Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Worms in my kitchen

Last week I went to an Indoor Composting Workshop at the Lower East Side Ecology Center to learn about vermiculture. We spent all last summer dropping food scraps off at the LES Ecology Center stand at the Union Square Farmer's Market, and then buying finished compost from them to use in the garden, and I got fed up with giving them my food for free, and then having to buy it back as compost. So I've been pondering getting a worm bin for a while now.

The major kink in this plan is that I think worms are gross and scary and I don't want anything to do with them. There was an incident when I was in the 4th or 5th grade, in which my loving younger sister, as we walked home from the bus stop one day after a rain storm, decided to pick up some earthworms and chase me down the driveway, flinging them in my direction. I took off running away from worms that day, and I pretty much haven't looked back.

My main motivation in attending the workshop was to prove to myself that there was nothing to be afraid of. I already had a decent idea of most of the facts that were presented, since I've been contemplating this step for a long time, and had researched it extensively online and checked out Composting Inside and Out from the library not long ago. But I wanted to see how icky and wormy a worm bin really was, and whether I minded being around it, and whether I would have to touch the worms.

When the teacher came around to give us each a worm, I politely declined. I asked whether it was possible to have a worm bin without having to touch worms, and she assured me that it was. I don't believe her 100%, but I'm going with it for now. Besides, my husband thinks a worm bin would be "kind of cool," so I'm going to let him do any gross parts.

I'm hoping to be able to pick up a pound of red wiggler worms this week!

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

It begins

I'm just beginning to start some seeds for the upcoming season. I can only manage to plant a few of each variety, because as much as I'd like to fill the building's entire roof with fruits and veggies, my eyes are, once again, bigger than my supplies.

I use the lowest-tech, lowest cost, method of starting seeds that I know of, which is recycled yogurt containers. This year I'm also using recycled soil from last year, although I'm already wondering if I'm going to regret it: the first thing that sprouted is something I did not plant. Right now, my little seed pots are just on the living room floor (on an old church bulletin, as you can see), but I'll move them to a sunny windowsill (well, the sunniest windowsill we have) as soon as I see green.

So far, I've started a handful of scallions (Evergreen Bunching Onions from HVSL) as well as some spinach, but haven't seen any action yet. I'm skeptical of the spinach, because it's a 3-year-old packet from my last apartment and was not stored well during years 1 and 2, but I figured I'd give it a shot for now, while most of the seeds in my library won't need any attention or resources for a few weeks. I plan to direct sow more scallions later, but wanted to get a jump start with at least a few - and yet walk the fine line of not planting too many, because last year our own scallions were ready right about the time, of course, that our CSA was overflowing with scallions, and we ended up with more than we could eat. I ended up leaving ours in the ground longer than intended, and eventually just tossing most of what we got in the CSA into the exchange box for a few weeks.

Earlier this week I picked an empty 5-gallon bucket out of the trash near a bar in Midtown, because those are the cheapest, easiest pots available for planting. My husband was, I think, a bit embarrassed that I went trash picking and then carried home with us on the subway not even something cool, or vintage, or salvaged, but a piece of obvious garbage. However, with all the restaurants I pass on a daily basis, I don't see nearly as many of these as I'd expect to, and so I need to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself! As I've mentioned, my plans for this year are bigger than my resources necessarily allow, but free vessels to use as pots represent the most cost-effective way of expanding my garden. I just have to clean them out (this one is currently on the balcony, covered, with some pickled ginger still stuck to the inside), and drill some holes in the bottom. Instant container garden!