Down and Dirty: Big Fat Worms

Want juicy cantaloupe? Roses that bloom? Every successful gardener knows the sight of slimy twitching Earth worms is a sign of healthy soil. Nutrient-rich soil is the key to a healthy plants. Seeing energetic Earthworms means the soil has what it takes, nitrogen, phosphorus, 7mgg potassium and other nutrients. That’s the foundation of your garden. One half my yard has rich loamy soil loaded with Earth worms, which I shoveled to the sandy site where I wanted to plant my tomatoes, way on the other side of my yard. I don’t recommend that unless you want an aching back, a bunch of dead worms and an anemic garden.

An easier and quicker way to improve bad soil is to use compost, great for most all plants because it’s loaded with nutrients. A compost pile also is easy to make, manguerose even without a compost bin. All you need is kitchen waste. Just take a few precautions so the four-legged foragers don’t dig up your kitchen scraps before they’re composted.

To start, rake together some leaves, mulch whether pine needles or the kind you buy — as long as it’s natural. Dig a long shallow ditch or keep it flat. Choose a spot that will get dappled sunlight or sunshine for half the day. But even if you have all shade it will still do, just take a bit longer.

Once you’ve chosen your spot, preferably away from the house, roomidea line the bottom of the natural compost area with the leaves and mulch. I keep a small garbage pail with a plastic garbage pail liner and whatever kitchen leftover I have goes into it. That means ONLY raw vegetable and fruit waste. No meat, dairy or cooked anything. In my house, this usually means orange peels, unused leafs of romaine lettuce, mango and peach pits ( they may also germinate ) the ends of uncooked broccoli (even broccoli has sprouted roots in my compost pile).

A kitchen is a great source of organic raw material. Give the garbage disposer a rest. Use eggshells though they won’t break down as fast, carrot peels, watermelon rinds, fruit pits and uneaten skin, pea covers, corn husks. That’s the only cooked veggie you can toss in.

When your small garbage pail is full or when it gets a bit pungent, spread the contents over your mulch area. Whether that’s a shallow ditch or flat area, be sure to take the leaves and other mulch material and cover your kitchen scraps well. You want to make a mulch pile, spaice not feed the opossum wandering through the area. If it is covered well, it won’t attract anything.

Depending on the weather, the pile will become a rich, gunky and gross compost to either spread over plants for food, or to mix with gardening soil. Hot and wet weather works best. During a dry spell, water the mulch pile once a week. It doesn’t take much work at all. The worms will be busy quite fast.

I also have buried my fruit and veggie waste directly in my yard to enrich the soil. It helps promote rich loamy soil. But it also will be to the alkaline side, as will your compost pile. Because most plants are acid loving, add some acid water-in plant food. Whenever I planted a new rose bush, I toss into the hole whatever uneaten, overripe fruit that’s in the fridge. What a punch of nitrogen.



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