Vertical Veg supports food growing in containers and tiny spaces: ideas, inspiration and practical advice.
If you want to grow food successfully in containers, nurturing soil life can make a huge difference. Worm compost, for example, is full of microbes and life. Add it to your containers and you will get more vigorous growth, and far fewer pest and disease problems. Discovering this, was the biggest turning point in my growing (more important, even, than self watering containers), transforming sporadic successes into something more consistent.
Why is soil life important?
Healthy organic soil in the natural world supports a web of life including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes as well as larger creatures like worms and slugs. These organisms play a vital role in the life of plants. They break down organic matter to make the nutrients available for plant roots. They condition the soil and create air spaces and tunnels in it – improving aeration and drainage. And they compete with other more harmful organisms in the soil, ones that will damage your plants if left unchecked.
Soil life is complex – so the above is just my attempt to summarise some of the main benefits you can expect when you add life to your containers!
Why do you need to add life to containers?
Most commercial composts that we buy are sterilised and low in microbial life. So is municipal compost (it has to be made at hot temperatures to kill pathogens, killing much of the beneficial life, too). So if you want life in your containers – and to mimic soil in the natural world – you need to add it.
1. Worm compost
2. Homemade compost
3. Leaf mould
Bokashi is Japanese method of composting food quickly in a tightly sealed bucket. Benefits of bokashi are that you can add almost any food (even meat), it works quickly, can be done in a very small space, and doesn’t smell (much). The drawbacks are that you need to buy bokashi bran for it to work, and the pickled product is not as versatile as worm compost. But you can add it to the bottom of containers to add both organic matter and microorganisms.
Mix about 10 – 20% into the compost in the bottom third of a container.