Soil Test & Do Less! Moving Worms Outside & Making Less Compost


Our recent soil test results have shown that we can now transition from building soil fertility to maintaining it, which will require a lot less work and bring us closer to our ideal of a do-nothing garden. In particular, we can make much less compost and we can downsize our indoor vermicomposting operation. To get started, I’ll share why we are eliminating 3 of our 8 indoor worm bins by moving the worms to an outdoor bin. This will reduce our workload in a number of ways. As our indoor population of red wigglers has grown over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to find enough food for them. As a result, we’ve collected free local resources like used coffee grounds and spent brewery grains as an additional food source. Though I think this is an excellent strategy when building soil fertility, our soil has reached the point where it’s no longer necessary and we can save ourselves the time and effort. One advantage of having the worms outside is that there’s already an ample supply of decaying organic matter for them to consume, including autumn leaves, grass clippings, comfrey, wood chips, and garden waste, so there’s no need to find additional food sources for them. We’re also going to stop composting external free local resources until very high nutrient levels in the soil come down. And with so many red wigglers in the garden, most of the compost will come from vermicomposting, not hot composting. This saves us the trouble of having to turn compost piles. And, since we won’t be using as much compost in the garden, we can let the piles sit longer and allow red wigglers to thoroughly break down the material before adding it to the garden. This will reduce the amount of sifting required, which is, by far, my least favorite gardening chore. The final advantage is that, with fewer indoor worm bins, we won’t have to shred as much paper and cardboard to serve as bedding for the worms. Instead, we’ll simply place the material in the recycle bin, which requires considerably less effort. Autumn leaves will serve as bedding in the outdoor bins. Now, I’ll show you how I’ll transfer worms from our indoor bins into an outdoor bin. I’ll start with this bin, which I never converted to an easy-to-use flow through bin, and am happy to get rid of. This outdoor bin is a perfect environment for the worms. It’s spacious, has plenty of ventilation and is full of leaves, used coffee grounds, garden waste, grass clippings, and food scraps. The pile is not hot, so it’s safe for the worms. To transfer the worms into the outdoor bin, I simply lay a heavy-duty plastic bag that has many holes punched in it over the material. I then dump the contents of the indoor bin on top of the plastic bag and spread them around. As you can see, the castings are absolutely loaded with worms. The food source below and the sunlight above will motivate the worms to move down through the holes in the plastic bag into the outdoor worm bin. I’ll give the worms a couple weeks to migrate into the new bin, and then I’ll add the castings, along with any remaining worms, to the garden. I’ll follow a similar process with two more indoor bins, bringing our total from 8 down to 5, and I’ll likely reduce the number of indoor bins further in the future. Before next winter I plan to build a walk-in hoop house with new raised beds and cold frames in this location. I’ll add the castings from the outdoor worm bin into the new beds, and I’ll move the worms to a new worm bin that I’ll build inside the hoop house. As I’ve shown in the past, red wigglers can survive and even thrive during our zone 5 winters with sufficient protection from the cold. So, we’ve reached a point in our garden where we can move from building soil fertility to maintaining it. As part of this transition, we’ll downsize our indoor vermicomposting operation, put more worms to work directly in the garden, and make less hot compost, These changes will significantly reduce the amount of work we do in the garden and get us a little closer to our ideal of a do-nothing garden. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.

56 thoughts on “Soil Test & Do Less! Moving Worms Outside & Making Less Compost

  1. Why did you use the plastic barrier when transferring the worms to the outside compost? Is it to hold moister in the worm castings longer or is there something else going on there?

  2. Patrick, 
    I have a problem with "Do nothing Garden".

    I want to do Something in my garden all the time.

    What are you going to do with all your extra Time. 

    By the way for 85 $ you can get mitts easy sifter for Castings. Link below. 

    https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1010701047?ref=shop_review

    He is a great dude.

    Serdar

  3. Great video as always Patrick. Being able to do less work in the garden is always a plus in my opinion. Have you ever considered being able to maintain good soil fertility through just mulching? Similar to Mr. Fukuoka's type of method? I sometimes think that mulching with leaves/straw and adding things such as coffee grounds may be sufficient, although I don't believe my soil is at the level of yours. This year I went through the process of removing my mulch layer and adding compost and adding back the mulch layer and couldn't help but thinking I was doing unnecessary work. Well good luck on the upcoming growing season, and I look forward to your hoop house construction.

  4. Well hell, Let's go fishing Patrick. 😉  I know, always something to do in the garden.

    I added too much coffee grounds to my duck's yard composting system. The heap became hot and the worms scattered. They'll be back.

  5. As someone on the other end of the soil building timeline, I am jealous! We've got a long way to go in our backyard. Your garden is an inspiration, and the reason I put in a grapevine, blueberries, blackberries, and 5 dwarf fruit trees this year. I should start making a video log…

  6. I believe you would really like Elaine Ingram's understanding and videos on soil microbiology. She's the head research scientist for Rodale Institute. She filled in the blanks on my understanding of soil fertility and health.

  7. I never did quite gear up the same way you did 🙂 my results have show in my case that I can still slow some things down !

    What a wonderful system of garden based in science and ends up with more enjoyment over work !

  8. sounds like what i'm already doing lol. i have two compost sources compost tumbler and slow compost pile. i add top dressings of that every year during fall, but keep the work down to a minimum. because who wants to turn compost and shovel it into beds all the time!? not me! =)

  9. Must feel great to see it all working so well & slowly coming into balance Patrick 🙂 
    Interested to see what you come up with for a hoop house..
    Cheers sir 🙂 
    ..

  10. It sounds like the start of a horror movie — "As our indoor population of red wigglers has grown over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to find enough food for them". Congrats on getting your soil into such good shape! It's interesting to hear you talk about having a multi-year plan, too.

  11. Patrick, I loved the way you separated you worms from their castings over your outdoor compost. I might have to try something similar with mine. Great idea on less work, I'm ready for some of that. Take care, Kim

  12. Patrick I "liberated" my red worms into the garden area 2 years ago and place my kitchen scraps in vacant places every week. The scraps are all gone within a few days so before I transplant something I'll dump scraps in that area a week before. I just reviewed pictures from an area that I did in the fall before placing a parsley plant in. I juice from it 4-5 days a week and it's still 3' tall and 2' in diameter, largest parsley I've ever grown…I'm sure the direct vermicomposting is a big help and a lot less trouble than keeping the critters inside…along with the gnats that I always had a battle with.

  13. That's a great position to be in! Your efforts have definitely paid off. Goes to show that there's solid alternatives to using conventional fertilizer.

  14. A slow composting convert hey 😉 I often say my worm farm is my garden beds he he… That's great Patrick – another interesting and well presented video!

  15. It's great to follow your journey! I'm transitioning towards chop and drop myself. I'm even seeing weeds in a new light.

  16. Congratulations on getting closer to your "Do nothing Garden!" You sure have impressed me with your garden,soil and techniques Patrick!!!! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Great update. Your soil is so rich and beautiful. I look forward to watching your garden explode behind you as this is the first spring I've followed OYR. Good luck!

  18. Hope you don't get bored in your garden (not doing things you use to do) But the Large Hoop house (Tunnel) should keep you busy Patrick.

  19. 8 bins HA HA! Easy to see why you would want less. I like how you coaxed the worms out of their bin/castings so you could use it right away.

  20. Excellent..you read our minds.  We have been pondering how to do same thing outdoors and wondered if you kept the worm bins inside during the summer too.   Need to discuss moisture and shade because we notice around august few worms are hanging around unlike now where the place is teaming.  Common mistake is water (too much/little) and sun.  Cover ground with moisture retaining mulch or cardboard even and worms hang around a lot more during intense summer days.

  21. I saw that you have used toilet paper rolls for your seedlings.  How did it go?  I tried it for the first time this year with poor results.  Stunted growth probably due to watering issues and fungus gnats.  Any tips?

  22. @OneYardRevolution | Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening Nice to see those wigglers thriving. Excellent soil you have there in your garden. Great work!

  23. Thanks for the great presentation.  I have been able to use my outside compost bin as a worm farm but its here in central Texas.

  24. Love all your videos and the great information you provide Patrick! The do nothing concept is wonderful. Technically there will always be things do in the garden, but having more time to beautify my garden is where I would love to be. Also, love the chop and drop concept… Happy Spring Gardening!!!

  25. Thanks for the advice about building a worm bin outside.  I always thought the temps not be good.  I have a compost bin on the side out of the sun which may server that purpose.

  26. I have a question about comfrey I'm thinking about buying some.Have you ever had a problem with it spreading out of control? If so how would I keep it from spreading too much.

  27. It`s amazing that you have built so much soil fertility that you no longer need to increase it just maintain it. That is a wonderful achievement Patrick, congratulations.

  28. One day I hope to get to that point.  I am a way off yet but you have set an excellent aim to head for.  Many thanks Patrick.

  29. I'm not so sure about replacing hot/cold compost with vermicompost because they in my opinion should serve different roles. Worm castings may be more rich in nutrients and the nutrients in them are more plant-available but this has a big downside. The nutrients will leach more easily from vermicompost rather than from cold or hot compost. Would it not be better to use the castings as a quick fix in between planting to prepare the bed for a new plant after the first harvest and stick to the compost? Not saying your way is wrong, but just something to consider. I may be wrong.

  30. Now this is smart gardening!  In the wintertime, I compost directly in the garden beds., and when spring arrives, I have loads of worms and black soil.  Great video

  31. Patrick, congratulation on elevating your soil quality to such a rich level that you can now spend more time relaxing, observing and simply enjoying your garden!  he way it should be. 🙂 Downsizing your vermicompost operation will cut down on the tedious task of harvest worm castings. Keep up the good work. Formerly, Binky's Garden.

  32. How do you collect your casting from that outside bin?.
    Also some advice please would bags of bark from garden nurseries do the same job as wood chips?

  33. You didn't say so I'm wondering do you get your soil tested?  or do you use the prolific growth of plants as a measurement.  I have indoor worm bins also. .  that I've used for many years. . . Until I move to a much warmer climate, I'll keep them indoors. . Thank you for sharing.

  34. i've never seen the point in using compost tea… I think compost itself is good enough.  I think a common error with compost tea is that people will accidentally use leachate…I was one of those people!  A handful of finished compost in a bucket full of water probably won't hurt, but I'm not surprised that it hasn't yielded overwhelmingly positive research results.  Great video!

  35. Hi, I love your channel.  How did you know it was time to "maintain" your soil? what tests did you use? Thanks, Joe

  36. Just bought our home almost a year ago now, the soil was awful and I'm slowly amending it w compost and worm castings from my worm bins. How long did it take for your garden soil to get this good?

  37. SEEMS LIKE "DOING LESS" WORKS VERY GOOD, I HAVE MY CALIFORNIA RED WORMS COLONY GOING AFTER SEVERAL MONTHS OF WATCHING CAREFULLY HOW THEY WERE GROWING (ON A DAILY BASIS), JUST TO FIND OUT THAT THERE IS A THRIVING COLONY OF NATIVE WORMS IN THE GARDEN THAT WORKS JUST FINE WITHOUT ANY OF MY EFFORTS (FOOD, WATER, SOIL CONTROL), SO I DECIDED TO LET THEM BE AND KEEP THE REDS INDEPENDENTLY INDOORS. "DOING LESS" ALLOWS TO HAVE MORE TIME TO ENJOY THE GARDEN. GREAT VIDEO !!!!

  38. What is your opinion of not composting but instead directly putting kitchen and garden waste under a leaf mulch. Doesn't this create less work and more food for worms inside the beds? Or does this increase the risk of diseases too much?

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