worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Posts tagged ‘compost’

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!


To Hell with Wall Street, Gardening Might be Your Best Investment Ever!

I’ve been looking at prices everywhere it seems.  Loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread at the regular grocery are priced over $4/loaf!  Whole grain cereals are well above $3, organic raises the price even higher.  Last night I took a little shopping trip to one of Dallas’ destination stores for artisan and organic foods.  Organic milk is between $5.19 and $6 a gallon, the price of artisan bread had raised a dollar, while the size of the loaf had shrunk considerably.  Artisan cheese had raised at least $2/lb in price.  The press is on for the consumer and the farmer at the other end, only the middle man is unharmed.  Seasonal produce prices seem to be holding steady, but organic fruits and vegetables were both hard to find and precious in price.

Most people think of the hallmarks of summer, tomatoes and peppers, when they think of gardening.  However, fall gardening is both easy and productive.  I plan on growing like I have never grown before—using my community garden plots, home garden, containers, and even my front landscaping to grow healthful and affordable food for my family.  This will give me about 650 square foot of garden space. What can I expect to save for my family?

I did a calculation of a “Produce Value Expectation” for a Fall/Winter Organic Garden, using a standard (4X8) plot.  I then used prices similar to what I have seen for Whole Foods/Central Market Organic Produce.

Anticipated Crop Harvested by Christmas (4X8 plot):

Arugula:  5 lbs X $5/lb = $25

Green Beans:  4 lbs X $5/lb = $20

Broccoli (4 plants) 10 lbs X $4/lb = $40

Peas:  2 lbs X $6= $12

Cucumber:  7 lbs X $3/lb = $21

Mesclun Leaf Lettuce:  5 lbs X $5/lb = $25

Spinach:  4 lbs X $5/lb= $20

Beets (greens and beets)  2 lbs Greens X $2/lb = $4  4 lb beets X $5/lb + $20 total =$24

Kale:  10 lbs X $3/lb = $30

Swiss Chard:  5 lbs X $3/lb = $15

Carrots:  2 lbs X $2 = $4

Radish = 5 lbs X $2/lb = $10


$242 by Christmas


An easy calculation would show that in my families 650 square foot of space, I could grow almost $5000 worth of produce, using this formula!  Realistically, I will probably use space to grow less costly foods like carrots and green beans, so even if our family saved half of that price, I would be thrilled.  Honestly, much of that space still has healthy tomato and pepper plants that I have nursed through the summer and am hoping for a huge fall bounty.  Okra will go crazy in its space until the first freeze too.  Have you seen the prices for organic tomatoes and peppers?!  Maybe I will see a value around $5000!

Radish, beets and carrots can be replanted as they are harvested and greens can be cut and harvested again and again and with adequate care will last though the Winter Season.  Lettuce will last until the first major freeze, and even then can often be covered to extend their useful season.  I spent some time looking at using a 4 X 8 plot for a total year in Texas and feel sure that, depending on what you plant, the weather and your care, a Total Yearly Produce Value on a 4X8 Organic Vegetable Garden Plot could easily equal somewhere between $1365-$2275.  The seeds, plants and additional amendments for this plot, once established shouldn’t be that much of a burden, especially if you compost and worm compost to add to your bed.

Texas Worm Ranch installs organic vegetable gardens, complete with planting and ongoing email and Facebook help.  A standard garden’s price is $700, fully installed.  What other investment gives you a Return on Investment of 95% —225% in the first year alone?  With only the cost of plants, seeds, amendments and water from there forward, you will be enjoying safe, nutritious, chemical free, tasty and affordable produce for a lifetime.  Hope you laugh all the way to the bank!

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.