Farming worms

March 17th, 2009 at 3:32 pm by james

The downturn’s not bitten too hard here yet (witness the prime lending rate sitting at 14% – down, but not down) and work’s still ticking over at an almost civilised pace. Nonetheless, discretion being the better part of valour, MGW and I have planted a vege garden.

Everyone knows that the true sign of recession is the scarcity of high quality organic vegetables and we’re not going to be caught out by that one. Oh no. Well, maybe … we’ve only actually had a pak choi and seven strawberries so far, so technically we haven’t yet avoided the queues at the local organic market. Or any market.

Now when you read “vege garden” I’m willing to bet that the image that pops into your mind unbidden is like our reality. You’re seeing a nice little patch of tilled earth; neat rows of leafy things, some carrots, some lettuces, maybe a row of trellis for peas. Let me disabuse you.

There are, as one ventures into market gardening, a great many questions to be answered: what to plant? where to plant? how to fertilise? when to water? from whence the water? So many questions, in fact, that actually getting started turned out to be rather difficult. Finally, in desparation, we went out to a nursery and bought one of everything they had. First question answered.

When one has a couple of barrow-loads of seedlings entirely dependent on one for their wellbeing one begins to feel a certain obligation to think about how such care might be accomplished. On reflection we decided that we probably lack the constitution required for regular weeding, for digging, for unnecessarily repetitive bending-at-the-waist and for heavy lifting so we acquired a trolley-load of plastic buckets, drilled holes in them, filled them with Kirstenbosch compost and put them on trestles in a weed-free mostly-sterile courtyard.

We’ve designed a very-cool-almost-automatic-grey-water-recycling crop watering system but haven’t quite implemented yet, so still have the rather dull chore of watering buckets of veg twice daily. Which reminds me, it’s been hellish hot (for Cape Town) the last couple of weeks. Just a shade under 40 degrees quite often.

When raising veg in buckets (with holes) in 40 degree heat, nutrition becomes a problem. For the plants. The colour of the water draining from the buckets gets clearer day by day as the nutrient value of the soil is diluted and rinsed away. The popular answer to this problem is worms. A little piece of worm heaven in a nice cozy warm barrel where vegetable scraps from the kitchen rain down on a regular basis as if by magic. Strategic holes in the barrel allow worm excreta to drain out into a bucket for application to the veges. Problem solved. Or so the theory goes.

I’m not sure our vege garden is cost effective.

I imagine myself sitting quietly somewhere, reading …

2 Responses to “Farming worms”

  1. anna Says:

    I bought tomato seeds last spring with visions of lovely tomatoes in my lovely garden. But they have languished still in their packets in a kitchen drawer. Maybe this will be the year.

  2. james Says:

    Ah, but this spring you have visions of a lovely new kitchen in your lovely kitchen, so perhaps the seeds were better sown in the kitchen drawer after all.

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