Leap of Faith and the Magic of Worms

Potting mix

Posted by Kelley...

About every January, as we plan for our seedlings, we review some lessons learned from our past years and make adjustments to improve our little venture.  Of course, our #1 concern is raising healthy plants, and as such I get obsessed with improving our potting mix.  After all, it all starts there.

This year, I focused on dialing in nutrients and incorporated dairy vermicompost into our mix.  After reading studies done at Cornell University and OSU about dairy vermicompost I was eager to try it.  It’s not cheap…REALLY not cheap, but after agonizing over the cost, we decided to take the leap of faith.   

Vermicompost?  Dairy Vermicompost? What’s that, and why is it so special?

No, it’s not pure worm castings. Our dairy vermicompost came from Sonoma Valley Worm Farm. It started out as manure from an organic dairy.  That manure was hot composted for a few weeks to kill weed seeds and pathogens, then introduced to the worms. The worms processed the material for an extended time, and then it was harvested.  It’s beautiful stuff.  It’s friable and earthy, has some structure, some nutrients, and is loaded with diverse microbes.  Those microbes are the basis for a healthy environment, and some of those microbes make nitrogen and other nutrients available to plant roots.

In addition to the vermicompost, we’re also using worm tea regularly as a foliar feed. So far I’m totally impressed.  We have not had to resort to any artificial feeding methods so far, and that has us happy and hopeful.  Greenhouse and container culture is a tough one to do completely organically.  There’s temperature and moisture fluctuations, drainage issues, and the many challenges of keeping the mix in a 4” pot healthy and balanced.  We try our best every year, and while we avoid using chemicals for pests and diseases, we have always had to resort to feeding the plants non-organic nutrients after they’ve been in their pots awhile.  Thanks to the magic of worms, this year it looks like we’ll get our plants to market on the natural plan.  We’re SO hopeful and excited!

You Can Try it Too.

We’ve put together a nutrient mix that includes a healthy dose of vermicompost and bagged it.  It’s suitable for both in-ground planting and containers.  Good stuff!  We’ll have it on hand for our customers at the Expo, the farmer’s market, and our curbside sales.