Gardening Organically at Home:
Feed Your Soil

We know that many of you supplement your weekly box with the super fresh offerings of your own home garden. The Gardening Organically at Home blog series will highlight moments of convergence between organic farming and the home garden, as well as feature sage advice from dedicated, California-farmer-supporting home gardeners.

Add-Ons For Your Garden

Any of our organic farmers will tell you that so much of having success with organics, whether it’s fruit, veggies, or animals, is preventing the pest, disease, or other problem from ever happening in the first place; and prevention starts with the all important super-organism of the soil. A well-balanced soil creates a well-balanced ecology, and you can’t successfully grow organically without that.  Here at AHO headquarters, we keep worms, worm poo, and cute crawly ladybugs (seasonally) on hand to give a hand-up to our green-thumbed subscribers.

Organic Earthworm Castings

Earthworm castings are a super potent, nutrient dense, soil enlivening input for potted house plants as well as outdoor gardens. Worm castings will add vital microbial life to your plants and help balance the pH of your soil. The castings are formed as the worms eat their way through a rich organic soil and pass it through their digestive tracts. During this process, minerals are converted into a form that plants can use over time. You can use as much as you want to fertilize your garden and never burn or damage your plants as conventional fertilizers do. A  four pound bag will take care of about forty square feet of garden soil. You can meet your SoCal worm castings farmer in the video below.

Composting Worms

For those of you looking to start composting, Kristi Bravo, the Farmer’s Daughter, farms and supplies a half pound add-on of composting wiggler worms, along with their castings. Getting started is easy. Buy, build, or scavenge a worm bin, (you can have it outdoors or even under the kitchen sink) and start feeding those hungry wigglers your kitchen scraps. Or, you could introduce them to your garden in a vermicompost trench and let them feed your plants.

Live Ladybugs

Also bringing life to your garden: aphid-eating, cute-as-a-bug ladybugs! Every year in early spring we order a load of hibernating ladybugs, who, along with thousands of their brothers and sisters, are ready and waiting to wake up in your garden and go to town on the aphids intent on eating your plants. There are about 1,500 ladybugs in each container, about 1/3 of a cup. An adult ladybug can eat upwards of 5,000 aphids over their year-long lifespan.

Every year we have subscribers who release ladybugs with their school classes, kids, grandkids, and just for the joy of it. The little critters stay asleep as long as they’re kept cold and can be stored in your refrigerator until your spring garden is ready for them.

Below, farmer David Silveira holds an aphid-covered  green bean plant that could have used the company of some ladybug friends. In the photo on the right, he points out some ladybug larvae that are giving this plant a fighting chance.


Author Amy Beth

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