After the Winter Hiatus

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Not today’s image!!!!

This is in my dreams for later on this spring and summer. Reality is much more grim!!

The garden is pretty bare right now – a few Brussel sprout plants made it through the freeze along with some of the sugar snap peas and an abundance of the beet varieties planted this past fall.
I have pretty well filled the compost bins with leaves and shredded leaves to be used for mulch in the near future.
I did transplant some lettuce plants yesterday but the labels have faded and I have no clue which variety will grace my table. The small half long carrot seeds planted last week have yet to show their tops. I will plant another round of carrots this week and continue some staggered plantings into early spring.
My friend John is allowing me to continue working the 4X4 plot I placed in his yard last year. He loved the abundant returns from the Juliet tomato plant. He had a good number of cucumbers as well as a handful of Texas A&M sungold tomatoes. We may even add another 4X4 adjacent to the first one. Making backyard gardening converts one by one. He has some beets poking up and I planted some chard for him last week.
Checking on my worms – the bottom bin looks done. Almost all of the little guys have moved up to the penthouse for the fresh food. Will probably sort the bottom bin this coming weekend and feed the plants. Speaking of plants – the strwberry plants are full of blossoms and I noticed a few berries that are a week or so away from taste testing. Can’t wait-  but I must!!!!!!

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.


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Worms Need a Reward

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I have not been very diligent with my worms this summer and was afraid they would succumb to the Houston heat. Jim's Worms, my supplier, indicates that they don't do well when the temperatures are above 85 degrees F. Well the garage, home for the worm bin, has been up near 100 deg F for a good chunk of the summer. I think I may be validating Darwin's work on natural selection( pushed a little by Alfred Russel Wallace) because I have a wiggling mass of red worms surviving/thanksgiving in this heat happily chomping away at the excess cucumber scraps, newspaper and an apple core or two.

These guys/gals – I think they are both – well read this clip "Although earthworms have both female and male sex organs, they still need to mate in order to reproduce." Probably more than you needed to know, but now you know! Their hard work has produced about 12 pounds of luscious and rich worm poop. The cantaloupes love it and they are the biggest I have ever seen -  7 to 8 pounds. We cut up a "Frankenmelon" tonight for us and the scraps went to the worms and compost bin.

Well I decided tonight that the little guys/gals deserved a treat so I tossed a mix of strawberry trimmings and cantaloupe scraps into the bin. I pulled back the newspaper litter covering the worms and tossed in the gourmet meal. The were dancing, twisting and wiggling all over. But, they tend to do that every time they are exposed to light. I think they will appreciate the change in diet…. they really do prefer fruits over other veggie scraps. They tend to congregate in those areas of the bin.

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