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the anticraft > archive > The Changing Garden of Mr. Bell

Beltane 2006

Shit Happens
by Barbara June Loveridge Easterling Mulder Moore Stewart Armitage

I think that you should know that I'm old. I mean not old like Methuselah or anything but very probably a lot older than you are, so you are required by geriatric law to believe that I am experienced and know what I'm talking about. One thing that I know a lot about is shit. In my life I have put up with shit, dished out a whole lot of shit, cleaned up loads of shit, and even smoked some good shit. It's no wonder that I find myself obsessed with the stuff.

As it turns out, the one thing that I wanted most out of life was to spend my days digging in the dirt of a really big garden. The second thing was to make really good shit. Before you start harassing the staff for my cell phone number, I'm not growing it - I'm growing with it. Flowers and vegetables both love to be watered with liquid compost, or "worm tea". Worm tea is a nice way of saying worm shit, but making tea by traditional methods means gathering it in one place and then hauling this liquid gold around your garden. Since this is pretty much a pain in the ass and, as I said before, I'm old, I was keen on finding an easier way to distribute the issue from my worms' backsides. I found it in Trowel & Error by Sharon Lovejoy (ISBN 0761126325), one of the handiest garden books I've yet seen - and remember, I'm old. It's called a Worm Wagon, and if you haven't yet figured it out, that's a small, mobile worm farm.

Making your own Worm Wagon:

You're going to need an old wagon, wheelbarrow, cart, or just about anything with wheels and some kind of platform between them that has holes, or can have holes, in the bottom. Now that I think about it, I once drove an old car in that would have qualified on both accounts - we called it The Deathmobile. For my Worm Wagon I used an old wooden wagon that a friend gave me. You'll also need a piece of screen cut to fit inside the wagon, possibly a power drill, and some dirt, worms, and garbage.

If there aren't already lots of holes in the bottom of your wagon you will need to make some, so this is where you get to play with power tools. No project is complete without at least getting to use an electric drill - it's my favorite part of any project. Use one of the larger drill bits (.25 inch to .5 inch) and space your holes about three inches apart.

Next, lay a piece of screen in the bottom of your wagon so that your worms won't escape. Don't start in on me here about the freedom of all living creatures. You can't get worm shit with free-range worms. Accept it and move on.

Start to fill your wagon by putting in a layer of soil, then some worms, and a layer of juicy garbage, like lettuce, tomato, fruit, etc. You can use almost any garbage that rots, but the better garbage you use the better the tea you make. I use the rule that if it's healthy for me to eat, then it's good for my worms, too. Don't use meat or dairy because it draws animals and stinks! Both dirt and worms are readily available in the ground for free, but - for you sissies with more money than brains - you can buy dirt (they call it "garden soil") at any garden center and worms from any store that sells fishing equipment. I've even seen organic worms for sale, but that's going a bit far for me. Repeat the soil/worm/garbage layers until your wagon is full to about an inch from the top. Next, wet it down until the water is dripping out the bottom holes. Last, top off the whole thing with a piece of plywood or anything you have on hand that will cover the top of the wagon, creating a nice damp dark environment for your worms to do their thing.

Now the key to making this work is keeping your worms fed and watered. If you can't keep your philodendron alive this project might be a bigger commitment than you can handle! You will need to keep adding garbage and water every couple of days, and on really hot summer days you may need to water daily to keep your worms pooping and happy. The dark rich tea that drips through your wagon when you add water is loaded with everything your plants need to grow and be healthy. Every week or so you can roll your wagon to another part of your garden and spread the wealth around.

As usual, I just couldn't let good enough alone so I set out to improve my wagon by adding an automatic watering system. I was concerned that my worms would suffer on days when I didn't have time to water them. There are watering systems for plants available that would work, but I am driven to make things on my own. My solution was to make a worm IV. If you want the details on how to make this simple modification just email me at the address at the bottom of this article and I will be glad to help you.

Don't forget that worms are living creatures and reproduce. If your worm population exceeds about 5 or 6 adult worms per handful of soil (yeah, you're going to have to touch it, you sissy) then you should release about a fourth of your worms back into the wild. The easiest way to do this is to dump them, dirt and garbage and all, into a tilled-but-not-yet-planted bed and lightly cover them with dirt, or just onto your lawn in the shade. You will need to replace any dumped soil in your wagon

Of course, now you're asking, "Where would I ever use a Worm Wagon?"

Why, in your asparagus garden, of course!


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