Friday, June 5, 2009


Handful of worms turns Belize clay into growing humus.
A worm bin maker.
A big worm pile, makes Belize clay into humus that grows vegetables.

Tammy in Arizona
(wishing she was retired already in Belize)


Dear Sir,

My husband died in 2001 and I have since remarried. He had a degree in agriculture and farming from Arkansas. That man could grow anything, anywhere.

I tried several ways to post to the blog but no luck. So I am writing you here instead. I hope to retire in belize and have laid out my gardening extensively on paper. Paper being the key word between idea and reality. I do so envy you already being able to live there. We suffered a huge financial setback last year and will be delayed another 5 years. I reside in Arizona now.

Ok back to lettuce and tomatoes in that type of soil. In the Ozark mountains along the Red River in Arkansas there is not really dirt/soil. It is instead a bed of harden red clay. Here is how we got our soil ready for lettuce, tomatoes and strawberries. We were so successful that over 100 families came by to learn how to do it.

In order to farm you have to farm the worms too. Earthworms. They create the soil you need. They are like soil magicians.

So create four earthworm beds. About a 4 foot by 4 foot rounded bowl shaped hole. I did mine at the four corners of my garden. From the center of the bowl-like hole to the top of the soil measures about 2 feet. Just make you a nice little hill. Line the hole with plastic. You want the worms to mine your chosen soil and not the earth around the hole.

Earthworm Soil
Mix this together:

2/3 part soil (your normal dug up soil)
1/3 part compost
1 pound of plain old cornmeal for every 5-10 pounds of soil
2-3 pounds of earthworms
Manure is optional (you may find he worms don't like it)

Every other day you make a dent in the top of the hill and add your daily collected coffee grounds and another 1/2 cup of cornmeal and WASHED egg shells. Throw in some vegetable trash (scaps or whatever you call your compost trash) Dampen the soil with the hose but do not soak the soil or the worms will leave.

Cover the mound of earth with a board or something. Remember worms hate the light. Plastic covering in that climate may bake the worms. So you think of something. Just no direct sunlight!!!!

Just put you a coffeecan next to the sink in the kitchen. Every day throw your used coffee grounds in there and 2 or 3 washed egg shells.

Why coffee grounds ? Earth worms use the acid from the coffee with an enzyme in their body that produces the proper Ph for the soil.

Failure to wash your egg shells results in bugs that kill the earth worms. Do NOT use nightcrawler earth worms use compost earthworms.

I brought our worms from here because his are pure organic and not just labeled that way.

Now every week stick a stick (like a hoe handle stick) in several different places and stir the dirt a little.

Trick: You know your soil is ready for use when the earth worms start leaving. It means there work there is done.

That's the method we used for ours. You will find lots of sites on how to farm the worms. Your trick is to get the worms to Belize or find a bait shop there.

When it is planting time:
Till and make your rows. Run your stick down the center of the row. Mix a seed packet in a bowl with the earth worm soil. Then put in the rows. After a week or as soon as you see 1/4 inch sprout gentle add some around each plant you intend to cultivate.
(your thinning process)

We did our worms one spring. The following March we used this planting method. I looked at my husbands' old logs.

Year (no worms) planted 3 rows 100 feet long and 3 ounces of seed. Harvest 7 plants. SEVEN

Next Year (with worms) planted 3 rows 100 feet long and 3 ounces of seed. Harvested 192 plants.

Potatoes - no worms 43 potatoes
Potatoes - with worms 732 ( over run with taters)

Strawberries - no worms 9 strawberries
Strawberries - over 100 pounds (we did 105 jars of preserves and I have no idea how much we froze and sold; he didn't record that)

Tomatoes (do not start in the ground do seedlings first)
no worms - 63
with worms - 734

Also, I used rare lettuce seeds b/c I couldn't get normal ones to grow. I got them here.

I hope this information from my husband's old notes and journals helps you. I wish you all the best and when we come to Belize we will look you up even if I have to wait another five years.


p.s. Dear Tammy. I have the occasional worm in my humus when I can find it. Usually I make my compost in 5 gallon plastic buckets, by sticking in left over food and adding about 4 pounds of chicken manure. Then I use a muslin mesh to screen the mixed stuff with water and strain out the solids and vines, and pour the remaining chocolate brown liquid into another bucket, which I apply in a couple of different ways to both my soil and plants. Interesting about coffee grinds. We don't drink coffee here at home, only tea. But will keep it in mind. The PH effect of coffee grounds was a light bulb going off, in relation to other stuff I had read. Cornmeal and egg shells are interesting. Never considered them, though I have thrown them in my compost bucket, when making compost tea. Most problems here are temperature driven and seed varities. When night and day temperatures are the same, a lot of seeds will not grow properly.

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