Tag Archives: vermiculture

Planting by the ‘signs’ so old, it’s new again

March 30, 2012
Planting by ‘the signs’ so old, it’s new again – and timely!

Good Friday – April 6 – is traditional planting time. Some people go by the calendar when they plant, some by how the weather feels. Like now: It’s
(freakishly) warm, right?
But the old folks used to take into account the moon and stars.
Maria Thun, who lives in Germany and has been putting her guide together since the 1950s, is the internationally recognized expert on this, known in
biodynamic farming circles as the voice of planting by “the signs.” Thun’s guide is published in 18 languages.
Such calculations can also tell the best time to work with bees, Thun contends. As the bees live in darkness in their hives, their rhythms are along
the lines of root crops, which have their own cycles she calls “root days.”
The best time to plant flowering plants is on “flower days,” she says, when the ascending moon is in Libra, Gemini or Aquarius. Fruit plants grown from
seed such as beans and tomatoes are best planted or tended on “fruit days” when the ascending moon is in Leo, Sagittarius or Aries. Cabbages, lettuces and the like are best tended on “leaf days.”
Thun’s guide for 2012 shows this week to be a good time to plant, with leaf days Sunday and Monday; fruit days late Monday and all day Tuesday; and a
partial root day Thursday.
From April 8-14: Partial root and flower Sunday (Easter); partial flower and leaf Monday; leaf Tuesday; partial leaf and fruit Wednesday; fruit Thursday and Friday; and root Saturday.
The Best Southern U.S. transplanting time is April 11-25.
Her North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar 2012 (Floris Books, $13.95) is available from Steiner Books: P.O. Box 960; Herndon VA 20172-0960; (703) 661-1594; or http://www.steinerbooks.org.

Worms not so icky, huh: My column on earthworms was a big hit.
A caller said his late wife used to order worms through the mail and sprinkle them around her garden. It was less messy than raising worms, he said. You can buy red wigglers by the pound at bait shops, or order them online. (Here’s one place we have bought worms: http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/. You can buy 1,000 for $18.95 plus shipping.)
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has a web page devoted to vermi-composting: http://bit.ly/HmxboE .
The “Worm Woman” lives on: Although Mary “Worm Woman” Appelhof died in 2005, her writings live on: http://www.wormwoman. com.
World Wide Worm Web?: For all worms all the time, commentary, forums, etc., see: http://www.wormdigest.org.
The definitive book on worms: The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart – a New York Times best-selling author, no less – with 213 pages on worms, just reissued in
paperback: Algonquin Books; $12.95.

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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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.

Anniversary Worms

Oct. 22, 2010

Happy anniversary, dear, here’s 2,000 red wigglers!

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

Last week, we described how we made cold frames for growing winter vegetables and noted using worm castings.

Worm castings, though a bit pricey, are great for the garden!

Each year, weeks before our wedding anniversary, my beautiful wife Annette and I contemplate what we will do to celebrate. This year, after much discussion, we came upon: Worms! (Yes, it was mutual!)

While we have a can we use to hold kitchen waste as a composter, we now also have a device called Can-O-Worms that holds compost and about 2,000 worms in it. When it matures over time to its full capacity in two to five years, it will hold 15,000 to 20,000 worms. It’s next to the trash can in the kitchen, and produces a “tea” or liquid worm manure for use in the garden.

You don’t have to get that serious about your composting. But buying a bag or two of worm castings from your local garden supply store will go a long way toward an abundant crop.

Now that, presumably, your 4-by-8-foot “Jims Plot” is producing fresh, organic greens, here are some recipes from Annette:

Any Greens Basic Recipe: This may be a little different than the greens you may be used to. Use either short cooking greens (i.e. mustard, turnip, mizuna, arugula) or longer cooking greens (i.e., collards, kale, broccoli leaves, cabbage leaves).

Because of the different cooking times, 3-5 minutes for the short and 7-10 minutes for the long, I usually don’t combine them. Taste the greens as you cook, and stop cooking when they are to your desired tenderness.

Saute chopped onion to taste, with meat if desired. The meat can be nearly anything: leftover chicken or beef chopped fine, sausage, bacon, ham, ground beef or ground turkey. When browned to taste, add washed and chopped greens, a sprinkle of sea salt, a splash or two of apple cider or balsamic vinegar and a touch of sugar, if desired. Some like these with hot sauce sprinkled liberally on top.

Note: For health and flavor, we prefer to use sea salt that is unrefined. Refined sea salt is the same as table salt – stripped of the minerals that give it character and boost its nutritive value.

Reader feedback:

When cold threatens, put a sprinkler on a post in the middle of your garden and turn it on to “wash off” frost before it forms.

(Note: There are no “dumb” questions. We write this article for beginners.) To pick your greens, pinch off the larger leaves on the outside, leaving the smaller inside leaves to grow. As they grow, they are pushed outside as larger leaves. That way, you are always growing new greens as you eat your pickings. Pinching them, using thumbnail to cut the stem, rather than cutting with a blade, allows the stems to heal more quickly. They’ll just keep on producing until winter. But don’t pull them up. With Mississippi’s often mild winters, some of them might go dormant and pop back up in the spring. We also allow our plants to “go to seed” at ShooFly Farm.

Some of our turnips, okra, etc., have been “volunteering” back for years, though we have rotated our fields to other crops. (Another advantage to laissez faire weeding!)

Contact Jim Ewing on Twitter @OrganicWriter, or @edibleprayers or Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc

online

School Kids Wild About Vermiculture: http://bit.ly/a2WFhp

Worm Farming Blog: http://www.worm-farming.org

benefits of worm castings

Extract toxins and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil, helping plants fight diseases.

Prevent extreme pH levels, allowing plants to better absorb nutrients.

Stimulate plant growth, also development of micro flora in the soil.

Increase ability of soil to retain water.

Increase soil nitrogen levels in a state the plant can easily use.

One tablespoon provides enough nutrients to feed a 6-inch potted plant for more than two months.

Source: http://www.tastefulgarden. Com

(Note: Column edited to remove partial recipe.)