Worm Food

I have not written anything in a while.  I really am sorry.  But I also have a very good reason for it.

As some of you know, I love growing food.  Garden-veg beat Store-veg pretty much 100% of the time, and I want to grow as much of it as possible.  This desire is hampered by living in a second-story apartment, but I forge on and crowd my deck with a container farm each summer.  Last years wasn’t a great success, but we live and learn right?

I think the biggest problem I had was that any soil in a container becomes a finite source of nutrients for your plants, and fertilizing is much more important than in a ground-garden.  Straight up, I did not fertilize enough.  But I am leery about pouring that bright blue stuff on my plants… it’s not really that I’m worried about evil toxins and the whole paranoid-about-chemicals schtick…but more just that I know that crap is bad for the environment.  Synthetic fertilizers are very strong and highly concentrated; Stronger than most plants really need.  The excess gets into our ecosystem and contributes to algae blooms in local ponds and lakes.  I realize that my deck-farm isn’t really near the local bird sanctuary, but I want to figure out how to do better anyways.  As a rule.

The best thing for your garden really just seems to be compost.  Obviously different plants have different needs, but compost is a winner all around.  But again, here we are on the second story.

So how do we do this?  With worms.  Vermicomposting is a fancy word that means you use worms to compost your food scraps instead of relying soley on time.  It’s really a great system:  They eat your scraps and poop out fertilizer.  They’re happy and taken care of, your scraps don’t go to waste, and you get to make your plants happy.  Everyone wins!

I started by buying a baggie of worms from Canadian Tire’s bait fridge.  Sure you could go collect them after a rain storm, but I started mine in winter.  The variety of worm most preferred by vermicomposters is called a Red Wriggler, and this is apparently because they tend to burrow shallower than other varieties, thus dropping the chances of losing them out the bottom of your bucket into the wild.   I bought normal Dew Worms because they were out of Reds, and I am conducting this experiment in buckets only.

Have at ’em gents!

I next took my biggest planter, filled it with potting soil, and dumped the little guys in.  They burrowed in pretty quickly, and  I started burying food scraps right away.  Occasionally I’ll water it, just to keep the soil damp and comfortable for them.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I did end up with a ton of fruit flies in there.  I did some research and found out that this happens with your carbon content gets low, so you also want to add paper and yard waste regularly.  Newspapers are a good addition, as they are printed with vegetable inks and are fully biodegradable.  Grass clippings and dead leaves are great too, but if you’re like me, you don’t mow or rake.  I chuck in leaves that blow onto my deck though.

I turn the soil once in while too.  Aeration is good for your compost, and encourages the worms to move about.  It’s also how I know that five months later, they’re still alive.  The apparent evaporation of orange peels and onion skins is a good indicator too.

Probably the biggest selling feature of this system for me is that there’s little to no stink.  Seriously, I stuck my nose right up to that dirt and all I smelled was…dirt.  When you bury your scraps, they don’t release their rot out into the world.  And besides, they’re being eaten down pretty quick.

So if you’re low on space, or even just tired of carrying buckets of moldy peels around, give worms a chance!  On the whole, I’d call this experiment a success!

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