May 302012
 

 

worms in the bin

by Avis Licht – I really love worms.  Some people think I’m a little crazy about my worm love, but when you know more about them, you’ll love them too.  It’s hard to believe such a small creature can do so much heavy lifting.   Check out these facts:

1.When compared with soil, worm casts also contain:

5 times more nitrogen;
7 times more phosphorus;
1.5 times the calcium;
11 times more potassium;
3 times more exchangeable magnesium.

2. Worm compost is organic, non-burning and rich in nutrients.  Vermicompost contains eight times as many microorganisms as their feed, which promotes healthy plant growth.

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3.Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen, as we all know, is an important nutrient for plants. 

4. When expelled, worm casts consist of granules, surrounded by a mucus, which hardens upon exposure to air. When granular castings are mixed into garden or houseplant soils there is a slow “time release” of nutrients. However, the hardened particles of mucus do not readily break down. Instead, they serve to break up soils, providing aeration and improving drainage. Worm casts therefore provide an organic soil conditioner as well as a natural fertiliser.

5. The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil, have a perfect pH balance, and have plant growth factors similar to those found in seaweed.

Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else. Don’t let this happen to your worms!

Here’s how to provide your worms with a happy home:

1. Get a multi layer worm box.  It allows the worms to travel to new food in the next layer, keeps the rain out, collects worm juice at the bottom and lets you collect finished castings without sifting.  The worms move up to the next layer when they’ve finished the food in the first layer.

Multi level worm bin

2. Layer bedding material in the box.  It can be torn newspaper, sawdust, leaves, dried leaves or any biodegradable, carbon based material. You can use horse or composted rabbit manure. Earthworm bedding should retain moisture, remain loose, and not contain much protein or organic nitrogen compounds that readily degrade.  Don’t put the box in the sun. It will get too hot for your worms.

torn newspaper for bedding

3.Add moist materials like composted manure, soil, leaves and worms. I got these worms from Urban Worm Composting.

Worms for composting

These worms are from Urban Adamah in a composted material. Lay them in the box.

4.After worms are added, keep the bedding moist but not soggy. If you’re using kitchen scraps, cut them up into 2″-3″ pieces. It’s easier for them to eat.  Feed them 2 or 3 times a week, a few cups at a time. If you leave on vacation, don’t worry, they’ll be fine.  Just make sure they have a little food before you go. Cover the food with cardboard or shredded newspaper. It keeps them moist.

food for your worms

Egg shells, banana peels, lettuce, coffee grounds – all good.

5. What NOT to feed your worms: 

Use Caution When Adding These:

Breads — can attract red mites
Potato skins, onions, garlic, ginger — get consumed slowly and can cause odors
Coffee grounds — too many will make the bin acidic

Do Not Feed:

Meat, poultry, fish, dairy — protein attracts rodents
Potato chips, candy, oils — worms do not like junk food and these attract ants
Oranges, lemons, limes — citrus has a chemical substance (limonene) that is toxic to worms

Let me know if you have problems.  There’s usually a simple solution.

Gotta love those worms!

Earthworms galore

Earthworms galore

 

Feb 202012
 
Spring flowers

by Avis Licht –

Coffee, especially organic

Drink your morning coffee, then put it in the compost.

Great news for coffee drinkers in the gardening world! Although many people love to drink coffee, it has often gotten a bad rap about its health effects.  Well, I’m here to say that a very reputable source has reported that coffee is very good for your health.  Especially if you’re a woman.  What has this got to do with your garden? Keep on reading!

Here’s what Dr. Sadja Greenwood has to say about coffee in her health blog.

“Positive news about caffeine and coffee is on the rise! Annia Galano, a Cuban chemist, recently published a paper suggesting that coffee is one of the richest sources of healthful antioxidants in the average person’s diet. It scavenges free radicals that can have damaging effects on the body. Here is a summary of recent research.Less Cognitive decline: A study found that women over age 65 who drank over three cups of coffee a day showed less cognitive decline over 4 years than those drinking one cup or less. No such relationship was found for men in this study.(Too bad for you guys.)  Decaf coffee and caffeine alone did not give this protection.” That’s the good news about coffee drinking for us coffee lovers.
The better news about all those extra coffee grounds is that they are fantastic for your garden.
  • They contain nitrogen, and provide generous amounts of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper.
  • It is a myth that used grounds are highly acidic.  The acid in coffee is reduced by the water when the coffee is brewed.  What’s left is not highly acidic.
  • Grounds are best used in the compost, or mixed into the soil. Don’t use them as a mulch on the surface, as the grounds tend to grow moldy and get hard.
  • Worms love coffee grounds. You can safely put them into your worm bins.

Here’s a link to another article on composting and coffee. It has lots of information:Coffee grounds in the garden.

Spring flowers

Enjoy a cup of coffee while walking around your garden in the morning

Dec 072011
 
Sheet mulching removed the old lawn
Sheet mulching

Layers for sheet mulching

Sheet mulching is the simple act of layering greens,(weeds, garden greens, kitchen waste), cardboard, manure (although not absolutely necessary) and mulch. By doing this over the winter, you allow decomposition of weeds and the proliferation of worms under cover of cardboard.

Use sheet mulching instead of digging.  It saves your back and brings new fertility and health to your soil.  By using manure, you introduce worms into the soil and they proliferate under the protection of the cardboard.

You can use this method for both large and small areas. Sheet mulching around fruit trees keeps down weeds and will add fertility in the Spring when the tree comes out of dormancy.

In large areas, you can use it to remove that old, tired lawn. At my own home I replaced the backyard lawn that the kids and dog had used and abused and no longer looked good. I didn’t want to dig it up; that would have killed my back.  Instead I sheet mulched it.

Earthworms in compost

Earthworms can turn your weeds into beautiful, healthy soil

  • I mowed the lawn, leaving the clippings on the ground.  I rounded up all the other weeds and greens from the yard and laid them down over the lawn.
  • I laid down approximately 3 inches of manure over the whole lawn.  If you don’t have access to manure, just use as many fresh greens and kitchen compost as you have.
  • Next comes the cardboard. I went to an appliance store and picked up large cardboard boxes, free, of course. Be sure to overlap the edges to keep the weeds from sneaking through.
  • On top of this I put another layer of manure and then covered all of this in 6 inches of mulch.  You can use free shredded tree trimmings  from your local tree service, or lay out straw from bales of hay.
  • If it is dry in your part of the country, be sure to give the area a good soaking to get things decomposing.  Then let the winter take care of the rest.  Come Spring, you will find that the area is ready for new plantings.

Take a look at my back yard.  I promise you I did not dig up one square inch of the lawn that used to be there. Worms did the hard work.  You just have to invite them in with a little manure and cardboard.

Sheet mulching removed the old lawn

Without digging up a spadeful, I turned lawn into this edible landscape

P.S. If you prefer to use custom made fabrics for your sheet mulching, Amazon and Gardeners Supply
icon sell some good products. Both of these links I’ve provided will take you directly to fabrics for sheet mulching.

Sep 272011
 
Inside a rolling composter with worms

Inside the composter, worms eat the food and make soil

Composting is one of my favorite subjects. How many ways can you take garbage and turn it into gold.  The only way I know is by composting your kitchen and yard waste and getting Garden Gold as the result.

There are few additions to the garden that are as useful as compost.  You can’t use too much of it, it won’t burn your plants like too much nitrogen and it increases the entire health of the soil as well as the plants. It is easy to put your kitchen wastes and some dried leaves in the bin and let the worms do their thing.

Small enclosed composter

This small composter keeps out all critters and fits on a deck or small area easily

In the picture on the left, you put the food in the little trap door. Mix your wet garbage like food scraps with dry matter, like leaves, weeds and  sawdust at the rate of 1 part wet to 4 parts dry. Introduce worms into the bin, either by putting some topsoil from your garden into it, or buying some earthworms from the nursery. You can also find that a little manure added will get your compost going fast.

The difference between a “hot” compost pile and a “cold” pile is the rate of decomposition and the heat generated by the breakdown of nutrients.  In the bin on the left, regular additions of kitchen waste keep the pile cool, and worms find that they like this atmosphere just fine. Piles that get too hot do not have worms. Both kinds of composters work. It is more a matter of how you use your pile that decides which way it goes, hot or cold.

Big Mother

Happy worms can get big

Worms in the compost

Worms in the compost

 

This set of photos shows a partial break down of the food. Worms did all the work.

From this point on you can put the compost into the soil around your plants.  You’ll also be introducing more worms into the soil which is a spectacular thing to do.

There is lots more to know and learn about composting and worms, but I really just want you to get started. Here is an interesting article that will tell you more on worms. Never throw another banana peel away. Your edible landscape will be healthier and produce better tasting food using this free garden gold.

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