As a child, I didn’t like crawly critters like worms. It took me a while to get comfortable picking one up. Whether in garden beds, composers, sighting a worm hopefully means the soil is being aerated, decomposition is going on and in general, there’s a sigh of “it’s a good thing.” Kids are fascinated too. Worms are easy to hold and handle and make for a successful hands-on show and tell. Gardeners like to look for worms too. It took me a while to get used to them. But as a gardener, I now know how invaluable they are to maintaining healthy soil.
Vermiculture is the official name for using red wiggler worms to decompose waste materials. Other types of worms help out too. What I found particularly helpful is that you can keep red wigglers in the house for table scraps. Their decomposed poop, known as worm castings, are especially good to add back into the soil.
“Because the earthworms grind and uniformly mix minerals in simple forms, plants need only minimal effort to obtain them. “ (Wikipedia)
Nightcrawlers and red wigglers are frequently mentioned in vermiculture. But, we now have an “invasive” species of worm. What’s the difference?
My podcast guest this week, Gail Reynolds, gave us an introduction to worms as composters and how we can use them in our homes to decompose vegetable matter. Pretty interesting right? She tells us how to have them in our home which works well in the winter. Worm castings can be made and added to our garden beds even in winter.
A nightcrawler/dew worm eats soil. A Red Wiggler, Eisenia fetida, eats decomposing matter like rotten fruit, vegetables, manure. They are reddish in color.
Jumping worms, however, Amynthas spp., are a different story. They devour forest floors rapidly and then flood the floor with nutrients. Our forests use matter that decomposes more slowly so we don’t know the long term implications yet. And the decomposing matter is larger, more grainy like coffee grounds which alters soil composition, especially for understory plants. The photo below, from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources site, gives a good visual of the damage they can cause. these worms have a white ring around them and slither like snakes and can move quite quickly.
What can you do? Know your worms. If you should find any jumping worms inform your state’s agricultural department. Wisconsin has a ban on them. Sadly we are seeing them in our forests here in the NE. Spring is here. It will be good to get outdoors. As you garden be vigilant. Many invasive species are harming our landscapes.Together, one yard at a time, we can make a difference. Enjoy. Judith
Description: Composting is always a great topic for gardeners. Gail Reynolds, the coordinator for the University of Connecticut’s Composting Program, returns to share her tips and insights on what creates good composting practices. She discusses the difference between natural worms versus Asian worms and why they are good or bad for composting lawn and kitchen debris. Join us for an educational discussion on composting.
About My Guest: College and Master of Forest Science degree from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In addition, she holds five information security certifications. Gail is a long-time natural resource and Yale alumni volunteer, including Chair of the Haddam Conservation Commission, Officer of the Haddam Land Trust, member of the Lower Connecticut Land Trust Exchange, Haddam Plan of Conservation and Development committee member, Salmon River committee member, Connecticut Botanical Society board member, Executive Board member of the Yale Science and Engineering Association, Yale student mentor, and Yale alumni interviewer of prospective undergraduate students. She is currently the coordinator for UConn Master Composter Program
Transcript: Gail Reynolds
I have been hearing the word hope a lot recently. I was so moved by Deepak Chopra’s World Government Summit speech “Hope in the Face of Uncertainty”, that I posted it here on my blog. Shortly after, I came across Caroline Myss’s talk on Hope. “The one thing that makes the unendurable durable is the grace of hope.”
Doug Tallamy, my podcast guest this week, has a new book out. First, I was thrilled that he was able to return to my show as his wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed in the world today. He’s well known in Master Gardener circles as the insect expert. But more than that he reminds us that so many insects are endangered and when they go every critter up the food chain suffers. And we are experiencing some of that today. Doug and I danced around the feeling of gloom and doom. The stats aren’t that positive. We sought to bring hope into the discussion.
His message and research is: our ownership of land, all that surrounds our home, can be put to better use for wildlife. Remember not only are our pollinators suffering but soil decomposers are missing too. So what can we do?
- Look at your lawn. what part can you let go of? Two feet of wildflowers instead of lawn makes a huge difference in your yard and your neighbourhood. If you can take more lawn away, go for it!
- Compost table scraps if you can.
- Plant more…more flowers to attract butterflies, moths, insects that help feed other critters. Nurseries are getting ready to open here in the NE and their spring stock arrives daily. They are a great resource for any questions you might have concerning which flowers/plants could work best for you.
- Don’t forget the trees. One oak tree supports so much wildlife. Can you look into the Arbor Day Foundation? For a small donation, they can send you saplings or buy trees of your choice for your geographic region. Consider buying some for your town.
Speaking for myself, how can I keep hope alive that somehow we are taking actions that will make a difference in the long run?
One garden at the same time can make a difference. Today, look at your yard differently and if you own a business look at the property differently. What can you do to make a difference today? February and March, here in the NE we tend to drool over catalogues and dream of spring. We simply can’t wait to get back into the dirt. Add more wildflowers. They are so easy to manage. Look for a way to plant a tree. Remember, dwarfs, work in small areas.
” You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” (Michelle Obama)
For the sake of our planet and all her species and realms Go. Seize. The. Day. Judith
Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, also known as the European Elder
As winter goes through her last weeks we are still facing concerns over the flu here in the NE. Colds and flu can sneak into our households bringing runny noses and coughs.
A small tree or shrub, the elderberry, has been relieving these complaints for centuries. Sambucol, Sambucus, two popular names for commercial products fly off the shelves of health or natural supplement departments at this time of year. I have heard many stories of folks getting through a winter with no or few respiratory ailments hitting their households when combining elderberry with good winter health practices. If a cold should hit, elderberry syrup supplements are often the herb of choice. Research studies are being conducted by notable University’s Complementary and Alternative Medical Departments including the NIH. The German Commission E recommends elderberry and elderflower preparations for colds and flu even bronchitis.
Elder has a rich history. One of its name origins is Aeld, which meant fire. The pith in young branches is soft and easily pushes out. A hollow tube remains which was used to stoke the kitchen fires, hence the common name of pipe tree. In ancient times pipes were made of elder wood and fashioned into instruments and of course pea shooters.
Elder, referenced by Shakespeare and Pliny, holds a place of connection whether superstition, hedgerows, or poetry capturing us with its many uses and meanings.
Where Found: common to Europe and Northern Africa; now found all over the United States; in fact, it was thought this was the tree Judas chose to hang from. A fungus occurs on the elder, Hirroneola auricular Judaea, so named from the above historical story or myth.
Elder is considered a small tree about 10-12’ high or a shrub. It is commonly found along wood edges, along with wood stands in fields, along banks and fences. This plant is also nitrogen loving and in the Honeysuckle family. It flowers from May- June. Fruit ripens in August. Virginia Tech has a great ID page and plant facts.
Elderberry syrup and lozenges are part of my home medicine chest. I usually use elderberry during the winter or if I am traveling to keep my immune system strong. There are many products that are available for children too. In view of the recent flu outbreaks I thought it important to get info out about this wonderful plant. Nature has so many remedies for us. As my podcast guest, Doug Tallamy, reminds us: our personal land can play a huge part in supporting wildlife. And Elderberry is a host plant for a variety of butterflies and moths.
Enjoy your day. Judith
Description: Doug Tallamy is back! An author and educator, Entomologist, and Wildlife Ecologist. Doug teaches at the University of Delaware. His new book, Nature’s Best Hope, was released in February 2020. No one likes the doom and gloom yet we are facing some very serious ecological issues. Nature has solutions and if we pay attention today, improve our own yards with sustainable plants and growth we can make a difference.
About My Guest: Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 89 research publications and has taught Insect Taxonomy, Behavioral Ecology, Humans and Nature, Insect Ecology, and other courses for 36 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers’ Association. The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, was published in 2014. Doug is also a regular columnist for Garden Design magazine. Doug is a Lifetime Honorary Director of Wild Ones and has won the Garden Club of America, Margaret Douglas Medal, for Conservation, the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence, and the 2018 AHS 2018 B.Y. Morrison Communication Award.
Native Plant Finder on the National Wildlife Federation Website.
Transcript: #74 #74 Doug Tallamy
Description: Healthy soils support healthy plants, create nutrient-dense foods, help create better health. It all begins with the soil. My guest this week, Nigel Palmer, is a soil consultant and teaches sustainable and regenerative soil practices with The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, TIOSN, here in North CT. What’s good for soil biology, the “digestive system” of soil, is actually important for us. Join us for an informative discussion on growing nutritious foods from the ground up.
About My Guest: Nigel Palmer is a Bionutrient Food and Soil Consultant practicing sustainable, regenerative mineralization programs. He develops plant and soil improvement products by fermenting local plants, extracting minerals, and capturing then cultivating indigenous microorganisms. He uses the refractive index of plant saps and crops as a way of monitoring long and short-term plant health trends and the efficacy of the products developed.
Nigel is the Outside Consultant for The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition or TIOSN. He teaches sustainable regenerative gardening techniques, the keeping of bees, and discusses monthly, the night sky and many subtle nuances of the world out of doors.
Transcript: Nigel Palmer