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Garden Ramblings, Issue #054
February 15, 2009


February 2009

Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene


If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend.

If you are reading the text version you will need to go online to see the videos.


In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Vermiculture 101
- Growing Micro Greens Can Save You Money
- Deadly Plants In Your House & Garden
- Special Offers
- Tailpiece







Welcome to the February issue of Garden Ramblings. We have three articles by guest authors this month.

The first contribution is from Tiffany Rose who introduces us to the techniques of vermiculture. There are many different ways of making compost, but vermiculture is particularly suitable for dealing with kitchen waste in a small container outside the backdoor. This is a comprehensive how-to article including details of all the equipment you need to start your own system.

Linda Nicastro introduces us to the cultivation of Micro Greens. Although you may feel that her implied suggestion that growing micro greens will save you buying any other vegetables is rather over optimistic, it is true that these minute plants can provide a highly nutritious food source.

The third contribution is from Tim Ryan who gives us a timely reminder of the fact that certain plants are poisonous when eaten. Little children are especially fond of putting things in their mouths and pets can be affected as well. In addition to the list of plants there are some helpful suggestions on ways to minimize the dangers and the steps to take if a child or pet has been affected.

As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.

The video this month is "A Spring Day Story".

Enjoy the issue.




A Spring Day Story




Vermiculture 101
by Tiffany Rose

If you have been searching for a way to exercise your “green” thumb jump into this fun and unique world of “vermiculture.” or “vermicompost” is an organic gardening process of natural composting using earthworms, known as the Red Wriggler (Eisenia fetida). The Wrigglers transform food scraps into rich compost and liquid fertilizer. It is the perfect hobby to support the “cradle-to-cradle” return of organic matter to its origin, mother earth.

It is also perfect for small spaces. The worms only need about 1 square foot of surface area to digest each pound of waste material generated per week. Supply your worms with a container, some bedding material, food scraps, and the worms do the rest.

They consume food scraps, hair, and dust reducing organic waste by 25% in about 60 days; and produce worm castings, which contain the richest form of fertilizer known to man. Concentrated worm castings are very potent fertilizers and must be mixed with potting soil or water to dilute the concentration. Worm castings promote higher than average growth in plants and are rich in phosphorus, nitrogen, and trace minerals.

To start your new worm venture you will need the following supplies:

· Compost Bin (DIY or commercially available)

· Compost Scrap Keeper (Holds food scraps, ceramic or stainless steel)

· Bedding Materials

· Food Scraps

· Worms (Red Wrigglers or Nigh Crawlers)

Compost Bins

You could make your own DIY worm compost bins but to keep things, clean, easy and well-organized, I would suggest investing in a commercially produced vermin-culture compost bin. They are well worth the money spent.

Vermiculture Compost Bins automatically separate food scraps from finished compost, and most-importantly, does not need to be emptied or restarted like some DIY bins. Some recommended vermin-culture compost bins include:

· The Expandable Worm Tower

· Worm Condo

· Worm Bungalow

· Down Under Farm Worm Compost Bin

· Pet Poo Converter and Worm Compost Bin

· Friendly Habitat Worm Compost Bin

· Advanced Biosafe BioSystem

Other helpful accessories to look for are worm bedding (good if you are new vermiculture), a compost scrap keeper (ceramic or stainless steel), soil moisture & pH meter, compressed coir fiber bricks (bedding) and the “Compost and Worm Reference Wheel”


Oh and of course, don’t forget the worms, Red Wrigglers or Red Worms (tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions) and/or Night Crawlers (feed on deeper parts of the bin) will do the job. A mixture of the two will create rich and abundant worm castings.


After you have made or purchased a compost bin, you can fill it with bedding. The worms prefer a cool, moist, but well-ventilated, dark environment between 50 and 80 degrees. Worms shun light and are photophobic—they shun both sun and artificial light, burrowing as deep as they can to flee the light. Heat and sunlight will dehydrate the little Wrigglers and all you’ll end up are “fried” worms.

The bedding material can be peat moss, aged manure, sawdust, dried grass clippings, hay, garden loam, coir (coconut fiber), straw, damp newspaper, Hessian, cotton rags, aged horse/cow manure (fresh manure heats up) shredded cardboard, newspaper, grocery bags, and most types of shredded leaves. Oak and other highly acidic leaves are not recommended since these worms don’t like an acidic environment. Stay clear of inked and glossy papers, since they contain toxic substances which can exterminate your Wrigglers.

Keep in mind the worms have a hearty appetite and will eat whatever is put in front of them, including the bedding.


Worms will eat ½ their weight of food each day. Be careful to not overfeed your worms. Like you feed your family, only feed them once they have partly eaten their previous food. This means no desert before dinner. Worms lack teeth and prefer their food mashed, chopped or pureed.

Worms need a variety of foods, and greatly appreciate a well-rounded diet. Worms will happily consume fruit and vegetable scraps/peels (except citrus fruit, onion, garlic and chilies), tea bags/tea leaves, coffee grounds and filters, crushed eggshells, newspaper, cardboard, egg cartons and shredded/soaked pizza boxes, old flowers and small amounts of garden waste, pasta, rice, wet bread & cereal, hair and small amounts of dust from vacuum cleaner. Avoid onions, garlic, citrus, dairy products, seafood, meat, oil, and pet droppings, or the wrigglers will run for the hills.


The Red Wrigglers are the hardiest, fastest reproducers of the vermin culture world they efficiently gobble up waste and create worm castings. Well-fed worms reproduce even faster, at an alarming rate. They double there population in 3-4 months. Young red worms are a shade of white but turn red at maturity.

Harvesting Worm Castings

Harvesting the compost is easy, just push the bedding and worms to one end of the box and fill the other end with fresh bedding and table scraps. Within a few weeks, the worms will munch their way over to the fresh food and you can scoop out the compost from the deserted side of the bin.

With commercial vermi culture compost bins, the work is done for you; just collect worm casts from the bottom trays, and fill the top trays with food.

If you find that cultivating worms and worm castings are not your thing, you could always take the day off and hang a sign on the worm bin that says “Gone Fishin!”

About the author

Please visit for information regarding compost bin, rain barrel, vermiculture, worm bin, red worms, raised garden beds, reel and electric lawn mowers, etc.



Growing Micro Greens Can Save You Money
by Linda Nicastro

Imagine never having to buy vegetables again. How much money could you save in a year? For those on a tight budget, growing micro greens in your own home can offer some financial relief from paying high grocery store prices for fresh produce. You will not only save money, but you will still enjoy the benefits of eating healthy food.

Micro greens are seedlings that have not been allowed to mature into full grown plants. Many trendy restaurants serve these greens in salads, and as garnishments for other dishes. These seedlings can be grown in large or small batches. You can decide how much or how little you want to grow.

It is very easy to learn how to grow micro greens. You can grow an endless supply of vegetables and herbs on your windowsill or deck, using just a window box or seedling tray filled with potting soil or potting mix. It requires very little room and very little care. It is also very inexpensive.

Most seed catalogs feature mixes that are specifically labeled as micro greens. You can buy a mix, or choose your own seeds. The most popular plants to grow are lettuce, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, herbs, onions, beets, and peas. The seedlings will retain the flavor of the original plant, so growing an assortment of sweet or spicy plants will add more interest to a meal.

Once you have chosen your plants, place the seeds close together in the potting mix and water daily. The seedlings will soon emerge, and when they have three sets of leaves, cut them from the top with a pair of scissors. You can take many cuttings from one plant, or replant everything every few days.

So, what do you think? Can you use a few extra dollars this year? If so, give micro greens a try!

About the author

Linda Nicastro experiments with container gardening on her website at



Deadly Plants In Your House & Garden
by Tim Ryan

If you have pets or small children and like to keep a garden or indoor houseplants, it's important that you know which varieties of plants are dangerous to have around. While there are some well known toxic plants such as Poinsettias and Deadly Nightshade, there are also many common household plants that are potentially deadly to both pets and humans.

Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Narcissus plants can all cause serious stomach upset, high blood pressure, tremors, and irregular heartbeats if the bulbs are eaten. In some cases, digestion of the bulbs can even be fatal.

Ingesting Lily of the Valley shrubs, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas will cause nausea and vomiting, and can go on to trigger cardiovascular collapse, coma, and death.

Oleander is well known for its toxic properties, as is Foxglove. These plants cause gastrointestinal upset, affect the heart, and are deadly. Just handling these plants can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals, so it's best to avoid direct contact with these plants. Foxglove is especially dangerous because their bell shaped buds are very attractive to children. Ingesting just a small amount can be deadly, and prior to death, the toxin can cause severe abdominal pain, hallucinations, and tremors.

Castor Bean seeds and the Rosary Pea are extremely dangerous to have around the house if you have pets and small children. It takes just a few seeds to cause death in both animals and humans. The berries on the ornamental Daphne plant are also very toxic—especially to children—and touching the twigs can cause skin irritation.

Even the childhood favorite, Buttercup flowers, can cause gastrointestinal disorders if eaten and can trigger blistering if the sap makes contact with the skin.

The Yew tree has poisonous berries and foliage, which are very attractive to pets and livestock. Symptoms of Yew poisoning may include convulsions and difficulty breathing, but death has been known to occur without warning.

If you have some of these plants in your house, and you have pets or small children, try to keep the most dangerous plants out of reach by setting them on high shelves or on plant hangers. As soon as your children are old enough to understand, teach them to always check with you before anything from a plant or tree.

To keep your cats from devouring toxic greenery, keep edible grass in the house so that they have something safe to nibble on. Then, either keep hazardous plants out of reach, or make them less enticing. You can try rubbing something bad tasting on their leaves, or spray your pet with water every time they go near the offending flower. They'll soon associate the plant with unpleasant consequences, and leave it alone.

Outdoors, dangerous plants and shrubs should be fenced off to protect your pets from accessing them.

If your pet exhibits some of the following symptoms, then you should suspect poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and shivering. If you think your pet has come in contact with something toxic, call your veterinarian right away. The Animal Poison Control Center is also available for assistance for a fee over the phone. Their 24-hour emergency line can be reached at 1-888-426-4435.

If your child has ingested something toxic, they will likely exhibit pain around their mouths, vomiting and stomach cramps, convulsions, and an irregular heartbeat. In the case of ingestion, you should immediately call Poison Control or call 911.

Plants are a lovely addition to any home or garden, but they can be deadly if precautions aren't taken. Do your research before purchasing a plant to make sure that it won't put your children or pets at risk. If you do have a plant or shrub that's toxic, do your best to teach your children and animals to stay well away from it.

About the Author

Amerivest is a realty company based in southwest Florida, and specializes in Naples real estate. Search for Vineyards homes and view property listings in this highly coveted Naples community by visiting us at




Special Offers

There is little to report this month I'm afraid. All the sales are over bar one and that has only a few days to run. Otherwise it is back to the basic offers of free shipping and $$$ off when you spend $$$.


The one sale still running is the Winter Sale at Gardener's Supply Company but it is due to end on Feb 22. Some 270 items are on sale at prices ranging from under $10 to $300 and more.




Gardener's Supply Company



Dutch Gardens have finished their sales and are featuring their new perennials for spring, but you can still save $25 when you spend $50 as shown on the banner.



Dutch Gardens, Inc.





Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co are still offering Ka-Bluey Blueberry at 55% off and, as you see from the banner, you can still save $20 when you spend $40 or more.



Shop at for your vegetable and flower seeds!





This month Nature Hills Nursery are again offering savings of 10% on over 175 Trees plus free shipping on all orders over $75.











The Garden of Eatin' (pre-election version)




Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]


That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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