in the hopes that I would be adding beneficial microbes to the bed in the process as well as compost from a wider variety of materials. I also a little bit of the lower mulch layer from my older beds to "seed" the new ones with some worms. I have a pretty good population in there these days it seems. This is what I pretty regularly find in there.

I reached into the mulch and grabbed a handful of material, took it to the new bed and this is what I saw.

Aren't they beautiful?

Because the beds are filled with so much organic material, they shrank down by several inches throughout the season last year. In the fall, I topped them off with leaves, hay, pine needles and some horse manure. After Thanksgiving, I picked up about 10 squash & pumpkins from someone who had used them as decorations. I had recently added many to the compost pile, so I decided to chop these open and bury them under the new mulch layer for the worms. Seems the worms like them (this is a chunk of squash they're on).

I have also been finding worms under the wood mulch in the pathways. Portions of the path had landscape fabric (some scraps I had) under the mulch. When I had to pull up some of the fabric to add the new beds, I discovered quite a number of worms stuck in the fabric. I few of them seemed to be wound up in the fibers and I also found several that were dead. I'm removing the rest of the fabric because of this. I want the worms to be able to travel between areas and be able to move up and down between the ground and the mulch. The worms seem to live near the surface and I want to help them survive.

I'm quite excited about the worm population. When I dug into the ground to level the beds and break up the top layer of soil last year, I think I may have found about 3 worms (maybe). Last year's load of manure came with a good supply of my little pals. Conditions must be favorable for them in there because they do seem to have multiplied! I'm starting to think of my garden as a giant worm bin. They eat the organic material and leave worm castings to fertilize my plants. It seems to me, if I keep them happy and well fed, they'll keep my plants happy and well fed, like a self-fertilizing garden!


Kris said...

Oh, those worms look nice and healthy and look how they are enjoying those squash. They always say: feed the worms and the worms will feed the plants. You've gotten a lot done early in the season. Wish our weather was more cooperative, but better days are coming. :-D

Amy said...

I think I'll bury squash again next fall. They really do look nice and healthy.

I turned my compost pile the other day and out came one plump, healthy looking mouse. It ran up, stopped and looked at me for a second, as to say "WHAT THE H...!" and took off.

We do have some nice winter weather here. Of course, there's a tradeoff. We've had about .25" of moisture the first 75 days of the year. It's supposed to be in the 70's this weekend then drop to the 40's. Hopefully there's some moisture coming with it.

J.A. ROSE said...

Your worms look wonderful and healthy. What a great idea-pumpkin or squash-I'm going to do that next fall too.
We found that worms love cardboard-so, my husband puts cardboard without ink images in with the worms and we find the worms seem to enjoy it.
Thanks for the tips. Janet

John said...

Hi Amy, my compost bins set on top of bricks, which are on top of about 10’ of steel mill slag. I do not have any hope of worms in my compost bins. But once I get the compost in the garden, it’s a different story. You have done a nice job and if you have that many worms, every thing else must be about perfect.