Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Update on the BSF

I am happy to say that after checking my outdoor been this morning and again this afternoon there are literally hundreds of black soldier fly larva happily munching away on the kitchen scraps. This means that the millions of gnats that were swarming the bin are now gone within just 48 hours of the BSF being visible in the bin.You can just see a pile of the segmented bodies of the larvae here.

This is my kitchen scrap collector. Whenever it gets full or stinky, I take it outside and dump it in the bin.

I like that it has locking clamps on the sides. It keeps any undesirables from entering the box, but it is also very easy to open one-handed. I'm guessing it is about four gallons in size. I usually keep it slid under the kitchen table out-of-the-way, or tucked next to the red worm bin in the cabinet. Since I do not have any chickens or fish that would eat the pupae of the BSF, I'm going to let them figure out their own way out of the box and not worry about collecting them. There are always lizards hanging around the composter, so I am sure that they will be happy to eat whatever pupae climb out of the box. I may see about sourcing some spoiled breads and produce from the grocery store to beef up the bin. After adding material to it for probably 3+ weeks I haven't even filled it to the first board which is 11" high.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vermicomposting, Ch 3

{Please excuse my first attempt at video documenting.}

This is my kitchen Vermicomposting bin. I stocked it with a starter batch of about a dozen worms and partially finished compost from an etsy seller almost four months ago. I got off to a shaky start, but things are really moving along now. After having the bin for about two months, I realized I was adding way too many used coffee grounds from my French press, and, as a result, the bedding and materials were too acidic. In the last month I have seen a dramatic increase in the red worm population in the bin. In this video you don't see the full extent of the population because the worms have taken to hiding towards the bottom of the bin what with the bright light next to the window I filmed near.

-Sorry about the popping sound in the video. It is a result of the case on my iPad. I'll remember to remove the case next time.-


Two days after posting this walk-through, I harvested this from the bin.

There were more worms in that van and I even thought possible! I don't have any pictures of the worms, but at one point I flipped over a piece near the top on top of the burlap, and there were over a dozen worms in about 2 square inches. I saw little worms, fat worms, skinny worms, pinkish worms, red worms, fast worms, slow worms, great big granddaddy worms,… It was kind of like a Dr. Seuss book. I'm truly can't believe how fast that snack size Ziploc of compost and 10 worms multiplied. I also saw and put back in the bin at least a dozen eggs.

I harvested the compost by using my hand rake and sifting through the material with gloves on. I started in one corner and worked till I got to the bottom and had to pluck out worms from the material. There seem to be a bit too much water at the very bottom, so I took extra care to get the really wet compost out and replaced it with some dry bedding. I'm hoping osmosis will do the rest. There was no standing water, it just seemed too wet and had a bit of an odor like rotting leaves. The rest of the bin smelled just fine.

I'm guessing I took out about half the material in there. It was mostly compost with about 30% decaying bedding.There were not many food scraps to be found, so after I give the worms a chance to recover from the harvesting process, I'll add a good amount of food and bedding to the bin.

I plan on using this mixture of about 50% vermicompost and 50% shredded brown packing paper to start my summer lettuce. I am very curious to see if the vermicompost makes a good seed starter. I actually decided to harvest the bin tonight because I did not want to spend more money on dirt. I'm hoping there is a better way than buying dirt to make a seed starting mixture that prevents things like pill bug damage and damping off which was a HUGE problem for me the last two seasons.

I have a gallon size Ziploc full of compost that I will decide how I want to use tomorrow.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Just keep Digging

Sunday and today were productive days for me. I measured out my new garden fence with string for accuracy and dug four of the five post holes.

I covered the post holes with pavers to protect them until we can sink the 4 x 4's. I couldn't dig the last post hole because the temporary garden is in the way. But that's okay, because we will be installing the other bed first so I can move the plants and dirt into it.

When I couldn't work on that anymore, I moved on to my viburnum hedge that will outline my patio. I was able to get the 2 foot sections of brick border buried along the existing side. They have extra dirt around them right now to help them settle, but I will hose that off and there will be about two inches of brick above ground. I prefer it to be a bit deep to help keep our weed-like grass from taking over the bed. I relaid the brick around the palm to be even with the others, and I removed the grass and dug the trench for the new side of the hedge.

It was a lot of digging.

Monday was rainy and I couldn't do any work, but today I was able to get back out there and lay the brick border for the new side of the hedge.

I'm thinking about extending the hedge all the way to the garden fence and leaving roughly a four foot entryway to the backyard. I think it would frame out the backyard and give a sense of definition to the patio area. If I do this, I would like to plant two foxtail palms on both sides of the entry. They grow fairly quickly and would frame the yard better and also give some shade to the patio in lieu of a porch or arbor. This is the view from the backdoor.

I need to run the decision by my husband and get his opinion on the matter. The third section of the hedge, should we decide to do it, would have to happen after the garden is finished since the hedge would interfere with construction of the picket fence.

Until, next time, just keep digging!



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Simple Clean Composter

I finished my compost bin!

It measures 2'x2'x3' high. I pieced it together with scrap wood and painted it white to bring it all together and help it blend with my urban backyard.

I made the lid by attaching 3 pieces of 8"x24" wood together. The lid can be lifted off the box when I need to add materials.

I made a hinged door on the bottom front of the bin to pull out the finished compost without having to move the box. I keep the bricks in front of the door since I haven't installed a lock yet and critters occasionally try to get a free meal.

A big part of this composting is done by Vermicomposting with Black Soldier Fly larvae. They are in most compost bins in Florida and will devour just about anything, even regular composting no-no's like meat and dairy. They don't appreciate lots of vegetation or brown materials like grass clippings or paper though.

I add some of this material anyway to balance my finished compost and help with the moisture retaining ability of the compost. Brown materials also help control any odors that may develop. I also occasionally add scoops of dirt from the yard to add microorganisms that help in the breakdown of materials.

I've tried lots of different styles of urban compost bins and so far, this is my favorite. I'll keep you posted on what the finished compost looks like.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Garden Fresh Salad

From the garden:

  • Salanova lettuce


  • Romaine lettuce


  • Green Cubanelle pepper


  • Red slicing tomato

From Aldi:

  • Honey Roasted Sunflower seeds
  • Raisins
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Feta chees
  • Three cheese vinaigrette





Friday, March 20, 2015

In between

Progress has slowed over the last few weeks. I've harvested my collards and lettuce, weeded my temporary garden bed and, out of necessity, have planted my dozen or so tomatoes in the bed. The tomatoes will be easy to replant and move, but I'm sad to say my dozen squash plants don't take to replanting. Their growth stalled out and they started trying to flower, a sure sign that they've been stunted and probably won't recover to their full glory. With that being the case, and without a timeframe for the new garden to be ready, I planted them on the back of the shop in no particular order and with no regards to spacing. A few squash plants of some kind popped up back there, probably from composted seeds, around the base of my firebushes. Since they seemed to be tolerating growing there, I figured it couldn't be too terrible to plant the rest there also. Once the new garden is completed I'll direct seed the new squash plants.

I have harvested my first cubanelle pepper of the season and the second will be ready soon. My pepper plants look anemic and will benefit from transplanting just as soon as I get the new garden ready.

My husband solidified the garden plan with me last week. My first job will be to start sinking fence posts and moving the mower into the garage. Hopefully, fingers crossed, I can get at least that much done this weekend.

I'll be harvesting the last of the lettuce for dinner tonight and isn't it pretty! This is a salanova from Johnnys Seed, and a burpee Romaine. I also ordered a packet each of Magenta and Nevada summer lettuce from High Mowing Seeds. They had the best price and free shipping! These will go in a shady spot of, again, the new garden.

I still need to make the lid for my compost bin, but I haven't been in a hurry because I was waiting on one crucial, final ingredient. And, duhm duhm DUHM! Here it is! The calvary has arrived!!!

What you don't see it? Look closer.

A Black Soldier Fly! My composting will now begin full force and all those darn gnats will be chased off and replaced by the Florida Vermicomposting Wonder, Black Soldier Fly Larvae. In about a week, my bin will be full of these happy creatures and I'll be able to attach the lid and paint the sides of the bin. It'll be great.

Speaking of vermicomposting, I took a peak at my RW kitchen bin, and holy smokes, I'm finally cooking with fire. The population has exploded and while there is still a good bit of material that needs to be composted, there was plenty of good vermicompost throughout the bin. I scooped out about a half a cup with some paper scraps and let it brew in half a gallon of water to make verm tea. I then used it water my week old Bamboo!

This is called Angel in the Mist Bamboo, Dendrocalamus Minor Amoenus. It's a clumping bamboo that is supposed to get about 35ft tall and be "well behaved" and "easily formed to a screen or open clump." I got it in the mail and planted it 10 days ago. In that time it has grown about 18" and today I saw it's first shoot. I'm very excited. So is my husband. He loves bamboo and is looking forward to a towering stand of it on the property. I'm hoping to use the bamboo to turn the side yard into a tropical oasis. But that's too far into the future to realize yet. You can see the shoot in this photo. It's the little green asparagus looking thing about four inches front the parent plant.

In other happy news, my Sweet Viburnum hedge is going gangbusters. All that light green is this seasons new growth. Pretty impressive from one yr old transplants that I saved from the clearance section at lowes.

Also, I have GOT to pressure wash that patio! Talk about yuck!

Happy gardening!