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  • lukeathompson

On Worms

Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,

It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,

It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas'd corpses,

It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,

It renews with such unwitting looks its produgal, annual, sumptuous crops,

It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.

'This Compost', Walt Whitman

My school physics teacher left teaching to become a tiger worm farmer and we laughed. A boring teacher of a boring subject looking for something even more boring to do with his life. This was the same physics teacher who, on the last day of term, brought in a video called Weird Science. He thought it was going to be an entertaining programme about curious scientific experiments, but it turned out to be a movie about teenage boys designing their sexual fantasy woman on a computer and bringing her to life. During the class break (which came early that day) the video player mysteriously broke.


Now I have my own little worm farm.


A couple of years ago I was given a second hand wormery. It’s a simple thing - a series of plastic crates that stack one on top of the other. Right at the bottom is a liquid collector, which you drain off by tap. The layer above that is full of worm castings, which look like good, rich soil, and above that are stacks of less composted kitchen scraps which the worms are working on.


The dark castings are the best. That’s the stuff that’s passed through the worms and been broken down and it’s great for the green growth of plants. It's full of nitrogen as well as the microbes that help plants absorb nutrients. So this is what I'll be using to make the plants big and bushy in the first month or two.


Two ways I'm using these worm gubbins.


One, now that the peppers have their true leaves I’m giving a light feed with the worm liquid. This is the stuff drained from the bottom of the wormery. Last year this smelled quite bad and probably shouldn’t have been used then, but this year it’s healthy and odourless. Sometimes it takes a couple of years for the water to get better as the bin establishes.


I’m going to water down this worm soup a bit and use it once a week or once a fortnight. I started on Sunday so it should be easy to remember. If the plants start to look stressed or they behave weirdly, it probably means I’ve given too much of this liquid and I’ll pull it back.


Two, when the peppers are transplanted out into the greenhouse I’ll be mixing castings with the soil. This is an experiment so we’ll see how it goes.


Later, when the plants start to flower, I’ll stop feeding with the worm juices and castings and move on to something else.

Seedling Update


Orange Habanero: Weedy. I don’t think they’re happy. Maybe they’re just slow growers. Some are still just a centimetre tall and only a couple have their true leaves. I think perhaps of all the peppers I'm growing maybe these need the most warmth.


Rocoto: These look terrific. Around three or four inches tall with strong, broad, hairy leaves. They’re squat, sturdy little plants. If they carry on this way I’ll be exploring more varieties of Rocoto next year.


Cayennetta: These look very good too. Next to the Rocoto they look more fragile, with thinner leaves and stems, but they’re tall and uniform in size and looking strong.


Ring of Fire: Yup. There’s been an accident. One of the larger animals I share a house with got tangled in a wire and brought a load of the plants and seeds to the floor. Not very good for the plants or the carpet, but no one was hurt. I’ve had to resow the Ring of Fire. After the first load of seeds did not germinate, this will be my third sowing.


Others: While renegotiating the space after the accident I found room for more seed trays, planting a mix of Sugar Rush Peach Stripey, Zebrange, Khang Starr and Farmers Jalapenos. The Peach and the Zebrange have pretty fruits so I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow here. I’ve put in Jalapenos because I want to try smoking them. The Khang Starr were a gift - they were very popular a year or two ago in the pepper world, when they were spread by pepper growers passing on their seeds in trades or as gifts. They have a spectacular colour, pretty strong heat and apparently an amazing flavour.


Edit: Those Jalapenos started sprouting within 5 days! After seven (today) all six were up. Very promising.

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