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A few words on Growing Power and Community Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] A few words on Growing Power and Community Gardens
  • From: JSBMH2@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 07:49:27 EST

This is from Steve Diver with ATTRA.
It is now common to put organic wastes through the
thermophilic  composting phase.... the hot phase, but not
finished compost... to arrive at  a pre-digested organic matter
as worm bedding.

This is what we hear  from on-farm worm composters
in many parts of the country.   

Worms naturally have their own pathogen suppressing mechanisms,
but  pre-treatment ensures the material has gone through
heat treatment for  reduction of human pathogenic organisms and
pre-digested organic matter makes  good worm bedding.

The Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference was  held
in La Crosse, Wisconsin, these last few days.

Will Allen with  Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI,
gave a workshop that described their projects  with
vermicomposting, aquaponics, and community gardening.   


Growing Power

Growing  Power made 500 tons of vermicompost in
2004.  They are receiving 8,000  lbs of brewery waste
each week.  They mix this with proportional volumes  of
old hay and food scraps from restaurants and grocery stores.   

It is built into windrows and turned with an over-the-row,
walk-along  compost turner.  It goes through a heating phase,
and the partially  composted material is then laid out
in windrows and inoculated with  worms.  

They also do vermicomposting in worm boxes made
from  scrap lumber.  Lots and lots of worm boxes. He
uses the pre-digested  partially composted organic matter
in the worm boxes, as well.   

Will found an easy way to separate the worms.  When
it's time to  harvest the worms, after 8 weeks in boxes, he
lays a 1/16th screen on top of  the worm box, and then puts a
few inches of fresh bedding on top of the  screen.  The
worms crawl out of the bottom box, through the
screen,  and into the fresh layer on top of the screen.  
The contents of the box  is then screened, and the
sifted material is ready-to-use vermicast.   

Worms are integrated with aquaponics.   Vegetables
are  grown in containers, and tilapia fish are grown in
tanks and troughs.   The container media consists of
75% coir and 25% vermicasts.   Fish  effluent is used
as fertigation water.  The tilapia are fed fresh,  live
worms and duckweed (grown in greenhouse tanks).

Growing Power  also raise large volumes of fresh, sprouted
vegetable greens as a commercial  crop.  The coir and
vermicast blend is laid in a shallow layer in  trays.

Growing Power has helped establish dozens of
urban community  gardens.  In some places, such
as Cabrini Greens in Chicago, the raised  bed are
built directly on top of asphalt pavement.  

In some  instances a foot layer of wood chips
such as shredded municipal yard waste is  laid
down.  In other instances, no base layer is used.

The raised  bed is first established by laying down
a couple feet of the pre-digested  organic matter.
Then it is loaded with vermicasts.  Then is it  topped
off with top soil.  It is planted right away.  They  beds
are about 3-4 feet wide and 2.5 to 3 feet high.  

The same  method is used on urban lawns around
housing projects.  Will said that  you never "dig down"
in urban settings, you always "build up."  These  urban
locations are often brown field sites, built on top
of construction  debris.

My workshop at UMOFC was on compost teas, humus
farming and  soil biology, and related on-farm systems.  

Vermicompost is being  used as a compost tea substrate at
100%, a 50:50 blend of vermicompost +  compost,
and a 75:25 blend of vermicompost + compost, thus gaining
the  benefits from two different soil ecological milieus.  

A growing  number of farms, greenhouses, and compost
tea applicators are maintaining  vermicompost systems
as a key ingredient for soil fertility and pest  suppression.  

Here is a new on-farm vermicomposting manual
from  the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada,
a 56-page PDF.

Manual of  On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture
By Glenn Munroe, Organic Agriculture  Centre of Canada

Steve Diver

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

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