Composting Methods, Cost Comparisons, and Earthworms. Oh My!

Homestead Gardening in the Texas Gulf Coast

Podcast E3 – November 16, 2021

This short, 17 minute episode takes what you learned from Episode 2, Easy and Affordable Composting, and goes a step further by discussing different composting methods, composting set ups and costs, and we’ll even talk pros and cons of using earthworms for composting.

With 12 growing months in the Texas gulf coast, our gardening chores are really piling up! But, our plants still need regular installments of compost. Compost supports healthy roots, increases disease & pest  resistance, improves soil texture, and increases beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. 

The question is, can we work smarter and not harder by building in our composting technique during our bed preparation? The answer is YES! I’ll teach you 2 different composting methods, Hügelkultur and Lasagna gardening, which are 1 time bed prep methods that last for years before additional work is required to re-freshen! 

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Part 1: Have you Heard About Hügelkultur?

There are many layering options for a Hügelkultur bed, and in the companion YouTube I have selected the most affordable options (free organic material from around the property) for this project. (Listen to the Episode 3 Podcast at minute 2:00) and Watch the YouTube Episode: How to Create a Hügelkultur Raised Bed!

I was especially pleased with this episode because the bed was constructed entirely by me. I needed a little help cutting up logs and repairing a few tire issues as I was running low on daylight, but otherwise I dragged materials across an acre of land to this spot.

This episode also builds on podcast episode 1 by pointing out how site planning was used to make a tough decision on where to locate this bed. This was not my preferred physical or visual location for this project. I actually wanted a location that would run parallel to the main street between another row of trees and that happened to much half the distance, but this incorrect location would no doubt block natural water flow and potentially destroy the mound down the road in a heavy rain event. Therefore, if I was to spend my time (a full weekend), then I wanted to spend it wisely!

Final Photo from the Hügelkultur Raised Bed Project

Part 2: Lasagna Gardening

I’ve heard this called 1 or 2 other names, but the word “lasagna” stuck with me. (Listen to the Episode 3 Podcast at minute 5:50).

Lasagna gardening is known as a true and literal no dig gardening method, and Hügelkultur usually is a mounding method that does not use digging, however, some people will dig to bury larger logs and use the dirt dug up on top. I use a true no dig method for both of these practices and use cardboard for initial weed suppression. Using cardboard before applying a fresh layer of mulch to your ornamental garden beds is also a great way to re-use cardboard and suppress weeds.

Part 3: Purchasing or Constructing a Composting Set Up, Cost Comparisons, and Opinions

I offer some basic insight to other composting sets ups many people choose for their home. (Listen to the Episode 3 Podcast at minute 10:30). They aren’t a great fit for me, and that’s why I offer alternative solutions that manufacturers can’t profit from!

Part 4: Earthworms – Did You Know there is more than 1 Kind?

Yes, there are 2 primary types of earthworms used in the Houston area for composting, Red Wrigglers (try to say that 10 times fast) and African Nightcrawlers. I actually simplified what I know about Earthworms for this podcast, but I inserted my opinion heavily which I usually don’t do as often. (Listen to the Episode 3 Podcast at minute 13:00).

Final Thoughts: Cover Crops

When watching/listening to the YouTube channel, I want you to keep in mind that my plan for the Hügelkultur mound included using a cover crop to prevent erosion. I didn’t even think to mention my secondary reason for this. I intended to plant a very specific cover crop, Crimson Clover, because it was easy to find this time of year (saw a large bag at an affordable cost at the feed store). However, I also wanted to use clover because it’s known to be nitrogen fixing, and as the Hügelkultur mound decomposes, it will need more nitrogen. I didn’t have enough green material to supply this for the project, but I can create it by growing specific plants on the mound. Unfortunately, the cover crop was sold out by the time the feed store opened on Monday, so I swapped this idea for a similar idea – snap pea!!!

Black Hulless Barley Cover Crop in a Different Raised Bed

Don’t forget to Follow on Instagram and Subscribe on YouTube

For a daily dose of gardening and to see what’s growing on now in the test garden, follow me on Instagram. Weekly Q&A will be available to answer any questions you still have! Companion YouTube videos are also available weekly!

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