It’s a new name for “The Tasteful Garden,” and a fresh approach to helping you learn how to grow and cook your favorite things. Each month, we’ll offer not only advice on growing vegetables and other edibles, but also ways to boost your gardening and cooking efforts. As always, we welcome your questions and comments.
Gardeners know that vegetables produce best in healthy soil, but it can take months for a traditional compost pile to break down enough so it can enrich your beds and containers.
Red wiggler worms can accomplish this process in a fraction of the time. Vermiculture, or worm farming, is faster and easier than maintaining a compost pile, making it perfect for those with limited space.
Most bait stores sell red wigglers, but they’re also available online.
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A family of four typically produces 6 pounds of compostable food waste each week. One pound of worms can consume and expel about 4 pounds of food scraps per week. This also is how worms make rich soil naturally in the garden.
Plastic storage bins with snug lids – and ventilation holes – are good for worm farming indoors. Outdoors, use wooden bins for more insulation.
Use shredded newspaper, leaves, composted manure or a combination for the worms’ bedding material. They will consume the bedding along with the food scraps, so add more as needed. Place food scraps under the top layer of bedding material to prevent odors or flies.
Tailor bins to the size of your household. Provide one square foot of surface area per pound of food waste added each week.
A rectangular bin 2 to 3 feet wide and at least a foot tall is all the worms need to process all the scraps and bedding provided by a family of four.
When adding scraps under the bedding, add more shredded newspaper as needed to cover and use a mister to moisten new bedding.
The worms work very quickly to break everything down into compost and there will be no foul odors when the bin is maintained correctly.
Moisten with three pints of water initially, and add a cup or two of garden soil for roughage. Moisten the bedding with a spray bottle occasionally if the top layers dry out.
Worms will eat vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, eggshells, tea bags without staples, fruit peels and cores. Banana peels add valuable potassium.
Do not use citrus rinds, meat or meat byproducts in the worm bin, because they can attract flies and pests.
Keep outdoor bins in the shade in summer. In the winter, insulate them with hay bales or move them indoors if temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. Worms can tolerate temperatures between 54 and 84 degrees, but 55 to 77 degrees is ideal. If the worst happens and the worms die over the winter, just get more in the spring.
Just thinking about the plump, delicious vegetables that the wigglers will help your garden produce should be enough to get you running to the kitchen to experiment.
Gardening and cooking are similar in a lot of ways. In both cases, the quality of the ingredients you start with – whether it’s rich soil for the garden or the freshest herbs and vegetables for a dish – makes all the difference.
When you have great-tasting ingredients, sometimes the best thing to do is let them do their thing. Good chefs know this – to offer the best ingredients and prepare them simply but correctly to keep the fresh flavor.
In the new movie, “Chef,” the lead character prepares a quick meal for his girlfriend that is little more than perfectly cooked pasta and a few vegetables. Although fall is approaching, there are still plenty of good things in the garden, and this recipe lets them shine. And the spaghetti can pay homage to those hard-working little wigglers.
Reach Carol Stein and Debbie Moose at firstname.lastname@example.org.