worms

Squashing Compost Myths

“Compost piles stink. I would never have one. because I couldn’t tolerate the stench, I don’t have the time, and I DON’T want the rodents.”

black gold compost

Forget the black gold that a compost pile will deliver. Forget the organic treasure trove of nutrients this soil amendment will provide for your plants. Forget the health of the planet. Composting is crazy.

compost cross-section

Ever heard this sentiment before? I have. Often. And it’s because many people have a misconception about composting. It doesn’t have to be stinky and messy, attract bugs and wildlife. Quite the opposite. It’s an easy, simple, very worthwhile endeavor. Not only do the plants in my vegetable garden love it, my pile grows a few of its own veggies for me! Look at this gorgeous pumpkin plant. I didn’t do a thing to grow it, except dump the Halloween pumpkins onto the pile. Amazing.

compost pumpkins

Remember the incredible sweet potato I harvested from the pile a few months back? Stupendous. More

The Verdict Is In…

I’ve been struggling with growing corn. Between the bugs and the food and water, my corn has not been happy with me. But no more. While it might not be the biggest cob of corn, it certainly is the most beautiful.

No worms, no black spots–not even missing kernels. Nope, this cob of corn is perfect! Sure, it’s somewhat on the small size, but I’m 100% organic and you’ll find no super-growth nutrient mixes in my soil which I’m convinced must be part of the issue with regard to size. That, and natural soil composition. I don’t know what California is made of, but they’ve got seriously good dirt. All the produce I’ve ever seen from California is HUGE. Ginormous. And delicious!

But I live in Florida and must make do with what I have. And right now, I’m feeling pretty good.

How did I do it? Liquid seaweed and fish emulsion fertilizer, plus a healthy blow of Dipel Dust. The worms are the worst offenders, followed by the grasshoppers/leaf hoppers. How about you? Any success stories to share?

Mysterious Tracks

Something has been traveling my bed of carrots. Of course, my first thought is varmints, figuring a family of slugs had marched through my carrot sprouts. I can’t help it. When you’re dealing with the wild of nature, you have to consider the possibility. An animal is usually responsible for any unknown marks through the soil–or kids. Beds of dirt are highly alluring to children.

tracks through carrot bed

But I’m going with creatures, since I know for a fact my kids weren’t anywhere near the garden the day before. Something about a mutiny or such, I don’t recall, but it’s neither here nor there. This culprit was definitely from the wild of nature. Now, some species of critters tend to be more obvious than others. Take this humongous pile of dirt. Yes, that one pushing up from beneath my black paper.

mound of dirt beneath paper

Now I don’t know how familiar you are with moles, but this is a sure-fire sign that one of the little buggers has been hunting around my garden–next to the sweet potato section. Any guesses why? Hint: No, it’s probably not my delicious potatoes sitting underground, but more likely something disgusting.  Worms. Grub worms, those ick things that crawl around within the dirt and devour my plants, killing them. Ugly, beastly, the moles love them. YUCK. My next response? Gorge away, my dear mole, to your heart’s content and goodbye grub!

unwelcome grub

Not that we like killing any sort of wildlife, mind you, but nature does have its cycle of survival, and grubs, well, grubs lose in the battle when it comes to moles. They lose when it comes to armadillos, too.

But I digress. What happened to cause those odds-shaped tracks in my carrot row?

worm-discovery

Earthworms. Fleeing earthworms, to be exact. Seems they rather enjoyed the torrential downpour we’ve had  of late–a couple of weeks ago–but once the saturated ground dried up, the earthworms decided to vamoose (also known as run, scat, hightail it out of the carrot bed).

Which is unfortunate. I’ve tried to save the fleeing worms in the past, but once they become dried-out and disoriented, they succumb to the ants rather quickly. It’s sad, but nature can be brutal. Just ask my tomato plants. While the above variety of worm fell victim, the variety below usually prevails.

hornworm number two

Ugh.  Where are my gloves?! It’s time to go plucking. (Gotta love gardening…there’s always an adventure!)

 

 

Friends Planting Friends in the Garden

This week the kids learned the concept of companion planting.  Simply put, grouping plants together by how they can help each other is one of the secrets to organic gardening.  (So is worm poop, but we’ll get to that later.)  Squash bugs LOVE squash plants but they HATE radish.  So how about we plant radish next to our squash?

Our radish help our squash by preventing an attack of squash bugs!  How great a friend is that? More

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 the adventure with a friend

 

Mandie’s garden is doing SO well — why, look at those tomato plants grow!   They are awesome and healthy, except maybe for a few bugs here and there.  But wildlife is to be expected.  But when caught earyly, completely manageable.  Exercising due diligence, she went in to investigate immediately upon spotting the leaf damage. 

Ugh.  Tiny caterpillars are the varmints of late.   Awfully industrious little beasts, aren’t they?  But that Mandie’s on top of them, refusing the critters the run of her garden.  Removing damaged leaves, she quickly sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap. 

Conch peas are flourishing, despite the battle with aphids.  But it’s an easy problem to solve.  Mandie needs ladybugs.  Ladybugs LOVE aphids and if I had known she needed some, I could have pulled a few from my garden and handed them over!  Always willing to share

Speaking of sharing, I did bring her some sweet potato slips.  Now that the weather is warm, they’re thriving on my patio and simply aching to be planted.  Yes, sweet potatoes ache, I’m sure of it.  They yearn to be in the soil where they can spread like underground melons, enriching the world with their golden bounty of sweet, healthy goodness.  

Now that her lettuce and broccoli are gone, I thought she could use a littler “filler” plants.  Sort of a pick-me-up to tide her over the hot summer season.  And because they’re so easy to grow, we placed one just outside her planter box, anxious to see how they spread.  Besides, it will make for a lovely ground cover — so long as the boys don’t venture in that direction!  But of course they won’t.  Their playground is clear on the other side of the yard, along with Lucky’s run.  Kinda sounds like the name of a snow ski run, doesn’t it? 

Don’t mind me.  Just a dip into cooler territory (much needed this time of year).  Either way, it should be a safe environment for the sweet potato plant to stretch out and develop some tubers.  Of course, a bit of tilling in the area wouldn’t hurt matters.  Soft dirt is always good encouragement for growth!

A good thing.  These boys are having so much fun with their new garden, I know they’ll want to swim for sweets come fall.  Whether it’s more thrilling than carrots, one can’t be sure, but I’ll go with the notion that digging for treasure is digging for treasure, no matter what kind of gold you discover.

And if this carrot looks to be on the “thin” side, it’s because we may not have “thinned” the plants well enough prior to the growth spurt  —  a must if you want plump, rich carrots.

A fine example of why you should follow instructions and do as the Master tells you.  (Still love the whole “master” thing.  Considering persuading my kids to start using the term!)

Good luck with that.  

Though to their credit, they have been preparing my morning coffee for me!   Ah,  but it’s the little things in life…