Supercharge Your Soil with Natural Systems (& Give Yourself a Break!)
Tom Bartels

 

 

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Big Ideas & Takeaways:  

  • How your gut health and soil health are related
  • 3 types of compost (and which is easiest)
  • How to make jet fuel fertilizer for your garden (for free)
  • How to organically create ‘natures pesticide’
  • 3 simple compost methods for anyone’s garden
  • 2 ways to let worms help you year round
  • How the soil food web saves you time
  • How to “Stockpile Fertility” using leaves
  • Nature’s best pesticide: diversity
  • “Align the Design” of your garden beds for uninterrupted growth cycle

 

About the Speaker:

Tom Bartels lives in Durango CO at 6400 feet of elevation where he grows 1000 lbs of organic food in the 130-day season at his home each year. He’s been using biointensive methods since 2001, and shows others how to do the same, regardless of where they live or the size of their garden. He created Growfoodwell.com to help people learn how to use a natural systems approach to increase nutritional density per square foot while reducing labor. Tom has been an environmental educator for over 25 years and advocates an accelerated transition to organics and local food models for multiple benefits.

 

You’re Invited to Learn More Here:

GrowFoodWell.com


 QUESTION: What did you learn from or like about this presentation? Post your thoughts below!

 

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Cindy
Guest
Cindy

This was a nice presentation and it just might have changed the way I garden. However, it is already spring and I need to get the plants into the ground and don’t have time to make good compost now. Obviously I can purchase organic compost, but can I also simply use “organic worm castings?” And how much should I use (raised bed 4×8)

Marjory Wildcraft
Guest
Marjory Wildcraft

Hi Cindy, IMHO the best time to start a compost pile is – right now! LOL That way it will be ready next time.
Organic worm castings sound like a great addition. Hmm, how much for a 4×8 bed? Uh, as much as you can afford? At least a few pounds at a minimum.
Oh, and if the castings are still ‘alive’ – metabolically active (haven’t dried out or been exposed to too much cold – they will often have worm eggs in it and will start you a batch of worms in the bed.
Good luck!

Susie
Guest
Susie

I am interested in the idea that worms transform toxic material in the food. I only feed my compost organic food scraps. Are you saying that worms will take conventional food and render it toxin free?

Rachell
Guest
Rachell

I don’t think he mentioned anything about the worms transforming toxic materials. For soil remediation, I have heard that there are certain types of mushrooms that do that best. I am sure you can find things regarding that online.

Marjory Wildcraft
Guest
Marjory Wildcraft

Hi Susie, that is a good question. For most common household veggie scraps, I throw them into the compost even if they aren’t strictly ‘organic’. I don’t have all the science, but yes, the microbes do break down a lot of bad stuff.

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Susie, the worms will improve the material as it moves through it’s digestive tract, in ways that are beneficial to plants, i.e. helping enzymatic additions for creating aggregate soil etc… but won’t eliminate chemical toxins. (They do help mitigate pathogenic microorganisms though.) One way I keep my student’s health on track is to show the correlation between how our own health is affected by all the excess chemistry floating around society today, and one of the best places under our control to change that is through growing our own food or purchasing organics. That way, everything we collect at… Read more »

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Nicely presented and very informative. Thank you!

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Thanks Lisa!

amanda
Guest
amanda

My favorite talk so far!

Marjory Wildcraft
Guest
Marjory Wildcraft

I just love his down to earth manner. I am going to put a call out to Tom now to jum in here and answer questions!

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Marjory! Just got done with a live workshop at my place with 15 students. I’m back online now.
Cheers.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Reminds me of French Intensive Organic Gardening which I learned back in the early 70’s. That method went to the 3′ depth and bed width the same roughly. Fast and dense growing. Tons of worms and compost. French can grow homegrown.

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

I trained with John Jeavons who uses Biointensive methods. That shows through. I have adapted them to my region and added worms and efficiency with drip irrigation as well.

Donna
Guest
Donna

I am in a situation as Cindy below and what I decided after reading a bit about it, is to add fresh compost alongside the rows as the plants are growing throughout this spring/summer season, it’s an experiment and hopefully will enhance my soil, which is relatively good soil, but can be improved. Keeping my fingers crossed, but I did really enjoy this presentation as it was basically what I wanted to learn how to do, so thank you Marjory and Tom Bartels!

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Glad you liked it Donna! Purchasing organic compost is fine, if you’re in a time crunch or don’t have the room. The important part is to get that Soil Food Web thriving and then everything else becomes easier. You’re on the right track! Go Grow some Food! Yahoo!

Sue
Guest
Sue

Awesome! I just joined you training program and my husband and I are so excited to start! We certainly have had more failure than success with growing our own food. Quick question if you have the time, the rabbits and chipmunks destroy everything. Do you have any problems with that??

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Sue! Yahoo! Welcome onboard! I think you will find that if you even use half the stuff in my workshops, you’ll see dramatic improvement in your food gardens, through increased yields, and reduced labor. And as to your question on rodents. I live in rural colorado so we have anything and everything that likes our food as well. For rabbits, I just have the bottom 1.5 feet of any fencing with a single layer of chickenwire which completely keeps them out. Chipmunks are harder, since they can climb anything, same for squirrels. So I use a “have a heart”… Read more »

Ruth Bissett
Guest
Ruth Bissett

This all fits together nicely with my learning about the human microbiome and it’s roll in health. My gut instinct is to grow my own food from the most nourished soil possible. I loved this inspirational presentation. Thank you Marjory. Thank you Tom.

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Glad you liked it Ruth! Thanks.

Haylie
Guest
Haylie

I LOVED this presentation! Possibly the most interesting one I’ve seen yet. It probably helps that I love growing things ;o)

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

The more people grow their own food, the better off everything gets! Cheers Haylie.

Elaine
Guest
Elaine

This talk was killer! I stopped at 11 minutes in and went to your website and ordered course. That picture of your little head in all those mammoth jungle plants convinced me! The different kinds of compost was REALLY cool. I have always liked earthworms, but never knew what all they did for us. Once I get my property where I’m going to start my organic garden, I am going to do these things so I can have a jungle garden too! Thank you for being on here and sharing this information; it is gamechanger info! (I don’t like it… Read more »

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Elaine!, Thanks! Glad you liked it, and Welcome to the Garden Workshop! Lots of good practical answers to make things easier for you there. You’ll have lots of fun! As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath and prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate. In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy. And the pre-insulated old freezer keeps them… Read more »

Roxanneschuster
Guest
Roxanneschuster

Fabulous information. Thank You

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

My Pleasure. Showing people how to more easily grow organic food is very rewarding. Cheers.

JoAnne
Guest
JoAnne

Is it important if the worm bin is in the shade of the sun?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Best in shade, but if needs to be in sun, insulate the top with wood or something that doesn’t absorb as much heat. Insulation is key, all around. in both hot and cold temps. That’s why those old freezers work so well. They’re already insulated, and if you simply cover with a bit of wood, the sun’s heat isn’t absorbed by the bin. The worms stay comfortable year round.

Judy Keating
Guest
Judy Keating

We’ve been wanting to make worm compost. He makes it look so easy ! I’m sold!

Sheryl Rex
Guest
Sheryl Rex

Thank you . I am learning a lot. I have a question. We had a raked up our leaves and put them in our garden last year .My husband mowed then to break them more . Can we still grow a garden in it or do we need to wait a year.
can we just till them in?
Thanks
Sheryl

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Sheryl! On your leaf question: Depends on a few things, mostly the amount of leaves. If it’s not that much material, and they are already intermixed with the soil, then I would say sure go ahead and plant anyway. If, however the leaves are on top, I would rake them to the side and add compost to the soil and away you go. If there was a large quantity added and intermixed with the soil, and its too hard to separate soil from leaves, that may tie up some of the nitrogen in the soil this season, but if… Read more »

Roxanneschuster
Guest
Roxanneschuster

Marjory, I missed the first two days of the summit but am so GRATEFUL I was able to tune in today. Thank You So Very much for bringing this to us. I am certain all these speakers were chosen from your heart center and I am looking so forward to listening and learning and growing with all of them. I have left some comments on other speakers, but directed them to the speaker, not to you. Thank You Thank You

Sara
Guest
Sara

The sound quality is poor on this one. Speaker sounds fuzzy. Usually this speaker is clear and crisp with other recordings.

Liz Casey
Guest
Liz Casey

Fantastic presentation, Tom. Many thanks. I’m already doing much of what you suggest but haven’t started a worm bin. Your old freezer idea of keeping them alive through the winter is most intriguing and I love the idea of adding them to all the leaves I collect each fall. However, I do have a question. I thought I’d read that red wriggler worms aren’t native to where I live (Long Island, NY, zone 7) and that care should be taken not to allow them out into the garden. Can you tell me more about that? Do you have any thoughts… Read more »

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Well, that area of the country, commonly referred to as the “glacial boundary” area where the last southern rim of glaciers were in existence have very few worms on the forest floor, since they were all wiped out in that area during the ice age. So yes, the trees have gone through a process of accelerated evolutionary change since the first European contact in ships in the late 1400’s (1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created ) is a fascinating book on some of those changes that started with the first inter-continental contact where people unintentionally imported insects and animals… Read more »

Nancy M
Guest
Nancy M

On using an old freezer for a worm bin, how are the worms getting air? It looked like he had the door shut

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath by cutting out most of the bottom of the freezer and setting a heavy gauge metal screen as the floor. then prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate.

In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy.

Kathleen Robson
Guest
Kathleen Robson

I like the use of an old chest freezer for the worm compost. What do you do to get enough oxygen in there?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath by cutting out most of the bottom of the freezer and setting a heavy gauge metal screen as the floor. then prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate.

In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy.

Laurel
Guest
Laurel

How does this work with intense winter conditions (-30C)? Our ground here freezes quite a few feet in the ground. I have worms indoors in a small bin and like the idea of the freezer but I don’t think even with your idea in the center, it would be warm enough for them to survive here….

Maureen
Guest
Maureen

Wonderful presentation–thanks! Several times you referred to “layering”; for example, you layered your big leaf stash. Can you please describe layering.

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Well, in general, many people think they can just make a big pile of leaves and then sprinkle some water on top and call it good. But leaves have the tendency to shed water once they mat up. So to avoid that I water each layer as I build the pile. I will pile about a 6 to 8 inch layer of leaves, then soak that down until its the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Then add next layer and repeat. I go all the way to 6 feet or so and sometimes my piles will be 8 feet across… Read more »

Florence Pantele
Guest
Florence Pantele

Lot’s of information here….. great presentation!

Tom Bartels
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Tom Bartels

Thanks Florence!

Francie Barcus
Guest
Francie Barcus

How do you separate the worms out of the compost?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

You can use one of two ways: -move the new food additions to a corner of the bin for a few weeks and most of the worms will migrate there allowing you to harvest mostly worm-free castings in rest of bin or The way I use, (which is faster) I do twice a year: *on a sunny day: Put a tarp on the ground next to the worm bin. Sift the worm castings through a compost sifter of some kind, (half inch hardware screen wire openings work fine) into piles on the tarp. each pile is about a foot or… Read more »

Trina de Leon
Guest
Trina de Leon

Soil has earth worms underneath by nature. Don’t they also pee which is needed in soil? so why is vermiculture promote watering plants with worm tea/pee? Do worms need to be a certain kind only like red riggler? How about human urine left to stand for 3 days for ammonia to be out since it is high in nitrogen recommended by ancient gardeners. European gardeners still use human urine (without infection) to water soil. Not sure if on plants also. I also heard this in US garden webinar.

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Trina! Worm compost tea is actually more about developing larger populations of microorganisms in what’s called the Soil Food Web. Many people think that any liquid that may drain from a worm bin is worm tea. This isn’t quite right. That’s actually called leachate, and could be mostly coffee or orange juice that percolated through the bin contents. Worm tea is made by taking finished worm castings, that are rich in nutrients and beneficial bacteria and billions of microorganisms and placing them in a bag (sort of like a big teabag) into a container of water and adding an… Read more »

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Thank you, Tom Bartel, for a great lecture. I have a growing red worm collection, here in Western NY. Puzzled as how to keep them from freezing, I brought them into the basement for the winter in a 5 gal bucket, and just recently put them back in the garden shed into a big plastic utility sink full of layered “food”& carbon stuff. Thanks for already answering about how your worms get air in that freezer. I was curious about that. We have seen our soil grow softer and richer by adding woodchips over the last several years. Lately we… Read more »

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Sounds Great Rebacca! On your collection of manure though, (which can be a great resource) be careful to avoid “herbicide carryover” which is when a hay farmer uses broad-leafed herbicides on the hay crop, then fed to livestock, the newer herbicides can be persistent, lasting up to 6 years in the manure or compost. So when people add that to their soil they tend to get unwanted effects. But if you know your animal handler, and can attest to the absence of synthetics then go for it! (I posted a blog post about it here:
http://growfoodwell.com/pesticide-carryover/

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Thank you for that information, Mr. Bartels. Wow, that could be quite troublesome, I will certainly look into that!

Julie
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Julie

Thanks for the information. What kind of worms are those?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida)

Mallory Heartsong
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Mallory Heartsong

I love the idea of a year round worm bin in an upcycled freezer or refrigerator!!! Would horse manure be ok in lieu of chicken manure? I hope I can find a landscaper who is willing to bring me their leaves! And I think it is time to try worms… How do you sift your compost efficiently?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Mallory! (see above for manure info) As to the sifting of compost, I simply screw four 2x4s into a frame that fits over a wheelbarrow or my bin, and staple “hardware cloth” that you can get at most hardware stores. It’s just rugged wire screening with about a half inch square space pattern. Wrap the wire around the edges and nail or screw or heavy staple it in place, then shovel any compost material into it over a wheelbarrow or container and move the material around with gloved hands or shovel, and the finer material falls into your container,… Read more »

Trina de Leon
Guest
Trina de Leon

Are all 1 billion bacteria in soil all good? or mixture of bad & good bacteria? How come only 3% have been identified after hundreds of years? do they keep on changing? Are you referring only to US soil? Does our body need all good bacteria? Articles on probiotic recommend at least 8 strains. Are these the same good bacteria used in probiotic supplements or are those lab-made?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Wow. Lots of good questions there Trina. Most of the bacteria populations in aerobic compost are helpful. Much like most of the insects in your garden. The vast majority of them are beneficials. In the case of the soil food web, the plants work in concert with the microorganisms by releasing exudates (food) for them and they will surround all the roots and protect that plant from the few pathogenic microorganisms who may want to attack the plant underground. This is natures pesticide. When you get full diversity in your soil, the plants manage themselves. You will get some insects,… Read more »

Teri
Guest
Teri

Great presentation I really enjoyed it.

Peggy
Guest
Peggy

Where do we get worms from?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

I have no affiliation with this org. But I’ve used them and they are trustworthy and have good prices:
https://unclejimswormfarm.com/

Peggy
Guest
Peggy

Thank you for the great presentation. I have my compost going, but lacked worms.

Sara
Guest
Sara

Do you lack slugs? or are the worms eating them for you? I’d like to get some worms like those!

Tom Bartels
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Tom Bartels

Slugs aren’t too much of a problem out here in the West. And no. the worms won’t eat them.

Emjay
Guest
Emjay

The presentation was tremendously interesting, and time Tom spent answering questions (many of which I also had) is generous and helpful. We’re in suburbia just outside Houston, on a tiny patio home lot, so for now we’re doing an open compost pile. How fun it is to go feed our kitchen scraps each day, turning worked soil over with a garden fork to bury the new stuff. We have some big fat worms that nearly stand up and clap when I open a hole for their dinner!

Emily
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Emily

I like the idea of the more sustainable idea of using an old freezer or fridge but how do the worms get air since it’s a pretty tight seal around the edges?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath by cutting out most of the bottom of the freezer and setting a heavy gauge metal screen as the floor. then prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate.

In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy.

JUdy
Guest
JUdy

Do the worms in the freezer get air in the freezer?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath by cutting out most of the bottom of the freezer and setting a heavy gauge metal screen as the floor. then prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate.

In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy.

Toni
Guest
Toni

love your presentation. any ideas that might help where i am in the center of australia in a very dry arid region. i have been looking at getting some large screw top food grade drums and turning them into compost, worm farm and garden all in one in a design that looks somewhat like the terracotta herb planters that have the herbs planted in holes around the sides. the old freezer looks a good idea for preventing the compost from getting too hot in summer or too cold in winter here too. i have also been looking at building a… Read more »

Jason
Guest
Jason

Excellent presentation. How many worms did you initially stock your freezer with?

Tom Bartels
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Tom Bartels

about a thousand I bought online several years ago. I think they cost me about $24 or so. Haven’t ever bought any since then because the worms keep multiplying on their own.

Linda
Guest
Linda

Great presentation! I love my worms and what they do for my garden. Currently mine are in the kitchen. Unfortunately so are fruit flies and gnats. I’d love to keep them outside. I was wondering about the freezer for winter. I’m also in zone 6. How do the worms get oxygen if the door is closed to keep them warm? Or don’t they need much when they are dormant?

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

As to your questions on the worm bin, YES, they need oxygen. The easiest way is to vent the bin from underneath by cutting out most of the bottom of the freezer and setting a heavy gauge metal screen as the floor. then prop it up about 8 inches off the ground on some support so the air can circulate.

In the recycled Freezer I use, I cut holes in the upper side to let air cycle through as well. keeps them happy.

CAROLE
Guest
CAROLE

I loved this presentation and will join his classes.

Kimberly Seaburg
Guest
Kimberly Seaburg

Very informative and well presented. I’m looking forward to putting some of these tips into practice! Thank you!

Jay
Guest
Jay

Thank you for a great presentation! I have three big problem areas. The first is that we are at close to 7700 feet elevation with very cold winters. Do you think the Red Wigglers would be affected by the altitude? I don’t find elevation recommendations on seed packets. Do you know of any good sources for high-altitude, organic seeds? The second is our ground is very hard. How do you dig down to a depth of two feet? Is there a mechanical means that would work? What does double dig mean? The third problem is that for the past few… Read more »

Connie
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Connie

Sure would like it if I could see or hear anything.

ethelynmiller
Guest
ethelynmiller

Just finished joining. Can’t wait to supercharge my little garden. How strong is the compost scent? Wondering if my neighbors would have a problem with it. Presently, using my city’s organic bin, that they pickup, weekly. Decided to try my hand at making my own compost from table scraps. Wow, my daughter & I have aaalot of scraps. ORGANIC at that $$$. Excited to grow good, healthy food. Thanks, Mr. Tom. Just what I need.

Elaine Pendergrast
Guest
Elaine Pendergrast

I am an urban homesteader in the San Francisco Bay Area and a big challenge is getting deciduous leaves to use in compost. I have a few fruit trees and bushes on my property (about 6,000 SF growing area), but by the time the leaves fall (December/January) it’s raining and difficult to gather them. There are some deciduous street trees but getting a large amount of leaves from them is tricky as they mostly blow away, plus I don’t know what they may have been sprayed with, and they definitely have absorbed fumes from vehicles driving by and parking. It’s… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Excellent speaker, fantastic information.

sam
Guest
sam

Very informative presentation I got. alot from it.

Frances
Guest
Frances

Can you explain what is the difference between the Level 1 workshop for $45 and the Food Gardener’s workshop for $97? Is the Food Gardener’s workshop (Level 1 and Level 2)?

I love your online videos and have been wanting to do your workshops! Thanks!

Tom Bartels
Guest
Tom Bartels

Hey Frances! Level 1 is more of a basic introductory version of the main program (which is Level 2) So if you just want a brief intro to the basics, without any more than that, then level 1 may be a fit. Level 2 goes into way more step by step methods as you look over my shoulder to discover how to grow just about anything. it comes with around 50 videos and planting guides, printables, etc… as detailed thorugh the link on top right of this page. Level 2 includes everything from level 1 as well. *And I’m offering… Read more »

Russ
Guest
Russ

Tom’s presentation was extremely clear and helpful! 👍Thanks for sharing his practical experience with successful organic gardening. 🌻

Nina
Guest
Nina

Thanks Tom. I learned a lot. An amazingly lush garden!

CaptTurbo
Guest
CaptTurbo

Enjoyable presentation! thank you. I’m a mulch junky. I used to do a lot of labor intensive composting but these days I just slab on the mulch which id shredded leaves and wood chips. The results are as good or better and requires much less work on my part.

Laura Hays
Guest
Laura Hays

Hey Tom!
We are basically neighbors. How did you decide on soil amendments and watering systems. As you know, the heavy clay and rocks in this area make beginning your garden a real treat, and while clay holds nutrients I am sure we are deficient in some specific nutrients.