worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Archive for May, 2011

Today’s Harvest

The temperatures are heating up, and one of my trusty worm wranglers helped Mom this morning in the gardens.  We picked a few odds and ends for this Holiday Weekend’s Meals:

Fresh, organic goodness!

Red La Soda Potatoes:  First hill I harvested this year, from my smallest plant, close to 2 lbs in weight.  For tonight’s meal.  I’ll wash well and leave the skin on, quarter the potatoes and boil until tender.  Then we will drain and add butter, some of that tasty fresh garlic, a little kosher salt and some chives from the herb garden.  Deelish!

Baby Finger Carrots:  Very sweet as a raw treat to add for lunches.  One of my favorite ways to fix is to peel and cut in half, place in a bowl with 2-3 TBSPs of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh dill.  Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes (until tender) at 425 degrees.

Texas 1015 Onions:  Thought I had all these harvested, but they just keep showing up, haha.  Always a use…perhaps they will be part of a Mexican dish I’ll bring to the neighbors’ pool party tomorrow?

Snow Peas:  Well, we have harvested the first of the potatoes and the last of the snow peas.  The little worm wrangler and I ate a bunch as we harvested, right off the vine, and we’ll probably have the rest as snacks through the day.

Garlic:  I have started pulling garlic here and there this week.  Ironic that I decided to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula at this time.  Fresh garlic tastes so wonderful–much different than what you can get from the grocery store.  We eat about 2 bulbs a week, on average!

Strawberries:  Nothing better than fresh berries for dessert!

Cherry tomatoes:  We are getting quite a load of these, I’ll probably take some as a house-warming gift to someone tomorrow.  My favorite is the little fresh mozzarella balls, halved tomatoes, basil, kosher salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a little salad.

Hope this gives you some menu ideas and inspiration to grow (healthy food and family time!).  Everything’s organic and tasty when you grow it yourself.    If you compost to fill your garden beds, and worm compost to make your amendments, your garden cost is minimal.  What do you think the cost of these organic items would be in the Supermarket?

Increasing Worm Bin Populations

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!   Sitting Bull

Spring has certainly sprung at the Texas Worm Ranch and summer is knocking on the door.  The lovely temperatures and ample rain have helped us have productive gardens and a frenzy in our outdoor worm trenches.  A visit yesterday showed red wiggler worms in high numbers.  I will be attempting to harvest as many of those worms out of the outdoor trenches as possible, since my experience is the summer heat will kill most of them.  What lessons can we take from these outdoor bins to increase your indoor bin numbers?

1)     Worms like it moist.  Not flooded, but plenty wet.  I describe the correct moisture as walking through grass in the morning that soaks your shoes, but not a Louisiana Bog.

2)  Worms like temperatures between 50-80 degrees for best reproduction rates.  Who knows how many we would have at a steady 70 degrees?

3)  Worms like a lot of bedding on top of their habitat.  These outdoor bins have a big leaf layer, indoor bins can use moist newspaper or shredded cardboard

4)  A rich, organic material to lay cocoons in is a worm’s dream.  My outdoor trenches have aged horse stall waste, indoor plastic bins can use commercial organic compost (but not cotton bur compost, which can be too acidic).  I have see a ton of bins with peat moss, coco coir, or plain newspaper without any organic material.  My concern is there is no microbe production or nutrients in any of those materials.  Sure they are sterile, but therein lies the problem.  They create a microbe desert that your worms have to work to remedy.  Richer materials will yield more nutrient and microbe dense vermicompost.  I also have seen very low cocoon counts in those materials.

5)  Worms like a steady supply of food.  These are open trenches, so I am able to put a lot more food in there compared to a closed lid bin.  Don’t overfeed and heat up your bin, but make sure you give a steady diet of a variety of foods (about every 3 days)

6)  Worms like oxygen.  The more airflow you can get in the bin, the faster the rate of decomposition, the more your worms can eat, the faster the rate of reproduction and shorter time to use your VC

7)  Worms like new material.  I have replaced the horse stall waste about every 4 weeks.  The worms quickly move in and start laying cocoons.

Hope you can use these tips to improve your indoor bins and vermicomposting success.

Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch

Food Security

A trip to the grocery store this weekend renewed my passion to grow as much of my own food as possible.  While looking over the loaves of sandwich bread, I was horrified to discover the healthiest, whole grain loaves were all priced over $4.  This is a price I might pay for an artisan loaf from my local baker, but for mass produced bread?  No way!  Unfortunately, I don’t have space to grow enough grain to produce for bread.  I feel as though I should start baking my own, or better yet, I am wondering if I could set up a barter for my organic produce to be exchanged for healthy, local made, whole grain bread?

The produce aisles were not much better.  Food I know has been shipped thousands of miles, grown with all kinds of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides–irradiated, and potentially a Genetically Modified Organism–all at premium prices.  How can I feel good about giving that to my family?

A potential garden client wanted to see my community garden plots.  Her inspiration for growing is to improve the health of her family and she wondered, “just how much food can you grow in a small garden?”.  Sometimes, looking at something through new eyes really brings an issue into focus.  I knew we had been eating daily harvests of snow peas, strawberries, and tomatoes .  I have onions curing and have just started curing my first garlic of the season.  She was astounded at how I had it all packed into such little space.  Garlic surrounding the outside of plots, onions inter-planted with strawberries, root vegetable growing in the same space as lettuce, trellises on the outside of the plots to grow vertical, trellises amongst the potato and strawberry patches, new sprouts of summer melon emerged where I had just pulled onions a week ago.

My gardens look like a jungle, but it is by design.  After all, that is how nature grows her forests,  jungles and prairies.  No fields of just one species can be found in nature–everything has it’s role in the ecosystem–to provide food or habitat for something else.  In these garden ecosystems of mine, I am trying to provide the most healthful and highest productivity of food I can manage–our health, budget, and good eating reap the rewards.  This weekend’s trip to the grocery store made me wonder if the time is here for most people to depend on their own ability to grow their own food to maintain their standard of living?  For health–I’m sure the answer is a resounding YES!  If people want to afford anything but the most processed Frankenfoods, I recommend they quickly join the Grow Your Own Revolution.  I’m here to help you grow organic, affordable, and successful food.  Just ask us at Texas Worm Ranch, rancher@txwormranch.com

Weather Forecast–Gardener’s Best Friend

10 Day Forecast

Take a look at next 10 days. Here in BigD, we have chance for rain on next 7 days. Great for free water and time saving, but…I’m already seeing a lot of fungal disease popping up in fellow gardeners’ plots and cloudy, rainy days leads to more. What would the Worm Rancher Do?

I’m going to be brewing a BIG BATCH of Worm Wine (TM). I’m going to give a generous foliar feeding to of all my garden plants. Not only do the plants absorb the nutrients through their leaf cell membranes (helping them fight off pests and disease), but Worm Wine inoculates those leaves with beneficial fungi and other microbes that will fight off disease-spreading fungi.

If it rains and remains cloudy, I will probably brew another batch for a 2nd feeding early next week. Usually, I do the Worm Wine treatment every 2 weeks, but my plants are doing so well, and I don’t want to risk a spread of fungal disease in my community garden plots from surrounding plots. 

I brew to order, need at least 24 hours, and Worm Wine is $7/gallon or $5 if you order 4 or more gallons. 

Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch, our motto for gardeners is:  Organic, Successful, and Affordable!

Maybe I’m Crazy?

Pretty sure I get a lot of people wondering why in the world I am passionate about  something as strange as worm composting?  After all, I use trash–feed it to worms and use their waste to feed my gardens, yard, and landscaping.  I  take a free resource–food scraps, keep it from the landfill, and create a nutrient and microbe rich amendment to feed my soil.  Those microbes are responsible for converting Nitrogen and other nutrients into forms that can be absorbed by plants for health.  In the process, it doesn’t create methane gas and is kept on property, reducing fuel costs to the landfill.  This process builds soil fertility and plant health, reduces erosion and provides pest and plant disease resistance and promotes a healthy and livable ecosystem.

You say, “yeah, but…”you can just go buy a bag of chemicals and not have to do any of that, right?  You may think it, it’s not gross, you don’t get your hands dirty, and it is relatively inexpensive.  Chemical fertilizer is high in Nitrogen, so that’s good, eh?”

Maybe You’re Crazy?  Is there a bigger price for synthetic fertilizer?

“The hydrogen source for the process is natural gas, a non-renewable resource that currently accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the cost of fertilizer production. In the conventional system, our very ability to feed ourselves is dependent upon a non-renewable fossil fuel.”

Source:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/14/HOG71GLP6A1.DTL&ao=2

“Synthetic fertilizers use non-renewable fossil fuels. The energy consumed to make synthetic nitrogen for U.S. farmers for one year (13.1 million tons) would heat about 5.5 million Midwestern homes all year long.”

Source: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss457

  • Nitrates in drinking water used for infant formula can cause potentially fatal blue-baby syndrome, and can cause serious health problems for adults and children alike. High levels of nitrates and nitrites were found in 25,000 community wells that provided drinking water to two thirds of the nation’s population.
  • Excess nitrates in the soil sometimes convert to nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause tumors in laboratory animals. Nitrate-contaminated water is also linked to reproductive problems, urinary and kidney disorders, and bladder and ovarian cancer.
  • Applying fertilizer releases oxidized nitrates, which contribute to the formation of smog, act as greenhouse gases, and destroy protective ozone. Nitrogen oxides also react with water in the atmosphere to form acid rain.

Source:  http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/synthetic-fertilizers/

I think you gotta ask yourself,  “Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?”  Yep, maybe you’re crazy.

Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch and we’ll help you find the cure:).

Bringing the Heat!

Texas Worm Ranch is building gardens today for Maple and Motor restaurant.  The restaurant is well revered by the local food scene, and tales of M&M burgers with grilled jalapenos can be found all over the Web-World.  Thanks to the prodding of a certain patron, and the gumption of owner, Jack Perkins–M&M customers can start dreaming now of  the organic, safely grown,  just off the vine, smacking good heat of grilled jalapenos on those burgers.  Wipe the drool of your chin!

The Way of the Worm

I’ve been speculating lately about the way of the worm. Worms are simple creatures, with a complex and under-rated task. They clean up after others and quietly and efficiently transform that waste into a wonderful life source for us all, the soil ecosystem. Such a small creature entrusted with such an important role. If one worm can do so much good, what can one woman do? Join the underground movement and see what we burrow into as we investigate The Way of the Worm.