I have been back home for a couple of days and finally got my hands dirty in the garden. When I was installing my friend John’s new raised bed over the Christmas Holiday I discovered a healthy bunch of earthworms, fat, busy and working the soil in his old bed but, the new bed is pretty much devoid of any sort of critters. The soils in the new bed were store-bought and pretty much sterile. My raised beds are teaming with worms of all sorts so I decided to infect John’s new bed with some of my own. The big guys I dug up in my garden for placement in John’s new bed are of two probable types, Lumbricus rubellus (red earthworm) and Lumbricus terrestis ( common earthworm) –  besides being good for my garden they are  excellent catfish bait in our local lake and river. I also found a few red wrigglers that may have escaped from my worm composting bins and went native. They tend to stay near the surface feeding on organic material and don’t do the heavy lifting and turning of the soil like their  Lumbricina  cousins. The composters are, Eisenia fetida, commonly know as manure worms….their favorite food, yum! A little known fact amongst the non academic types is that most of the common earthworm in US garden soils are not native – they arrived from Europe many years ago. Do you now know more than you ever wanted to about worms?……. they really are a fascinating subject. One more tidbit…..earthworms are detritivores – seems obvious to me now but I never knew their eating habits had a label. Detritivores, also known as detritophages or detritus feeders or detritus eaters  obtain nutrients by consuming detritus.

After infecting John’s new bed with some of my finest specimens, I pulled a few weeds, thinned some of the plants that were crowding each other a bit and hand watered. I have always enjoyed hand watering, i.e., using a hose with a gentle sprinkling nozzle. Hand watering relaxes and soothes my mind. I have been tempted to lay drip lines and automate the process – and I still may eventually invest the time and effort to do it, but not any time soon. I really enjoy walking through my beds, seeing how well everything is doing (and sometimes not so well), noting what may be too wet or in need of a well-aimed spray from the nozzle. Automated watering seems to be a bit impersonal….missing that extra connection to the living and growing energy of the garden. I also like to see the daily changes, sometimes subtle but always there if you look. Like the tiny crack in the soil where a seedling is beginning to emerge or the daily elongation of the pea-pods emerging from the flower bud, or the bees busy visiting whatever happens to be flowering….and those cursed weeds!!!!….. God must have had a plan for them – maybe they are one of those life challenges thrown at us to see how we handle the irritation….My big heavy-duty propane torch sure makes quick work of those irritations around the far edges of the garden but is far too indiscriminate to be used near the planted beds. I remember going out to my friend Mike Rossi’s pasture many years ago and cranking up the heat with his truck mounted propane torch. We were trying to wipeout the invasive and pervasive Bermuda grass just  long enough for the more desirable grasses to emerge. It is a battle that can’t be won, but you can quickly shift the outcome a little more to your favor….for a little while.

More work done today on my new experimental growing system…….I will let the spud out of the bag soon…..and yes that was a hint!