The making of black gold

I think my fascination with worms began years ago when my grandfather taught me how to fish at his cottage at Kiser Lake (OH). As a pre-teen I also cared for redworms and nightcrawlers at his produce stand. Now as a warped adult I raise worms in my laundry room. Hmmmmm…… Just when you thought I couldn’t get any weirder!

I am proud to confess that I make compost indoors with red wigglers worms (Eisenia foetida), a process officially named Vermiculture. These are not your backyard kind of worms and will not tolerate cold temperatures which is why they are kept inside. Unlike their vagabond cousins the nightcrawler (whose main goal in captivity is to escape a worm bin) my red wigglers are quite content to consume my kitchen scraps and give me wonderful compost in return. Photos of my recent compost harvest are featured below. To visit a good place to learn more about Vermicomposting, go HERE.

Worm bin is dumped out on a table outdoors (out of direct sunlight) and sorted into smaller piles.

Because they don't like light, worms will move to the bottom center of each pile. As they do, I peel back the compost a little at a time. I check the piles every 15 minutes or so.

This is an egg cocoon. It may hold 1-4 worm eggs.

As I'm working on peeling back the worm-free compost from the piles (takes a couple of hours) I also prepare the worm bin by hand-tearing newspaper and moistening the worm's new bedding. I throw in a handful of garden soil to add grit.

Eventually I consolidate the smaller piles into one large pile. At some point, there are more worms than compost.

The worms get moved back into the worm bin with the new bedding. Add kitchen scraps for food, cover with more bedding and my work is done.

Native plants available Saturday

There will be many vendors at the Native Plant Society’s annual conference this weekend at the Bergamo Center in Beavercreek. The vendors will be open to the public this Saturday, July 9 from 9 am to 4 pm. Find out more about the conference HERE.

Rain barrel workshop this Saturday

The Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Greene County Master Gardeners are offering a do-it-yourself water barrel workshop Saturday, July 9 from 9:30 am to 12 noon at the Greene County Extension Office (100 Fairground Rd., Xenia OH). The workshop is free and open to the public however, if you want to make a barrel and join the workshop, they will provide barrels, materials and guidance for putting them together for a fee of $35 per barrel. There are a maximum of 25 barrels available.  Call the extension office at 937-372-4478 for information.


Till we meet again

White-throated sparrow

Some of us who live in Ohio year-round  may find it hard to believe that anyone or anything would want to spend winters here let alone consider it a balmy vacation destination, yet that is exactly what some of our feathered friends do. The recent mild weather has allowed a welcome spring breeze to come in though open windows. Riding the perfumed wind comes the melodic “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” song of the white-throated sparrow. You can listen to its sweet song HERE.

I was very surprised to hear sparrow’s song this morning for I know he’ll be packing it up and heading north to Canada for summer breeding. Other winter visitors to Ohio include the dark-eyed junco, pine siskins, long-eared owls, red-breasted nuthatches and more. You can follow the occurrence progress of many birds  HERE. Safe journeys, friends. I’ll see you again come winter.

NOTE: Get your hummingbird feeders out. They have already been spotted in Ohio. Follow their 2011 migration HERE.


Invasive wildflowers

Lesser celandine

Dense mat of lesser celandine

On the other side of the coin are visitors that have overstayed their welcome. Case in point is the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) also known as the fig buttercup. Not to be confused with our native marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), this non-native invasive vernal plant forms large, dense patches in floodplain forests and some upland sites, displacing many native plant species, especially those with the similar spring-flowering life cycle.  Because it emerges well in advance of the native species, it has a developmental advantage which allows it to establish and overtake areas rapidly. (Sounds like the Amur honeysuckle!) After flowering, the above-ground foliage begins to die back and are mostly gone by June. Learn more here.

Worm update

My worms were no worse for wear considering their vermicomposting road trip to the Licking County Master Gardener Conference in Newark, OH last Saturday. In fact, a handful of them now have a new home somewhere up that way. The keynote speaker at the event was Jim McCormac who spoke on the often misunderstood group of plants: Goldenrods. If you get the opportunity to hear Jim speak, on any subject, GO. You won’t regret it. Check out his blog HERE.