Thursday, August 30, 2012

I thought anaerobic microorganisms were bad

I have always heard how stirring up the compost was so good, and I know it does heat up the pile immensely.    So with gardening I thought aerobic (with air) was good and would bring in more beneficial microbes, earthworms etc.  a couple of weeks ago I thought that the ponytail palm which is in a fairly large pot really needed to be re-potted. I noticed that the water was not flowing through - rather sitting in a puddle on the top.  Sometimes potting soil will develop a crust that stops the water going through, but I suspected the pot was not draining out of the bottom.

I tipped the pot onto its side and as I dug out the earth I discovered that the lower third was compacted mud and stones (that had originally been put into the bottom of the pot for drainage.).  There were also THOUSANDS of worms :) , OK maybe not quite a thousand, but certainly lots. The drainage holes were clogged with mud and clearly no water could run through.  Since originally the pot was filled with potting soil, I suspect that "mud"  was really worm poo! wow!

I follow Phil the smiling gardener and he has lately been talking about anaerobic microorganisms being just as effective (but different) in the garden as aerobic microorganisms. See his story here On Gardening Australia too they were talking about the anaerobically processed mud in the base of the pond and how it was filled with wonderful nutrients.Who knows, but as I spread the dark goopy wriggling mess around the plants in the garden I hoped it would help them in some way.  I often don't know scientifically what I am doing to help the garden, but little bits of odd stuff here and there might bring something to the soil that it is lacking.  I throw on seaweed when I find it, compost when it is ready, trace elements when I think about it, mulch all the time.  Do  you have  a "proper" sequence of soil amendments or do you do what I do?

I once again put stones in the base of the pot and filled it with fresh potting soil when re-planting the ponytail palm, but have noticed a trend towards using pieces of polystyrene in the base instead.  I know that will make the pots lighter to move around, but I wonder what sort of chemicals will be leaking into the soil.  I think I kind of like the idea that there are so many worms in my garden that they have to go searching for other places to hide out in.

I have been meaning to take some worm photos to go with this post, and still haven't got around to it so am posting sans photo for now.  


  1. Did your pot have an undertray? I always try to "rescue" any worms I find in pot plants because I'm just certain that they won't survive without more diversity and natural food/water/environment. I have noticed that if I put pots directly onto some soil (I sometimes do this when I sow seeds in a pot) that worms seem to flock to pots. I suspect they like the regular watering and richer soils in pots compared to hard old boring ground.

    1. I generally like to have an undertray as I find I get less ants moving in, especially in pots that I let dry out a bit between watering. this did not have an undertray though.

  2. Gosh, I have to re-pot my pony tail palm as well. Only the other day I was saying to myself that I have to do it soon. It's indoors in my living room, and the earth does seem to be quite compacted now. Hopefully I'll get to it this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration to do so.
    Not so sure I'm going to find thousands of worms in my soil though.

    1. Virginia,
      mmm - I would also be a bit worried to find worms in my indoor pots :) I hope your leg is feeling a bit better...

  3. I used to put cut up polystyrene at the bottom of pots too, but my husband thinks it can´t be good being full of chemicals, so now I put pebbles instead.

  4. Ooooo - the plants that got a dose of worm poo and worms will be happy little vegemites! Im a bit like you with chucking what ever I have to hand onto the garden and letting Mother nature take care of sorting out who gets what. I chuck on mushroom compost, worm wee, leaves, lawn clippings (lightly) compost, any rakings and trimmings, seaweed... And then wait and see what happens next! - Kara xx


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