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I was just down feeding my fish and noticed that there is some mold around a couple of my plants with the clay balls. The bed is filled to the top now, but when I first started cycling the system it used to float the pellets. But the top should be staying dry now unless I pour water down into the bed from above. What should I do? I was just beginning to get some strawberries and peas to produce fruit and I don't want to start all over again.

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If the vinegar isn't working, perhaps try a little milk spray for the downy looking stuff.


Some of the other pictures look like powery mildew on the upper leaves.  I would say seaweed extract spray since that is sometimes something that tends to attack plants suffering from potassium deficiency.

Hi Windy,

Yeah that's mildew, the grey color gives it away. Sorry about your strawberries:(

Can you get any ventilation from the outside into the basement?

Can you put more light on the plants?

Would you consider adding Red Worms?  Or just some worm castings to start?  Worms produce mycorrhizal fungi, air loving species.

"What exactly do mycorrhizal fungi do for the plants they associate with?

Increase the number of roots. As noted with the ectomycorrhizas, many of the mycorrhizal fungi stimulate root growth in plants. Dr. Robert Linderman of Oregon State University is a leader in mycorrhizal fungi research, and some of his work shows that the right strain of fungi can actually double the number of roots in potted nursery stock, making the plants more resistant to dryness, and allowing them to establish themselves faster in their new location when they are planted out. This applies to both annual and perennial plants. 

Protect plants from disease. All the exact mechanisms aren't established, but plants with mycorrhizal fungi are less susceptible to diseases, both of the roots and the rest of the plant. Some of the effects must be due to improved nutrition of the plant, while others may be related to substances given off by the fungi, natural antibiotics which keep disease organisms at bay. The physical presence of the fungi may form a natural barrier to disease, as well." 

This is not an endorsement of a product.  I get mine free from my worms. 

How much aeration to the water do you have?

I read that Horsetail tea is good against mildew.

You may be encouraged that once a system gets stable it's like TC Lynx said, "I just harvest vegetables." 

I started cycling in March. I'm on my second crop with 5' tomato plants.  I have lots of air, light and worms.  My biggest problem is lack of bees to pollinate fruiting vegetables.  

Let us know how it goes.





Are red wigglers the same a red worms?
Yes - the only difference is the red ones wiggle alil bit, sometimes... lol

Windy Elliott said:
Are red wigglers the same a red worms?

Yea, red wigglers and red worms are just a couple common names for some of the more common composting worms.  You want composting worms of some sort for the grow beds there are many varieties but most of us are not going to check them with a magnifying glass to figure out the exact species (involves counting segments and tiny hairs.)



How many do I add? Don't they drown when the tank floods? What do they eat when a bed is just starting?

Hi Windy,

You may get a few dozen from a fish bait shop.  One can get them by mail but the trip is an additional stressor. 

They won't drown if the water is aerated constantly. 

Red Worms eat vegetable and fruit trimmings mixed with unprinted paper, brown grass clippings, decayed leaves.  I like to give them fine straw, tissue paper, a few coffee grounds, rinsed eggshells. Feed very little, maybe a 1/2 cup per week at first.  If they consume that feed a little more. (I killed my first three colonies by overfeeding)

You may buy worm castings (poop), it will begin to fight mold right away and a little in their bedding will start the decay and make them feel right at home.

One might keep them in a plastic colander or bread basket with cover. Key here is airy, moist with temps 50 -80F. Worms may escape a new environment, if you place it on your grow bed they will go into that anyway.   They hate vibration. 








I'm not sure how that would work with Sylvia's system. I don't put any compost in my grow media. Isn't the point of the grow media to not add anything but plants? I'm so confused.

You can put a hand full of worms right into your grow bed.  The worms will eat anything that could decay in the grow bed.  Like old plant roots and fish poo etc.  Even in a new bed they will find something to eat, they just won't breed much if there is a lack of food.  If you have any plants growing, there is roots for the worms to eat since plants constantly grow very find roots that will often die back and then re-grow new ones so that will provide food for worms along with the fish waste.


If water is well aerated, worms can get the oxygen they need even under water (they breath through their skin.)


you can add anywhere from a small hand full (6-12 worms) all the way up to perhaps a pound of worms to a grow bed depending on it's size and how many worms you can get at the time.


Much of Homefire's info about worms was if you were going to keep a worm bin to have the worms eat your garbage and provide you with worm castings.



My worms are directly in my growbed.  They don't drown in the water.  I don't feed them anything special.  They will breed until they have the right size colony for the environment.  They will eat the fish waste solids that are in your media.

I don't know about the coffee grounds and such, but eggshells in your system are a common way to keep the pH up.  This is something you will probably do later as your system matures but I would NOT recommend doing it right now when you've already got fairly high pH.

I'm following Murray Hallam's tip having them right on the grow bed (see my photos). 

Windy wrote:

Isn't the point of the grow media to not add anything but plants? I'm so confused."

I know the feeling; i worried about having some kind of nasty anaerobic bacterial slime take over. 

My system was well aerated, circulated with plenty sunshine and big plants before i added worms. 

I suppose one could keep them separately then place the worms and aerated worm tea into the grow bed.


ok. Well then I will get some and add some to each bed and put the rest in my compost bin out back, which I need to get better about using anyway.

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