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Greenfield Garden Club Farm and Garden Tour

Denise Leonard

Denise Leonard, current chair of the Greenfield Agricultural Commission, past president of the New England Border Collies Association, and chief farmer at TANSTAAFL Farm is one of the featured farmers on the Greenfield Garden Club’ annual garden tour which is including farms for the first time this year. THIS VERY DAY! July 7!

Denise explained that her husband David came up with the name of their farm when they were still living in Leverett more than 25 years ago. He is a science fiction fan and was inspired by Robert Heinlien’s novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where the phrase “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and the acronym TANSTAAFL is used frequently. “It seemed appropriate then – and now because there is no free lunch for any of us,” she said. In these hard economic times none of us could argue with that.

 

 

pendale and Scottish Blackface sheep

On their 30 acres in Greenfield Leonard raises ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs and sheep. Most of these are sold long before she has to plan a trip to the slaughter house. She also trains sheep dogs, mostly border collies, but sometimes other breeds as well. She will be giving sheep dog demonstrations during the tour.

Ever since she was young and began helping a friend in a 4-H club who needed help showing her sheep Leonard has had sheep. It was the sheep that led her to border collies. Now training sheep dogs is a apart of her farm chores and income. She said many people who come to her with their border collie are interested in agility training. “They come here to the farm and they see my sheep, and our dog working with the sheep, and soon some of them want sheep too,” she said.

While the number of dairy farms has declined in our area, there is an increasing number of farms raising vegetables, fruit and meat. “People are more concerned about where there food comes from than they used to be. It is also easier for them to know about local farms and buy produce directly from the farmer. CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) has had a big impact with its Local Hero program, as has the growth of farmer’s markets,” she said.

In addition to tending to the animals and holding dog training classes, Leonard has a part time job at the University of Massachusetts which would keep most people pretty busy, but the farm also boasts long flower borders that were in beautiful bloom when I visited. I asked her how she managed to do all that. Her reply was, “With great difficulty.” Still she loves daylilies and has about 500 varieties. “They are a low-care plant.” She says that if a plant dies she doesn’t replace it, and it has to survive the weeds. “It is easy to weed around daylilies, and they protect enough of the soil to keep down many weeds,” she said.

View across flower border to barn

“I keep trying to cut down the size of the garden, but . . .” she said with a shrug, uttering a complaint that many of us gardeners can identify with. We can’t get rid of our favorite plants, and when a special new plant comes in view we can’t resist that either.

TANTAASFL Farm is just one of five farms included in this year’s tour, ranging from those selling compost, meat, flowers and herbs. Leonard, and Carol Doerpholz, her Ag Commission colleague and sister Garden Club member, suggested that since the Franklin Land Trust was not having a tour this year, it was an opportunity for the Garden Club to support local farms.

Of course there will be gardens on the tour illustrating the full range of garden types, as well as the personality of the gardeners. All gardeners have to work with their particular site, so there will be a shady woodland garden, a garden that integrates vegetables and flowers in the same bed, an English flower garden that is being transformed incorporating permaculture techniques and plants, as well as a garden with a magnificent built stream, pond and stone patio. There will be inspiration for gardeners, and summer pleasure for those who do not garden.

All proceeds from the Greenfield Garden Club’s tour, and other fundraising events like the annual plant sale, go to funding community projects. Each year grants are given out to the schools for garden related projects. In addition, community groups can apply to the Club for help with a garden related project. Recently the Club bought a tree for the Second Congregational Youth Group to plant on Arbor Day. In addition, the Club has bought plants for the new plant containers, bought by the Beautification Committee, that the town is  planting and setting out to give downtown a fresh new look. Education and beautification are two of the goals of the Club.

Tickets for the self guided Farm and Garden Tour are available the day of the tour, Saturday, July 7 between 9 am and 1 pm at the Trap Plain garden at the intersection of Federal and Silver Streets. Tickets are $12 for each person. For more information about the tour and the Garden Club’s activities logon to their website, www.greenfieldgardenclub.org.

Between The Rows  June 30, 2012

Vermicompost Harvest – Garbage to Black Gold

Red Wigglers - Eisenia foetida

With the first lettuces cleaned out of the garden it was time for a vermicompost harvest. Vermicompost, compost filled with worm castings, otherwise know as worm manure, is a rich compost that will get my second or third plantings well nourished. I have written about my vermicomposting adventures before here.

Once the weather became dependably warmer, over 50 degrees, I moved our worm bin outside. It now lives on the north side of the house where it is in the shade most of the day.  In preparation for the harvest, I shredded and soaked lots of newsprint for a day.  This is my supply of fresh bedding. I dumped out all the worms, compost and old bedding onto a sheet of plastic and left this mass for a couple of hours. This gave the  worms time to dive down to the bottom of the pile away from the light. That gave me enough time to wash out the bin and dump in the wet shredded newspaper which had a little time to drain through the bin’s drainage holes.

Worms in the bin with new bedding and some new garbage

The harvest process simply means taking the top layers of vermicompost off the pile and putting it in a bucket, and then returning the worms with any clinging bedding into the bin with its fresh bedding. It is not necessary to remove every bit of old bedding . In fact, this old bedding and compost ‘inoculates’ the new system with the bacteria that will get the new system operating properly. While I say the worms eat my garbage, it is also true that various bacterias and fungi also eat my garbage and they need to be re-introduced. I always wear gloves when I work with the worms.

I keep a bowl on my kitchen sink for food scraps, vegetable and fruit peels and trimmings, tea bags, and stale bread mostly. I also add well crushed egg shells on a regular basis because the worms need that calcium to reproduce. Sometimes this garbages goes to the chickens, or the regular compost pile because I do not want to overload the worm bin which  could cause anaerobic bacteria to develop causing a smell. A healthy worm bin is an aerobic system; the worms need to breathe. A vermicompost system cannot accept meat or dairy!

Maintaining a worm bin and making vermicompost is not a complicated business. Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof is my bible, but it has more information than most of us will really need. It is all fascinating though, and if you have children who want a science project vermicomposting can benefit the child who gains scientific information and record-keeping experience, and the family garden. You can read a great interview with Mary Appelhof here.

The New Mexico State University Extension Service has an excellent downloadable pamphlet with basic information.

A bucketful of vermicompost

I harvested nearly five gallons of vermicompost. Most of this was used in garden beds ready for replanting, but I have mixed vermicompost with seed starting mix, and in potting mix for container planting. I confess I usually harvest only once a year which explains in part the large amount of compost.

What do you do with your kitchen garbage?

My Soil Test Reveals All – Not Bad!

Newly planted onion bed

I had not yet received the results of my soil test from UMass when my onion sets arrived from Dixondale Farms. I wanted to get them right in the ground, but I was worried about my soil pH. Dixondale says onions prefer a pH between 6.2 and 6.8. I feared my soil might be too acidic for optimum results so I tilled in another couple of handfuls of lime before I planted the onions.

Two days later I got my soil test results. I was quite amazed. My pH is 6.6. I hope I didn’t make the s oil too alkaline with that extra lime. No more liming the vegetable garden for a while!

I also have high levels of phosphorous and potassium. I guess those occasional and undocumented additions of rock phosphate and greensand over the past couple of years paid off. The recommendation was to add nitrogen. As it happens I have a 4 pound bag of dried blood – and that is exactly the amount for 100 square feet of planting beds. I actually bought the dried blood to sprinkle around beds attractive to rabbits.

The final important result of the soil test is the calculation that I have 9% organic matter. The recommendation is to have between 4-10% organic matter. Hooray! All that compost is working.

Early garden in disarray

This morning when I looked out at the Early Garden I saw the row cover pulled aside. I know we have had a lot of wind, but the row cover is pinned down with rocks – also disturbed and moved. Could it have been the rabbit I saw jumping off the bank when I drove in last night in the dark? I’ll have to buy another bag of dried blood to sprinkle around the Early Garden beds, in addition to the row covers which I  thought would be deterrent enough. Good news and a warning. More rabbit deterrents. At least he didn’t have a chance to eat anything.

 

Feed the Living Soil – Soil Test Needed

Preparing soil sample for testing

Soil is alive. It is more than sand, silt or clay particles. It is even more than rotted organic matter. It is full of bacteria and all kinds of fungi, good and bad. Soil is alive and it needs to be fed.

Some people go to the garden center and buy bags of 5-10-5 fertilizer. The numbers stand for the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium or potash (K). This kind of fertilizer is soluble and will provide your plants with the three major nutrients that they need. They will not feed the soil. In fact, if only chemical fertilizers are used on soil, the soil will eventually die.

Soil, and our garden plants need more than nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They need trace elements like calcium, copper, boron, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Soils that have sufficient organic matter will usually have sufficient trace elements, because only small amounts of these elements are needed for strong plant health. The safest and best way for us gardeners to provide essential trace elements is by regular additions of compost.

If trace element deficiencies are severe enough you can often make a diagnosis of the problem by looking at your plants. For example, yellowing of leaves while veins remain dark green can indicate an iron deficiency.

While all the macro and micro-nutrients might be present in the soil, they need to be made available to the plants. This means the soil cannot be too acid, or too alkaline. When soil is too acid or alkaline those nutrients are locked up. Many gardeners have found that simply by liming their acid soil their plants do better. That is because when the pH is higher those nutrients are available to the plants. Most garden centers sell pH test kits, and while the assumption around here is that our soil is acid, we need to know how acid. We also need to know if it is too alkaline, which can also make nutrients unavailable.

With all those nutrients present and available, what do bacteria and fungi do for the soil?

The fungi are possibly the most important and there are three types. The first type of fungi are the decomposers that digest organic matter and make it usable for plants. They are also important in retaining nutrients in the soil, and storing and recycling carbon in the soil.

Then there are the mutualists, the mycorrhizal fungi, that colonize on plant roots and bring the plant nutrients and even water.

Finally, there are the pathogens and diseases. Verticillium is one of the fungi that can cause problems for the gardener, and the farmer. Fortunately there are now hybrid plants that resist verticillium as well as other fungal diseases.

Soil is complex and if we are going to have healthy plants without depending solely on 5-10-5, we need to feed our soil.

I have not been very scientific about feeding my soil. I spread manure and compost to provide nitrogen and trace elements. I have added greensand to provide potassium. I’ve added rock phosphate to provide phosphorous. Greensand and rock phosphaste (not super phosphate that is soluble and available immediately) break down slowly over time, providing nourishment for a long period.

I have spread lime from time to time, as well as my wood ashes, but I fear my soil may still be more acid than is desirable. Therefore I am going to get a soil test from the UMass Soil Testing Laboratory (http://www.umass.edu/soiltest/list_of_services.htm, For $15 I can get a measure of pH, nutrients and organic content, with recommendations for improving my soil.

To prepare a sample according to their directions I will get 10 or 12 vertical slices (being sure to reach into the root zone) of soil from random areas in my vegetable garden with a clean trowel and put them in a clean container. Mix well. Then take one cup of that mixture and dry it on paper. When dry put it in a zip lock bag. If you send several bags make sure each is identified: veggie garden, front lawn, flower garden, etc. There is a cost for each sample. Send to the Soil Lab with your check and in about two weeks from the time the sample arrives you will have your results.

There are full directions on the UMass website for taking soil samples along with a downloadable form. I will reveal the results of my test when it arrives. Wish me luck.

*******************************************************************

Tomorrow is Earth Day. Take care of your earth.

 

Feed Your Living Soil – Soil Tests Needed

Soil Sample

Soil is alive. It is more than sand, silt or clay particles. It is even more than rotted organic matter. It is full of bacteria and all kinds of fungi, good and bad. Soil is alive and it needs to be fed.

Some people go to the garden center and buy bags of 5-10-5 fertilizer. The numbers stand for the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium or potash (K). This kind of fertilizer is soluble and will provide your plants with the three major nutrients that they need. They will not feed the soil. In fact, if only chemical fertilizers are used on soil, the soil will eventually die.

Soil, and our garden plants need more than nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They need trace elements like calcium, copper, boron, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Soils that have sufficient organic matter will usually have sufficient trace elements, because only small amounts of these elements are needed for strong plant health. The safest and best way for us gardeners to provide essential trace elements is by regular additions of compost.

If trace element deficiencies are severe enough you can often make a diagnosis of the problem by looking at your plants. For example, yellowing of leaves while veins remain dark green can indicate an iron deficiency.

While all the macro and micro-nutrients might be present in the soil, they need to be made available to the plants. This means the soil cannot be too acid, or too alkaline. When soil is too acid or alkaline those nutrients are locked up. Many gardeners have found that simply by liming their acid soil their plants do better. That is because when the pH is higher those nutrients are available to the plants. Most garden centers sell pH test kits, and while the assumption around here is that our soil is acid, we need to know how acid. We also need to know if it is too alkaline, which can also make nutrients unavailable.

With all those nutrients present and available, what do bacteria and fungi do for the soil?

The fungi are possibly the most important and there are three types. The first type of fungi are the decomposers that digest organic matter and make it usable for plants. They are also important in retaining nutrients in the soil, and storing and recycling carbon in the soil.

Then there are the mutualists, the mycorrhizal fungi, that colonize on plant roots and bring the plant nutrients and even water.

Finally, there are the pathogens and diseases. Verticillium is one of the fungi that can cause problems for the gardener, and the farmer. Fortunately there are now hybrid plants that resist verticillium as well as other fungal diseases.

Soil is complex and if we are going to have healthy plants without depending solely on 5-10-5, we need to feed our soil.

I have not been very scientific about feeding my soil. I spread manure and compost to provide nitrogen and trace elements. I have added greensand to provide potassium. I’ve added rock phosphate to provide phosphorous. Greensand and rock phosphaste (not super phosphate that is soluble and available immediately) break down slowly over time, providing nourishment for a long period.

I have spread lime from time to time, as well as my wood ashes, but I fear my soil may still be more acid than is desirable. Therefore I am going to get a soil test from the UMass Soil Testing Laboratory (http://www.umass.edu/soiltest/list_of_services.htm, For $15 I can get a measure of pH, nutrients and organic content, with recommendations for improving my soil.

To prepare a sample according to their directions I will get 10 or 12 vertical slices (being sure to reach into the root zone) of soil from random areas in my vegetable garden with a clean trowel and put them in a clean container. Mix well. Then take one cup of that mixture and dry it on paper. When dry put it in a zip lock bag. If you send several bags make sure each is identified: veggie garden, front lawn, flower garden, etc. There is a cost for each sample. Send to the Soil Lab with your check and in about two weeks from the time the sample arrives you will have your results.

There are full directions on the UMass website for taking soil samples along with a downloadable form. I will reveal the results of my test when it arrives. Wish me luck.

Between the Rows  April 7, 2012

 

Look At My Loot

Seven Years Gold Compost

As Christmas drew near a  friend asked if I his Christmas gift had been delivered. I said no deliveries and then waited every day for my treat to arrive. I did get a Package Too Big notice from the Post Office and picked up this bag of compost that had a mailing label right on the bag. I assumed it was some sort of sample from the Seven Years Gold company, although it did seem an odd time of year to be sending compost samples to Massachusetts.  But when my friend arrived for dinner after Christmas he said he couldn’t wait any longer to tell me what was on its way to me – horse manure!  Seven Years Gold wasn’t a sample it was my friend who paid attention when I said one of the best gifts I had gotten for my first vegetable garden 40 years ago was a load of rotted horse manure. Friends like this are not easy to come by.

Christmas Books

Of course all my friends and family know I love books – and that high cooking and baking season lasts all winter. The stove helps keep the house warm. I was familiar with Nigel Slater (British) from his many inspiring and useful cookbooks, but Yotam Ottolenghi was new to me. Nigel Slater was prompted to write Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch this latest book by his new(ish) passion for gardening. Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, takes a vegetarian approach. I have already made his flavorful Mushroom and herb polenta. Delicious and easy.  Although I had never heard of Ginette Mathiot or her cookbooks that are considered  the Joy of Cooking of France, I am ready to delve into The Art of French Baking (The definitive guide to home baking by Frances favorite cook book author). I must say the recipes look very easy. We shall see.

Finally, there is a book for bedtime reading. Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation Across Two Centuries by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers is not the anthology of selections I first thought. There are snippets from each of the authors mentioned from Thomas Jefferson and Gertrude Jekyll to humorists like Karel Capek and artists like Robert Dash, but Rogers gives us a sense of the life and personalities of each. I am savoring each section.

Now here is a question. Although not apparent from a photo, two of the cookbooks, Plenty and The Art of French Baking have padded covers. Is this a new trend? A new style in books? Does it make the books more wipe-able?  Any ideas?

Christmas Trees at Kringle Candle Company

This Christmas may be over, but all these gifts, including a candle from the Kringle Candle Company, will keep the memory alive for many years.

ADDENDUM – One way or another I have gotten comments and questions about horse manure – and I found interesting information and comparisons here.

We Love to Eat – Blog Action Day 2011

Heath Schoolhouse Museum

I live in a ruraltown of 750 souls in the western corner of Massachusetts that sits on the Vermont border. On the Fourth of July in 1981 I happened to meet two other friends at the spinning wheel in the town museum. We were celebrating the holiday, but got to complaining that we never went out to dinner, we  couldn’t afford to, and besides there were no good restaurants closer than 40 miles. Actually there were no restaurants  at all closer than 25 miles. So, on the spot, we invented the Heath Gourmet Club that has been meeting ten times a year ever since, beginning that September. We don’t meet in August because we are all too busy with the Heath Fair, and we collapse the November/December dinners into one.

Gourmet Club Anniversary

Here we are celebrating again. Each month the host picks a theme and lets the other four couples know the entree. Then, Sheila, our record keeper, assigns us each a course, appetizers, bread and soup, side, salad, and dessert, or whatever combination suits the meal. Hosting and courses rotate so we all get a chance to do everything.  This keeps down the individual labor and cost for each meal, some of which have been really spectacular. Salmon Coulibiac, Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourginnone, Mock Turtle Soup (made with muskrat), Peking Duck, and many many more. Spanish, Italian, British, African, Japanese, Indonesian and more, especially French. I love French. Sometimes we have Guest Eaters who feel themselves really lucky to be invited.

Obviously we all love to cook and try new things, but we also like to use local produce. Long before we heard of the 100 mile diet we raised our own pork and chickens and eggs, bought good Heath blueberries, apples and milk. We gardened and grew and put up our own vegetables.

Minestrone

We don’t think every meal has to be fancy, but anything made with good healthy ingredients is a pleasure and delight.

Seeds of Solidarity Farm

We have all been able to buy fresh produce at local farms and orchards, but over the past years the number of small farms has increased selling their produce at farmstands and through this new thing called a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture which allows all of us to share in the risk of farming, the unpredictability of weather and pestilence, and farmer’s markets. This increase in the production of local food is good for the farmers, good for the environments, good for the community and good for us of us eaters.

Seeds of Solidarity Farm is a working farm, specializing in greens and garlic, but Ricky also teaches garden workshops and his wife Deb works to create school gardens, and get fresh produce into institutions like schools and hospitals.

Garlic and Arts Festival - The Festival that Stinks

Along with neighbors, Deb and Ricky founded the Garlic and Arts Festival that takes place the first weekend in October. This is a solar powered, grease mobile run, festival. Who cares if it stinks? After the 10,000 people leave and the field is cleaned up, there is only three bags of trash to dispose of. Everything else is composted or recycled. They have proved that we can live more lightly on the land that we usually do. Then they sell some of the compost at the next Festival.

Organizations like CISA have grown up to help farmers be better businessmen and involve all of us in supporting local agriculture.

Annual Harvest Meal in Greenfield, MA

Every year our larger community celebrates the bounty of our area with a giant FREE Harvest Meal. Farmers donate the produce, restauranteurs donate their labor, musicians come and play and we all celebrate. You can make a donation of course, and that money goes to fund vouchers that are given out at the food pantry, to be used at the farmers market. Everyone deserves fresh healthy food. This year 800 people gathered for this feast, some making generous contributions, and others enjoying the meal freely. $4000 was collected for food vouchers.

And everyone deserves to grow their own healthy food. Just Roots is the new Community Farm that has been form on the site of the Greenfield Poor Farm. This is a wonderful opportunity for many people who don’t own land and who like working with others – who can be a real help with advice.

We are fortunate in our area to have Greenfield Community College which is offering a new course this fall on food systems. It is oversubscribed! Read about that here. It is a joy to see the support given to potential farmers.

We wish our good food fortune to everyone. Bon appetit!

For more about Blog Action Day click here.

Weeding and Compost

A 40 foot Herb Bed lies in front of our house where lilies and roses vie for space with rue, parsley, basil, variegated sage and thalictrum at  the west end of the building

past the Welcoming Platform where you can see yarrow, golden marjoram, sage, tarragon, rosemary, Ashfield black stem mint and chives

to the end of the Bed where there is more basil, horseradish, lemon balm and dill that was knocked down by the rain that fell briefly last night. An Herb Bed in August is not a lovely thing because herbs are not neat plants. I have seen photographs of beautifully pruned herbs in simple and symmetrical beds or in complex knotted designs, but I have never seen one in the flesh. I am willing to believe such herb gardens exist, but for the cook and gardener who is only interested in using herbs the herb garden is much more apt to be unruly, but productive and useful.

Today, after at least three weeks without weeding (Life interferred in the most delightful ways) I set to. I filled a wheelbarrow with all manner of weeds, some of them embarrasingly large,  but I am not done yet.  When I have a large amount of biomass which includes roots and seedheads I grit my teeth as I toss the load in the compost pile. I fear that those weeds are not totally dead and will infect the pile. This doesn’t happen, but I get nervous every time.

Birrell Compost Bin

When I visited the Birrell garden in Seattle and saw this compost bin I was instantly struck with compost bin lust. Anyone can make a big practical wooden bin with two segments – and fill both of them, BUT no bin I have ever seen has this unique removal system. Note the bottom two boards with hinges and locks.  When it is time to remove the compost you just lift the locks and open the bottom two boards, making it easy to remove finished compost. What an idea!

Norm and his Can-O-Worms

Norm Hirscheld

Twenty-seven years ago Norm Hirscheld of Greenfield visited a permaculture farm where he met his first red wigglers (Eisenia foetida). “I was awestruck by how you could get rich black compost from vegetable scraps right in your house,” he said.

He decided right then to become a worm farmer himself and built a wooden box, providing holes for ventilation, and put in a sufficient amount of wet shredded newspaper for bedding. He sent away for his pound of worms, but said that first shipment didn’t do very well. He ordered and added more worms: after that they were fine.

Hirscheld faced two probems. First there were fruit flies that found the fruit peels that he put into the bin. He also found that he needed to keep stirring or fluffing up the bedding otherwise there would not be enough oxygen and the bin would begin to smell.

“Marsha was very patient with me and the worms,” Hirscheld said of his wife Marsha Stone. “At times there were so many fruit flies I would have to get out the vacuum and suck them up.”

Eventually he bought the Can-O-Worms system which has worked well for him, though he still has some trouble with fruit flies. To solve this problem he takes a little lemon grass oil and mixes it with water which he periodically sprays over the top of the worms and their bedding.

Can-O-Worms

With the Can-O-Worms system, the worms in the fresh food scraps (no meat or dairy) that are being eaten by the worms are separated from the worm manure, or vermicompost, which is the point of worm farming. Vermicompost is an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Worm castings (manure) also contain humic acids which condition the soil, has perfect pH balance and encourages plant growth the same way seaweed does.

The Can-O-Worms also collects the manure tea that is produced by the worms, the liquid residue. Hirscheld uses this liquid to fertilize his houseplants.

There are systems other than the Can-O-Worms, but they work on essentially the same principles. They are all made of food quality plastic which should be kept indoors, out of the sun. Hirscheld keeps his worm bin in his basement where summer temperatures are 65 degrees, and winter temperatures do not go below 55 degrees. Red wiggler worms need temperatures that do not go below 50 degrees.

He harvests the compost about once a year and uses it when he does his planting in the spring.

Recently Hirscheld has been making compost tea. He takes three or four gallons of chlorinated Greenfield water in a bucket and, using an aquarium aerator and an ‘air stone’ which disperses the pumped air, he aerates it for a full day at least to get rid of all the chlorine. Then he puts a cup or two of the vermicompost in an old nylon stocking and soaks it in the water for about 24 hours. He also adds about a quarter cup of molasses and some kelp concentrate or fish emulsion. Precision in measuring ingredients is not necessary. These extra ingredients help good bacteria grow over the next 24 hours. The mixture will need continual aeration.

After 24 hours the mixture needs to be used right away. Hirscheld strains the compost tea through another old stocking into a hand sprayer. Then he can spray his vegetable plants, or even the lawn. As a foliar spray, the nutrients are taken into the plant through their leaves. Hirscheld told me of experiments that showed that a foliar feeding of vermicompost tea encouraged grass roots, and presumably other plant roots, to grow two or three inches deeper into the soil which cuts down on the need for watering and makes the plant less troubled by dry spells.

Hirscheld uses this foliar feeding two or three times a season on his garden.

Hirscheld and I compared notes on our personal worm farms. At one point I was complaining to a friend about having fruit flies and she suggested I stop giving them fruit. That was an answer that worked well, but I did like giving the worms overripe bananas, one of their favorites, so it was not a total answer. I took to laying several wet sheets of newspaper over the worms and bedding. I think this has helped by covering the surface where fruit flies could lay their eggs.

Of course this raises the question of where the very first fruit flies come from, but I cannot answer that question. I’d love some one to explain that mystery to me.

Another mystery is the little white worms that appeared in my bin. I thought they were baby worms, but one of my Franklin Land Trust tour visitors, and Hirscheld, explained that these are entrachyadids. I have the same question – where did they come from?

Entachyadids will not harm the red wigglers, but they do indicate acid conditions. I’ll have to sprinkle and mix a little lime into my bin.

With the current trend towards using local agricultural produce and products, Hirscheld and I are taking this another step, and let the worms produce rich compost all year long. During the short summer season my bin lives outside in the shade: in the winter it sits in my kitchen. Fertilizer can’t get any more local than that.

 

Between the Rows   July 23, 2011

Faster and Faster

The Holiday Weekend started for me on Friday afternoon when I visited the Heath School’s Garden Day. The classes have been working before now, of course, but on Garden Day, the whole day is given over to planting, weeding, mulching – and learning.  I am impressed with their energy, which I expected, but also with the quality of the child-sized tools they are using.  Many hands make light work was certainly the motto on Friday.

You may wonder what is with all the stones and stone -like things in  the Shed Bed, but you have to remember that the Shed Bed is right next to the hen house and for the past couple of months the chickens have considered this their personal Lido for taking dust baths.  First I kept the chickens in the hen house today. Then I finished weeding and edging, dug in some nice rotted manure and lime, and planted the little annual salvias that edge this bed every year. This is the way I fudge not being able to grow a lavender hedge.

You can’t really tell, but I also put tiny annual dianthus along the west edge of the Lawn Grove, as well as nine cosmos seedlings.  The big task was planting the weeping cherry that I bought at Home Depot.  I hope that was a wise decision.  It’s been watered and mulched with wood chips. You can see a small hardy azalea blooming on the far side of the grove.  Lots of weeding.

Guan Yin Mian

The garden is progressing faster and faster.  Everytime I turn around something new has come into bloom.  This tree peony is so lovely. The translation of the name is Guan Yin’s Face.  Guan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion and surely hers is the most beautiful of faces.

Boule de Neige and Rangoon have been slowly opening, but with temperatures in the 80s for two days they came into full bloom in the shady bed next to the Cottage Ornee.

Last year I found this rhodie forgotten and languishing in the weeds at the edge of the ‘orchard.’  I dug it up and this time I transplanted it properly, “Keep it simple, just a dimple,” as my rhododendron expert says. I think it is Calsap. What a lovely surprise to have it survive and put out new growth and bloom!

The lilacs are blooming and perfuming the air.  We even spent some time enjoying the beauty and fragrance of the garden: we opened the Cottage officially and entertained two friends who we see all too infrequently.  A perfect weekend.