The first time we met the garden it was more than wild. It remained wild until a profound thing was said to me, to be a great gardener feed your dirt. Feed it and turn it into rich soil. The problem with composting for many is that to generate adequate heat to transform food waste into rich organic matter more space is required than most people have. Enter Vermicompost, which I’ve touched on very briefly before. Vermicomposting requires very little space, is tidy enough to be done indoors if space is truly limited.
Vermicomposting is also very fast, 10 weeks, compared to regular Composting which can take 6 months or more. Vermicomposting requires no turning, only that food be buried under soil (this keeps unwanted guests such as flies from visiting) and the worms will do the rest. Regular composting also requires watering to the consistency of a wrung out sponge, again not necessary for Vermicompost where the worms create their own moisture. Make sure you situate your worms under some shade so they don’t dry out.
Red Bread and our own Test Kitchen keep our worms happy with regular food scrap feedings. We’ve become quite fond of them and refer to their little corner of the garden as Squiggle University. We even have a fight song.
O Hail to Squiggle U
To You we Will be True
Squiggle U, Squiggle Me
And We’ll All Squiggle Be!
And every 10 weeks, we have a graduating class that gives us incredibly rich smelling organic soil. Just the kind mother earth is calling out for. In harvesting vermicompost, you must be a little more careful and go a bit slower than regular compost. With each scoop from the bottom of your bin, be careful to not catch any of your red wrigglers.
Once harvested, sprinkle the compost over your potted plants, raised beds and any empty soil patches you may plant in the future. Then give everything a good soaking to push those nutrients into the soil. Regular compost feedings result in rich soil for your plants to put roots into. Just like the worms, provided with rich soil as a food source the plants know what to do from there.
Your only charge in the whole process is to create conditions conducive to life and that is exciting!!
Another legend in the backyard wilderness is that of the Great Snail Wars that took place over two epic months in the Spring of 2012. Situated right by the beach during the fever pitch of snail season, we spent nights with headlamps on facing the invading horde armed only with swift fingers and sea salt. I felt conflicted about the whole sisyphus-esque endeavor, but didn’t see a better solution until we met Tommy at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Tommy, a musician and garden lover, introduced us to the calvary: Decollate Snails. Decollate Snails are carnivorous and efficient. After one night placing them in strategic corners of the garden, all our snails were gone and Tommy took on saint status.
With the combined power of worms and snails the garden has begun to flourish…
What tiny creatures will you recruit?
Tommy can be found at The Santa Monica Farmers Market Wednesdays from 9-12 on Arizona Ave in Santa Monica. Tommy sells ladybugs, worms, killer snails and other helpful bugs to take home.