Posts Tagged ‘worm casings’

Community Garden Beds

Bed A getting ready for manure.

I have two beds in the Ranch Community Garden. In a burst of inspiration, I dubbed them A and B. As a single person, I probably don’t need two beds, but it should give me enough vegetables to preserve some and eat a lot. Any extras I’ll just send along with the food that is grown for the food bank. I threw my name in the hat for a second bed if there were unclaimed plots. By cultivating it instead of leaving it fallow, I will be improving it for the next person that wants to use it.

Bed A with manure, pansies, and marigolds.

It’s funny what you hold onto from childhood. Being the child of two science-oriented people, I looked at my two beds and immediately determined that this required an experiment. Bed A will be the “improved” bed, while bed B will be “unimproved.” It isn’t a pure experiment, as the local soil has already been improved with mulch over the winter and the transplants are adding a bit of potting soil. However, bed A is also getting cow manure and some worm casings. The tomatoes are both going in bed A, because tomatoes like rich soil, and I really want them to be successful. There’s nothing quite like garden tomatoes. The greenbeans are also going in bed A, because I have one trellis and that’s where it’s located. Bed B got the chamomile plants and will be more onion/garlic heavy because tomatoes and onions don’t get along too well. Nor do beans and garlic. I planted some garlic chives and three garlic cloves in bed B. The cloves are definitely an experiment. The ones that Heirloom Gardens planted back in March or April seem to be doing fine, so we’ll see if you can plant them as late as mid-May and still get any growth out of them.

Bed B with pansies.

What is identical between the two beds is one square each of carrots, onions, lettuce, beets, and turnips. There are also two squares of kale and half a square of radishes. I used the same variety in each bed, and they are planted with the same orientation. I am very curious to see if there is any difference between them. I am using the Square-Foot method and staggering the plantings so that I can stagger the harvests. Other than the leeks, which need to go in bed B shortly, most of the additional squares will be identical between the beds to provide additional data.

Bed A, first planting.

I am also growing marigolds and pansies. Both are potentially edible, make sure your marigold is the real thing, Calendula officinalis, but I am growing them for other reasons. Fruit, in this case, my tomatoes, are the result of fertilized flowers. With the exception of wind-pollinated species, you will need pollinators to make sure the flowers are fertilized. Having additional flowers in the garden means that pollinators will already be seeing my plots as feeding grounds when the tomatoes blossom, increasing my odds of setting fruit. The marigolds are also to help protect my tomatoes from nematodes or roundworms. There are some beneficial varieties of nematodes, but most of them are not too friendly. The more years I can grow marigolds, the fewer nematodes I will be concerned about.

Bed B, first planting.

My last note is a cautionary one. If you are a slightly neglectful gardener, which is something I swear I know nothing about, don’t forget to water your plants the days after you transplant them as well as the day of. The marigolds took the day of neglect pretty well. The pansies, however, were far more dramatic in their opinion. They are, fortunately, thinking about forgiving me for it and growing anyway.

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I have worms! In a good way.

About 100 worms. Smaller than I expected.

Yep, I now have pets. I picked them up at a local store and deposited them in their newly-crafted home. When I got them I stuck my nose in their little carrying cases and it was so nice to smell honest-to-goodness dirt! I started with a little over 200. They were pricy, and I could have done better online, but I wanted to pick them up instead of having them shipped. My mail has a bad habit of languishing in my mailbox for a day or two before I pick it up, and I didn’t want to lose any to frostbite. I also decided that as quickly as they breed, it was probably best to start small rather than risk being overwhelmed in short order. Apparently your population can double in 90 days.

Importing plants and animals should be done with care. After all, dandelions were once imported on purpose because they were pretty. I hesitated over purchasing this fancy, European worm for that reason. However, they like temperatures above 55 degrees, moist conditions, and they like to stay in the upper portion of the soil. If they decided to escape on me, I don’t think they’d last long enough to be a genuine problem around here. That,

The latest in sustainable chic.

and they live for eating compost, unlike nightcrawlers that need more actual dirt in their life. As long as their environment doesn’t dry out, they shouldn’t have any reason to want to leave their comfy little box where they get their food hand-delivered.

I got my worms about a month ago. In that time I’ve learned a couple of things. The tray under the box is less to deal with water and more to hold onto the worm casings that fall out every time you move it. Like so many other things around here, they dry out quickly. Don’t underestimate your needed number as badly as I did. Particularly if you have some very sad vegetables in the refrigerator that are more suited to worm food than people food. They don’t, quite, keep up with my current scraps which means that they’re no help when it comes to cleaning out the fridge. I have also discovered that if you don’t overfeed them, their home smells nice and earthy. Chopping your veggie scraps into smaller pieces helps them eat it, and it’s not that hard to rinse out egg shells to dry and crush for their grit/calcium supplement. Apparently worms have crops like a bird that requires grit to grind up the food.

Given a choice, they're mostly camera-shy.

I have been tossing around the idea of supplementing my worm count so that I can stop sending vegetable scraps down the trash disposal, but at this point I think I’ll just be patient. They are doing a number on their bedding and the food that I do give them, and I don’t have a place to use the casings just yet. I am pretty excited to see how much they can produce for me, though, when I start eating out of my garden and I have more vegetables for me and scraps for them.