Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wonderful Worms

Worm Composting 101

Worm humus is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by Eisenia fetida Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer and soil conditioner. The process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting .

My WCFFL (worm-composting-friend-for-life, duh) Kendra and I set out last week with the plan of starting worm compost bins for her NHNG (New-House/New-Garden) and my NHPG (No-House/Porch-Garden... get with it guys) and the ultimate goal of WPCoLTGH (worm-poop-circle-of-life-total-garden-happiness!) On 2/24 our worms came in the mail! Kendra ordered our worms from Uncle Jims Worm Farm and I give them a thumbs up for fast delivery and for all of the worms still being alive when we opened them up. Way to go Uncle Jim! It is important to get your worms into their new home ASAP so without further delay we dove into the process of setting up our worm bins. The steps are as follows:

Order the right worms. You will need Red Wrigglers, not earth worms from your garden. Our worms arrived in an adorable and totally random tiny white fire hydrant....

You will need to set up the worm boxes before you bust those worms out of their tiny mobile hotel room. Start with about a 10 gallon opaque Tupperware bin. You could spend lots of money on a fancy worm bin but it isn't totally necessary for the average home gardener. Drill air holes in your bin, no larger than 1/4th on an inch. We put maybe 30 holes? Then fill your bin with torn up news paper.

Next, you will need to thoroughly wet down the news paper. It should feel uniformly like a wrung out sponge. Damp, but not dripping. Moist enough for worms to slide through without dry spots they will get stuck in.

Next add some food scraps. This can be things like banana peels, apple cores, broccoli stems, wilted lettuce, etc. Almost any fruit/veggie is fine. We used expired portabella mushrooms, stale bread, and some cooked rice. DO NOT put meat, dairy, spicy, or citrus foods in your bin.

Next you need to add a small scoop of garden soil to the bin to help the worms grind and digest their food.

Here comes the fun part!


Each bin should get about 1lb of worms.

Don't leave any stuck to the bag!

Now give the soil a good soaking. Ours were packaged in extra dry peat that needed to be rehydrated.

Once they are moist go ahead and cover them with the newspaper.

Ta-Da!! Now you have a worm bin! In a few weeks I'll be sprinkling compost in my NHPG with my WCFFL! :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Worm Composting

Today my friend Kendra and I got our supplies together to start our worm composting boxes! Why would anyone want a box of worms you say? For their poop of course! It is with their generously donated "Brown Gold" that I will fertilize my plants and enrich my soil. Worms eat kitchen scraps like left over or wilted veggies and coffee grounds. Feeding these scraps to the worms makes me feel Green and Environmentally Responsible.

Right now, without any worm poop, my soil looks something like this:

But once I mix in a bit of Brown Gold.....

So now I bet you can understand why I'm excited about the worm box thing! ;) Kendra ordered our wormies in the mail (2 lbs, about 2,000 worms!) so I hope they will be here soon. When they come in I will post pictures of how to put together the worm box and step by step instructions in case you are inspired to start one for yourself. Until then I will need some help coming up with 2,000 names for my new pets...


Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Hello & Welcome to my blog!

I will be posting about my adventures gardening in a nontraditional urban space. Unfortunately I do not have the luxury of a backyard (or front yard) but I do have the good fortune of possessing a 4.5' x 12' fire escape. With the way that our apartment building is set up our fire escape is one of only 6 (out of maybe 30?) that is large enough to fit a few chairs and maybe some flower pots.

This fire escape was once home to "The Green Burrito" (metal bars from a drum kit wrapped in a lime green tarp, approx. 5' x 2') and various other odds and ends that wouldn't fit in our apartment. For an entire year these items languished on our back porch, creating the sort of junk yard eye sore that told our neighbors "Stay away, you might get tetanus if you try to visit these people".

After signing our lease for another year it was finally time to give in and rent a storage space. I swiftly moved the Green Burrito from it's place of shame and degradation to the storage unit where it's girth and coloring would no longer be offensive. This opened up a surprising amount of space and the fire escape suddenly started to look a little more like a porch. I put some chairs & a tiny BBQ out there and didn't think too much more about the space.

It wasn't until another year later, after enrolling in the Chicago Master Gardener Program that it occurred to me, this could be a garden! I guess because my porch only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight a day that I thought nothing could grow out there. In Charleston my porch garden was full sun and I planted things like tomatoes & basil. I was in the Full-Sun-or-Nothing frame of mind. Imagine the possibilities that bloomed to life in my mind when I learned that there were all sorts of plants that love shade!

Now it's no longer a lowly porch, its my Patio, Deck, or (depending on my current state of success) My Urban Oasis!

So I now have one growing season under my belt and am about to start a second. My first season had its ups and downs-

-I found some shade plants I really enjoy, like Clematis & Ferns
- I was easily able to squash my aphid problem when they descended on my fledgling garden
- I enjoyed relaxing on my patio for the first time
- my apartment felt bigger with my new use of the space, almost like adding another room. And they didn't even charge me more rent! Boo-ya! ;)
- I started a trend- now my neighbors across the ally put in window boxes too! Double the fun!

-Some sort of mildew or pest (I never figured out which) destroyed all my Inpatients
-From watering my plants that same problem dripped down onto my neighbor's below me and ruined their beautiful New Guinea Inpatients.... Sorry guys!
- I opened some sort of Pandora's Box and now I want to buy more trellis for my Clematis, new deck chairs, possibly a little patio table, start a worm composting box, pick up better garden shears, and with Spring just around the corner there is sure to be new fun stuff at the garden center..... good bye money!

This season I look forward to improving the general tidiness of my space by getting matching chairs and promoting the health of my garden by replacing my Impatiens with something from a completely different family of flowers in hopes that I won't have the same pest issues as last year.

Since we have had such beautiful weather today I decided to do some work in my garden by pruning my Clematis's and removing old dead annuals from my boxes. I ripped out quite a bit of dead greenery (brownery??) and swept away the salt and dirt left behind from the snow. I shook out my carpets and dumped out my dead potted plants. When all was said and done here is what I was left with:

Compared to last summer:

Well, thank you for reading my blog entry. I will keep you updated as the season moves along and I start to get some flowers put out. If you live in an urban area I hope my blog can inspire you to make use of your green space, however small it may be.

-Katie G.