Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Passalongiflora July 15, 2010

Filed under: community,flora — greenwalks @ 8:58 pm
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Do your neighbors garden? If so, do you share plants with them? I have found that I often have plants to spare, nothing too special, but if someone asks about it and I have extras, I try to pot up a few and bring them over. Since I have so many self-sowers in my wild and currently quite unkempt garden, folks are actually doing me a favor by taking some of the spreaders off my hands. Recent donations have included Erigeron and lavender, as well as some leftover tomatoes from my mom’s seed-grown stash.

Sometimes it works the other way, too. My next-door neighbor is a shy fellow – we haven’t exchanged more than a few sentences in the years we’ve lived a stone’s throw away. But he is a gardener, and sometimes when he’s dividing plants, he’ll put some out in the alley with a “Free” sign. Last spring, he tossed a big pile of tall daylilies out there and they stayed for months until I finally rescued a few. I didn’t have a great spot for them but I felt sorry for the poor plants (You do that too, don’t you? Feel sorry for plants like they were sentient beings?). I didn’t know what color they’d be, but decided to just be surprised. One is that medium rusty-brown that I’ve admired in other people’s gardens, and the other is a glowing lemon yellow, not fancy but nice in the somewhat overgrown and partly shaded spot where I planted it:

Yellow daylily

Trading plants with other gardeners is one of the things I most enjoy about gardening, even though I have probably received far more than I have given! I’ll just have to keep trying to catch up.


Worm Bin Bee April 22, 2009

My corner of the world is lucky to have a new organization, Sustainable NE Seattle, a small but growing group of neighbors working to find local and personal solutions to some of the thorny issues facing our planet. I recently joined a subset of the group, Urban Farmers, after seeing a front-lawn-to-food-crops transformation they devised and carried out in my neighborhood (blog post on that coming eventually,  I hope).

This past weekend, one of the group’s founders put out the call to everyone that she would host a tools-provided worm bin build in her backyard. She and her husband graciously allowed a bunch of us to get sawdust everywhere and take over the place to build six big-old bins for our own gardens. They also picked up all the materials, tossed in their own scrap wood to keep costs down, and kept everyone moving on the various phases of the project while graciously teaching many of us to use power tools for the first time.

Some people hammered:

Worm Bin Work Party

Others sawed (I didn’t take a picture of anyone while they were doing it, since I have a horror of power saws and didn’t want to jinx anyone into lopping off digits!):

Worm Bin Workers

I was on drill duty with this kind gentleman, who has taught carpentry and was astonishingly patient with my beginner’s fumblings:

Worm Bin Carpentry Master

Our trusty mascot, who was happy to chase tossed fir cones whenever anyone had a break in their duties:

Sweet Retriever

The other resident animals, who might not have been too happy with all the banging and sawing but were curious about all the activity anyway:

Hens in Backyard Coop

At one point I was making pilot holes for someone else to drill in the wood screws. We were a two-drill assembly line, and we did so many that I pretty much got over my fear I was going to put a hole in my finger. I liked this older Makita a lot, I can see why people get really into owning and handling wood-working tools:

Vintage Makita Drill

These gals dubbed themselves the “Womens’ Drill Team” and they got pretty into using a human-powered drill which I neglected to photograph, which is too bad because it was very cool. It’s called a Yankee Push Drill and you can see pictures of some like it here at a vintage tools site.

Women's Drill Team at Worm Bin Party

After the sides, bottoms and lids were assembled separately, they were all put together and large-bore holes were drilled in the bottom for ventilation:

Worm Bin Ventilation Holes

To keep rats from chewing through those, we stapled hardware cloth (i.e. incredibly tough screen material) over each hole. Despite various horror stories I’d heard over the years, all of the experienced worm composting folks there said that they hadn’t had trouble with rodents. So, I hope to continue that trend!

Ta-da! Two bins, finished and stacked for taking home:

Completed Worm Bins

Even with a lot of people and mostly pre-cut wood, it still took a long time to build the bins from scratch. I had to leave early (after coming late, bad work-party etiquette for sure but nobody made me feel bad!), so I have yet to bring home my bin. I hope to pick it up tomorrow, and then I’ll have to get going on shredding newspaper for the worms’ bedding and then getting actual worms. The ones I plan to use, Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida), are pretty pricey – $25 for 1/2 lb. at Seattle Tilth, so I might be able to get some from my mom’s compost pile or see if there are any left over from the gal who brought some to the bee.

It might be a smart idea to invest in a copy of Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, the definitive classic on vermicomposting human food waste. To find out more about composting with worms, this Treehugger article has a lot of info plus links galore.

For the free plan we used, also from Seattle Tilth, click here for a 3-page PDF. With a bit of scrap wood, total costs including hardware for ours were only $23 each. I’ve seen them for sale for over $100, so if you are handy or know someone who is, that’s a pretty good savings for a few hours of work.

It was great to meet a bunch of people who are interested in stuff like this, and I am super excited to start letting the worms make me some incredible compost. Starting later this week, I will stop giving our family’s food scraps to the city to compost, except for the worm bin no-no’s (meat/dairy/fish and, according to some folks, citrus – too acidic.) This is my small attempt to do a bit more to cut down on our little family’s impact on the planet. Happy Earth(worm) Day!