Monday, June 20, 2011

Fly Paper

Sorry, couldn't resist the joke: Repulsive's on Or his kind, anyway. Industrial-scale black soldier fly larvae processing: 20 million steroid-abusing maggots in their articulated armor chomping their way through a literal ton of organics every day.

Repulsive to the nth power. Still, nice to see someone trialing alternatives to burying organics in concrete-lined pits!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

image from Animal Diversity Web

This year's hands-free tomato garden was supposed to be rather more ambitious than last year's, but I got discouraged. Early in the spring, I built three small (4'x2') raised beds, filled them with dried leaves and soil and a little wet organic matter, dosed with AEM, covered, and let rest. Two of the three worked well, so I did get to plant some tomatoes--but the third was invaded by fire ants.

The cover wasn't well secured, and I hadn't bothered with weights, so it was my own fault; next time I'll know better. But that was no help for this time! Couldn't re-cover it, with the ants only too willing to defend their home, not that I was sure it would have helped. I don't do chemicals, flame is too risky for our persistently drought-ridden climes, and I didn't want to pour great quantities of water into the bed to try to chase the ants away, so I decided I'd disturb the ants every chance I got and just build another bed for the next tomato planting.

Stirred some odds and ends of half-decomposed material into the infested bed while I was disturbing the unwelcome resident ants, since I don't yet have a proper compost bin at that location. And a while back, my odds and ends included the last crumbles of cheap bagged soil that had sat around in a dampish corner.

A bag one of these Texas Blind Snakes had adopted for a home.

Scared me silly--but I'd already emptied the bag into the bed, and the worm-colored scaly snake had slithered beneath the leaf-mulch, so that was that. Stirring up the ants did not appeal at all that day, or for the next few weeks; didn't bother to water the bed, either, as that would have meant standing too close to it.

But I'm a gardener with only limited space, and the presence of a raised bed full of largely composted matter eventually proved too great a temptation. So I grabbed the longest-handled shovel to poke around...

And discovered what would not have been news to anyone who'd bothered to look up the Texas Blind Snake instead of just squeaking like a small child and running away. Turns out, this wormy-looking snake eats ant and termite larvae. Not a single fire ant came out to attack the shovel, no matter how vigorously I stirred the bed. The materials are not wholly composted, but it's far enough along for my purposes. With or without a worm-snake, though I hope not to see it when I'm planting.

Wearing gauntlets as well as gardening gloves, I think. -G- Not that the worm-impersonating snake would hurt me, but I'm squeamish.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Introducing Nigel

The vermi-family has grown: I have African Nightcrawlers now. Actually, have had for a couple of months, though not many to speak of at I didn't. But now Nigel's a definite presence.

The image above, from, is nothing at all like the material I started from. Local bokashi-and-beyond purveyor Microbial Earth offers an "African Nightcrawlers & humified compost mix"--according to the label, approximately 200 to 300 cocoons packaged with coir and compost for direct-to-garden application.

My vermigardening's mostly containerized, so I potted some herbs with a little of this mix added in, and set up a planter tower after my usual practice but without any actual worms, just the cocoon-and-compost stuff.

Well, in the interest of accuracy I should mention the two or three thread-thin hatchlings I found in the bag. But no breeding populations, you understand.

So at first, I assumed the worms I saw in the new tower were volunteers from the established colonies. But African Night Crawlers (ANC) are larger than the others. Much larger. When, on lifting the tops off two worm-homes, I saw worms in one that were twice as large as those in the other, I knew Nigel had established.

Still not quite as impressive a tangle as that image, but he's expanding quickly enough that I'm planning to divide him this weekend--probably a little soon for that, but he's just so big. It looks like he's cramped for space.

Haven't yet found any in the olla pots, so he may be brighter than Verne (EF). Or maybe it's the size thing again, or age; it tends to be larger, presumably older, iterations of Verne who move comparative mountains to get into the damp, cool clay containers between waterings.

So far, no vermi-battles have been observed. Verne mostly stays in his containers; Cousin Clem (Indian Blue) wanders a bit, but Repulsive (BSFL) has claimed all the good spots, so he retreats to the undersides of saucers. George the earthworm (no idea, possibly more than one species), sniffs around wherever any excess bokashi juice or Repulsive effluent has been diluted and applied, and sometimes finds his way into a recently wetted planter to become the worm equivalent of the crotchety old man in the corner house. "Hey, kids! Stay out of my burrows!" Or so I assume from the occasional vertical airspace in some of the less-tended and more populated units.

Nigel has yet to make his way out into the larger world. Which, you understand, is just fine with me! Worms that large disturb me a bit; I'll be just as happy never to encounter one without advance warning.

Though he's certainly welcome in the garden.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How many buckets would that fill?

From the text on the poster--details and a gallery can be found at GrowNYC--I'm assuming that little if any of this collected material is composted; clean dry and paired suggests reuse, not reclamation. And that's great! But what about filthy, torn, disreputable shreds of former garments?

Let them eat cake couture.

Verne et cie happily munched their way through the post-season potato bags, not quite waiting until the season was over before starting; Repulsive's nearly through the denim I decided was too worn to save for next year's insulation, and it's only been a couple of months; there are still bits of terrycloth in the slow-compost after nearly a year, but only bits, sufficient to add a bit of structure but nothing more. And the fabric bokashi bag (filled with matured ferment and buried at planting time) was only root-tangled threads when I repotted that particular item.

It's hardly news that natural fabrics are compostable in a home setting; the trouble is that so few of us think to do it! So, I'm trying. Dishtowels and cleaning cloths, old clothing and shopping bags, bits of fabric too small to make decent patches...into the mix they shall go.

Cleaned if needed (though I'm not much for chemicals) and tossed in after fermentation, I think. Unless I'm feeling experimental. 'cause, you know, that happens sometimes.

Been reading about the soil industry lately, picked up a new-to-me-term: low value soil-like materials. Paper waste and sand and things. Bulking and structural items, to me, since for nutrients I have bokashi. Seems strange to think of silk or linen as "low value" in any way, but a stained or torn shirt is trash, so, okay.

If we each saved one shirt from the landfill...that'd be a lot of space we didn't use. But I'm selfish, I want a personal benefit. So: if one shirt could replace one gallon of soil in a planter... Yeah, that'd work for me. Soil's expensive, relatively speaking.

Anyone need help cleaning out their closets? -G-