Be Relevant

Relearning everything we've forgotten.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Serendipitous Timing, Garden Maintenance and Black Soldier Fly Larvae Creep me out

Well La Milpa Organica has closed down.  Apparently there were some labor issues with the state.  I don't know the whole story and since it was their private affair I didn't pry.  Yet that is serendipity at its finest.  I had just blogged that one needs to hop on the phone and call their local Farm Bureau for a place to volunteer.  I'm right there with you!

I called Tierra Miguel Farm and I am going to start volunteering on Saturdays.  It's an hour drive each way but since they are closed Sundays its roughly the same amount of driving I was doing.  La Milpa was 30+ minutes each way.  They are looking for some projects that I can do that are in tune with my interests but experience is experience.  Plus they are a Biodynamic Farm and I really want to learn.  When I know enough about biodynamics I'll post some stuff but right now it is a mystery.  So Saturday at 9 am - very excited.

Knocking out some much needed garden maintenance.  A lot of people in this world are so worried about doing things the wrong way that they never do anything.  This cannot be said about me.  Honestly, I have just begun to accept that the first time I do something I am going to mess up.  It is a real treat when I don't.  So what have I messed up so far this year on the garden?  At first I started with poor soil, small pots, and overcrowding.  I had a few successes - the potatoes, green onions, garlic and sunflowers being the best.  Then I made the broccoli leggy.  Leggy means that it got too tall before it really started to form.  I had hung baskets on the inside of the patio railing.   This only gave them a little light so the seedlings grew 3X the normal size to get to the light.  This made my broccoli unhealthy and open to attack by the imported cabbage moth.  Who is back by the way.
Look at the legs on that one
I solved all those issues and then I left the lettuce in the hot sun too long.   We were having those really cool mornings then we got socked with a week of sun and heat.  I should have covered it with shade cloth.  It didn't hurt the lettuce because my soil was good and retained the moisture.  But when it gets hot like that it bolts, or goes to seed.  It will also become bitter.

So now all of those are under control and I now know what to look for.  I just planted some Romaine Lettuce, Thyme, Lemon Balm, tri-colored Cauliflower, more Broccoli, California Poppy's, Nasturtiums and some assorted Carrots.  I'm stoked about the purple, white, and green cauliflower and the orange, purple, yellow, and white carrots.  Next week I'll start up some more green and red leaf lettuce.  One thing I haven't been very good about is Succession Planting.  That is planting so that as I harvest it I have some to replace it.  The key to this is a Garden Journal!  Good record keeping is essential to allow you to learn what works and what doesn't.  I'm not that good at keeping records.  My checkbook stays balanced for 3 days after payday and then I'm reconstructing all the spending at the end of the month.  I never learn.  Yet a Log for your garden is essential.  It really does take your gardening to the next level.  Even if you only have a window sill garden, knowing when you planted what will help you grow more effectively.  This will undoubtedly translate to higher yields and lower over all costs.  Both of which are good in my book.

While I was messing about with planting I decided to put some worm castings on top of my soil.  Here was the plan.  I have a big soil tub that I mix soil with composted steer manure.  Then as I fill up my pots I mix the soil with compost.  I press the soil down to smooth it and to create a seed bed.  I then seed the pot according to the plant spacing required.  I then lightly cover the seeds with a layer of soil to the depth indicated on the package.  I water thoroughly.  Next I was going to add a layer of worm castings but my bin is way too wet and my castings look like mud.  Finally, I top it off with hay that my rabbits kick out of their cages.  Later I'll add some rabbit manure to the surface to slowly leach out as I water.  Rabbit pills, as they are called, are pretty high in Nitrogen.  I didn't try and add worms to the pots as I am trying to build up the number of worms I have plus this mud issue. Plus I haven't refined my potting mix just yet.

Back to the worm bin.  The mud is just nasty and the problem is that my bin is too wet.  I never water my worms.  The combination of the black bin with the yellow top insures that moisture stays built up in there.  So I have over fed them.  As the food breaks down it releases moisture.  It is all this moisture that is turning my once beautiful worm castings to muck.  The solution is simple - stop feeding them for awhile and leave the lid off to dry out a bit.  In a couple of days this should be back to normal.

While I was digging around in there I saw these.
BTW see the supposedly compostable potato chip bag all in one piece after months of sitting in here???
Yikes!  They creep me out.  I have never seen Black Soldier Fly Larvae before.  Apparently, these guys are great at composting too.  I was so worried that I had gotten something in the bin that I didn't want.  But these guys are good to go in the composting world.  They even have their own blog - Black Soldier Fly Blog.  No matter how beneficial they are they still creep me out and I'm not about to handle them bare handed.

Mulching my pots.  I use the hay my rabbits kick out of their cages.  I'm cheap I know.


  1. Ew, on the fly larvae. Now I feel better that my compost is on the dry side, actually have to add water. Bad news is that it isn't breaking down too well.

  2. I actually found the answer on The Worm Dude ( yesterday. His advice is to err on the side of under feeding and under watering. Plus I'm removing the so called compostable bag of Sunchips. All its really doing is trapping moisture.

    But your compost pile is a different animal, if it gets too dry it'll stop. Also if it gets gooey just add more carbon to dry it up. If you all ready know this then sorry for repeating. You need a ratio of (ideally) 30:1 of Carbon:Nitrogen. The base of the pile is really important. Start off with a large amount of Carbon/brown. Rough stuff like hay or very small branches, dried leaves work great. This allows air to be drawn up from underneath. Then its a layer of N/green quickly followed by C/brown. Repeat as you get green material not as you get brown. Make sense? Brown materials are always plentiful. The green is what will add the smell the brown takes it away. Also there is only 2 sources of water for a compost pile - external (you or rain) and internal (green breaking down). If its too dry you either need to give it a good drenching or you are adding more brown then you need to. Also adding an activator might help. You can get one you mix in water at the store or you can use comfrey or alfalfa if you can find it still green. Again you probably know all this but I like to help :-) plus you're my first comment!!

    I know about the larvae! Even though they are beneficial I'm not sure about purposefully cultivating them.