Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain. ~Author Unknown [Read more…] about Deluge!
Archives for April 2012
”It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures” ~ Charles Darwin, about earthworms, in 1881
In the last few days, I have sent my some of my worms off to new homes.
To be honest, I feel responsible for their welfare the same way I would if I was giving away a puppy. Yes, I know they are damp dwelling, toothless, blind hermaphrodites but hey, worms need love too.
Which is why I wanted to write a brief guide to good worm husbandwifery. If you want happy worms, there are a few fundamentals to follow.
1) Location, Location, Location!
Whatever farm or structure you have your worms in, worms don’t like it too hot (over 30 degrees C) or too cold (under 10 degrees C). Perth is a hot climate, so worms must always be kept in the shade. Find them somewhere out of direct sunlight, wind and rain. For your own convenience, put them somewhere easy for you to access. You don’t want to be marching down to the bottom of the garden to feed and water them.
2) Worm Menu
It is better to underfeed, than overfeed your worms. An overfed bin sours quickly, which not only pongs something terrible, but it can mean the end of your worms too.
Feeding your worms might take a bit of adjustment before you get it right. Don’t feed them until the previous offerings have been almost all consumed. Since worms can eat about half their weight a day, that can mean they can eat more than you might think.
Worms love to eat;
- Raw and cooked fruits and vegetables
- Crushed eggshells
- Shredded Uncoated paper, such as cardboard, egg cartons, newspaper and copy paper
- natural fibers like hair, pet fur or cotton.
- Vacuum dust
- Dryer lint
They don’t like;
- Meat or eggs
- Dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- Garlic, onions
- Domestic animal poo
I don’t feed my worms cereals like bread or grains. While they do eat those items, I find they attract pests like mealworms which I don’t personally like. Plus, they tend to ferment quickly and can turn a worm farm sour pretty fast.
Worms love organic manure, but I draw the line at pet poo. I use my worm castings on my veggie patch and am a little bit concerned about the transfer of parasites and the like. Of course, if you are giving Puss or Rover worming medication, the residual toxin excreted in their wee (and to a lesser extent, their poo) can potentially wipe out your worm farm.
As previously mentioned, worms don’t have teeth. Big chunks of food tend to rot before the worms can finish it off. I whizz their food up in the blender with some water, gently mix it into the feeding tray and they eat it all up double quick.
3) Keep them damp and dark.
Worms love it moist and dark. Too much water and they will try to escape the bin. Too little water, they dry out and die. A light spritz everyday is better than a weekly soaking. The moisture content of your worm farm should be like a wrung out sponge, damp, not dripping!
If the feeding tray looks a bit sloppy, add some sugarcane mulch, shredded paper or coir fibre to sop it up. A handful of soil is also a good idea, it gives the worms a medium to help digest their food and burrow into. Always cover the feeding tray with a few layers of dampened newspaper, an old damp tea towel or carpet rememnant cut to fit. It helps keep it dark and moist, plus, seems to prevent smelliness and infestations.
4) Funkiness is not cool.
If your worm farm stinks, it’s a sign your worms are in jeopardy! A well balanced worm farm will not smell. Many sources claim that a worm farm should smell like a “rainforest”.
Since the closest rainforest to me is at least 2500km away, I lack the point of reference.
But I do know a smelly or “sour” bin indicates an acidic environment, most typically caused by over feeding. The fastest remedy is to add dry cellulose material like sugarcane mulch or shredded paper. A flush of clean water while keeping the tap in the open position might help. Keep the tap open and allow the leachate to drain freely until the smell disappears. Adding more worms may also rectify the over feeding. A sour bin will kill your worms, so if the situation is dire, your best bet is to clean them all out and start a fresh with a new batch of worms.
5) A few friends are ok.
Finally, don’t worry too much if a few guests want to come and join the worm party. I don’t like mealworms, so I keep the cereals out. However, people who keep worms for a bit of extra feed for their aquaculture system find them a happy bonus as the fish happily gobble them up.
Ants can take over quickly. I keep the feet of the worm farm submerged in little buckets of water to keep them from getting in. If you have an infestation, keeping your worm farm within a circle of ant dust may be your best best.
Slaters are not much of a bother. They tend to dwell at the surface of the soil, where the worms are usually just under the surface.
So there you have it, basic Worm 101. There is much to add, but this is enough to get you started. If you have any questions, or if I have left anything important out, please do not hesitate to comment and let me know.
My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that let’s you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap. ~ Bette Midler
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.~ Gertrude Jekyll
For those of you that are newish to veggie gardening, it’s easy to be a little befuddled by the distinction between heirloom and hybrid seeds. So to try and clear things up, here’s the simplest explanation I could muster.
Heirloom seeds have been collected and sown over many generations and will produce subsequent generations from seed that will be just like the parent plant. Heirloom varieties are often well suited to a particular growing area and are usually not seen on your supermarket shelf. Often vastly superior in flavour and vigour, fresh from the veggie patch will always be best. So the bonus with heirloom seeds is, what you eat is what you get. You can save the seed and use it year after year.
Hybrids are a crossing of existing plant varieties, in an attempt to breed a new variety for a particular benefit. The seed collected from the resulting fruit or vegetable (or flower or tree) will not necessarily be true to type. For example, second generation seed collected from a hybrid corn plant, might produce corn that looks or tastes different to the parent. Supermarkets usually sell hybrid stock, breed to be disease and pest resistant, uniform in size and shape, that can be stored and handle well without spoiling. Taste is usually far down the priority list.
If you are wondering what GE or GM seed is, or what the dreaded terminator gene is, they’re topics for another (likely ranty) post. But briefly, it is seed that has been genetically tweaked and is actually patented or licensed to protect the intellectual property of the company that created it. The terminator gene creates so called “suicide seeds”. The second generation of any plant with the terminator gene is sterile, so the company ensures the farmer needs to buy fresh seed from them each year.
Luckily, there are many seed suppliers committed to providing quality heirloom seeds. While you may not always find them available at your local garden centre, they are increasing in popularity and are easily purchased online and delivered to your door. My two favourite suppliers (in Australia) are Diggers and Beautanicals, but there are many more. These businesses are more often family owned enterprises committed to their cause and deserving of our support.
What is your best success heirloom variety story? Have you ever “rescued” a particular variety or had seeds handed down from generation to generation?
One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ~W.E. Johns
Most unusually for a garden blog, I have not planted anything these last few months. Just as I was going to rename my blog to something like “Rants-about-the-heat-and-drought” the seasons seemed to shift and the cool break has arrived.
The lure of the backyard was irresistible and I was finally able to get out in the garden and do some planting.
I have three raised colour bond beds in my backyard that are overlooked by the deck, so I was keen to get them planted first. (P) stands for punnet, and indicates seedlings have been sown. (S) is for seeds sown directly in the patch.
Leeks (P) and Spring Onions (P)
Red cabbage (P), Brocollini (P)and Cavalo Nero (Tuscan Kale) (S) and Chives (P)
Red Malabar Spinach (P), Baby Beetroot (S), Garlic chives (P) Cavalo Nero (S)
Rainbow Chard (S).
My Lounge bed is an upcycled cane lounge. Given it’s retro 70’s origins, I’m thinking the Rainbow Chard will be suitably flamboyant!
You will note I have used snail pellets to protect the seedlings. Last season, the snails appreciated the beer baits I laid out for them as a pre-dinner drink, before feasting on zuchinni seedlings until they were all gone. Overnight. I took it a bit personally and I am determined not to give the drunken greedy buggers a go at these seedlings! Thanks to the rain and cool, ants have been a bit of a problem, like always. They just seem to be a fact of life in sandy soil.
After all that effort and despite the kid’s “helping”, I also had time to stake up the new trellis for the cucumbers and for the peas.
The countdown is on. Only three more days until the school holidays and then I let the gardening binge begin!