Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Proper Care & Feeding of Worms

When we stop for an instant and truly 'be' in the moment, we have an opportunity to submerge ourselves in our surroundings. For me - as well as many other outdoor enthusiasts -  I am immediately drawn to my surroundings; mainly the gardens in-which surround me. I notice the smell, appearance, the openness for interpretation, and, ultimately, how the garden looks.

Successful gardening can be measured on a number of different scales. Some say it is the crop you reap throughout the year, others would contend it is the size of your flowers and garden cohesiveness that matters most. In either case, the "end-result" is very much dependent on the soil in which your garden is to grow and prosper. If you put in five hours a day to weeding and trimming your plants - ignoring the soil in which they grow - it will make a difference, but growth and prosperity for a plant is much the same as it is for young children; when adequately nourished and cared for, they will produce to their highest potential!

In the past three years, I have learned this lesson through some painful experiences. Every year I eagerly planted, watered, and weeded religiously but never REALLY paid attention to the health of my soil. I would always mix in some compost in the early spring (when I began to amend my  garden 'dirt') but other than that, I figured if my plants were going to survive, they would on their own. Boy was I wrong!! I've learned that you may produce a crop each year without regards to soil health or fertilization; but if you pay attention to the needs of the individual plants, your crop yield will be exponentially larger!

This being said, I feel like steer manure and chicken manure are great! But if you want to try your hand at making some fertilizer/manure on your own (since I don't have cows or chickens, yet :-) I have found a very good alternative to the compost pile...may I introduce you to the "Worm Farm"!

I love watching Victory Garden (a gardening show here on OPB Saturday morning!) While watching it one weekend, they discussed the many different ways to compost your own organic waste, IE. food scraps. One that truly sparked my interest was the worm composter! So, almost three years after the episode aired, my husband bought me a worm composter for Christmas!

I absolutely love it! It's compact, doesn't smell -at all!! - and gives both dirt and liquid fertilizer. An all-around winner in my opinion.

So I thought I would walk you through the steps of upkeep for a worm garden. It may seem like a  lot of work in the beginning, but trust me, it will pay for itself in no time!

I must say I'm a proud owner of a Worm Factory. I started it about 1 1/2 years ago and have been keeping it up ever since.

After following the instructions for the first layer: This is how I begin a new level/insert for the farm.

When beginning a new layer/level, first you need to make sure your worms are ready for it (the level will appear to be full; this is when I start a new tray).

I place the new tray directly on top of my last tray. After putting it in place, I begin to fill it. Here is the order:

I first lay down a layer of shredded paper. I used junk mail I've shredded (nothing plastic coated) to create my base layer.

After I lay down the shredded paper, I place a layer of grass clippings (or just basic yard debris like leaves, etc) along with some soil directly on top of the paper.

After this layer, I place my food waste. In order for the worms to process the food quickly, it must be in fairly small pieces. They recommend chopping it up before adding it to the composter, but I don't chop it before I add it, just break into smaller pieces. It may take the worms slightly longer to break down the, it works just as well.

The final step is to retain the moisture needed for the worms to adequately compost the debirs. I place a layer of wet newspaper directly on top of the food compost.

After adding the layer of newspaper, simply replace the lid and set the farm aside.

I have my worm farm in my garage. It works efficiently, without any odor, and produces two types of fertilizer:
1) It produces very fertile soil that can be amended or mixed into your garden soil or flower beds.

2) It produces a potent liquid fertilizer. I usually place a small about in a two gallon watering can and dilute it heavily, then deliver it to my produce bearing plants!

Needless to say, I am ecstatic about my Worm Factory! After the initial investment, as long as you keep a fairly produce inclusive diet, you have an almost completely self-sustaining source of nutrient rich soil and fertilizer to incorporate into your garden!

If you decide this type of composting is appropriate for you, please join me in a journey to perfect our soil!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome.... we have bad soil here and I've never really researched how to make it better!