Tag Archives: indoor gardening

I’m Expecting!!!

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… a plethora of baby worms!

European Nightcrawler Eggs

Today I frantically dug through my indoor European Nightcrawler worm bin, trying to find out if my recent, too-acidic feeding killed anyone. I learned two things:

1. These are worm eggs.

European Earthworm Eggs 2

2. European Earthworms love cardboard and pretty much any paper products! I found a huge percentage of the adult ones clustered around the paper and torn up toilet paper rolls I put in there. Anywhere where there was a clump of that stuff, at least five big ones were tangled in it and some of these precious eggs were close by.

According to what I’ve read about them, this means that they consider my scrap paper an awesome feeding source. Apparently worms lay their eggs near their feeding source.

I wasn’t expecting for this to be the case; all of the online sources say that European Earthworms feed near the surface, but I found them anywhere the paper was, including near the bottom (where I found even more eggs).  So, I tore up a couple egg cartons, soaked them in water, distributed them on the surface, and then tucked them in.

Implications

These guys are recycling machines! 

When I have enough, I’m going to start giving these away to everyone I know. Five pounds of these guys (which could fit in this container) could eat 5lbs of matter per day, including paper! I suspect that they actually eat it a little slower than that, but there is less in there than there was when I started this bin. Imagine how much paper waste could be reduced if everyone had a worm bin!

An Unlikely Indoor Thriver

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So far, I’ve had the most success with green onions, garlic cloves, and herbs. All of  the other vegetables I’ve attempted sprout well and then fade/stall at growing their true leaves (most likely because of lack of light, but we’ll get to that in another post).

One plant seems to be doing quite well; it’s color is dark, it’s growing quickly, and it doesn’t seem bothered by the amount of light. What plant is this? Broccoli!

Now, my excitement could be too hasty, as the plants are still quite small.

However, in preparation for the event that this plant does as well for it’s entire life as it has in the last three days, I’ve looked up some facts about broccoli.

Things You Miss By Buying Broccoli at the Grocery Store

  1. The adult broccoli plant is huge. It can reach about three feet in diameter. Unfortunately, the head, or the actual part that we eat, is quite small compared to the rest of the plant. After discovering just how small the “edible part” was, I started reconsidering taking the time and energy to grow broccoli.
  2. Then, it occurred to me that perhaps there was another way to approach this plant then I’d learned as a regular, American consumer. Perhaps I was missing out by just eating the head. Perhaps the rest of the plant was edible too. Who knows?
  3. Turns out I was right! Broccoli leaves are completely edible and there are numerous recipes online regarding their preparation. Here are some of the sources I found:

Broccoli Isn’t the Only One Whose Leaves You Miss at the Grocery Store!

  • So far, I have discovered that garlic greens can be used in the place of regular garlic! It tastes exactly the same, is easier to handle in the kitchen, and, from previous research I did on it for a class report a while back, it contains more of the active compounds that garlic is reputed for than the bulb!
  • Additionally, cauliflower leaves and brussel sprout leaves (pretty much any relative of the wild mustard) can also be consumed.

Waste Not, Want Not.

Worms, Green Onion and Garlic Green Harvest

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My European Nightcrawlers arrived a day before I thought they would and I had to throw this together at the last second.

I forgot to put a cloth or something similar in it to prevent the worms from crawling through the holes. This resulted in the great worm escape of 2012.

All that dirt on the side is the result of them scaling the walls. Some  died on the kitchen floor, but the majority were put back in the soil and placed under light so they’d crawl back in. I’ve had the lid on ever since and now they seem to be congregating by the food and not trying to go crazy. The guy I bought them from (who sounded like Larry the Cable guy age 80 over the phone), said they would be kind of crazy for the first couple days until they settled down from the trip

In other news, I enjoyed my first “harvest” today. I took the tops off my some of my green onion and garlic plants.

and made this:

The trick to harvesting salad shoots from these plants is to cut at least four inches from the base of the soil. The rate of growth increases the taller the plant gets. The onions in particular, started with about 1/5th of an inch of growth a day. Now they are growing nearly a half inch a day and this rate seems to keep increasing the taller they get.

Lessons Learned

  • Put a cloth in the worm bin to keep them from crawling out of the holes
  • Harvest green shoots 4 inches from their base

Green Onion, Garlic, Parsley, Bean, Pea, Squash, and Lettuce Growth

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As you can see, my green onion experiment is coming along nicely:

This is what we started with. These were the bottoms of green onions I’d bought for a salad. They were placed in water for about four days and then placed in this. I’ve been watering them twice a day from above and now they look like this:

The garlic cloves (also taken from a bunch I used for cooking) were planted upright and mostly covered in soil. I sprinkled parsley and cilantro seeds around them. Originally they looked like this:

Today this is what they look like (if you squint, you can see baby parsley!):

Also, you might remember my seed review on the Bentley brand. I saw nearly 100% germination within the first two days! Well, now we have 100% germination and, as you can see, the lettuce seems to be thriving in the seed starter wells. This is about three day’s growth:

Lastly, remember those several-year-old beans I had sitting in my cupboard that had the really great germination rate? Well, this is what they look like after only ONE week’s growth:

On the left hand row closest to us is one of the two peas out of 18 that I planted (BURPEE brand= terrible germination rates for me!). On the back row, on the far right, you can see the squash plant slightly falling over under it’s own weight.

I’m seeing GREAT results so far! Now I just need to build a couple grow lights!

Praxxus55712 on youtube is AMAZING!

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This guy covers just about every topic imaginable dealing with indoor and outdoor organic plants. Check him out! His videos have reassured me that I’m on the right track with this blog’s concept.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmglnVmA1qg&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy5fzPlsXK0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmlcb2c7dzY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84h4aYIfO3s

Seed Brand Reviews and Transplanting

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This page will include:

  • Transplanting pictures
  • seed brand reviews

TRANSPLANTING 

I plant one seed per planter well according to the planting depth instructions on the back of the packet, soak the cell with lukewarm water, put the clear plastic top on, and wait. When the seedlings can touch the plastic cover or it’s very likely that they will within 4 hours, I transplant them into larger containers where they’ll be exposed to regular air for the first time. Before this exposure, they don’t usually develop a waxy protective coat around their stalk, so it’s important that you don’t just go from the sprouting container into the ground if you decide to transplant into an outdoor garden.

1.  I like this type of planter because the cheap plastic it’s made out of folds in easily when gentle pressure is applied to the bottom. Here I’m gently grasping the base of the plant’s stalk and applying very slight pressure up while pushing the bottom up as well. This causes the whole well of dirt and all of the roots that have grown out of the cell to gently slide out with the plant.

2.  As you can see, the little bit of root that had grown past the dirt well and the entire well’s worth of dirt came with the plant. This is ideal. We want the majority of the root protected by the soil it’s used to. I am supporting the soil clump with the rest of my hand that you can’t see.

3. Prior to removing the seedling from its original well, I’d filled this container full of potting soil and then stuck my fingers in to create a well in the center to place it in. After removing the plant with the well dirt as shown above, I place it into the space I created and gently pack some dirt around it. I then place it in the seed tray with the other transplants, water from top with lukewarm water until they’re dripping out the bottom and add a little water in the bottom of each well to ensure they wont run dry in the midst of their main growth spurt.

SEED BRAND FEEDBACK

I hate to do this, but I’m quickly realizing that not all seed brands are created equal. In fact, the ones I bought from Walmart have been disappointing me so far.

1. BURPEE seeds. These are the ones that have proven disappointing so far. In the last 5 days, I’ve planted 48 BURPEE seeds. So far, 1 out of 18 spinach seeds have sprouted. This one has now grown to three inches. Unfortunately, my bird took a bite off the top, so I doubt we’ll be able to see how much farther it would have gone. 1 of the 6 squash I planted sprouted, and 4 beans of the 12 I planted have sprouted. All of these plants sprouted by the third day and have already been transplanted. All of the other cells remain dormant. I will update this *hopefully*, if more sprout.

2. Livingston Seed Co. (look on back of package in bottom left-hand corner) seeds. Once again, I’m pretty underwhelmed. 2 out of 18 peas planted 5 days ago have sprouted. The rest is the same as above.

3. Bean seeds from bulk dried goods section at grocery store. I planted these as an experiment for kicks and giggles. Basically, I’d bought bulk kidney and bean-soup beans from my local grocery store about a year ago and they haven’t made it into my belly yet. These had the second best/fastest germination rate. 9 of the 12 seeds I planted 5 days ago have already been transplanted and one of them is 5 inches tall! It turns out dried food goods work better as seeds than seed packet.

4. Bentley seeds. I planted these yesterday and today 10 of the 13 seeds I planted have sprouted! These (red lettuce) were bought from a little stand at the grocery store for $0.50 a packet and I expected BURPEE to outperform these by a lot!

Expenses, Other Drawbacks, Attempts at Solutions

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Expenses

Today I realized I’ve spent ~$105 on start-up stuff. I didn’t keep the receipts (going to start doing that), but here’s what I have so far:

  • 1lb European earthworms
  • spinach seeds
  • garden bean seeds
  • summer squash seeds
  • cabbage seeds
  • lettuce seeds
  • pea seeds
  • parsley seeds
  • cilantro seeds
  • oregano seeds
  • basil seeds
  • a small-well flat-sized planter set up
  • 2 medium-well planter set-ups
  • 2-ten inch diameter pots
  • 1-fourteen inch pot
  • starter soil
  • potting soil
  • liquid fertilizer

The soil alone has cost $10 so far and the pots have come out to be about $20.

Main Drawbacks and Possible Solutions

  • The cost of starter soil. I can’t find starter soil in anything larger than a small bag for $3. This is not feasible in the long term. One bag starts about 36 plants, which will be transferred into larger pots. This means that the soil cannot be used for starting again. To solve this problem, I’m going to experiment with making starter soil from potting soil and worm castings.
  • The price of pots. The starter pots aren’t that bad in terms of how many plants you can produce for the price, considering they are reusable. However, the larger growing containers are too expensive for a very low-income person to be able to budget for. I think the only solution here is going to be to find junk parts and figure out how to create planters that don’t drip all over the living room and meet the vegetable’s needs.
Update 4/8/2012: Okay, the solution is shown above- reuse old yogurt containers and any type of container you buy from the store (the lids can be put underneath to collect excess water.) Old baking sheets can also be used under the plants. Instead of transplanting into the store-bought containers I showed, you can transplant into plastic cups bought in bulk with holes cup into the bottom. For larger plants, you can turn old storage crates into garden beds by hammering holes into the bottom with nails and putting the container lid underneath to collect water. I will get a better picture of this and post it below when I transplant the lettuce into their largest container. You can also use a regular box with a garbage bag liner with holes poked in it for a couple plantings. When the box starts falling apart, you can transfer the liner into another box and use the worn one for worm food.
  • Space. I knew this was going to be a problem. I cannot, realistically, grow 15 heads of lettuce at once in my living room if I use normal planting methods because I wont have room for anything else. I *think* the solution to this is to plant multiple things per container; to go for a total soil-cover instead of, say, just having a pot of garlic by itself. Instead, I’ll have garlic and herbs. I’ll grow cabbage surrounded by carrots. THIS is where experience is going to come into play. I have to figure out what can be grown with what to maximize soil space
  • The cost of starting a “fertilizer maker” (worm bin). After researching the issue of worm purchase and maintenence expenses, I’ve concluded that this actually should be counted as a capital investment , rather than an expense.  It turns out that the European Nightcrawler is a relatively new species with a previously unseen combination of attractive traits. It’s the hardiest worm used for composting, a prolific breeder, consumes the most food per worm, and reaches large sizes desirable for a bait worm. I will be able to sell the worm castings and the worms to a public that’s never even heard of this species. This investment alone may pay back more than I’ve spent on the entire operation so far. One pound of these worms is currently selling for a minimum of $20 over the internet. Locally, no one near me is breeding these worms and those that do breed other species are selling them for $40/lb. These same people are selling worm tea for $14 per quart. They should prepare to be put out of business.