Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System

September 1, 2014

Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System

Consider vermicomposting during the winter to provide container plants with nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Compost food scraps and reduce the amount of garbage you send to the landfill.
Photo By Veer

Composting outdoors is wonderful, but it requires space and, in most climates, the warmer temperatures of spring, summer and fall. Just because it’s winter or you don’t have much outdoor space doesn’t mean you have to send your kitchen scraps to the landfill. You can easily compost indoors with helpful wiggly worms.

For help on starting your worm bin read 7 Tips for Setting Up a Worm Bin.

Using earthworms and microorganisms to convert organic waste into black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus is known as “vermicomposting.” The whole vermicomposting process is simple, and it results in wonderful fertilizer for your container plants and compost for your garden.

Vermicompost is the compost you get from a worm bin system, which includes both castings and decomposed matter. Castings are the nutrient-rich waste worms create. They are excellent as a topdressing fertilizer for container and garden plants. Along with worms, a vermicomposting system has naturally occurring microorganisms that help decompose kitchen scraps and, over time, the worms’ organic bedding material.

What Do Worms Need?

Many kinds of worms break down garbage, but for vermicomposting, red worms (Eisenia fetida, or “red wigglers”) are best. They can be shipped easily. Order them through Worm’s Way or Green Greg’s Garden and Worm Farm. To make your worms happy, consider these conditions.

Temperature: Red worms convert waste best at temperatures between 59 and 77 degrees, but they can also plow through garbage in a basement bin with temperatures as low as 50 degrees.

Moisture: Worms need moisture to live. Add water to bedding as necessary to maintain uniform dampness—no standing water.

Acidity: Slightly acid conditions are best. Though worms can tolerate a wide range of pHs, too much acidic food—such as citrus and vinegar—introduced all at once can kill them.

Ventilation: Air circulation is vital. Worms need oxygen, and aerated compost smells earthy; lack of air can lead to odors.

What kind of Worm Bin Do I Need?

A variety of containers, including commercially made vermicomposting units, homemade wood or plastic boxes, and galvanized garbage cans, make satisfactory bins. The secret to an odor-free bin is plenty of oxygen. To let air in, the container must have holes in the top, sides or bottom. To keep flies out, cover the air holes with mesh. The ideal worm bin is shallow, usually no more than 12 to 18 inches deep—the more surface area, the better. The size of your bin depends on how much kitchen waste you produce: Assume a few pounds per week per person. It is not at all an exact science, but plan on about 1 square foot of surface area for each pound of garbage per week. For a family of four, we can guess around 10 pounds of kitchen waste per week, requiring a bin with a surface area of 10 square feet. I recommend a worm to daily garbage ratio of 2:1. The family producing 10 pounds of food waste a week, or about 1.4 pounds a day, will want just under 3 pounds of worms to start.

 

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How to Preserve Fresh Herbs – Food and Recipes

August 26, 2014

How to Preserve Fresh Herbs – Food and Recipes

Many herbs dry easily for use as cooking spices. Store fully dried herbs whole to retain best flavor.
Photo by iStock

 

Herbs are amazing garden crops. Expensive to buy but cheap and easy to grow, herbs are useful in just about any dish, provide a huge array of health benefits and can be preserved in numerous ways. Use our tips to keep your homegrown herbs on hand all year.

Harvesting Tips: Success Begins in the Garden

The longer after their peak you wait to harvest most herbs, the less flavor they will have. The right time
varies by plant part.

Foliage: Pick when plant is beginning to form buds.
Flowers: Pick when blooms are newly opened.
All parts: Pick in the morning on a sunny day when plants have dried but before the hottest part of the day, which can affect the plants’ essential oil concentrations.

Drying Herbs

Bundling Herbs
• Best for quick-drying, tougher herbs such as mints (except apple mint), rosemary, thyme and sage

• Use rubber bands to secure 12 to 15 stems into a bundle.

• Hang in a cool, airy room away from direct sunlight.

• If it’s humid, finish in oven on lowest heat or with just the oven light on.

• Once totally dry, strip leaves from stems, keeping leaves as whole as possible, and store in a jar with a lid.

Screen-Drying Herbs
• Best for small or delicate herbs such as lovage, parsley and basil (herbs that typically “don’t dry well”)

• Use old window screens or muslin over a picture frame.

• Put herbs in a cool, shady place until dry, about a week.

• Turn after a few days so they dry evenly. This is easier if you put herbs between two screens on top and bottom.

Salts & Sugars

Culinary Salts
• Use sturdy herbs such as rosemary, lemon thyme, savory, oregano and marjoram; fragile herbs don’t
work well.

• Spread herbs on cookie sheet; cover with salt; add another layer of herbs and salt.

• Completely dry either sitting out for about a week in a cool, dark place or in the oven on low or with the light on; then pour everything into a food processor or blender to combine and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Some nice blends to try: Parsley, thyme and lemon zest; garlic, rosemary and sage; savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano (herbes de Provence)

Herb Sugars
• 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons dried herb or 4 tablespoons fresh herb

• Wrap herb(s) in cheesecloth or a cloth tea bag and set it on top of sugar in a wide-mouth canning jar. Shake. Let sit for four weeks, shaking every few days.

A few use suggestions
To make cookies: Lavender, peppermint, spearmint, ginger, lemon balm, hibiscus, clove

For teas: Spearmint, ginger, cinnamon, lemon balm

For cocktails: Peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, ginger, lavender, hibiscus, lemongrass

Freezing Herbs

Freeze Alone or with Other Foods
• Herbs lose texture when frozen; however, these herbs are fine in cooked dishes or blended into sauces after being frozen: chives, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, tarragon.

 

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30 Organization Tips, Tricks and Ideas That Will Make You Go Ah-ha!

August 18, 2014

30 Organization Tips, Tricks and Ideas That Will Make You Go Ah-ha!

When it comes to staying organized there are several different areas of a home to do so. While this aids greatly in creating a peaceful and manageable household environment many of the methods that are used come from the everyday storage products and can easily be implemented into home use. Such ideas include organizing the kitchen pan and cooking utensil drawers with wooden dividers for easy accessibility. Furthermore, a magnetic strip can be used over a kitchen counter to house knives. Other rooms of the house aren’t spared from disorganization as there is a space for everything. A single outfit can be placed in a zip-lock bag when traveling and there is a plethora of ideas when it comes to storing crafting items.

via 30 Organization Tips, Tricks and Ideas That Will Make You Go Ah-ha!.

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