Roses forum: changing potting soil - worms

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Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 7, 2019 2:06 AM CST
Hey everyone,

I have another pot question. So, I repotted a few pots (quite a few) this season, and there were a lot of worms in the pots. So in changing the soil I added compost, sheep manure and coir to the soil that was originally there. But won't the worms that eventually get up into the soil, change the potting soil to compost...and then there will be too much compost? What does one do about this? Blinking

Thanks! Smiling
Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias
hampartsum
Jul 7, 2019 11:55 AM CST
Carol, you can't go wrong with too much compost in a pot! Simply because it will eventually break down into nutrients that will be taken up by the rose bush or be washed down with your watering. Surely the coir and sheep manure will add some inorganic particles that add up to your existing soil inside your pot. Actually finding those worms are wonderful news. Just let your worms feed and grow fat with what you've added, let them be and relax enjoying a boost in your blooms... Green Grin! While compost is still in the format of coir or sheep manure it doesn't harm in anyway your roses. After being chewed by the earthworms, it will become worm compost , a highly prized and sought after soil ammendment. The reason that one estimates about a third in volume of manure plus coir ammendments, is that when the season is over that volume will have shrunk in that proportion. Sometime next season you will have to replace the used up compost.
Arturo
SW Ohio River Valley (Zone 6b)
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vaporvac
Jul 7, 2019 1:36 PM CST
Yes. That is the main issue I encounter... having to pull out the plant and add soil to the bottom. Sometimes the soil shrinks by 1/2! However, my main goal is to keep them at least alive until I can plant them in the soil not keep them there long term like you. Perhaps some pine bark fines would help.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
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seilMI
Jul 7, 2019 5:10 PM CST
Yippee! Worms are good! That means you have an active eco system going in your pots. My roses are all in their biggest size pots now so I don't need to pot up. What I do need to do is add soil every year because it gets used up. The soil level can sink as much as 3 or 4 inches in a season. I add soil to the top and dig it in all around the rose in the spring.
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 7, 2019 5:29 PM CST
So what you're all saying is that you can't have too much compost? The roses could eventually be growing in all compost from the worm action...then what do the worms eat? The roots? D'Oh! What are your thoughts on this? Smiling Maybe I should bury decaying food in my established rose pots??
I find this very confusing.
Thank You!
Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias
hampartsum
Jul 7, 2019 7:05 PM CST
Carol, when worms eat up all available half decomposed organic matter and no more is added , then they leave the pot and search for food elsewhere. They are mobile. If that is impeded then they die...of hunger. However, much earlier than that ever were this to happen, your rose bush will be asking desperately for more food.... Green Grin! Earthworms eat only decayed organic material, not roots that are alive. Yes roses could be grown in pure organic substrate with no detriment to their performance. With the same kind of logic, roses are being grown on artificial inert ( no nutrient) substrate atop hydroponic vats. So what we are saying is that the food comes with the decayed OM, not with the inorganic soil particles. These particles just act as a support system for the roots and plant. If you can otherwise support the plant from its neck( crown) with a ring, the free roots could swim in hydroponic solution and still have a blooming bush. ...I admit not my idea of a garden though... Smiling
Arturo
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Plant Identifier Raises cows Roses Farmer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
porkpal
Jul 7, 2019 7:25 PM CST
But the gophers couldn't eat them!
Porkpal
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 8, 2019 1:02 AM CST
Arturo...why would the plant be starving when it has all of the organic matter that the worm created? I'm still confused.

I really appreciate this! I've been struggling with this for awhile. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias
hampartsum
Jul 8, 2019 2:39 AM CST
Carol, the worm eats half decomposed OM. Then it binds inside its guts. Then it poops it out. Is it already ready for plant uptake? No. The degradation process continues with other organisms that are inside the pot, which they in their own stage need worm compost. Finally, the micro-organisms do the last job and the
water soluble nutrient is released: NO3K. Potassium nitrate. This salt that is dissolved in the water is the only compound that plants can really uptake with their feeder roots through osmosis. The salt is by then no longer an organic compound but merely a salt. The earthworms live on the early stages of the degradation process. Soil bacteria on the final. Worms will starve before your rosebush. Why would your rose eventually starve too?. If no new organic material is added, the existing salt is simply washed out or already uptaken and there's no more. Your plant will start showing yellow leaves because of the lack of nitrogen ( mainly potassium nitrate). There may be some leftover nitrate in the soil particles, but this is eventually either leached or uptaken until there's no more. The worm does its part. It keeps on eating if its food is available. It is an ongoing process. It doesn't happen in one go. Eventually if no more new decaying material is added it migrates or dies. Bacteria need the earthworm poop. If no more earthworm then the bacteria die...no nitrate in the soil, plant starts to starve for nitrogen ( main growth nutrient). All plants need the inorganic salt derived from an on-going organic degradation process. Soil scientists discovered this long time ago which allowed mankind to use non organic sources of potassium nitrate dissolved in water: the conventional chemical fertilizer. Why is it better to use organic matter over a chemical source?. Because OM is a slow releaser, instead of a highly soluble chemical potassium nitrate of which just a small fraction is used and the rest very fast washed down. My greatest concern about non organic that it is very wasteful and it sends out large ammounts of plant nutrients to the watersheds polluting them, creating conditions for algal blooms and disbalancing the ecosystem.
I do hope that this rather lengthy post helps to clarify you. Please keep asking until you got it! Thumbs up
Arturo
[Last edited by hampartsum - Jul 9, 2019 7:17 AM (+)]
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Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 8, 2019 11:14 AM CST
Hey Arturo Thank You!
Okay, let's see if I've got this. I don't think I totally do yet. Hilarious!

So the roser who gardens in pots, puts organic material like coir, compost, composted manure in the pot. The worms change this to worm poop. Okay, next...The soil microorganisms (how do I know if there are any in the pot?) take this worm poop, eat it and create salt. The plant uptakes the salt which is it's only food. Somehow that seems strange. Why would rose bushes only "eat" salt? Okay...so I see why my rose bushes would need replenishing of organic matter.
But here's another question...I have Night Owl in a pot...it hasn't been repotted in 8 years!!! It's doing wonderfully...it's covered in buds and is the biggest rose in my pots. So, I've been feeding (only starting this year) organic fertilizer. Can it take up the nutrients?? It must be...it's covered in buds and very healthy. Yet, I have other older roses that I've started to repot (Chicago Peace, Grande Dame, etc.)...this year Pink Peace is (for the first time) not doing well. It's been in the same pot for 8 years...why change the soil, if it's doing well was my thinking. So, I should repot it this year, I guess. So why would Night Owl still be doing well and others not??
So...some of the roses that I've repotted have really rich looking soil...which I think is pure compost. But the roses aren't doing very well...so I'm assuming (based on what you said) that the worms are almost done with that soil, so aren't pooping much...and there are few worms left...which is the case. So...do I reuse the soil...since it's very lovely soil...and add new manure to it...but not new compost?
The last 2 years, I tried the 5:1:1 method...and my roses didn't do as well as the earlier years when I used this wonderful big bag (delivered by truck/fork lift) potting soil. They stopped making it...so I tried the 5:1:1 method. It didn't work very well for me. I've been repotting those roses. What are your thoughts on this?
Thank you Arturo, and everyone else for helping me. I've been gardening in pots for 8 years, and still feel like I know nothing. Whistling
Thank You! Thank You!
[Last edited by Canadian_Rose - Jul 8, 2019 11:15 AM (+)]
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SW Ohio River Valley (Zone 6b)
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vaporvac
Jul 8, 2019 11:51 AM CST
Is there any way to find out what they used prior in the soil you had trucked in and the proportions? I've also had plants in the same soil for years, but not roses. I think they need more to bloom properly.
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 8, 2019 5:31 PM CST
Vaporvac - No, I tried phoning them when they stopped making the mixture, and the person I talked to didn't know. Night Owl is wonderful. And Pink Peace was amazing last year...this year...it needs help. I have to repot that one. Thank You!
Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias
hampartsum
Jul 8, 2019 6:14 PM CST
Carol, lets continue with the soil logic. Not all roses are exactly the same. Some need more food than others. So your Night owl seems to have enough nitrogen ( in form of potassium nitrate) in soil to grow and bloom while others don't. BTW all plants in general terms "eat" nitrogen (the most important nutrient) in the format of potassium nitrate. That is why a hydroponic solution that contains potassium nitrate will be equally effective to grow roses, carnations, lettuce, tomatoes...anything. The basic hydroponic solution is called a Hoagland solution and is universally aplicable.
How do you know if your substrate contains micro-organisms. Very easy...everything contains invisible microorganisms unless you are working in a sterilized context. All your roses were fed with fertilizer over the years. Either organic as of this year or chemical previously. So all your roses were fed in one way or the other. So there can be nutrient left over in your soil in varying degrees. Those that are avid feeders will eventually have "eaten" up their food and are calling for new food. Now there's one other question to straighten out. When you move away from chem fertilizer your soil needs to reaccomodate itself. That again will not be uniform. You want to create the soil environment by which the natural soil degradation is restablished. It takes time before every little (invisible) critter gets back into your pot and the chain is back again. So there's the time factor.
You said <<<some of the roses that I've repotted have really rich looking soil...which I think is pure compost. But the roses aren't doing very well...so I'm assuming (based on what you said) that the worms are almost done with that soil, so aren't pooping much...and there are few worms left...which is the case>>
That means that the worms ran out of decaying large particle OM. They either went to a different pot ( or ground) or died. The looks is just that. The only way to find out what looks good is good is by having that analyzed. Now what is left is useless? NO. It is the base onto which you build up the full soil system. By adding manure and coir and allowing time for everything to go right you will be doing so. In what measure? (proportion): 2/3 of your potted soil +1/3 of manure plus coir. If I understand correctly appart from manure and coir you also add bought compost . That is also a source for nutrients. Also organic. I simply do not know anything beyond the word, of the composition of that product. So I can tell what its good for or necessary for. Nor do I know anything how finely degraded it is. I could only comment if you could explain how it is and, which are the basic organic materials with which the compost is developed ( i.e dry leaf compost, algal compost, barn litter compost, chicken coop compost, corn cob compost, sugar mill dregs compost and this could go on for ever because nowadays there are so many side products of industry and commercial agriculture that can be composted. So before summing up, I need to understand better what is the material you are using.
Have I been helpful up to here? Keep posting your uncertainties, its good for you and for others as well. It is very easy to skip over some unknown fact and suddenly find oneself muddled. It takes courage to show that towards others... Smiling But in fact it shows great intelligence, because anyone has areas that it doesn't understand fully and in detail . The only way out of it is by asking. :smily:
Good for you Carol I tip my hat to you.
Arturo
SW Ohio River Valley (Zone 6b)
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vaporvac
Jul 8, 2019 9:24 PM CST
I so agree and I've really enjoyed reading your explanations! : ))
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 8, 2019 9:26 PM CST
Arturo ...

I think the key concept here is that any organic material when it is first added to a container or to a rose planted in the ground does not provide any nutrients that the rose can use until it is broken down by worms, bacteria, etc. into a form of salt that can be taken up by the rose as nutrients through osmosis.

Wow ! That is one heck of a run-on sentence ... Smiling

Carol, another way of saying that is to say that when you are "feeding" your roses, you are actually feeding the soil organisms. They will do the work of converting the OM in the soil and the OM you provide to "feed" your roses into a form that the rose can use.

The soil organisms also require moisture and air to survive.

All of this working together is often called "the soil food web."
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
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Canadian_Rose
Jul 9, 2019 12:57 AM CST
Lyn - very well said. Very interesting about how we're feeding the micro-organisms. So (and Arturo, please jump in here too if you want) when we fertilize with organics...say Alaskan Fish Fertilizer, for example...that's feeding the micro-organisms too?

Arturo - I am so grateful that you are so patient. I can't believe I've been growing roses in pots for 10 years, and I still don't know the basics. Sheesh. D'Oh! So I was wondering if the microorganisms would be able to get into the pot. Then I was thinking...maybe they hitch a ride on the worms. So I've been worried about that...cause I did know that microorganisms were necessary. The manure is sheep manure (Green Harvest). I don't know what else was in the bag, because I threw the bags away. I also put in perlite, bone meal and glacial rock dust. Some of the pots...I added gypsum. Was that a good idea? Blinking I also added to the top of my pots about 1/2 cup of alfalfa pellets (all I had left) So you said to add 2/3 of my potting soil...by that you don't mean newly bought soil...you mean the soil that was in the pot and well worked through by the worms. Right? Blinking So just by reusing the potting soil and adding compost and stuff like that ... that will be good? I'm thinking that bagged composted manure...wouldn't that already be worked over by micro-organisms already? Thank you so much!! Thank You!

Thank You! Thank You!
SoCal (Zone 10a)
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SoCalGardenNut
Jul 9, 2019 7:23 AM CST
I have worm bins, I throw vegetables and peels, plus egg shells and coffee ground. I feed them to all of my plant. The stuff being through the worms already. I don't need to buy anything extra. We have lots of stuff from our kitchen. Here is a picture of what I call black gold.

Thumb of 2019-07-09/SoCalGardenNut/448be4

[Last edited by SoCalGardenNut - Jul 9, 2019 7:35 AM (+)]
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Name: Arturo Tarak
Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentin (Zone 8a)
Roses Dahlias
hampartsum
Jul 9, 2019 8:04 AM CST
Carol, there are now a few details to finally get the full picture:
<<Alaskan Fish Fertilizer, for example...that's feeding the micro-organisms too?>> Actually both on land or in the ocean, dead tissues decompose into nutrients that are taken up in any food chain. So yes you are feeding the food chain my adding Fish fertilizer. Between earthworms and the final denitrificating bacteria that generate the potassium nitrate there still are quite a few of other organisms doing their part. Some are very tiny invertebrates like millipedes and mites, some are fungi like the Actinomycetes. These are responsible to the wonderful smell of moist rich soil!. Each contribute to the degradation of dead tissue.
Now what is the wonderful contribution of earthworms in particular ?. They eat both organic pieces of dead plant material and soil particles ( i.e sand,perlite, dust etc). Then inside the guts the reduced organic components that are not uptaken by the body of the earthworm are passed on in the format of OM "glued" onto sandy and other inert particles. The earthworm generates thus a slow release product, because the OM is no longer directly or freely available. It has to be broken down still by other minute beings. That generates a time lapse. Then the soil gets in installments its nutritional needs over time. With organic fertilizing you don't need to fertilize every day or every week. It can be done in some cases once in a season, or perhaps two. The reason is that slow release fertilizer was generated by the earthworm poop.
<<So just by reusing the potting soil and adding compost and stuff like that ... that will be good?>> Yes your existing soil, is your support system. The existing particles ( sand, silt, clay) will maintain your bush upright. They serve a mechanical function mainly. They also generate air pockets so that roots have access to air to breathe ( hydroponic systems use areators like those one finds in acquarists hobby fish tanks to make sure that the water carries enough dissolved air to keep the roots alive). The source of soluble nutrients for most garden plants is by getting it from the soil food web. Alternatively, modern research has allowed to use the chemically produced potassium nitrate ( in 15:15:15 the first 15: representrs that) directly. So modern gardeners can choose from both.
Why its better to use earthworm poop instead of 15:15:15?. Because it a NATURAL slow release product. When I stress natural its because there are tons of minicreatures waiting to jump in and do their part, whilst with the highly ( VERY) soluble potassium nitrate, what is not uptaken soon, say days, perhaps a week or so, then the rest is simply washed away and the plant needs replenishing again! Also the soil food chain is damaged. With high doses of available nitrate the final bacteria are no longer needed and dissapear. So by going chemical one ends up with a depleted soil food chain apart from wasting useless extra nitrate and contributing to the pollution of downstream watersheds.
<<bone meal>> This is the best source of Calcium phosphate that has a high soluble phosphate component. Its better than rock phosphate. Second best are seashells ( ground) such as oyster shell. Phosphorus when needed must be soluble. Otherwise the plant can not uptake it. ( it represent the middle number of a fertilizer). Organic phosphorus ( bone meal or seashells) have gone through the phosphorus cycle of the body of animals so that type of phosphorus is much easier to return to a soluble salt. Most of existing phosphorus compounds a very insoluble, thus useless for the life web.
<<I'm thinking that bagged composted manure...wouldn't that already be worked over by micro-organisms already?>>
Not fully. If so you would have just only invisible salt diluted in water. ( what many gardeners call compost tea). A compost is a HALF decomposed organic matter . Its more or less half way in the soil food chain.
I hope that I've covered your questions.Perhaps some readers would want to jump in with a few more. I don't mind having my mind being picked clean if that helps others garden better! Hilarious!

Arturo
[Last edited by hampartsum - Jul 9, 2019 10:05 AM (+)]
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Name: Seth n Sam .....
W.V. (Zone 6a)
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Weluvroses
Jul 9, 2019 10:04 AM CST
I disagree with the entire thing. Worm casting do not need micro activity to breakdown for plants to use it. I'm not sure where you got that info. Bc it's not true. Worm casting are immediately available for the plants to use. There is more water soluble nutrients in worm castings than any other additive. Which can be used immediately by the plant. Saying theres a salt byproduct from worm poop is just incorrect. This is from a legit worm farm.

With castings, however, all the healthy nutrients that the plant needs are water-soluble and can be absorbed right away. You also don't have to worry about putting too much casting material into the soil, because it will never burn the roots.

In addition to the core nutrients that the plant needs to grow, you'll also find copper, zinc, iron, cobalt, borax, manganese, nitrogen, and carbon. That provides a lot of versatility in nutrients for all different kinds of plants and many different kinds of soil. 


It's kind of like worm castings fill in whatever nutritional gaps with your organic garden or crops, and makes it so that you can grow amazing plants... no matter what!

Worm castings are water soluble and what the breakdown is immediately able to be used by the plant. Saying micros break it down into salt is 100% incorrect.
Name: Seth n Sam .....
W.V. (Zone 6a)
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Weluvroses
Jul 9, 2019 10:08 AM CST
Worm poop once watered breaks down and can be used by any plant. It doesnt have to broke down by micros again leaving a salt byproduct for the plant is 1 million percent wrong. I'm sorry that's just not true. That statement is completely false. Not trying to argue, or prove anyone wrong. But that's just not true.

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