Posts Tagged ‘compost’

This has really been a long winter for me.

Last October my garden helper Joyce Bonesteel and I spent hours cleaning up the raised beds in my vegetable garden, known as a potager. We carefully removed all the spent vegetation, especially the bits and pieces of rotted tomatoes that had fallen from the vines, so there was no plant material left for late blight spores to take refuge in. The dreaded late blight overwinters in tomato and potato plants and fruit, not in the soil. Though they can’t survive freezing temperatures, I am not about to take a chance.

Next I covered the surface of the soil with a mix of shredded leaves heavily laced with worm castings. I left a 6-inch layer of shredded leaves on the ground over the summer, and I swear earthworms came from miles around to feast. The mix was incredible and you can’t buy that stuff even if you wanted to.

Over the summer, our resident mole moved into my potager to partake of the earthworms and did his part in the pathways grinding up and mixing the hardpan clay with the layer of dark black humus under the bark chips. The fresh bark chips spread on the paths four years ago have slowly composted over time, leaving behind a layer of black gold. For hours I sat in that garden scooping that soil mix from the paths, sifting it through a riddle into the raised beds and returning the leftover chunks of wood chips to the walkways, while dreaming about the mother lode of tomatoes and other veggies this garden would produce next summer.

A riddle is the gardener’s rendition of a flour sifter used to remove chunky stuff from soil. My late husband and gardening pal, Hank, made mine by stapling metal hardware cloth on to a wooden frame made of 1-by-1s.

I’m a dirt fanatic who inherited 20 acres of hardpan clay and the soil in those raised beds almost brings me to tears. I loved just looking at it. And then it snowed — and snowed and snowed some more. It’s been a long winter.


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Red Worms As Pets

This column is probably of most interest to yardeners with kids five to ten years old.  I’m going to talk about worms; red wiggly squirmy worms.  I just set up my second worm composting system.  Called “The Worm Factory” (www.northwestredworms.com, $100), it is a very well designed worm composting device that works outside and inside the home; usually outside during the summer and inside during the winter.

Worm Factory

Three Worm Factories

The technical term for this activity is vermicomposting, but when you are a seven year old kid, it’s a box of worms, his or her worms.  Years ago I had a worm farm called the “Can O Worms” (    )  originally invented in New Zealand.  I produced worm castings ( a nice way to describe worm poop) for about five years.  When the son went to high school, worm farming was not cool so the worm farm was replaced by some other crazy idea.

I am trying the Worm Factory because it has many improvements to the design features of the Can O Worms, perhaps the most important being that it is odorless.  We kept the Can O Worms in the basement because sometimes it did smell a little bit, but I’ve got my Worm Factory in the pantry beside the kitchen; very convenient.

The primary reason to have a worm farm, besides being a fun project for kids,  is to recycle kitchen waste making incredibly valuable compost that when spread on the garden or mixed in with potting soil for container plants good things happen to those plants. It does magic, just like any quality compost.  Worm farming even fits into the Green Revolution that is becoming so popular.


Man With Redworms

The farm has stackable trays about 16 inches square and 4 inches deep.  Working one tray at a time, you add “bedding” material such as shredded newspaper, peat moss, chopped leaves or the like.  The bedding material acts as a home for the worms and eventually they will consume it along with the food scraps you add each day or two.  Usually you start with a pound of red worms which are attractive for this job because they reproduce so fast.  A pound of red worms has from 1000 to 2000 worms.  Their population expands every month according to how much food (scraps) you give them.  As they fill one tray with castings, you add trays.  At the end of one year you may be host to over 30,000 worms and they don’t make a sound.

Moisture is produced in the process of turning scraps into compost.  That liquid is caught at the bottom of the farm and can be removed using a handy spigot.  Compost tea, as it is called, is a wonderful tonic for houseplants and container plants any time of the year.

We refer to our worms as “our girls” but we have not yet tried to name each worm.

Jeff Ball, a Metro Detroit free-lance garden writer, has a yard care Web site at http://www.yardener.com. e-mail address at  jeffball@yardener.com

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Gardeners at a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire are urging people to relieve themselves outdoors to help gardens grow greener.
A three-metre long “pee bale” has been installed at Wimpole Hall.
Head gardener Philip Whaites is urging his male colleagues to pee on the straw bale to activate the composting process on the estate’s compost heap.
He said the “pee bale” is only in use out of visitor hours, since “we don’t want to scare the public”.
He said: “For eight weeks now, male members of our garden and estate teams have been using the outdoor straw bale when nature calls. The pee bale is excellent matter to add to our compost heap to stimulate the composting process; and with over 400 acres of gardens and parkland to utilise compost, we need all the help we can get.

“There are obvious logistical benefits to limiting it to male members of the team, but also male pee is preferable to women’s, as the male stuff is apparently less acidic.”
By the end of the year, it was calculated that the 10 men from the 70-strong garden and estates team will make more 1,000 individual trips to the pee bale, contributing towards the compost for the estate. The estate said it will have saved up to 30% of its daily water use by not having to flush the loo so many times.
Rosemary Hooper, Wimpole estate’s in-house master composter, said: “Most people can compost in some way in their own gardens. Peeing on a compost heap activates the composting process, helps to produce a ready supply of lovely organic matter to add back to the garden.
“Adding a little pee just helps get it all going; it’s totally safe and a bit of fun too.”
Story from BBC NEWS:

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