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)

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

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!


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.

White Rock Local Market

This Saturday is the grand opening week of White Rock Local Market at Lakeside Baptist Church (on Garland Rd.).  This new location will be open the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, while the Greenspot location will continue on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays.

Texas Worm Ranch has been a vendor at WRLM since it’s very first market in 2009.  Both the market, and the exposure to customers it has given us, has been a large part of how the Texas Worm Ranch grew from a hobby business in my garage to a 12,000 square foot warehouse with outdoor garden space today.  Sarah Perry, the executive director at WRLM has become a friend, and someone I admire for having the persistence to get major projects done.

You might think there would be competition and bitterness between the vendors at the market, but I can honestly say I enjoy and appreciate them.  My organic farmer friends are people I want to help succeed, so that we might have a healthier food system and planet.  The Texas Honeybee Guild are dear friends and peaceful warriors protecting our precious pollinators.  Their honey is local (which helps with allergies) and delicious, and I can attest to the magical healing power of their hand lotion bar–you won’t believe how it can heal cracked hands!  The artisan bakers, cheese purveyors, jam makers, etc. are all great to share stories and trade goods with.  Our community supports each other and it’s mission for good, local food.

Everything Markets bring local crafters, which is another element of fun.  Live music, food trucks, Luscher’s Post Oak Red Hots (sinfully delicious Chicago style dogs with homemade condiments and fluffy, addictive buns) and Pop Star Handcrafted Popsicles  are calorie-worthy treats well worth a walk, jog or ride at White Rock Lake afterwards.

Bundle up, come check out the new location, and count your blessings that we will now have local, naturally grown food and fun 4 weekends a month.  I can assure you, we appreciate your support of local business.  We return the investment with taxes, building leases, employees, and buying from as many local owned businesses as possible to keep our local economy healthy.

We will have a limited amount of 100% naturally grown produce this week, but we are expanding our garden space and getting ready to grow like crazy for you for the rest of the year!  The extra dates for WRLM have given us the opportunity to do this–without a “marketplace”, it is much harder to take those investment risks.

In honor of the first market of the season, we are going to offer our customers that pre-order for this Saturday a one time deal:

Pre-order by Thursday at Noon (which helps us gauge how much product to bring):

Worm Wine:  Regular Price:  $7 Preorder Price:  $5

10 lb Bag Worm Castings:  Regular Price:  $20  Preorder Price:  $15

We can’t discount worms or worm bins, but if you want either, it is best to secure your order by preorder by Noon Thursday also.

Please Preorder by email:  rancher@txwormranch.com


Heather Rinaldi and Steve Clary

Texas Worm Ranch



“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” ~Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington (1787)

Texas Worm Ranch has new adventures in store in 2013.  We have new seeds to sow and new garden canvases to paint our hopes on. 

 Our first news is that the worm ranch is expanding into a building almost twice as large.  This will allow us to increase our ability to help our large scale organic farmers and ranchers with bulk worm casting orders to improve their pastures and crop lands.  The best news, for us, is that the new building also has growing space in front of the building, and the possibility to begin a roof garden in the future.

 The other news to share with you is that we will work in conjunction with White Rock Local Market to begin a working garden and teaching lab for organic and sustainable gardening.  White Rock Local Market has gained access to an urban garden space.  Texas Worm Ranch will provide day to day management and expertise.

 I’m very excited to expand our ability to provide more access to fresh, local, and naturally grown food right here in the city!  To be honest, selling produce isn’t the modern way to financial success.  Most consumers don’t understand the true cost and risk of growing food.  As a small, urban and organic farmer, we don’t apply for government subsidies or insurance like the big agribusiness conglomerates.  I’m perfectly fine with that, since I prefer my conscience to be at peace.  That makes it harder for us to make a financial profit off of growing food than a large scale, conventional farmer that is subsidized in their growing.  However, if we can accomplish two things, I think we will feel like the richest people in Texas:

 1) Teach others the joy, benefits and expertise to accomplish sustainable gardening—reducing water use and eliminating toxic chemicals, welcoming beneficial insects and pollinators. We will promote the building of healthy soil ecosystems which result in nutrient dense and safe (and delicious) food.

 2)  Increase our local Metroplex food security.  There is very little food grown directly in our city.  There are a few community gardens, but not everybody can garden in their backyard or in a community garden.  These people still want access to healthier food choices, but may have time, disability or expertise concerns that prevent them from gardening on their own. Our naturally grown food will be free from GMOs, free from chemicals, and will be safe and nutrient dense.  Instead of traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, it will go straight from field to farmer’s market.  In the event of local or national disturbances (frozen roads, terror events, salmonella scares, hurricanes, etc.), we will not be barred from eating, because we will be growing right here in the City, and not dependent on transportation from other regions.  Furthermore, White Rock Local Market (where we sell the bulk of our produce) accepts SNAP benefits, so that families who need a hand up can feed their children fresh and healthful food also.

If you believe in Thomas Jefferson’s missive to our first President—that you would be richer, more moral, and happier from getting a little dirt under your nails—we have plenty of volunteer/learning opportunities coming up.  Send us an email at:  rancher@txwormranch.com, and we will see what interests you have and where you might like to unplug from the trappings of modern life, travel back in time, and become a gentleman or gentlewoman farmer.

 Thanks for your support as we grow!





Therapy Worms?

Our modern world is full of constant multi-tasking and information overload.  Texts, emails, phone calls, etc., never give your brain a chance to just have a little reload.  Personally, the demands of family and business feel both exciting and overwhelming, with rarely a 2 minute break from one function to the other.  Actually, it all pretty much melds together.  I’ll find time for that phone call while cooking dinner, bring the kids to the Worm Ranch to do homework while I work, or any number of times I have tried to squeeze it all in to be the best Mom and business owner I can be.

That constant demand usually has my wits and nerves sauteed to a brown crisp.  Trying to figure out sales tax and finalize two science fair projects in the same day just might throw an Einstein-minded Zen Master into orbit.  What seems to help?  A little unmindful task called worm harvesting.

Harvesting worms is something that takes time and concentration, but there is not a whole lot of brain power needed.  Truly it is the “wax-on, wax-off” of mind clearing.  My business partner and former employees might like to rock out while harvesting, but I prefer solitude and silence.  Since I haven’t been able to use the bathroom uninterrupted by myself for the last 10 years, I hold a lot of respect for solitude and silence.  My minds is hungry for it, and my entire central nervous system is desperate to be turned on low volume.

The worms don’t talk back.  They don’t fight with their sister.  They don’t lovingly start sentences with, “What you really should do is…”.  They don’t even have a brain (just a couple of neurons up there).  Harvesting them is just a simple, mindless, repetitive task that allows your mind and nerves to relax.  After 20 minutes of that, you would be amazed at the things your mind can come up with.  Sometimes, you just need a break from the constant noise in your life to stay calm and carry on.


The Tao of the Worm?

When I hand over a local box of worms, or tuck them in to ship…I think to myself, here they are–they’ll eat your scraps and bring you peace of mind.  My favorite thing to say is, “yes, I can give you worms.”  Little do my customers know that they are getting so much more.