10 gallons of leachate, creating a growing medium on bare ground

by Pat Holman
(Los Angeles, CA)

I've been vermicomposting for about 2 1/2 years, and have accumulated 10 gallons of leachate.

I also have a problem with the areas along the sides of my house where I got a new foundation a few years ago and all my topsoil was turned under. I have some leaf mold, and a LOT of dried leaves and grass.

I have 4 55-gallon drums of compost that get turned regularly.

What do I need to do to start good soil for growing on the bare areas?

Can the leachate be used in any of that process?

I will also probably be starting some storage bins for excess materials to be composted, and, of course, those things will probably start to compost before I get them into the barrels.

I have seeds for cover crops as well, if I can get just enough soil down to plant them successfully.

When I got my worm farm initially, the directions which came with it stated that I could use dilute leachate--50% leachate to 50% water, for house or potted plants, but that it could be used full strength on outdoor plants. Obvious misinformation.

I also use gray water from laundry, bathtub, washing produce, and dish-washing water for irrigating my plants, both fruit and vegetables. since we only get about 14" of rain a year, and soapy water is a liming agent.

I get plenty of grass clippings and leaves from people in my neighborhood, and even swiped a used Christmas tree to salvage the pine needles, which also raise alkalinity in the soil.

I'm trying to stay as organic as possible in this big city.

Anyone have any suggestions for any of this, the leachate and making new garden soil?

I need all the help I can get.

Thanks, Pat

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Feb 23, 2013
Using Leachate On lawns?
by: Pauly

Hi Pat,

It sounds like you have plenty of compost and leachate for whatever you are wanting to do but...

If you've spent enough time on the website then you might know that I'm not exactly a big proponent of leachate of any kind but...

I am a huge advocate of compost tea, especially from worm castings.

Here are my links for Worm Tea and Leachate:

Worm Tea

Leachate Vs Worm Tea

Making Worm Tea

Leachate...If You Must

So you see, it is quite a gamble using leachate, especially if you have it bottled as there is no way for for the beneficial microbes to exist due to no oxygen.

You're breeding the bad organisms if you're containing them in an unbreathable container. Plants must feed on beneficial microbes. This IS their food.

So here's what I would recomend.

It sounds like you have some castings and even compost.

1. Sprinkle the worm castings and compost (make sure it is absolutely composted) all over the areas you intend to plant grass seed or your cover crops.

2. Spread some type of material (like straw or rolls of coir) over the seed to keep it shaded and to hold in the moisture. You must not let the compost or worm castings dry out or this will kill your microbes.

3. Water your lawn now with your freshly brewed worm tea or compost tea. This must be used fairly quickly as the oxygen will run out and your microbes will die off.

4. Keep watering with unchlorinated water to keep moist and watering with the "tea" every 2 weeks. You CANNOT over tea any plant it is just beneficial microbes (plant food). The water is just a means of conveying. But you can over water.

As for the grey water, I always think of a luscious forest. It's purely unadulterated.

Be careful of any products you might be putting in your soil. Are they harmful to the microbes? Will it impede the process? Is this already a naturally occurring process?

Salt is natural but only kills or impedes the growth of the beneficial microbes. Brewing tea is not a natural process but you're creating an ideal environment like a "Worm Bin" for worms.

Hope you make the right decision and all the best Pat,

Feb 27, 2013
Feedback and progress report
by: Pat Holman

All of my composting is going along just fine.

Since I can't use the leachate on plants I will use it in my compost which is being made in barrels. They are ventilated, and need moisture from time to time.

That should get rid of the bad organisms and allow the good ones to flourish, and that compost will be needed to cover my bare ground.

I have a good selection of cover crops which will serve three purposes:

1) Fixing nitrogen in the soil,

2) Providing additional material for "green manure" to be plowed under when the crop is harvested, and

3) Feeding me with the grain used for the cover, such as Japanese buckwheat, quinoa, and other grains. Even the flowers of the red clover can be collected, dried and made into tea when desired.

My bare ground will be covered and made productive over a period of time, since I have so much of it.

I'm planning a greenhouse in my back yard for growing my tomatoes, and starting seedlings from seed, so I won't have to worry about doing that in the house.

I'm planning on purchasing Babcock peach seedlings, and starting red grapefruit and tangerines from seed. I have a friend with an everbearing lemon tree, and will be starting that too as soon as I can get fruit with seeds. And I'm learning how to graft avocado trees, and will, of course keeping one for myself and selling the rest.

My crops last year were great, thanks to using compost in my raised beds, and I'll be adding more this year, since Nitrogen isn't stored from year to year.

I have a lot of potted pineapples which should have been in the ground a long time ago, but I'll try to salvage what I can, since many of them are still green, And I love pineapple, so will be starting more from the tops of pineapples I buy, and getting them in the ground in time.

They take about two years to mature in this climate, and tolerate the winter weather, which never quite gets to freezing. The pineapple peelings and hard centers are cut up and added to the worm compost. Everything will be treated to compost tea on a regular basis.

In addition to kitchen scraps and newspaper, I give my worms a bit of clean sand from time to time. It helps with the digestion of the the food in much the same way as gravel in a turkey's gizzard does.

And they do well with shredded cardboard, hair, coffee grounds, and eggshells crushed fine, which provide calcium, one of the minerals needed by the soil.

I'm spending a considerable amount of time digging weeds out of my yard, as I plan to turn the entire yard into garden plots.

I'll be canning, freezing, and learning how to dry foods to preserve them.

Thanks for being there so I can share what I'm doing and getting feedback.


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