Tom Bartels – Perfect DIY Design Ideas For Backyard Gardens

System Posts: 121 admin
edited October 2019 in Home Medicine Summit 2019

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  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,541 admin

    Good morning!

    Hey Tom, I've been meaning to ask you... In my Colorado garden (which was amazing this year) I've got a big patch of carrots that are still going strong. Last year you had a presentation about how to store veggies for optimal nutrition and I recall you said to simply keep the carrots in the ground? Should I cover them with mulch, should I cut off the tops, uh - how do I go about keeping them through the winter.

    I've heard legends of how delicous "February carrots" are and so delighted to try it this year.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Posts: 8

    Thank you, Tom, for another wonderful and informative presentation. I always enjoy your talks.

    And thank you. TGN, for the whole summit! Love these!

  • sonbyrd
    sonbyrd Posts: 29 ✭✭✭

    Great presentation. A couple questions re the worm bin: I assume the heavy screen for the bottom of the bin should be extremely fine gauge? Also, how the heck do you "cut the bottom out" of an old freezer? ha. I would love to do this on my acre of land to replace the above-ground compost piles that the deer invade on a daily basis. THANKS!

  • JasonMatyas
    JasonMatyas Posts: 3

    Hello, thank you for watching my presentation.

  • Jatata
    Jatata Posts: 7

    What great ideas! I'm wondering though, how do you keep the worms from going down out through the wired bottom? thanks!

  • silvertipgrizz
    silvertipgrizz Posts: 1,990 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Tom Bartels

    HI Tom, and everyone here.

    I really appreciate every part of your presentation. I have a few questions:

    Do you have blueprint/directions for:chicken coop, root cellar, solar dryer?

    And one more question regarding worms: I found info that stated there are 3 types of worms: upper level the ones you see after a rain, mid level and deep worms. I have found very interesting the concept of the 'worm tower' and it seems to me that creating ones that would make available those three levels for the different worms would be very innovative as they would include so many more worms for a very active tower and thus more goodies left by the worms.. Is there a reason why this could not be better than just incorporating the top level worms that some say are the only true compost worms?

    And I love your past presentation of how to prep garlic for long term storage that you did last year I think it was, for TGN.

    Thank you so much for your innovation!

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,282 admin

    LOVE that food dryer!

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,810 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great, practical ideas to minimize labor and waste! Plus he has all the upcycled items looking so pretty.

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2019


  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    to: Marjory Wildcraft

    Hey Marjory, on the carrots. Yes! just before hard freeze, snap all the greens off right at the top of the carrots. I just use a side angle snapping motion with the greens in my hand and they snap off pretty clean. Then mulch under about 1.5 feet of good solid leaf material or dense mulch. If you only have light dry leaves, then I would advocate for some Remay cloth below the leaf matter to keep that ground from freezing. Then during winter, you harvest a row or two at a time after pulling snow and mulch back in rows. Sweeeeeeet winter carrots!

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    to sonbyrd:

    Yes, cutting out the bottom of the freezer is the most curious part of the process. You can use a "Saws-all", or other metal cutting tool to cut through the sheet metal jacket and insulation from both sides of that bottom. Then add a strong gauge metal screen in there that can support weight. The screen doesn't need to be super fine or anything. Even a 1/4" opening pattern works. You just start with leaves or shredded newspaper on bottom and very little material falls through. The worms won't try to escape either. They know where the food is.

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    to: PacaRanchGirl :

    The worms don't try to escape through the bottom screen at all. They will stay where the food is. the only way they try to get out is when people don't vent the bin properly and the worms experience oxygen deprivation. They will then climb to the Top of the bin and try to get some air. This is a signal to increase your air flow to the inside of the bin.

  • ines871
    ines871 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you so much Tom.

    My only question: How does a little 110 lbs. girlie like me Build all these things ? - Some of us don't have a hubby. And others of us have a hubby 'paralyzed', so every Garden-project is totally my responsibility, no less on a shoeString budget. - Thanks for any suggestions.

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Hey rainbow:

    Yep, that can be a challenge. If the construction part of these projects seems too difficult a scale, I would suggest starting small, or trying to negotiate with a kindred neighbor to get compost systems up and running etc... Then everybody can share and win. And really, just because you are 110 pounds doesn't preclude the learning of using a metal saw. Or if you'd just rather not get into that stuff, you might search out an old freezer at the local junk recycling center and tag one. Then see if you can negotiate help to get someone with a truck to help you move it to your place. Then do same with someone who is good with a saw etc... until .... Hey, a working system! Take steps for each goal. It can happen.


  • ines871
    ines871 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi again Tom, thanks for your Speedy reply. -

    I did not want to complicate my 'weight'-question with too many details, as I normally do, lol, but just so you know: I grew-up in a Magnificent family garden, & thus have gardened my entire life, all 64+ some years, so Gardening (successfully = win many Blues at state Fair) comes more or less natural to me. Plus I teach "Optimal nutrition", so that's natural too. -- Also have access to 2 different size freezers here already; aside which I use the chainsaw & other tools as needed. --- So more specific questions: How would I cut the bottom of the freezer out ? , & How could I modify the large "Exotic Bird" cage as a chicken tractor ?, & could I keep 4 chickens in the 12by16 shed we have in winter ?, (aside all the tools we keep in there), & is there a way (in a city) to have a shallow root cellar ?

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    Hey Rainbow:

    Cutting the bottom out of a freezer is usually done with a pilot hole from the outside of the sheet metal first. That is done with a large size drill bit that will create a hole large enough to get a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade, or a "Saws-All" with same. You might draw a line showing the rough outline on the outside metal of where the line will be cut to avoid any structural interruptions etc... then cut the rectangular hole about 3" or so SMALLER then the actual size of the freezer cavity. This way you end up with a 3" shelf inside the bottom that will support the screen you will add to the bottom. (hope that makes sense) (all of this is assuming that the freon canister and motor have been removed.)

    As for chicken tractor, sure! go for it.

    As for keeping chickens in the winter. that depends. Need to keep them comfortable, with about 6 square feet available in the coop (per hen) minimum to avoid fighting. So if you are planning 4 hens you would need at least 24 sq feet, and you say it's a 12 by 16 shed, so No Problem! that's 192 sq feet.

    As for the shallow root cellar in the city... The deeper the better. If you live where it freezes all winter, then your storage space will freeze also, unless it is deeper then the frost line, which is at least 3 feet deep in most cases. But then it can be touch and go, (33F degrees ) But when you go deep, like more at the 7 to 8 foot level, it never freezes and the average temps all winter are between 38 and 42F which is perfect. So again... it is a gradient. And that is true whether you're in urban or rural areas. you are using the planet to control temps.

  • Dilek
    Dilek Posts: 3

    This was great!! I would love to see a pdf of materials for the different products tho. I took notes but still....

  • Lydia Feltman
    Lydia Feltman Posts: 3 ✭✭✭

    Hi Tom,

    This is one of the best presentations I have ever seen. Thank you.

    Using a old freezer or fridge for a worm bin is a good idea. As a master gardener I have taught worm composting. I have been asked if old fridges could be used. Now I can say yes, this is the first example I have seen, and how to do it.

    Do you think one could just drill some large holes in the bottom for drainage covered with screen?

    Also, what is keeping the space under it from filling up with the castings that could sift through? It doesn't seem to have an access underneath to clean it out, as I am used to doing with my worm box benches.

    Thanks for all the other info, also.


  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Hey Lydia,

    Thanks for your kind remarks.

    As far as the space below the worm bin goes... I raised the bin up about 8" on simple blocks. That increases airflow to the bottom screen. And yes, you could simply drill several large holes in the bottom, but the issue there is they may get covered over time as the material matts up. When you have most of the bottom allowed to have screen, airflow is more prevalent, which helps keep the worms healthy and keeps the bin from turning anaerobic. Surprisingly, the castings don't sift through the bottom much. They tend to bind in larger mass. So the worm casting harvest that happens twice a year is done from the top of the bin. The material is just removed via shovel and placed on the tarps. A small bit of the material may sift through the bottom, but easily pulled out from the bottom with a rake, since the bin is up 8"off the ground. Hope that helps.


  • Is it possible to dry at lower temperatures by propping it a bit open?

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Hey Carol,

    Sure, if you inserted a small spacer in the door on the lower part, it would increase distance from the hot tin and reduce temps. You can vary the temperature pretty easily.


  • How do you get the compost out of the freezer? How do you keep the worms from going out thru the bottom screen?

  • I just got the answer, thanks.

  • What a great presentation! Thanks so much, the worm freezer. It is just what I was looking for!! One question. I live in San Diego and it gets HOT in the summer. Will the freezer stay cool in the summer or will only work in cold climates?

  • ines871
    ines871 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi again Tom, thank you so much for explaining... things that actually "make sense" 🙂 - You may have a hard time believing that when I was UNschooling the kiddos, we all learned "how to build a Log-home from the ground up"; - but now family yells : "Do not tell me you were on the roof-Ridge, yet again!!" - my response: "Well, who else is gonna FIX the holes up there, of course it's always me" LOL -- Yet as a member of the I think some kind soul(s) will have pity, on me yet again, as they have for 4+ years, & help with the Drilling, & what-have-you. - Anyway, Thank you Tom for your time.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,469 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for the great information! I need to start a worm bin, and I do love the chicken coop ideas, once I'm ready for chickens.

  • Lydia Feltman
    Lydia Feltman Posts: 3 ✭✭✭

    Thanks, Tom, for your response.

    It makes sense that the screen on the bottom will keep the castings dryer but more compact and the worms will not fall out there. One problem I've had with my system is that the worms like to go back into the wet castings to lay their cocoons, making it more difficult to remove the castings. Baby worms eat the castings.

    In the future, it might be a good idea to use this same type of mesh for a bottom on the type of wooden bench style worm box that my husband has made for me. He made them out of old redwood fence boards. I do like the low height of the bench boxes we have, but we need to invent a lid that will keep out rain. I always have to cover them with plastic in the winter. Your plan also solves the temperature and rain problem.

    I like your food dryer solution also.

    Best wishes, Lydia

  • Lyda Eagle
    Lyda Eagle Posts: 12 ✭✭✭

    As Always Tom's presentations are just awesome! So much useful information. Love the root cellar. Thanks for a great presentation.

  • thhn13
    thhn13 Posts: 1

    what is orak? sp? you mention it as one of your super 7 but I can't find any info on what it even is

  • TomBartels
    TomBartels Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Hey thhn13:

    Orach is a great green to grow. It comes close to the nutritional content of spinach, but is less likely to bolt, grows fast and has less Oxalic acid than spinach. It comes in different colors, and once you save the seeds, you'll never have to buy the seeds again. Here's an example: