INVITE WORMS TO WORK IN YOUR GARDEN
by Carol Nelson
The annual Southside Master Gardener Association Plant Sale will be held on Saturday, May 6th from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot in front of the Halifax County Extension Office, 171 S. Main Street, Halifax. All types of plants will be available including annuals, herbs, perennials, vegetables, shrubs and trees. The sale will offer an educational exhibit on bucket vermiculture with pre-drilled worm buckets for sale.
Gardeners are used to struggling with the heavy clay soil that is so common to the Piedmont and all through the coastal states. We dig and till it, amend it with leaves and fertilizers, but it takes years to develop a good deep layer of soil loose enough to produce healthy plants.
Worms can help. Just by their action of tunneling, worms add air to compacted garden soil. Even better are the worm castings (or the stuff ejected from the south end of a worm heading north) that they produce. Worm castings are instant compost, rich in digested nutrients to feed hungry plants. A great way to increase worm activity and generate a lot of castings is to install worm buckets in garden beds.
The idea is simple: drill ½-in access holes in 5-gallon plastic buckets and sink them in the ground, leaving about 6” above the surface. The buckets become mini-composters, filled with a starter mixture of shredded paper, a little aged manure, grass clippings, kitchen trimmings and a few sprinkles of water. The top goes on and within days worms will enter to go to work on all that food. Once or twice a week, more vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and weeds can be added. When it’s time to harvest the fluffy compost, feeding is stopped for a couple weeks to encourage the worms to move out long enough for the bucket to be scooped out. Worms will happily work all summer and then go back deep into the soil when temperatures dip.
It’s important to note that worm buckets operate with common garden worms, unlike the larger vermiculture bins that rely on red wiggler worms. An advantage to having lots of smaller buckets scattered throughout the garden is that the native worms condition and improve the soil in their area. Red wigglers often don’t live through the winter unless you have space to bring them indoors. Other perks of worm buckets are their portability (take the fluffy compost where you need it) and their location right next to areas you may be trimming veggie leaves or weeding (pop the refuse right into the bucket).
Caption for picture: Bring more worms into your garden for better soil and healthier plants with these easy to use worm buckets. These buckets and lots and lots of plants and garden art will be available at the Master Gardener Plant Sale on May 6th.