gardening

Confessions From a Worm Bin

This week I cleaned out my worm bin.  Well, cleaned “out” doesn’t really tell the story.  Exactly.  Though it may…

Up to my elbows in worm poop–excellent fertilizer for the garden and the only reason you’ll EVER find me up to my elbows in poop–I harbored some treacherous thoughts.  Dispatch came to mind, as did fishing.  With my worms.  Meaning no more plant food.  How did I get to this awful spot?  Well now, the beginning is always a good place to start.

For my birthday I received a worm bin. Now, you can imagine the excitement when I first laid eyes on this contraption.  Showed up on my doorstep complete with live worms.  Well heavens to hillsides, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!  A worm bin–woohoo!  Alert the media, share with the bloggers–we’ve got worms!  Immediately I set out to work getting it set up and my wiggly babies settled into their new home. 

Over the next couple of months, I fed them, watered them and generally fussed over these gorgeous little pumpkins of mine all the while knowing that if I treated them well, they’d treat me well and poop up a storm!  Well, poop they did.  And pee.  Sorry to be so graphic, but this is “nature” talk–totally okay for the kids. (Better than some of the stuff I’ve overheard on the playground, let me tell you!). 

Any-hoo, we were off to a good start until I realized my worms weren’t migrating upward as they should.  In the instructions, it was quite clear:  continue to add bins and fresh food and the worms will migrate up, leaving their poop down below and easy to “harvest.”  Read:  scoop out and allow to dry before storing. 

Hmph.  False advertising, if you ask me.  These worms were having no such thing!  They were swimming in the bottom bin full of their own “you-know-what” and leaving me no choice but to pluck them out one by one–if I wanted the black gold they had so kindly produced.

Have you ever tried to pluck a worm from slimy goop?  It’s not pretty.  And it’s stinky.  I’ll be honest with you.  I was wholly prepared to call my son and allow him to “harvest” some of the worms to use as fishing bait.  In fact, I was fantasizing about doing so myself.  Pretty mean with a pole, I know I could catch some real beauties with these red wrigglers (that is what they’re for, other than pooping).  Oh yes–it’s true.  In the midst of the nasty mess, I was prepared to quit.  And I hate to quit.  But this worm bin was proving a challenge and beyond my gardening limits.

But I didn’t quit.  Not yet, anyway.  I can still be trusted with the worms well being, keeping them active and fruitful. 

Whether it was that half-gallon bag of poop I secured or the mere fact I didn’t want this project to get the best of me, I still have worms and I still have a bin.  Though come to think of it, they might do wonders for my compost pile… 

Anyone else thinking relocation?  Sure would solve the aggravation factor. 

But not the fertilization one.  For now, I’ll keep my bin, but with this heat, I can’t guarantee for how long. Stay tuned!  Better yet–give me some positive reinforcement and helpful suggestions and I may not sneak out for a quick fishing trip. 🙂  Maybe.

 

Share Your Photos!

With the holiday behind us, the BBQ cooled, the waves not forgotten, it’s time to get back in the garden! 

Oh, you were in the garden the whole time?  Weeding and pruning, mulching and feeding?

Hm, yes, well–good for you!  And your gorgeous bounty will be proof positive of your dedication and devotion to your greens!  And Bloominthyme would love to see them and share them.  All you have to do is post them on your Facebook account and tag “BloominThyme” in the photo.  That way we can see each and every one and post to our heart’s content! If you haven’t visited us on facebook, be sure to check us out at http://www.facebook.com/bloominthyme  Hit the “like” button at the top of the page and be entered to win the cutest seed packet holders and custom seed packets!  (Photos can be viewed on our facebook page.)

No facebook account?  No problem!  Jus send your photos to gardenfrisk@bloominthyme.com and we’ll be sure to get them up!

Sharing is caring, right?  Oh wait–I think that’s the old sing-song motto from my daughter’s old Care Bears movies.  Never mind

But do share.

Summer Heat in the Garden

While I love a good old-fashioned sun-shiny day, I don’t enjoy heat stroke–which is what you’ll end up with in Florida these days, if you’re not careful.  Now granted I’m not known for being real careful and I do tend toward action before planning, but even I know to stay out of this heat!  If only our plants could be so wise.  Or fortunate.

Look at this poor thing.  Drooping, withering, begging to be let into the patio.  Reminds me of my dog (though he’s not satisfied with merely being on the patio, oh no!).  He wants to be in the house, on the tile, never mind he’s wet from his recent dip in the pool. 🙂

Silly boy.  Sad plant.  This is Ashley’s topsy-turvy experimental tomato plant and looks a lot like the tomatoes in my garden (which BTW have no blossom end rot, thank you very much).  Only my compost pile tomatoes seem to be enjoying the weather. 

While this fellow was having a good run there for a while, he’s no longer enjoying the ride.  So like any warm-hearted gardener, she’ll take this poor baby inside and place him on a sunny corner of her porch. She’ll water him and feed him and nurse him back to health and hope he responds. 

Which he will.  Given the proper care and feeding he can thrive once again.  It only takes effort.  Why, one only has to look at her lettuce to know this woman has basketfuls of effort! 

Whoever heard of lettuce growing outdoors in the heat of Florida?  Not me.  Mine are long since burnt, I’ve the plastic store-bought bags of lettuce to prove it.  We’re fresh out of greens at my house!  And carrots.

But Ashley’s harvesting those, too.  Sure this little guy is a tad on the slender side, but he’s golden and gorgeous and he’ll taste just the same. 

Guess there is a silver  (icy and refreshing) lining to an otherwise scorching day:  Gardeners can achieve success, despite the heat.  Save for those leggy basil of hers.

Didn’t stand a chance really, because basil will do that to you.  If you don’t diligently pinch their buds they will quickly grow legs that can outrun Twiggy! 

“What? You don’t know who Twiggy is?”

Hmph.  Fine.  When I think of her contemporary, I’ll get back to you.  Until then, enjoy your summer garden! 

Or what’s left of it.

p.s.  Julie’s still recovering from vacation.

Vacations and Gardens

They sometimes don’t mix.  Unless you plan accordingly, vacations can wreak havoc on a garden.  Shoot, even when you do plan accordingly they can shower your garden with weeds and bugs, slugs and grubs.  The mere thought of leaving my garden for a week at a time gives me the heebie-jeebies. But hey, I’ve got to live, don’t I? 

Yes.  More than live for my garden, I’ve got to traipse across the wilderness, scour new horizons in search of greener grass and bluer skies and drag my kids alongside me.  My heart soars at the sheer whisper of exotic destinations and far off places. 

Until they introduced those intrusive body scanners, anyway.  Ick.  Unfortunately, body scanners and groping TSA agents are not the only things capable of making one mutter, “ick.”  No.  Vacations away from your fabulous and fertile garden can make you turn away in horror, too.  Just look at what happened to Julie’s gorgeous greens. 

She wasn’t gone for long.  It all happened so fast… 

It’s enough to make a girl want to up and quit this whole garden experiment, toss the newfound joy aside like an uncomfortable pair of heels.  They’re scuffed.  It will take effort to refurbish them to their original shine.  Is it worth it?

Chin up, ladies–of course it’s worth it!  You’re a gardener now.  You must understand that Mother Nature likes to toy with a gal, test her fortitude and make sure she’s worth those glorious tomatoes she’s perfected over the centuries. After all, once she’s entrusted you with her precious commodities of fruits and vegetables, she’ll expect you to perform in turn. 

And perform you will.  As Julie has proved with these lovely near ripe tomatoes.

Just look at these budding beauties.  Kinda makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?

P.S.  Remember:  Mother Nature does this all day long, all by herself.  You’re included in the growing process at her whim.  If she wants your garden to grow, it will.  If not, oh well.  One only has to consider my compost pile tomatoes to be sure this woman knows how to garden. (Yep.  This plant is growing completely unaided in my compost pile.)

Then look at my corn.  Granted this shot includes only a few stalks flattened by wind–but trust me–there were more.  My husband claims I need to plant more rows, shorter rows, insisting a denser planting formation will protect the interior stalks leaving only the outer corn susceptible to annihilation.  (Apparently men from Ohio know a little something about growing corn.)  Fine. I’ll take it under my cap and consider it.

 

Next season.  For now, I suggest you take this as a warning–in case you had any doubts about the ferocity of Mother Nature’s temper.  Not sure what I did to deserve this, but don’t think I didn’t fight back and right those stalks at once!

I can be impossible, too. 🙂

Blueberries are Going Fast!

Here in Florida we have a very narrow window for blueberry picking.  April and May are basically it when it comes to harvest so grab your buckets and get out there!  Before they’re gone for good.  At least until next year…

And make sure you drag the kids along (or will they be dragging you?, because they can do some damage in a blueberry field.  The good kind, as in picking more blueberries than you can possible eat!  Good thing they freeze well and make great smoothie additions…  We went to a local field in our area called Blue Bayou Farms and picked over 5 lbs. worth of berries, then headed next door to the Yalaha Bakery (a German deli and bakery) for some good food, good music, and some unexpected entertainment!  If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by for a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.

Kids do love to dance, don’t they?  (Or is he running?  Finnicky little dance partner…)  Both were a hoot to watch.  As for my blueberries didn’t fare as well this year.  I started out with some gorgeous blooms, but to my disappointment, they didn’t bloom to fruition.

Not sure exactly why, but I suspect it had something to do with water, as in, not enough.  It’s been hot and dry in Central Florida and I’ve been busy–which means my watering schedule suffered.  Basically, I forgot to water them.  🙁   A few did produce which my lovely daughter promptly used to make some blueberry pancakes for me on Mother’s Day (sweet child).  But I have no bounty to speak of.  Sad.  Very sad.  Thank goodness for pick your own blueberry farms. 

For a farm near you, Pick Your Own is a super resource and can be found on my list of Favorite links under U-Pick farms.  You’ll also find instructions there on how to make blueberry jam, jelly and preserves!  They’re simple to make, much like the strawberry preserves the kids and I made for a teacher’s gift (details in our Kid Buzz section) and oh so tasty.

Garden Gloves Galore

Spring flowers are blooming across the country and vegetable seeds needed sowing so let’s get geared up and ready for action–beginning with some garden gloves.

Do you need to buy a pair, but don’t know where to begin?  Check out this month’s Prize Pick for a jump-start on your garden glove shopping.  From florals to paisley, latex to leather, there’s a garden glove out there that’s right for you.  And with so many patterns and styles to choose from–you’d better get busy. 

Mother Nature won’t wait for long.  While forgiving for first-timers, she won’t wait on you forever!  So get off your husks and get cracking, before you miss first dibs on the best selection available.  You do want to look good out there, don’t you?

Of course you do!  (The neighbors are watching.) And don’t forget the kids–not only will they need a pair of their own, it’s great incentive for them to get gardening.  We parents do need to stay one step ahead.

Grocery Inflation

As if we needed yet another reason to garden–have you seen the price of food lately?  From fresh vegetables to coffee and cotton, prices have jumped.  And don’t even ask about the price of chocolate.  Our beloved sweet may become a rare commodity, indeed.  No kidding.  Seems West Africa farmers are giving up the crop in pursuit of better wages in the cities while at the same time, world demand is increasing.  Have you heard the health benefits of dark chocolate?  Heavy on the cocoa, easy on the milk.  Not a good combination when it comes to the demand side of the equation. 

Then of course there’s a certain hedge fund manager who bought a ton (literally, I think) of cocoa beans for investment.  Downright evil market manipulation is what I call it.  How could he be so cruel?  Why, I have a mind to grow some cocoa plants myself.  I’m in Florida, they grow near the Equator…  Sounds like a feasibility study’s in order!

Thank goodness gardening is easy and fun, else we’d all starve of malnutrition and chocolate deprivation.  Plant, water, harvest, consume–easy!  

Okay.  You caught me.  I’m luring you in.  But truthfully, gardening doesn’t have to be hard.  In fact, once you learn the secrets to mutinous-proof weed maintenance, it’s even easier.  If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. 

Or, follow along as I guide my friend Julie through the process of starting a family garden.  We’ll begin from scratch and work our way through each step of the process, much like we did with Mandie.  Remember her?  She’s still gardening, I think.  (Please, Mandie–tell us you’re still you’re still growing green and strong!) 

But there are more great reasons to garden than it’s easy and fun.  Think of the health benefits (non-toxic, because we only garden organic), the convenience (who has time to run to the store every time they feel like a fresh strawberry and spinach salad?), the educational aspect (last time I checked, botany was still a subject at school), and of course, who can forget the main reason:  gardening for the sheer joy of it.  For the kids, it’s more the adventure factor–creepy crawlies tend to be exciting for them whereas we seem to have lost the enthusiasm for that kind of thrill.  (Wait–I know it’s here somewhere…) 

Stay-tuned and watch the fun as Julie and her family venture into the land of green.  Better yet, how about join her and start a garden of your own and share your experience wit us?  We learn by doing!  A lesson best achieved in the company of fellow enthusiasts. 

Though it sure would be nice if cocoa plants grew like this row of garlic.  I could wait a season.  But five years is pushing it.

Co-op Garden? But that’s MY plant!

Try and explain to a five-year-old that the vegetable plants belong to everyone.

“But that’s MY plant!”

“Yes, you planted that one, but it belongs to everyone.  We all helped.”

She points.  “That one’s mine.”

Still working on the concept of co-op gardening, I attempted to explain further,  “It’s a co-op garden which means, we all share in the vegetable planting AND the vegetable eating.”

Met by a hard-nosed glare, I decided it was best to let go of the subject.  A wise gardener knows when to let go of the vine. 

For now, we’ll simply enjoy the fruits of our labors and if that means each child is enjoying a particular plant, than so be it.  At least we’re all enjoying the garden, right?

And speaking of enjoying the garden, one of the best ways to do so is to use our sense of smell.  Take these herbs, basil and rosemary. 

Not only beautiful, you can almost smell them, can’t you? 

Can’t wait to start clipping!  And rather than rotate these lovely herbs, we can leave them in as long as they’ll continue producing — which means the rosemary will stay for an indeterminate amount of time while the basil will succumb to the freeze.

In addition to our glorious herbs, we now have strawberries, thanks to our kindergarteners.  These kids KNOW how to garden and weeded this bed in no time flat.

Once the weeds were out, we transplanted small Quinault strawberries. 

 This variety is wonderful, because it will produce numerous berries and do so well into May/June.  They’ll also spread out and fill this bed quite nicely.

Rounding out our fully planted garden is kale.  As babies, these plants can easily be mistaken for beets, but they are quite different.  Large and leafy, these small cherubs will grow to produce large nutrient-rich leaves.  YUM.

Can’t wait until harvest!  Which at the rate these kids are growing — don’t blink! — will happen before you know it.  Take these upper elementary kids.  Savvy and sweet, thinning the corn and pumpkin, they decided a little corn/pumpkin dressing might be nice around the monument built in honor of their lost tomato plant, to sort of spruce things up a bit.

Clever, aren’t they?  And the good news?  They only grow more clever with each passing year…  Yes, I DO mean middle school.  Can’t wait!

In the meanwhile, I think it’s best to simply enjoy their enthusiasm.  I mean, doesn’t matter if it’s weeds or seeds, these kids take to a task like white on rice —

— and get the job done, tout de suite!  And remember the jungle tangle of black beans?  Well, it’s a jungle no more after these kids whipped through it, pulling excess bean plants as they went.

No one ever wants to pull perfectly healthy plants, unless of course they’re inhibiting one another’s growth.  But then, what’s a gardener to do?

P.S.  What I said was kale isn’t — it’s Swiss Chard.  Oops!  My apologies — but it is just as healthy and delightful!

The Kids Are Off and Running — Literally!

It’s great to see their excitement.  When it’s time to garden, the kids line up, water bottles in hand, anxious to head for the garden.  Once the door opens they dash out, run cross field and straight to the garden!  I tell myself their exuberance has nothing to do with escaping the monotony of being in one room all day long, cooped up as the teacher pours information into their absorbent minds.  No.  This an excitement solely geared toward the adventure of gardening. 

That’s what I tell myself.  Besides, it is exciting

First stop — a quick review through garden etiquette.  No stomping across beds, no throwing worm castings or top soil on the walkways (black gold!), no putting unidentified things into your mouth, no digging without gloves, no rough handling of the sprouts…   Now that we have that settled, we’ll amend the sandy soil.  In additon to putting in  seeds, we’ll be transplanting ; a delicate process indeed.  (Don’t mind those brown weeds you see – we’re not after perfection but production – and those dead old things pose no risk.)

Our tomatoes and peppers have had a great start but now it’s time to introduce them to their new home.  And don’t forget the basil! 

Fifth grade students handled the task with grace and aplomb.  (These kids really are amazing.)  Settling in the tomatoes and peppers, they moved on to the onions and carrots, astonished by the size of the tiny carrot seeds. 

With incredible focus, they learned to “pinch and roll” the multitude of seeds into the channels drawn across the top of the bed, gently covering them with a fine veil of black dirt, not to mention of healthy shake of worm poop!  Er–I mean, worm castings.  We do want to keep this scientific, and all.

Finished with the task at hand they were ready for their next assignment.  It was then I had to break the news.  “Sorry kids, but it’s time to head back to class.”

Met with the expected frowns and protest, I assured them we would meet again next week for another exciting chapter of gardening! 

Cheers abounded as they cleaned up their work area and trotted back to class.  Turning back, I collected my things and thought, not bad for their first attempt at transplanting.  And to think we only lost one tomato.  It was during the process of “staking” the plant to its bamboo support when one boy pulled it out and asked, “Is this okay?”

I nearly fainted from shock.  “Agh!  No–you killed it!”  (You have to understand, I raised these babies from seeds!  It’s devastating when you lose one.)

He looked at me and I looked at him.  I nodded.  “You’ll have to give that one a nice burial, perhaps in the compost pile.”  Then I assured him, “Don’t worry.  It happens.  And look.”  I pointed to the tender sproutlings left behind.  “At least you had the trio!  We’ll just stake those two and we’re good to go!”

Then the Brownie Girl Scouts whipped in for an afternoon of gardening and boy o boy —  talk about energy and enthusiasm — these girls were all over the business of planting pole beans and got right to it! 

From dishing out dirt, tossing in seeds, patting in fertilizer, it was all I could do to keep up with their frantic pace.  I can’t be sure, but we may have pole beans growing all over the garden at the rate these spirited gardeners worked! 

But I never met a bean I didn’t like, so we’ll welcome them anywhere they show up.  Next up:  corn.  And lower elementary.  Talk about energy in the garden–you can’t beat this! 

Working in shifts, these kids were meticulous in their corn planting duties, surprised you could plant the kernel from a corn cob and it would turn into a whole plant.  Didn’t even phase them that our kernels were red.

“Ever seen red corn before?”

Hands shot up.  “I have!  I have!”

With a hand to my hip, I raised a brow.  “Really now…”

When I said they were telling me “stories” they assured me that was not the case.  They’ve seen it.  For sure.  (There is such a thing, but it’s fun to test their determination which I must admit, remained adamant.)

Our kernels are red, because they were chemically treated to keep them viable and strong for planting and sprouting.  While we’re growing organic, it can be hard to find untreated non-hybrid seed, so this will prove our exception.

Digging diligently, they added dirt and raked it smooth, careful to keep to the rows and not the beds.   We spaced out the holes, staggered our pattern and discussed the reason why.  (Corn grows real tall and needs a little elbow room!)

We even tossed out the worm poop to give them a good and healthy start.  Plants LOVE worm poop and kids LOVE tossing it.  And they refuse to call it “castings.”  It’s poop.  Plain and simple.  You gotta love kids

Another great day in the garden was had by all, not to mention great progress was made.  We’ll invite the little ones (primary/kindergarten) later next week to try their hand at bean plopping and poop tossing (something tells me they will LOVE LOVE LOVE it!)  

And what’s NOT to love about the care and feeding of your plants?