Wednesday, March 17, 2010

There’s a hole in my bucket wallet

Blew the garden budget again, though not by so much as you might suppose; aside from a pack of tomato seedlings I couldn’t resist, all this year’s new stuff has been or will be started from seed, much of it bought locally. Or produced and collected here on-site, like the shepherd’s purse, hyacinth vine, and amaranth. New purchases included a few different sorts of tomatoes—not that I expect them all to thrive, but so I can be sure of having any, and to try the different leaves—a couple of edible curiosities (eggplants shaped like miniature pumpkins? I couldn’t resist!), and a bunch of things the standard American grocery-shopper has never heard of, plus one or two sometimes considered weeds.

Sadly, I don’t think this is the year I’ll be growing enough produce to skip the greengrocers entirely (small spaces=smallish yields, though bokashi’s helping), so I’ve chosen as usual to focus on things I can’t get there or that I can’t afford to get there.

A few durable goods went into the virtual shopping cart, including a pressure sprayer to make bokashi juice application easier. Plus, I bought a few more bags of dirt—given the quality, I don’t think it merits the label soil—though not for immediate use. I am planning to refill the planter tower and let the feral worm colony play awhile, and to set up a test in temporary vermicomposting if I can talk a particular friend into loaning me the space. Also picked up, from the same retailer and brand as the dirt, some “humus” (those quotes denoting doubt) for a few different tests.

Can’t quite bring myself to admit the total here; more than I meant to spend, but less than the season cost of a single share in a CSA in this area. And unlike with the CSA, there’s no risk I’ll end up with a box full of things I don’t eat.

It could have been much worse. High-quality chem-free compost typically makes up a fair percentage of my total cost; so far this year, I’ve bought not so much as a single quart. Between bokashi and Verne (and George), there’s been no need—though that may change once the raised beds are in. Too, I usually end up buying eighty or so quarts of potting soil every spring, to replace the worst of the potted stuff and top off the permanent planters, and until this year have always bought the best I can afford, since I know how important it is. But thanks to last fall’s cheap-as-dirt test, that hasn’t been necessary either.

So wherefore the post-shopping-spree regret? Well, there were a lot of seeds. And though the local drought is officially over, that’s more likely a temporary condition than not, so I’m determined to fit out all my containers with some form of irrigation, preferably primary though I’ll take supplementary if that’s all I can get. Which in many cases equals additional cost, for clay pots to plant with the transplants, or hoses to connect to an external reservoir, or more nested-bucket sets and wicks and hollow pipes and things to make SIPs.

On the other side of the balance sheet, Verne has more than proved himself worth the one-time investment. I don’t think I’ll ever bother with an indoor wormery again, and neither are worms my choice for a primary landfill-diversion scenario, but outdoors, he’s doing his part to maintain soil health in the towers and planters, keeping me from having to replace soil as often (or at all? Too soon to say), and since he’s enthusiastic about his business, there’s no need for me to buy any vermicompost or vermicompost tea this season, either. Or, obviously, worms.

The bokashi’s worth the cost, too. Naturally –G–. Though EM-1 and molasses (and bran, for the standard recipe) are repeated costs, it’s cheaper to buy them than finished composts, fertilizers, and “instant” plant foods. Not to mention the non-monetary benefits.

One of these seasons, I’ll stick to my budget. Really. Maybe if I just start with a higher number…? Oh, that sounds like a bad idea!


[image from Botanical Interests, which is the right company, though mine were purchased from a local retailer]


Peggy said...

Seeds are my downfall too so I sympathize with busting your budget. OTOH, I give myself additional $$ for gardening as I also consider it a hobby so it gets funds for 2 categories, :-)

I must have missed your post on where exactly you have Verne. I thought he was in a worm composter outside. I have hesitated trying worms since I *don't* want them in the house but was afraid that Houston was far too hot in the summer for them to be successful. Could you explain in more detail about your outdoor set up or point me to the right blog post? I'd love to have worms outside!


D. S. Foxx said...

Hey, Peggy; how's the bucket?

Verne's got more than a few posts these days, but he's probably due for an update. He is outdoors, as I couldn't hack the indoor-wormery thing, in a homemade planter-topped wormery.

It's a simple design: Half a dozen or so matched planters, the one on the bottom with no drainage holes and an after-market spigot. Trivet in every planter to hold up the next. Standard worm-bedding and worms in the bottom one, plant with irrigation pot in the top one, and as many feeding layers as needed, each filled with half-and-half dried leaves and bokashi and set aside to heat and cool for about a week before adding to the stack (the top plant's forever being lifted off and on, which limits the size even if my small gardening area didn't). No need to worry about water, aside from watering the plant's irrigation pot, and the reservoir only needs to be drained after a heavy rain.

And judging by the evidence, almost none of that is necessary. -rueful grin- Give the worms a moisture-retaining container of bokashi, dirt, and leaves, in pretty much any ratio, and keep them out of direct sunlight, and they'll take care of the rest. They've colonized every growing planter within wriggling distance of their tower homes, without any help at all from me, sometimes only a few days after bokashi's been added, when all the vermi-lit says the pH is way too far out for them. And when I stacked a bunch of planters with cheap dirt and lots of bokashi, they worked their way up through every one, no trouble with the pressure at all.

If you've got the worms contained, you do need to pre-compost the bokashi separately, but leaves aren't the only option; the folks on or any other vermicomposting forum can help with that, if you're interested, or I can run a few trials with any material you'd care to name. Gotten rather cavalier with the wriggle(s) these days...