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Now John Has Worms

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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!

TTFN

Bishop

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A How To Lesson – Compost Bin Basics

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This is my compost bin built primarily from remnants of my blown down fence after Hurricane Ike visited my neighborhood. It is about 75% recycled wood and wire screen, the remainder is store bought. Foot print dimensions are 30 X 36 inches and about 40 inches tall. On the left side you can see some wood slats drilled with holes for air circulation. The slats fit in a groove to allow access to the bin for turning and removal of material. At the base I installed access doors for removal of material – good idea but has not been real practical. I need to trim about an inch or so off the bottom edge to make it easier to swing the door open. I am still looking for a "round to it" to get pushed off center!

Why two bins? Well, originally I thought I would need two during the summer to keep up with the massive amounts of grass clippings we grass we generate in this God awful hot and humid climate. The nice surprise is that the grass heats up and decays so quickly that it never fills up. My son Joe came in the house one day after mowing and said the bin was too full. I suggested he look again in three days and see if it was too full. Three days later, plenty of room for the next week's mowing. I now use the other bin to hold the brown material needed to keep the ratio of green to brown material in a close to correct balance.

Training folks to use the bin – this is the tough part. I go back a few years to our Midland, Texas days. As always I had a bin in our Midland yard. I was coaching my wife to take the kitchen scraps, no meat, fat or bone – just veggies and bread, out to the bin or let me or one of the kids do it. Well we had a lesson learned experience. Kathy was making mashed potatoes and had a sink full of potato peelings. Instead of gettting them out to the bin she attempted to process them through the garbage disposal unit. Potatoes are very starchy and stick together – they plug up the disposal discharge line -SOLID! The repair is just some minor plumbing work easily enough done. I received a promise to never try that again. Well – the promise did not last long and I was under the sink again to remove the starch bound mass of peelings. The lesson has now been learned – that was probably 10 years ago and I have not been under the sink for that repair again.

What goes to the bin – most kitchen scraps over and above what goes to the worm bin, grass clippings (the green stuff), leaves (the brown stuff), mulched up yard waste (chopped up through the mower to increase surface area allowing quicker rotting) and anything that will decay.

A definitive guide is found in the book titled " Let it Rot" can't remember the author's name but it is a great source of composting info. I have misplaced my copy. My beds are healthier and more productive, the soil is easier to work and I have an abundance of large worms to take to the lake – cat fish love my worms!!! PS – not the little guys in my worm bin…… I need them doing their job of making wonderful worm poop.

TTFN
Bishop

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A Gardening Jones……….. And Other Craziness!!!!!

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An obsession; a burning desire. The undeniable passion or love for someone or something.

"Basketball Jones, I got a basketball jones, I got a basketball jones ooh baby…"
Well, I got a gardening jones and just gotta have it, ooh baby…..!


The picture looks out of place relative to the title…. but just keep reading!


I have been traveling and have not been able to get my hands dirty in my little patch back home in Kingwood TX. I have called my wife to check on the plants, worms, rain/weather and – oh yeah – how she is doing and how the soccer match went and to tell her that I love her and miss her!

I spent a couple of days with my mother in Los Osos CA doing a few honey-do's around the house and in the yard. I trimmed some run away ground cover, repaired some sprinkler heads and tried to unclog the rain gutter conduit out to the street….. got some flow but it needs to be pulled up and properly flushed and reset. As I was working I couldn't help but notice some wonderfully bare ground ……….. That bare ground, let me tell that story and then I will get back to my jones for this bare ground.

June of 2009 my mother had a wonderful  80th  surprise Birthday party that she had spent months planning – LOL – Her children attended with spouses, her grandchildren (15) and two of the three great grandchildren were in attndance. And yes, there were a few great grand children in the oven. She invited 100 or so of her friends from the park she lives in….. great bunch of friends that will always take a free meal and hope that Grammie Glo will entertain them… Well the family provided a very large work crew to do some clean-up at Grammie’s place the next day. Now the story….

 

My brother-in-Law Bill was on a chain saw massacre mission. I thought that maybe the nieces and nephews would get a chance to witness how badly flesh can be damaged by a chain saw… no such luck for flesh but before the chain bound up there was considerable damage to vegetation and the drip sprinkler system (well maybe he just added more drip locations????). Several months later the remnants of once healthy plants were removed, eg. The lush green juniper to the left of the chainsaw in the picture.

 

There is now a bare area just begging for seeds and transplants. It is deep sandy loam. I wanted so badly to get some carrot seeds and create an edible border coming up the walk. Those carrots would have had lush green tops and nothing to put those ugly forks in the roots like I have with the Houston clay that makes it so hard for me to grow carrots…( run on sentence). It just screams at me to create an edible landscape…. But, I left jonseing for a chance to give that bare spot some love – Mom said no and like a good son I resisted the urge. She said something like the deer would eat it…. I would share… wouldn’t you?

 

OK – next I stopped at my daughter Melissa’s house and she shares my jones….. I felt better after getting some Camarillo dirt on my hands, seeing the berry plants, checking out her new raised beds and the veggies taking root. I feel better now!!!! I may be able to hold off until I get back to my little patch now.

 

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