Tag Archives: vegetable garden

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.

Taken Over By Dirt

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how to keep your garlic fresh: put it in dirt and forget about it (except for water)

LETTUCE FAILURE

The last couple weeks have been packed with seemingly insignificant progress. While I learned that the best and easiest way to keep garlic fresh is to sprout it, I haven’t had time to make a grow light, or construct an organizational scheme for the planting. In the mean time, as seen below, my lettuce plants are suffering.  According to several online sources, they are “too leggy” and this is apparently caused by lack of proper lighting.

leggy lettuce display 1

leggy lettuce display 2

Also, as you can see, cut in half, gallon milk-jugs with holes sliced in the bottom make excellent medium table pots (and are readily available throughout the neighborhood on recycling day).

Lettuce Lessons Learned

  1. Do not attempt to grow lettuce indoors without a grow light or excellent windows.
  2. They sprout exceptionally well, so there is no real need to put them in a starter cell and then transplant them through various containers. In fact, this is more likely the damage their extremely thin roots than to help them. Just throw 1 seed in a medium bin of dirt (the cut in half milk-jug is just about perfect), water it for two days, and watch it sprout nearly 100% of the time.

WORMS

In other news, I solved my worm bin problem (they were all crawling out at night and dying on the kitchen floor). I bought a very fine mesh cloth for $2 and it seems that the worms are incapable of crawling on it. Since putting this in, not one worm has been found crawling up the sides.

worm bin tutu

A side note: it’s taking a while to get the European Nightcrawlers to eat regular kitchen scrap compost. They wouldn’t touch it to begin with, so I started covering it in this “worm food” I bought from the worm dealer (which appears to be some sort of grain ground into fine flakes) and mixing this whole concoction with finely crushed egg shells. As soon as I added the egg shells, the garbage started disappearing.

Important Recommendations Based on Experience with Nightcrawlers so Far

  1. Give them finely crushed egg shells with each new feeding
  2. Place the food on the surface and don’t mix it in. First of all, European Nightcrawlers are especially sensitive to the acidity of the soil and you may unwittingly be throwing it off for them when you mix it in. Secondly, they are surface feeders and naturally come to the top to feed and mate. Third, you don’t want to overfeed these little guys and the only way to make sure you aren’t putting too much in there at once is to keep it all where you can watch it.
  3. The majority of the food should be grains or non-acidic foods, such as green vegetables. You can feed them used coffee grounds and coffee filters (also on the surface) BUT make sure to mix egg shells in with this stuff and to keep it on the surface!
  4. Keep the soil moist by dampening it morning and night when you first get them. My bin drains really well, which seems to be working out for the worms- I haven’t found one dead worm since the great escape.  But this means it also dries out within a day and a half. Which brings me to my next point.
  5. Keep a large bucket of water that was drawn at least 24 hours before use next to the worm bin (the chlorine in tap water kills off the bacteria that help your worms do their job and enhance your soil. Letting the water sit out overnight allows the chemical to evaporate). Use this on the worm bin and your plants. Most likely, you will find that some of it collects in the container under your worm bin after draining through and under your plants. Collect this before anyone or anything is flooded and dump it back in the bucket. Over time, this water will turn into worm tea and you will already be in the habit of using it on everything. In addition, you wont have to refill the bucket more than once a week if you’re like me and have a fairly small indoor operation taking place.

MORE SEED REVIEWS AND A PLEASANT SURPRISE

A wonderful man in Oregon sent me these and five other packets of various seed types thanks to the seed exchange site (which I linked onto here a while back)

Seed Review

I ordered broccoli, pearl onions, and two-star loose-leaf lettuce off of the Territorial Seed company website. So far, I’ve only had time to plant the broccoli, but it immediately sprouted! By the way, these are open-pollinated seeds (all of the ones I purchased from this company). I’ve also received my seed order from Sustainable Seed Company, but have not had time or resources to plant any. This should change in about two more weeks and I’ll have more to update with.

Territorial Seeds. The website sells them for less than the price listed on the packet.

Sustainable Seed Co.

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

Some Indoor Gardening Polls

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