Worms (in the garden) something to brag about!

Worms (in the garden) something to brag about!

March 16, 2012

Not long ago, I was attending a conference and overheard someone say, “Yeah, I’ve got worms.”

Now, most folks might find that a bit disconcerting. After all, having worms is something that one normally doesn’t brag about. Unless you’re an organic farmer!

Properly, raising worms is called vermiculture. It is the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material for a garden.

Turns out, vermicompost is not only some of the best fertilizer that can be produced – having the proper pH and essential nutrients for healthy plant growth – but it’s easy to produce.

You can grow worms without muss or fuss in your apartment, by using common plastic bins found at Walmart, Target and other discount stores. Gaining Ground – Mississippi Sustainability Institute has an article and video explaining how: http://www.ggsim.org/volunteer/projects/o-gardens-occupy-your-lawn/lesson-three.

Essentially, you start with your bin and add bedding material: shredded paper, peat moss, coconut fiber, wood chips or manure. Add a couple handfuls of soil to add “grit,” helping the worms break down food particles. Add one pound of worms (red wigglers preferred) that you obtain online or from a bait shop. Then, start feeding them food scraps (about one pound per day). Don’t feed them: garlic, onions, citrus, meat, dairy or bones.

After four to six months, collect the castings and fertilize your plants. If you end up with too many worms, you can give them away or release them in your garden. You can also keep your worm bin outside when it’s warm.

Worm science: For more on the science of vermicompost, see: http://www.news.cornell. edu/stories/Dec11/Vermicompost.html

Soil testing: If you haven’t already sent it off, now is a good time to get your soil tested. By testing soil fertility, pH, etc., you can determine exactly which amendments are needed to produce the food you want to grow.

For example, in our little farm, we have red clay soil at the top of the hill, rather compacted “played out” soil at the middle, and dense clay soil at the bottom of the hill. I take a sample from each. In response, we’ve calculated strategies for each: lots of mulch, compost and vegetative matter for the hill; growing soil building cover crops for the middle; allowing buffer areas to soak up moisture at the bottom.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service Soil Testing Laboratory analyzes soil. It only costs $6 for a routine analysis. For more information, see http://msucares.com/crops/soils/testing.html, or visit your local extension service office or write: Soil Testing Laboratory, Box 9610, Mississippi State MS 39762; or call (662) 325-3313.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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