worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature


365 Days a Year of North Texas Edible Gardening
 Sign up Via http://www.txwormranch.com Date: January 14 and January 21, 2015
Time: 9 Am-Noon
Cost: $125 Includes 2 days of classes, class workbook, 10 lbs of worm castings and 1 gallon of Worm Wine
Class Limit:  20
Location: Texas Worm Ranch
2636 National Circle,
Garland, TX 75041

The North Texas Climate is both harsh and promising to the Edible Gardener. What works in most of the country, does not work in our microclimate, but other strategies can make a difference between garden success and failure.  My family eats something from our garden nearly 365 days a year and I would like to help you plan for that as well. This in depth class will help you succeed in providing fresh and healthy food to your family every day.

Class Topics:

  • Soil Health—the key to it all
  • Garden Ecosystems—Grow a Jungle or Die in the Desert?
  • Season by Season Planning
  • 10 Day Weather Forecast
  • Seasonal Extension
  • Pest Control
  • Fertilization and Foliar Feeding
  • Succession Planting
  • Companion Planting
  • Maximizing Space in a garden
  • Container Gardening
  • Indoor Growing
  • Strategic Meal Planning

The Lost Generation


 

 I call my generation “the lost generation” in regards to food. Many of us had grandparents that gardened or farmed, but their parents had stopped the cycle and relied on supermarkets as the only food source. The advertising behind frozen and prepackaged meals made cooking and canning obsolete in a generation. People literally forgot where food came from and that they had the ability to grow it themselves. The fruit and veggies they ate had traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to get there, and then had sat on shelves long before being purchased. The nutrient and taste components of produce were displaced with varieties that could withstand long shelf lives. Taste lost its impact on consumer demand and food no longer tasted like food, but had cookie cutter perfect looks. Thousands of lbs of perfectly good produce were wasted, because consumers demanded perfect looking and conforming produce. Large percentages of my generation opted out of almost all vegetables because “they taste bad”.  

 

From Seed to Salad

From Seed to Salad

garden goodies 001

This also meant they would not “force” their kids to eat vegetables, because if they don’t like them, how can they make their kids eat them? No wonder we have an obesity epidemic! Processed “food stuff” has replaced natural food to become the norm for my generation and each generation behind mine.

My degree is in health, and I have witnessed the correlation between food selection and wellness first hand. When I had my kids, I knew this is not the legacy I wanted for them. I firmly believe you GROW vegetable and fruit lovers. Provide safe, nutrient dense and tasty produce straight from your garden, and you will grow a healthy eater and well adult. Even better, you will teach them how to grow their own food, prepare their own food, and spend lots of memory making hours with them.

 

 


…More Exposure to Neurotoxins?

Today, a group of concerned citizens, farm owners, bee keepers, agtivitists and mothers spoke to the Commissioners Court of Dallas County about their plans to spray during daytime hours, by truck and by plane, with neurotoxic mosquito spray. My message was simple–we have a True Epidemic going on in our country right now with 1 in 6 children reported to have neurological developmental disabilities possibly linked to pesticides–Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Processing Disorders, etc. We also have an epidemic of adult neurological conditions like Alzheimers and Parkinsons. I asked the Court to consider the mounting scientific evidence relating these issues with our overload of environmental pollutants and to please consider the 1 in 6 number vs. the 1 Texas case of Chickungunya (in Austin–a traveler from the Caribbean) and the zero reported cases of West Nile this year in Dallas County. In my mind, and if I remember from my statistics class, that isn’t an epidemic.

Politics 1 Citizen 0…they of course went forward to start the contract with the company who can spray us all at the court’s request. No consideration for the long term health of citizens, with the ineffectiveness of the spray, the relative ease and effectiveness of organic larvacide, the loss of income from the local organic food supply, or (not least) the loss of beneficial insects and mosquito predators and our pollinators. I have compassion for those affected by infectious disease, but I can protect myself and my family from that. Not so with long term drift and spray of toxic chemicals.

I commend the commissioner’s for their compassion of the refugee children coming into Dallas County–the other issue of the day.  How about a little love for the families afflicted with a Developmental Disability in their house?  Developmental Disabilities in children impacts that child for life.  Parents feel guilt, stress, worry and isolation.  Instead of going to Tball or Ballet classes, these families spend hours at occupational or behavioral therapy clinics.  Marriages and family budgets are strained.  Siblings wonder why their brother or sister acts out against them and why they can’t belong in a “normal” (neurotypical) family.  It strains our schools also.  In one of my daughter’s 1st grade classes, at least 1/3 of the children had at least one Developmental Disability.  Imagine that learning environment!  In areas of higher income, parents opt out of public school to send their failing children to private schools to meet their needs (at $15-$25 K a year tuition).  In our less advantaged areas, whole public schools suffer trying to accommodate the least amongst us.  These children are at higher risk of bullying, depression, anxiety and suicide.  Someday, they will need to be employed.  How is that going to work out?  Ask any employer of young people, and I bet they have already had some experience with these issues. 

Shaking my head–there are smarter, safer, more cost effective and way less destructive ways to prevent the issue of mosquito borne illness.  Have they exhausted education and code enforcement?  Since a Dallas city councilwoman had a nasty pool filled with stagnant water with mosquito larvae, I don’t think so.  What do I know?  I’m just a Mom.

 


If you like the info in this post, much more info will be included in our 365 Days a Year of North Texas Edible Gardening class next month.  Click the link to sign up for the class.

This is the month to claim victory as you savor ripe tomatoes and drop multitudes of squash on your neighbor’s porch at midnight—because they have asked you to kindly stop giving it to them! If you are a Texas gardener, you can take the heat. Be sure to take care of your plants so they can too.

What to plant this month: Collards, cucumbers, luffa, okra, pepper transplants, pumpkins, Southern peas, shallots, tomato transplants, watermelon, winter squash. Plant tomato and pepper transplants early in the month for best results. For seeds, provide a moist seedbed until sprouts are approximately 2 inches tall.

What to watch for:

  • Water: check soil moisture daily. The surface may be dry, but a good rule of thumb is to probe 2-3 inches below the surface to see if the root zone area is to wet or dry. A good, inexpensive probe can be found in every gardeners home–the gardener’s finger!

When watering, water deeply to promote strong, deep root systems. Drip systems will accomplish this better than hand watering.

Another choice is to use Dripping Springs Olla Pots.  These will reduce your need to water by slowly leaching water through the clay of the pot.

  • Mulch: place 3-4 inches of mulch around all bare soil. Mulch retains soil moisture, keeps cooler root zones, and provides cover for the beneficial organisms needed to promote healthy, living soil.
  • Insect Pests: squash vine borers, spider mites, squash bugs
  • Plant Problems: Blossom end rot—caused by over watering and reduced nutrition in soil, especially calcium. Add soft rock phosphate to the soil and drench soil and plants with Worm Wine (TM).

What to enjoy:

  • Basil, Egg, Tomato and Goat Cheese Open Face Sandwich

Slice your favorite baker’s bread and toast.  Spread Goat cheese on the toast, place basil and Tomato on Toast.  At same time, fry a Sunny Side up Egg, and place that on top of tomato.  Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy my favorite summer lunch item!

 

  • Texas Best Guacamole (Rinaldi Family Recipe)

Ingredients:
4-5 ripe avocados
1 medium homegrown tomato, diced in small pieces
1  ripe peach, diced in small pieces
1 Texas 1015 onion, diced in small pieces
2 Tbsp. chopped Cilantro
1 Tbsp. diced garlic
Pickled Jalapeno Slices, diced in small pieces (adjust to taste preference, we like about 2 dozen slices)
Juice of ½ a juicy lime
Salt to taste

Method:
This recipe is best in July, when all ingredients are at peak flavor and availability, but can be made with “regular ingredients” the rest of the year. Slice avocado in half, remove seed, scoop fruit with a spoon and mash in bowl with a fork. Add other ingredients. Stir before serving. Best if served immediately. Serving suggestions: with tortilla chips or sweet potato chips, on burgers, with any Southwest, BBQ, or Tex-Mex favorites.

 

 

 

Spring is Knocking


This winter was brutal–covering, uncovering, covering again.  Despite our best efforts, almost everything except some hardy Swiss Chard, spinach, and garlic have bit the dust.  I’m always chomping on the bit to start my new spring garden, but this year more than ever.  The urge to feed my family a new season’s wholesome food and feed my soul some garden therapy is strong.

We have heirloom seedlings growing well under growlights, but today I am giddy with excitement to see what my favorite nursery has in stock.  I’m hoping we can plant a few tomatoes this week, covering them in the hoop frames overnight.  I’ll give them love, care and best blessings for a productive season ahead–hoping to erase the brutal work, worry and loss of the winter season.

Here’s wishing you a happy gardening season, too!

No Till Gardening


One of the best ways to increase the amount of nutrient converting soil microbes in your soil is to practice No or Low Till Gardening.  This means that instead of disturbing your garden soil with shovel or tiller, you allow the natural fungi and carbon sequestering to remain intact by a simple management program.  Whether you garden a small, raised bed plot or an acre, No Till can reduce your time and labor, while increasing your yield.  Here are a few simple ways to adopt this practice:

Establish Beds First

You will want to establish a raised bed or garden area with lots of compost to create a loose soil bed with lots of organic matter before starting a No Till Garden plan.  Once you have 6-12 inches of loose soil established in your area, your goal will be to maintain the quality of this soil.  Plant your first season of crops, and once plants are established by more than 3-4 inches of growth, mulch heavily (2-6 inches) in areas where you see bare soil.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

Maintain a layer of mulch in all areas that do not have seeds, but do have bare soil.  This serves to maintain moisture, provide organic matter for microbes to feed on, encourage earthworm habitation and protect those roots and microbe populations from UV damage.  My favorite garden mulch is shredded fall leaves. As the microbes and earthworms feed on the mulch, they break down the mulch into humus.  Another tip is to spread 6-18 inches of hardwood mulch in the walkways.  About every 6 months you will be able to scrape aside the top layer of mulch and find wonderful humus to add to your garden beds.  Replace walkway mulch to start the next season’s garden compost.

 Trim, Don’t Pull

Whenever possible, try to trim spent plants at the soil level instead of pulling out the root ecosystem.  This is especially important for legumes like peas and beans, which add nitrogen to the soil.  Large roots usually have fungi established along their root hairs that act as nutrient converters for most plants.  By pulling these roots, you lose organic matter that could enhance your soil as it decomposes and you also disturb long strands of fungal hyphae.

 Add Compost, Worm castings and Amendments each Time you Plant

Every season, you will need to add some compost to the top layer of your soil to maintain your 6-12 inches of loose soil.  If you had adequate mulch, you will need to add much less compost.  Living worm castings, added at 10 lbs per 100 square feet will maintain your soil microbe population.  Amendments like Azomite or Texas Green Sand will help keep trace nutrient levels high and allow them to be converted by the soil microbes in a plant available form.  Watering and rain will allow these top dressed amendments and worm castings to filter into the soil ecosystem, there is no need to till them in.

 Plant amongst Roots

Finally, you can plant your seeds and transplants amongst the old roots that are still in the soil.  Brush back mulch to plant in the soil. If you added appropriate compost, there should be plenty of soil for seedlings to establish.

 These tips should help your gardening experience by reducing many hard hours of work.  Enjoy Your Freedom from the shovel and tiller and watch as your plants produce like never before!

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Five Years of Worm Composting


I am coming up on my 5 year anniversary for worm composting. I didn’t start this as a complete novice, since I did in depth research for years before I ever started. Still, I am always amazed and thrilled to see our Texas Worm Ranch castings at work.

From my first garden plots that I applied Worm Wine to, to our new garden plots at our TWR warehouse, I am always thrilled to see the changes taking place in an ecosystem that has been inoculated with living biology from our castings.
The best words we hear are when our customer tell us, “Our pastures, our trees, our yard, our gardens, our roses, etc…have never looked better.” For organic practices to be adopted, they have to be accessible, affordable and successful. Our goal at Texas Worm Ranch is to convert at least 1 in 10 North Texas properties into sustainable and organic ecosystems. This mission is not about a huge corporation’s bottom line or shareholder profits. This mission is simply about making a better and healthier community for all of us. Thanks for being part of the solution as we work together to make that happen.