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The Lazy Way to Harvest Worm Poo

August 14, 2010

Last year, I got worms for Mother’s Day, red wigglers. They’re the only pets we’ve had in the new house, but a kitten may be joining them soon. The worms make the best fertilizer for the garden. I also use it in my homemade seed starting mix – peat moss or coconut coir, perlite, and worm poo. The seedlings love it.

At first, I tried the different harvesting methods described in various sources. I tried sorting through the bin by hand. I tried dumping it all in a pile under a light and sorting through it. I tried letting it go a couple of weeks without feeding, then putting a melon rind in one spot for the worms to gather in. All of these were very time consuming, tedious, and dirty. The castings might be worth it, but still, there must be a better way. So, the last couple of harvests, I’ve tried something new.

My worm bin is a plastic storage bucket with holes drilled into the bottom for drainage and around the top for air circulation. There are  layers of composting materials inside. On the top is the cleaner shredded newspaper that provides a barrier between the composting materials and the house. This prevents fruit flies and soaks up excess moisture in the bin. When the shredded paper gets damp and the worms start working their way up into it, I add more fresh, dry, shredded newspaper.

compost worm bin

Under that is the layer where the new food scraps are added and the worms live and do their composting work.

compost worm bin

Under that is the more finished compost, the worm castings, and a whole lot of worms.

compost worm bin

To start the harvesting, I remove each of the top two layers, putting them onto old pizza boxes or bin lids.

compost worm bin

The bottom layer, I move into a bin without holes. Then, I put the middle layer into the bottom of the working bin with holes and the top layer back on top. If the top layer is too damp or there are food scraps mixed in, I’ll mist it and add fresh, dry, shredded newspaper on top.

The fresh bin with holes goes into the bin with the mostly composted materials and worms from the bottom layer of the original bin. I have holes drilled all over the lid. As the worms in the bottom bin finish off the last bits of food scraps, they migrate up through the holes in the bottom of the top bin, looking for food. The longer I wait, the fewer worms there are in the bottom bin at harvest time.

compost worm bin

The closed bin underneath is where the finished, mostly worm-free compost stays until I need it. Hopefully, by the time I use it up, the upper bins will be ready to harvest.

compost worm bin

In the summer, I keep the worm bins at the bottom of the basement stairs. Last winter, they were upstairs, where it was warmer and would keep them composting more. The basement doesn’t get cold enough to harm them in winter, but they do slow down at lower temperatures.

Butterfly and Tiger Lily

August 12, 2010

butterfly & tiger lily

Rose Bonbon Cosmos & Amaranth

August 9, 2010

rose bonbon cosmos & amaranth

Potato Flowers

August 7, 2010

Out of 30 seed potatoes, only one failed to grow. Most of them didn’t bloom.

potato

The flowers are all gone now, but they were pretty little things.

potato

A few were pink. I’m not sure which flowers were from which varieties, but I planted all blue, all red, and purple peruvian.

potato

GROW Nasturtiums August Update

August 3, 2010

The garden is finally to the point where I can happily post photos of the full garden. The nasturtiums are planted at the corner of each trellis post, in a hanging basket at each end of the trellis, and outside the front corner.

nasturtium

At one corner, I wound the vine around the trellis as it grew. It’s grown quite tall,

nasturtium

but the plant in the basket has stayed small.

nasturtium

The spitfire growing with sweet peas is smaller than others, but also greener and healthier. The base of the plant is shaded by its companions. Maybe that helps keep it from drying out.

nasturtium

In the sunniest, driest patch, the sweet peas died off. The nasturtium’s leaves are looking a bit tired, but it’s flowering nicely. I tied one stem to the branch, but it hasn’t started climbing yet.

nasturtium

Another worn and dry nasturtium is perking up now that it is shaded by the long, climbing vines of trombetta di albenga squash covering the eastern fence around the garden.

nasturtium

In the paisley garden, the spitfire is still very small in the shade, but healthy instead of dry and worn.

nasturtium

One of my favorite views is the front corner of the veggie garden. Here, I’ve been twisting the spitfires up shepherd’s hook with the morning glories.

nasturtium

Until next month…

“I’m growing Nasturtium “Spitfire” for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee’s Garden for the seeds.”


Too Fast for the Camera

July 29, 2010

The first one was definitely a hummingbird. The next two are the same critter, but I’m not entirely sure it was a hummingbird. It looked like it could be, but it was moving pretty fast.

hummingbird

hummingbird

Garden Fairy Chronicles – Mischief

July 25, 2010

The raspberries are done for now. The garden fairy loved picking them, and eating them. She went out to check them every morning and see what was ready for picking. Each day or two, she had a little bowl of them to snack on. This was from two small plants that we planted last year. They have grown much, much bigger, with many more canes. I don’t remember if the new canes will have berries in the fall or not until next year. They were a gift from my garden guru aunt.

The garden fairy even had her Papa helping her pick raspberries. She had a wonderful week with her Nana and Papa, earlier this month. They flew out from Seattle. Living on the other side of the country means they don’t get to see her nearly as often as they’d like. So, when they do, they make up for it with lots of attention. Add in her dad on vacation and she is surrounded with extra playmates. They all have to enjoy each other as much as possible in the short time they have.

Sadly, when everyone has gone home, or even just back to work, it’s only her and me again, and sometimes her teenage sister. Mischief is bound to happen. Okay, she gets up to plenty of mischief just being three. So, no amount of asking, “Please don’t pick my flowers, or at least ask first.” keeps her from picking flowers when she really wants to. I think repeated requests are helping. Sometimes she asks first. Sometimes, she even listens to the answer. Sometimes, she has her own thoughts on the matter, “These are my mother’s day flowers I made for you.” That means she should be allowed to pick them.

The garden fairy has also taken up decorating. She’s been having loads of fun with wiki sticks or bendaroos, which look like colorful, wax covered string. They stick to each other and then come apart for more creating fun. They also stick to the walls and her dresser and probably lots of other things she hasn’t thought of, yet.

Decorating and creativity are loads of fun. So is sidewalk chalk. It’s one of the simple pleasures of summer. With just a piece of chalk and a driveway, all sorts of fun is just waiting to be had. And when Dad’s car is in the driveway, and Mom has been distracted by weeds or bugs or something else in the garden, what more could a good little garden fairy wish for?

“Look, Mom! I decorated Dad’s car for him. Isn’t it beautiful?” She was so proud of herself and happy to do something nice for her Dad. Ah well, at least it was only chalk and wiped off easily.

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The Garden Fairy Chronicles is my contribution to the kinderGARDENS project. The goal is to get more kids out into the garden. This week’s links can be found here, at the inadvertent farmer, or you can click the button below for all the details.

Inadvertent Farmer