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Vermiculture: Composting with Worms Guide

a couple of months ago

What is Vermiculture: The Dirt on the Worms

Vermiculture is the answer to many gardeners who seek a way to get beneficial microbes and worm castings into your garden soil. Click to Tweet

worm composting guideDo love to garden on your apartment balcony, but want a way to compost?  Are you challenged for space in your garden area?  You will want to read on as we will explore the army of crawlers that can help compost and transform your food and vegetable scraps into black gold for your garden.  Vermiculture is the answer to many gardeners who seek a way to get beneficial microbes and worm castings into your garden soil.  It is so easy to employ earthworms to help produce vermicast for your garden beds or containers.  You will learn all about the vermicompost benefits as well as the methods about how to build a worm bin.

Vermiculture is a method of cultivation of earthworms that are typically used to create vermicompost or as fishing bait.  Vermicompost is the by product from the various types of earthworms that consume and breakdown organic materials such as decomposing plants, vegetable and/or food waste.  The organic matter is turned into a vermicompost that is rich with nutrients and health microbes that are beneficial for soil.  The vermiculture methods are extremely easy to adopt for the individual home gardener as well as on large scale worm farming operations.  This method of composting is passive to help create a nutrient rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.

You simply must suspend your beliefs about utilizing worms to decompose your food waste.  We will explore the ways to leverage vermiculture to make it a desirable method to add for your garden projects.  You can easily build a worm bin or purchase a worm farm kit to get the worms working for you in no time.  You will come to realise how beneficial the worm castings will help you when your tomatoes are the talk of the neighborhood.  Everyone will then know about your tricks to composting with worms.

Take a look of a small scale vermiculture operation below:

Benefits of Vermicomposting

You will unlock some awesome benefits when you have access to your own worm farm or bin.  These little worm crawlers sure know how to pack a punch in a with little room to produce.  Let’s check out the plethora of benefits of when you start your own vermiculture operation to make worm castings.

  • Worm Composting is less work – You have enough to do with your own gardening efforts.  Why add on another more active gardening task to your growing task list?  Composting with worms is really not much work.  You simply add your vegetable and/or food waste to the bin and cover with shredded newspaper.  That’s it, there is nothing else left to do to produce the black gold.  They do all the work in exchange for some leftover scraps of food.  What’s the catch?
  • Worm Poop is Black Gold – You want to know the secrets to getting big tomatoes.  It is not necessarily what you do after you plant them.  The real secret is what you do before you plant your tomatoes.  Healthy soil is the key to any successful harvest.  Worm castings are chock full of microbial activity.  Soil that has castings added to it will benefit from the microorganisms and enzymes.
  • Worm Castings improve water retention in your soil – Vermicompost improves the water holding capacity.  The castings are organic matter that contain spongy matter that promotes aeration and drainage.  This great if you are a you also garden with containers.
  • Vermicompost enhances germination & plant growth – seedlings that are grown in soil that has some worm castings always takes offs and flourishes.  The root growth of these plants fare much better than without.  This is a cool gardening project to experiment if you want to see the results yourself.  Plant 2 of the same tomatoes and try worm compost versus regular compost.  Let us know the results in the comments below.
  • Composting with worms requires less space – You can simply make a worm compost tube in your garden out of a cylinder pvc pipe.  You only need a box that is about 3 square foot box that is 1 foot deep to accommodate most average homes waste.  This equates to about 1 square foot area for each pound of waste.
  • Vermicomposting reduces greenhouse gas emissions – You are keeping food waste out of our landfills.  While you may think this a small thing, it really adds up if every gardener practiced the art of vermiculture.  Jack Johnson sang about it best – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  • Worm Compost produces compost tea – If the worm compost is the black gold then the liquid drippings form it is the magic elixir of the plant gods.  Well, that is a stretch, but this liquid is really beneficial as liquid fertilizer

Worm Casting Vs Compost

what is vermicultureThe most obvious difference between worm compost and normal composting is of course those slimy cute little worms.  Really, though are worm castings much better than your good old compost pile.  Unfortunately, there is not a clearly defined study of this.  Generally, it will also vary because there are so many different materials that can be feed to worms or added to a compost pile.  This might be subject to a Green Thumb Gardener experiment where we compare equal portions of food scraps that are left to decompose on their own and munched up by a select group of wrigglers.

It is worth noting that composting with worms will be a much faster process if they are left in the same environment.  Those little guys are some of the most loyal workers and devour the food waste and scraps with utmost diligence & steadfast.  They definitely win employee of the month when it is planting season.  (don’t worry -the bees win it during flowering periods).  Composting in general also requires some active work such as turning the pile and keeping it moist unless you just have a pile you don’t care to monitor.  Worm Composting is pretty much set it and forget it.

All things equal, worm castings probably have some edge because you are not only building health soil, but you are also feeding life.

How do I start Vermicomposting?

How to Start a Worm BinBy now you might be psyched to hear about how easy it is to compost with worms.  You now know the vast benefits of providing your vegetable garden with an abundance of nutrients that are found in worm castings.  However, what is the best way to start vermiculture.  You stumbled upon the best resource for getting started.  The best way is to just get started.  Take a peek at the video above if you want to see a live look in of our worm bin.

You can also check out an excellent book called “How to Start a Worm Bin” by Henry Owens that is also a good reference about worm composting.  It really has an excellent FAQ and troubleshooting guide that heormlps once you get started.  Sometimes you need to be able to reference a good book while you are at the bin to see what to do in case you are unsure.  Note: Most problems are usually due to not enough bedding and/or brown materials or it is just too wet.

Here are a few questions you need to ask before getting started with vermicomposting.  We’ll try to help you answer some of these further below.

  • Where do you want to place your worm bin?  Inside or outside?
  • What size worm farm do you need for your home?
  • Should I build a worm bin or purchase one for vermiculture?
  • What food will you feed the worms?
  • How will I know when the worm castings are ready to use?

Where do I find the Worms

It might be time to introduce you to your new team.  They are the star of the compost show.  Let’s get to know the earthworms to help you build your garden soil.  First, you need to know that there are certain earthworms that are readily used in a closed composting system.  Your garden variety earthworms are not the types of worms that you want to employ for this.  You want to look for composting worms that are detritivorous (eaters of trash), such as the red wiggler or Eisenia fetida.

Red wiggler worms are native to europe, but have been used in most vermicomposting practices.  These worms are also used as fishing bait and found in tackle shops.  These little guys will eat all the food in your compost bin without much fuss.  They don’t like the bright light, so make sure to keep them out of the sunlight if at all possible.  You might be able to ask a friend of yours that has a bin to give you a bunch of them to get started.

Probably the easiest way is to order them online.  Make sure that you have your bin ordered or built before you order them so you can place them in there when they arrive.  They arrive in the mail usually in coconut coir or peat moss.  Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is where we purchased our worms years ago.  Check out their store here.  You can get about 500 worms for about $20

To build or not to build a Worm Bin

It is time to get yourself mini farm to house your worms.  You really can’t throw these guys directly in your garden.  While it won’t hurt your garden, it is better to keep them in a tight knit community to help you concentrate your efforts of building good compost.   The most important thing is to prevent the worms from getting wet when you have rain if you keep them outside.  You also want to ensure that rodents and other critters don’t have access to it.  It also has to be somewhat contained if you plan on keeping it indoors so you don’t smell any of it.

Our experience relies with only keeping it outdoors.  We do take in our smaller bins in the winter and place in our garage.  We have also left the bins out during the winter, but our area does not have long periods of freezing weather.  The worms do huddle together and can sustain some freezing, but we definitely recommend covering the small bins since there is not enough worms in there to sustain long periods of freezing.

You only have one of 3 choices when it comes to housing these roommates:

  1. Purchase a worm farm bin – We recommend the penthouse of worm bins, Nature’s Footprint Worm Factory DS3BT 3-Tray Worm Composter.  This thing is pretty sweet and is one of the best worm composters, but check out the reviews on Amazon for what others have to say about this worm farm .  It has 3 trays but can be expanded to 7.  It measures about 16 x 16 x 13 inches and has a reservoir to collect worm compost tea.  This is perfect for indoors tucked away in your basement or closet since it is said to be odor free.
  2. Build your own Worm Bin – This is the most economical option to construct your own bin.  You literally could head down to Walmart now and buy a few materials and be up and running in an hour.  You could also build an elaborate wooden bin that is permanent near your garden beds. Use your imagination to see what you want for your needs.  Check out the easy guide below for the steps on how to build a simple and easy rubbermaid worm bin.
  3. Build a worm compost tube in your garden – This option is really not a true worm bin, but thought it is still helpful idea.  This method is useful to use for the deep burrowing earthworms that you normally may find in your garden.  It helps to attract them to newly established beds.  Essentially, you will bury a cylinder pvc tube in your garden and add a cap on it.  You will place some vegetable food scraps in this tube so that the earthworms can find this and make some compost for you.  It is cool project, but probably not that effective or practical.  You really don’t want to place your red wigglers in this as this is more useful for attracting earthworms.  Your time may be better spent in building your soil.  Here are some helpful videos if you want to see what this is about.  Click here
Think of worms like your finicky teenage that will eat most things that you put in front of them. Click to Tweet

DIY Worm Bin Build

Materials & tools needed:

  • 3 of the 10 gallon rubbermaid bin – The link here is close to what we used for one of our bins.  You could find these in any store.  Ideally, 10 gallons is the best size, but you could make them smaller or large depending on your needs.  Just be mindful that larger ones will mean you can store more, but will also weigh more.  Just be aware of this as you may need to move your bins.  You can use 2 bins where the bottom bin is for collecting the compost tea.
  • 1/2 ” Drill bit 
  • 1/4 drill bit
  • Electric Drill
  • Shredded newspaper
  • 4-5 sheets of Newspaper

Steps to build the worm bin:

  1. You will drill several holes along the bottom of 2 of the rubbermaid bin with the 1/2″ drill bit.  This is so the compost tea can filter out and the worms can climb up when you add the 3rd bin.  You will drill holes about an inch apart just on the bottom part of the bin.  It will look like swiss cheese.
  2. You will then drill 1/4″ holes all along the upper edge of the rubbermaid bin below the cover.  This is so the worms have some air when the cover is closed.  You don’t want them suffocating.
  3. The bottom bin will not need any holes as it will be used to collect the worm compost tea.
  4. Next place one of the bins with the holes on top of the bin without the holes.
  5. Add the 4-5 sheets of news on the bottom of the worm bin to cover the existing holes.
  6. Add shredded newspaper to cover about 1/4-1/2 of the bin.  This is what you will use to cover the food waste materials that you feed the worms.
  7. Add bags of worms along with the materials that the worms came in to the bin.  It is best to start in one corner of the bin.  Be mindful that the worms will eventually multiple, so the colony will reproduce as they settle in.
  8. Add scraps of food waste to the same corner and cover with the shredded newspaper.  It is best to slowly add food for the next week or two to allow the worms to adapt to their new environment.

Here is a video that shows you exactly how to build a worm compost bin:

How & What to Feed your Worms

Your worms have moved into their new condo to start producing compost like a boss.  Think of worms like your finicky teenage that will eat most things that you put in front of them.  There are some DOs and DON’Ts on the types of foods that you give them.  Let’s take a look at some of them for your worm bins.

Things to Feed your Worms:

  • Coffee Grounds
  • fruit scraps (try to minimize citrus fruits)
  • Vegetable scraps (minimize onions)- banana scraps, apple peels, grapes etc.
  • Egg Shells- great to help reproduction of earthworms
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Untreated Grass Clippings
  • Tea bags
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Paper

Things NOT to Feed your Worms:

  • Citrus- some rinds are ok, just don’t overdo it
  • Salty Foods
  • Oils
  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Spicy Foods
  • Pickled Foods
  • Seeds -we try to scrap out vegetable seeds to minimize sprouting
  • Bones

Tips for DIY Rubbermaid Worm Bin

You want to rotate where you place the food in your rubbermaid diy worm bins if you use that container.  You place the food in one corner and then add more food in another corner the next time.  You would do this over and over.

You would place a new bin on top of the full bin and start placing food in that new bin once your bin is close to being full.  The worms will eventually migrate to the top bins after they have consume most of the food in the lower bin.  This will help when you want to harvest your compost.

The bottom bin will collect the worm compost liquid that you can use as compost tea.  It is recommended to dilute the compost tea since it can be higher in acid pH.  Maybe start with 1 part of compost tea to 3 parts of water.  You can experiment with this to see what works best for you.  We don’t recommend using this directly on plants at full strength though since your compost tea may be a different strengths depending on what you use in your compost feedings.

How do I know when our Vermicompost is ready

worm castingsYour worms are settled in their worm farm and have been feeding regularly.  When do you get to actually use the worm castings?  Sure, this is the crux of what we have been building.  Your container that you use will usually have some recommendations because they have different designs. We will focus on the diy rubbermaid type of bin, but many of these tips below will still be applicable to other bins.

Ultimately, the actual compost will definitely not look like food.  The actual compost will look like dirt and have an earthy smell.  You may also notice that most of the worms have migrated away from this particular pile.  The vermicompost will look very dark and pretty much like soil.  It should not be too damp, but maybe a little spongy with liquid.  You can begin to harvest some of it when it reaches this point.  a good practice that we utilize is to harvest parts of the bin a scoop at a time.  you can also harvest all of it at once.

A good way to harvest all of it at once is to dump the bin onto a big tarp and pick out any of the worms.  You want to put those worms back into your bin.  It is ok if a few of the worms find their way into your compost and into your garden.  We sometimes let this dry out a little bit in the sun and bag it up.  Ideally, it is better served when you add it your garden right away as most of the microbial life is at its peak.

Check out Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm FAQ for some other tips & for some common vermicompost problems you may have.

How to use Vermicompost in Garden

Worm castings are a great addition to any plant or garden bed.  You will want to use the black gold everywhere once you start building up a good supply of vermicompost.  Here are a few ways that you can start to incorporate them into your garden.

  • Seed starting– Worm castings are great to use in seed starting tray.  Mix 1 part of compost to 3 parts of peat moss or coconut coir and boom your seedlings will be off to a great start.
  • Planting holes– This is by far what we always do.  Just put a scoop of it directly into your planting holes if you transplant your seedlings into the garden
  • Top Dressing – Sprinkle the worm castings all around your plants during their growing cycles.  It will help with all the plant nutrients right when it is needed.
  • Throw it into your existing compost – Compost feeding more compost..huh bro?  This is a great way to help start a new compost pile.  It is teamy with helpful microbes and they are looking to spread their love everywhere.  Why not spread the love?
  • Houseplants –  sprinkle some of the worm casting goodness for your indoor plants.  They also need the worm poop

Composting with worms could not be much easier.  Please take action of just getting started.  Don’t sit on the sideline of your garden thinking that this is such a difficult project to undertake.  Just get in there and get your hands dirty and let the worms do the work for you.

Lets us know in the comments below what your worm bin setup is like.

You will want to use the black gold everywhere once you start building up a good supply of vermicompost. Click to Tweet

Preparing your Garden for a Storm

a couple of months ago

Hurricane Florence prep- preparing your garden for a storm that may be coming.

Make sure that you pick as much as can of your fruits and vegetables. A storm that has any wind over 40 mph gusts can damage or weaken your garden plants.

Make sure to also tie down or put away any lose tools that you may have in your garden area

The Dirt on Saving Tomato Seeds: 3 Easy ways

Saving Tomato Seeds: 3 Easy ways

save tomato seedsTake a poll of all your family and friends and ask what vegetable would they would grow.  You will probably hear growing tomatoes as one of the most popular vegetable growing choices. It seems that most gardeners always brag about their tomatoes when asked about their progress of your their garden.

You might be one of those garden newbies who just planted your first tomato plant that you grabbed at the local hardware store or garden nursery.  Have you ever thought about actually growing tomatoes from seed?  It really is not too difficult to grow them from seed, so why not save the tomato seeds from one of your plants this year.

You have a few options on how you want to save tomato seeds.  All of these different ways to save tomato seeds are not too difficult to do.  In fact, one of the ways is so simple that it takes no effort on your part to do it.   The 3 ways are 1. Do nothing and let nature save them for you, 2. Put some more effort into it, to save the seeds, and the last option is to 3. Maximize your chances of saving the seeds for multiple years.  These tips can be applied to any type of tomato such as cherry, roma, big beef, brandywine and many more different tomato varieties.  Let’s get into the dirt of saving tomato seeds and saving them like a Green Thumb Gardener.

Find out some reasons on why saving tomato seeds will help you craft the perfect BLT sandwich. Click to Tweet

Tomato Seed Saving Benefitssaving tomato seeds for next year

Ever see a BLT sandwich where you see this draped over the side, almost blood red thick tomato.  You might get on your phone and google, “Best tomato plant ever”.  You check the search and notice that there is an endless supply of tomato varieties.  You quickly realise this is going to take some time finding the perfect one.  Is it worth it?  Let’s find out some reasons on why saving tomato seeds will help you craft the perfect BLT sandwich.

  • Endless variety of tomatoes – There are over 10,00 tomato cultivars if you can believe that.  There are probably way more than that if you also count the cross-pollinated tomato plant varieties.  You may find that your are challenged to build your tomato seed catalog.  Well, you will have a diverse bounty of tomato varieties to choose from.
  • Starting from Seed can be expensive – Tomato seed packets prices range anywhere from $1-$7.95 depending on the number of seeds you want.  You might be a bold gardener and want to grow 7 different varieties in your garden each year and cycle through the types.  Well, saving seeds each season will help defray the cost every year.  You can even trade seeds for free if you really want to really build a collection and save more money.
  • Adapted to your garden – You know the old saying, “Only the strong will survive”.  Selecting the best plants and tomatoes from your actual garden will ensure that you get the best and healthiest plants.  These tomatoes thrived in your mini ecosystem, so their offspring should also perform the same or better as nature’s woven secret is to adapt, survive, and thrive

What About Supermarket Tomato Seeds?

You might be tempted after reading this to go out and save some tomato seeds from one of the supermarket tomatoes.  In fact, it is encouraged to try some of tomato seed saving methods with one of your glorious supermarket tomatoes.  You need to understand that these types of tomatoes may not cultivate in to healthy tomato producing plants next year if grown from seed.  Trust me, I have tried experiments of this, so I want to save you the trouble and disappointment.  The plants start out great and look like every other healthy tomato plant.  You quickly realise no tomato flowers are forming that after months of watering them and feeding them.

You need to stick with certain types of tomatoes to ensure you get what you want.  It is not recommended using any from the supermarket to start this even if it is organic.  Commercially grown tomatoes are usually not one the tastiest tomatoes.   They are grown to be transported and usually picked when they are just a shade of color to allow them to ripen later.  Your more high end supermarkets and farmers market may have the right type of tomato you need, but why chance it.

Get any of these types of tomato plants or seeds below to plant in your garden to ensure you will have success growing tomatoes from seeds.

  1. Heirloom tomatoes–  Wikipedia defines them  as an “..old cultivar of a plant used for food that is grown and maintained by gardeners and farmers, particularly in isolated or ethnic minority communities of the Western world.”  These plants may have been passed down from generation to generation.  Maybe you can pass these on to your children someday.  Wouldn’t that be a cool story.
  2. Open-pollinated tomatoes – plants that are pollinated with the same variety -either by itself or another plant.  Roughly, these tomato plants stay the same and have the same characteristics through each planting.

Take note that heirloom tomato plants are always open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirloom.  Say that 3 times fast.

Tomato Seed Saving Tactic#1

Let nature take its course and leave the tomato plants to reproduce on its own.  – This has got to be the easiest & laziest method of them all.  There are so many different task that you need to do in the fall time and it is starting to get cold and maybe rainy out.  There is nothing wrong with just leaving a few tomatoes out there and see what happens next year.  We all have a few tomatoes that never make it to the plate and escape our gripe.

This tomato seed technique is for:

  • Lazy gardener– no shame in just letting things will they fall, let nature take over saving your tomato seeds.
  • Busy gardener– you might have a huge garden and there are so many other tasks you need to do other than saving that one variety of plant.

Tomato Seed Saving Tactic #2

Cut your tomatoes open and just scoop out the seeds.  Let them dry out and save them as they are. You can try this method as it is just a step up from the first one.  We have grown a few plants like this and they do just fine despite what garden experts say.  The only caveat to this is they can spoil, they smell, and only last maybe a year or so.  You might want to use this option only if you plant them next year and have a ton of them.

This tomato seed technique is for:

  • Part time gardener– You love growing tomatoes, but ain’t got time to follow thru.  Scoop, dry, and save the tomato seeds.
  • Short-term gardener – You know that you will grow this same tomato plant next year because you loved it so much
Full time Gardener..You garden like a BOSS and certainly have your Green Thumb Click to Tweet

Tomato Seed Saving Tactic #3

Cut your tomatoes open, scoop out the seeds, ferment them, rinse and dry them. Boom, you are done.  This way really only has one more step which is to let the tomato seeds ferment for a few days. You basically just scoop them out and put into a jar, add a little bit of water and let them sit around for a few days until they smell pretty sour.

The reason that you take this extra step is because the tomato is encased in a gelatinous sack.  This gel inhibits the seed germination.  This process also has the added benefit of killing many tomato diseases.  This extra step will also allow you to save your seeds for many years if stored properly.

This tomato seed technique is for:

  • Full time gardener– You garden like a boss and certainly have your green thumb.  You have patience and love to save your tomato seeds every year.  You probably have a fairly large collection of seeds
  • Prepper – You garden like your life depended on it.  Nothing goes to waste and you save as much as you can because it is just insurance needed for survival.

As you can see, it could not be any simpler saving tomato seeds with any of these tactics.  The most important tactic is just the one you do to get saving seeds.  Let us know in the comments below what type of gardener you are.

Be like Popeye: Growing Spinach in Containers

a few months ago

Growing Spinach in Containers- Popeye Edition

Imagine being a sailor on a ship like Popeye.  You remember he had a strange addiction to eating spinach.  Popeye increased his strength from a wonderful green that is dense with nutrients.  Could you blame the guy,  spinach is a superfood.  How would he be able to eat an endless supplies of Spinach if there were no cans?  He might turn to growing spinach in containers as a way to become a Green Thumb Gardener.  Growing spinach in containers or pots is a great way to get your greens if you are limited on space or sailing the ocean.  You will learn the basics of growing spinach from seeds that can also be applied directly in your garden.

Growing spinach in containers or pots starts with selecting a container that is at least 12 inches deep as spinach has a large taproot. You want to place your container in a spot that gets anywhere from 4-6 hours of sun.  Next, you will need humus loose soil that is rich in nitrogen and in a pH range of 6.5-7.5.  You want to direct sow spinach in your container as it does not transplant well and space them about 4 inches apart for a total 9 plants in a square foot area.

growing spinach in containersGrowing Spinach Basics

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) comes from the Amaranthaceae family.  There are really only 2 types of spinach plants – smooth leaf and savoyed leaf.  Both types of spinach grow well in containers or pots.

The smooth leaf type are the baby spinach leaves in your supermarket.  They are much easier to clean and store, so commercial growers typically grow this spinach variety.  The savoyed spinach variety is the crinkly leaved one type.  This spinach variety tends to bolt much slower and stands up to the much more temperature weather (check your spinach seeds packets for specific instructions though).

Spinach is one of those cool weather crop that produces vast amounts of nutrient rich healthy dark greens.  This is the crop that you want to concentrate your efforts on in the fall time and early spring time.  Most spinach plants don’t do well in the summer or hot conditions, so you might want to wait until the other seasons to plant.  You can find some slow bolting spinach varieties that might give you a better crop in late Spring/early summer, but it will be limited.

Depending on your climate conditions, it can also survive through the winter if far enough in its growth cycle.  Ok, so you heard that growing spinach from seed is best during the spring and fall.  Let’s dive into why it is so beneficial to grow spinach in containers.

Benefits of Growing Spinach from Seed in containers

You just started gardening this past summer or maybe you want to be a gardener.  You grew your first successful tomato from seed and maybe some cucumbers in the blazing summer.  Its getting late in the summer and your harvest is slowly waning.  You really caught the Green Thumb and itching to grow some other vegetable from seed during the fall.  Why not grow spinach from seed?

Here’s a few other reason on why to add planting spinach seeds to your next garden project:

  • Spinach is packed with nutrition.  According to healthline, “By weight, spinach consists of 91.4% water, 3.6% carbs and 2.9% protein. There are 23 calories in 100 grams (3.5 oz) of spinach.”  Wow, no wonder why Popeye loved this stuff.  Its good for the muscles.
  • Spinach is an excellent source of Vitamin K – Speaking of nutrition these smart guys say it helps with bones.. “minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus also help in building up strong bones.”  Who doesn’t want to build strong bones?
  • You can fit 9 plants in a square foot area.  We all know that once you start planting, you want to plant more.  This is one of those plants that can be packed in a tight spot and doesn’t get greedy with real estate.
  • Planted in early spring and fall means less pests.  You know how it goes during the summer.  Fighting off aphids, horn worms, and every other critter who wants a meal.  Planting spinach in containers during these season eliminates most of these bugs.
  • Get your Green Thumb in the winter – You heard it, spinach plants can actually be grown during the winter.  You may need a small cold frame or some type of covering to grow spinach in containers during really frigid weather.
Get your Green Thumb in the winter. You heard it, spinach plants can actually be grown during the winter Click to Tweet

Steps to Growing Spinach in Containers

Materials to grow Spinachgrowing spinach in pots

  • Potting soil – that is ideally very loose, full of hummus or compost, packed with a moderate amount of NPK
  • Container of pot that is at least 12′ (31 cm) deep – spinach does have a large taproot (or central root) that extends deep
  • Spinach seeds – You can’t grow spinach without these.  Sheer will doesn’t work.  Click here for the type we grow that does well in our garden.
  1. Grab your container.  You want a 12″ inch container because the spinach plant does grow somewhat deep.  You can get away with smaller containers, but it may be a little stunted.
  2. Add enough potting soil to fill it up.  Make sure you have really loose soil as this is key to growing spinach.  Soil that is too compact will slow down the growth since spinach roots like to breath.
  3. Mix in your amendments such as compost or fertilizers that you want.  Spinach needs a balanced supply of nutrients.  You won’t have to do any supplemental feedings if you supply it right from the start.
  4. Determine where you want to place each seed.  Ideally, you can fit about 9 plants in 1 square foot space.  You want to place the spinach seeds about 4 inches (11 cm) apart.  You can draw a grid and mark a spot in the middle to help you get a good placement strategy.  Refer to the back of your spinach seed packet for some specific guidelines.
  5. Place each seed in the hole you indented in step 3.  The spinach seeds should be at a maximum depth of about 1/2″ (13 mm).
  6. Water them generously.  Spinach seeds take about 7-14 days to germinate.  You may see them germinate a little sooner if the weather is warmer.
  7. You don’t need to add any fertilisers as long as you added your slow release fertilisers when you first planted.  Spinach can taste metallic if you add too much nitrogen as it grows.  Just let your compost do its thing.

Here is a video that show you the steps of growing spinach from seed in your containers:

Best Place to Grow Spinach from seeds

You got your perfect container and filled it up with some potting soil.  Planted your spinach seeds in your container and watered it.  Where do you need to grow them for the largest yield so you can be like Popeye? Trust me, you can grow spinach just about anywhere.  A garden location, a porch, or even a tucked away area will work if you get at least 4 hours of sun.   Let’s look at each season to know where its best.

  • Spring– Spinach grows best in a sunny to partial shade spot if you plant them in early spring.  4-6 hours of direct sun is the best.  It is still pretty cool out in most areas, so there is no need to worry about it bolting.
  • Summer – You might want to be daring and you planted some crops late spring because you just like spinach (try malabar spinach for summers).  It is best to place these guys in a shaded location to minimize the bolting potentials.
  • Fall – This time of year is the best to grow spinach from our experience.  Place these spinach plants in full sun before it becomes winter to get a bountiful harvest.
  • Winter – You will need as much sun as possible since the days are shorter.  You can even put these guys up in a cold frame or greenhouse to survive frigid conditions.  Check out Eliot Coleman’s book here as he is the master of growing veggies in any climate.

Really the best way to grow spinach in containers is to just get started.  Your thumb will only turn green when you get dirty.  Just get out there and plant what you have, where you can, and make the best of it.  Take notes of what worked, what didn’t work, and experiment as much as possible following the guidelines above.

Let us know in the comments below what Spinach plants you grew and what time of year you.  We always like hearing the garden experiments that are outside the norm.

Really the best way to grow spinach in containers is to just get started. Your thumb will only turn green when you get dirty. Click to Tweet

Growing Lettuce in Containers (2 Simple & Easy Ways)

a few months ago

In this video Jeremy Starke from Green Thumb Gardener shows all about growing lettuce in containers or pots. He takes you the various steps of selecting the right soil for growing lettuce and demonstrates 2 different ways about how to plant lettuce seeds.

You will also the best way to grow lettuce from seed in a few easy steps that can be applied to growing in a container, pot or directly in your garden.

In this video you will learn all the basics of growing lettuce in containers or pots. You will also learn you will also learn about growing lettuce from seed in containers. These are some simple ways on the best way to grow lettuce.

You can apply these techniques if you are growing in containers or pots as well as growing in your garden. You can grow anything from Romaine lettuce too Mesclun or Arugula. Anyone can learn how to grow lettuce including your children as it can be so much fun.

One of the simple ways of growing lettuce in containers is to just get started with what you have. You will find that growing lettuce can be a rewarding fun gardening adventure where you get some Romaine lettuce to eat.

QUESTION- Have a question about growing lettuce in containers or how to grow lettuce? Post in the comments section of below your lettuce growing questions!

Check out our comprehensive lettuce guide here

Salad Bowl Goodness: Growing Lettuce in Pots or Containers

a few months ago

Lettuce Growing Guide- Growing Lettuce in Pots

lettuce growing guideHave you ever wondered what fresh taste like?  Do you get sticker shock looking at some of the microgreen prices at the market?  Want to add color to your dinner plate?  Growing lettuce in pots is an easy way to bring the farm fresh nutrition to your table for pennies.  We will get to know that leafy vegetable that serves well on a cold plate.  You might even learn some trivia answers for Jeopardy..who knows?  You can learn simply how to grow lettuce by beefing up your knowledge.  Let’s get you making gourmet lettuce salad like a boss or maybe for your boss.

Growing lettuce in pots is so simple and easy to do.  It starts with 2 simple optimal growing materials, a pot or container of about 6-12 inches and richy loamy soil that holds moisture well.  Next, you plant your desired lettuce plant seeds, either by broadcast the lettuce seeds or selective plantings.  Add water to keep lettuce moist throughout its growing period.  The lettuce pot or container does best in a location that gets 3-6 hours of sun per day & prefers cooler weather.

These tips are geared towards growing lettuce in pots, but they can also be used to learn about how to grow lettuce in a garden bed as well.  We will sneak in a few tips of growing lettuce anywhere.  Really though, the best way to grow lettuce is to simply start with what you got.

The Legacy of Lettuce

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) started out as a weed for the Egyptians until Whole Foods opened up in their neighborhood.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Lettuce grew in popularity in ancient Roman and Greece.  You know think Romaine Lettuce or Caesar salad.  That’s where these lettuce common names originated.

Lettuce was even used as an herbal medicine “as a treatment for pain, rheumatism, tension and nervousness, coughs and insanity“.  The Egyptians even thought of lettuce to help with sexual prowess.  Serve up your oysters on a bed of lettuce greens next time if you are feeling in the mood.  Think viagra in your salad bowl.

Lettuce has made its way around the world throughout the ages and has even been grown out of this world.  Yes, the International Space Station astronauts practiced growing romaine lettuce while hurtling through space at 17 thousand miles per hour.  Romaine lettuce made its way into the bellies of astronauts after growing under red, green, and blue LEDs.  I guess potatoes were grown on Mars, so lettuce was also a logical choice.  Oh wait, that was just in a movie.

Lettuce has made its way around the world throughout the ages and has even been grown out of this world. Yes, the International Space Station astronauts practiced growing romaine lettuce...

Any Gourmet Chefs out there

Growing lettuce in pots has got to be one of the easiest and fool proof vegetable gardening crops to grow.  Here’s a few other benefits of growing your own lettuce in containers.

  • Garden Space Saver & Convenience – You can grow lettuce in pots or containers to maximize your gardening space.  The containers only take up maybe 1 square foot of space.  You can fit a ton of lettuce greens in a small pot.  We also love growing lettuce in containers so it is close to our kitchen.
  • Cost effective – A packet of lettuce seeds costs $1-2 bucks.  Organic lettuce microgreens cost $7 and is not as fresh.  You only need to a small pot, dirt, and water.  Maybe a little fertiliser to promote faster growth, but it doesn’t take much to get tasty lettuce greens.
  • Gourmet Lettuce variety – check out any seed catalog and you will find an endless supply of every imaginable lettuce green. Red Romaine lettuce, Royal Oakleaf, Red Velvet, and Bibb lettuce are just some of the most colorful varieties of lettuce that you will find.  Maybe you can start your own lettuce farm and sell them to local restaurants

How do I start to grow lettuce in Potshow to grow lettuce

Let’s get into the nitty gritty step on how to grow lettuce in pots or a container.  This is the most epic step by step lettuce loving growing guide.  We need to gather a few simple materials to ensure lettuce leafy green bliss.

Materials needed:

  • 6″-12″ deep Pot or container– Ideally you need something that is at least 6-12 inches deep to be most successful to grow lettuce.  You can grow it in a small container for some varieties, but some lettuce plants have deep roots.  Sticking with a 12″ pot is probably the best.
  • Rich Loamy potting soil – The best soil for growing lettuce in pots is a blend that will hold moisture well.  Lettuce needs to have an ample supply of moisture to keep it in check.  You don’t want dried out soil.  Stick with your bag of potting soil from the local store.  You can also make your own with regular soil, lots of compost, peat moss and vermiculite or perlite.
  • Slow release fertilizers (optional) – You may skip this if you purchase soil that already has these amendments added.  Growing lettuce requires a good amount of NPK nutrients, so you want to ensure they have an ample supply of fertilizer from the start.  Check out this post here if you want some other helpful hints about container fertilizer choices.
  • Lettuce Seeds – You can’t grow lettuce in pots without these.  Trust me I tried.  Head to your local store and look for the salad bowl lettuce variety.  Its a packet of seeds that has a mix of different lettuce plants that are usually colorful.  You can also get something on amazon such as these here.  See our comprehensive list of lettuce varieties below

Steps to Grow Lettuce in pots:

  1. Mix your fertilizer with your soil medium. It may be easier to mix this in a bigger container or wheelbarow prior to add to your pot.
  2. Add your mixed potting soil to your pot or container.  You need to have at least 6-12 inches of soil to allow for lettuce roots to grow.  You might be able to get away with a little less, but your lettuce might not grow as big or flourish.
  3. Broadcast seeds or plant them apart according to your lettuce varieties requirements (usually found on the packet of seeds).  You can have them closely together for continuous harvests of smaller greens (ie. salad bowl variety) or you can allow them more space to get bigger (ie. Romaine Lettuce).  Keep it simple and just broadcast them in your pot or container for ease if this is your first go around.
  4. Next, you want to lightly cover your seeds with up to 1/2″ of sifted soil.  The optimal depth for growing lettuce is about 1/4- 1/2 inch.
  5. Lightly water the top inch of soil once your lettuce seeds are covered.  You want to moisten the lettuce seeds enough to promote & ensure optimal germination conditions.
  6. The lettuce seeds typically germinate in about 7-14 days depending on the variety.  It will take less time to sprout in warmer temperatures or if the soil temperature is higher than 65 degrees
  7. We recommend to let the lettuce sprout and grow for 5-10 days before you add liquid fertilizer to your lettuce plants.
  8. You can harvest lettuce as early as 2-3 weeks if you want microgreens for some varieties.  Check your seeds packet to find out the recommended harvest time.  Typically, it is about 30 days for most types of lettuce

Here is a step by step video guide on how to grow lettuce in pots or containers:

Where is best place to keep my lettuce in Pots

This answer can vary depending on what you want to grow and how fast you want the lettuce plants to grow.  Most lettuce plants need at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.  It will still grow with a little less sunlight, but it will be longer to harvest and they may be a little leggy.  We have successfully grown lettuce with about 3 hours of sun on our back patio that is covered with trees.  We prefer to start the lettuce pots in a location about  5-6 hours and then move them to our patio once they have grown bit.

Just keep in mind that lettuce prefers full sun if you want to have the best yield.  Partial sun is ok if you don’t mind waiting or you want to keep things simple.  A good practice is to also keep them in the shade during the summer to help prevent the lettuce from bolting.  Another bonus of growing lettuce in pots is you can easily move them around for this situation.

When is the best time to plant Lettuce

You can pretty much grow lettuce year round with some caveats.  Lettuce plants will bolt or go to seed when the days are longer (think summertime) and the heat increases.  This time of year is the signal for most varieties of lettuce plants to start reproducing.  This is key to know because you may find that the lettuce starts to taste bitter as it gets hotter out.  We move our plants in the shade or plan for this in our garden during this time.

It is recommended to plant them outdoors in the spring and fall seasons as this is the best time to get a long harvest.  You can plant them in the summer if you look for certain varieties that say “slow to bolt” or “heat resistant”.  They will still eventually bolt, but you may get a smaller harvest of them.  You will know when they are not as edible when the lettuce leaves taste bitter.  You may also see a stalk shoot up.

You can pretty much grow lettuce year round with some caveats. Lettuce plants will bolt or go to seed when the days are longer (think summertime) and the heat increases.

Varieties of Lettuce to Grow

Here is a list of the different varieties of lettuce that you can plant.  They are grouped in the 4 main varieties of lettuce: Leaf Lettuce, Romaine (Cos), Butterhead & Bibb, and Crisphead (Iceberg types).  These types are also best for heirloom or open pollinated plantings to ensure you can save these seeds for planting future lettuce crops.

Leaf Lettuce

growing lettuce in pots

  • Black Simpson Seeded Simpson – light green crinkled lettuce leaves have a crisp flavor.  Very old and popular heirloom lettuce variety.
  • Oakleaf – deeply lobSugar Sed green leaf variety that does well in the heat.  Very popular heirloom from 1800s
  • Deer Tongue– triangular shaped leaves
  • Salad Bowl – Tender, crinkly lime-green leaves.  Slow to bolt and heat resistant variety
  • Grand Rapids – Frilled and crinkled light green leaves

Romaine (Cos) Lettuce

  • Cimmaron – Deep burgundy lettuce heads that is extremely flavorful with a tender, crisp texture.  Very old lettuce variety since around 18th century.  May also be called “Little Leprechaun”
  • Parris Island (Cos) – Slightly crinkled medium green leaves that are fairly loose.  Its a staple in our gardens during late spring because it is slow to bolt and heat resistant.
  • Red Romaine – Red heads that blend into a green body.  Very exotic looking lettuce romaine with a tart flavor
  • Freckles– Very different looking lettuce with beautiful green leaves with speckles of burgundy.  Very unique lettuce if you can find it

Butterhead & Bibb Lettuce

  • Tom Thumb – Lettuce heads are very small with crinkled green leaves and sweet flavor. Been around in early 1800s and was a staple in English gardens.
  • Summer Crisp -Has a large loose head of lettuce with crisp leaves and excellent fresh flavor
  • Cherokee – Dark almost burgundy red color.  It is slow to bolt variety of lettuce
  • Bibb BS – Outer leaves are thick and dark green colored and the inner are pale green to an almost golden color.  Does not tolerate heat.
  • Rossima – Deep red rose leaves with some green backs.  Leaves texture is a blistered feel and the taste is sweet and mild.

Crisphead (Iceberg types)

  • Iceberg – Have compact medium pale green heads that is heat tolerant.  This is what you may find in most supermarkets and wedge salads.
  • Great Lakes – Slightly crumbled leaves that adorn a large head.
  • Crispino – Green and slightly glossy looking lettuce that has a firm head and mild flavor.
  • Summertime – Tender and tasty green leaves that resist tip burn.  This is an excellent choice for hot weather and summer season.

Lettuce Planting & Growing Guide

Sowing Lettuce

  • Planting depth: 1/4″-1/2″ (6-13 mm)
  • Soil Temperature: 40-60°F (40-60°C), tough to germinate above 68°F (20°C)
  • Germination Period: 7-14 days
  • Sow Outdoors: As soon as soil can be turned and worked over
  • Sow indoors: 4 weeks prior to transplanting

Growing Lettuce

  • Range of pH: 6.5-7.0
  • Best soil temperature: 55-65°F (13-18°C)
  • Water requirements: Light to moderate
  • Light: Full sun is optimal for the best yield, but does tolerate partial sun light
  • Nutrients Requirements:
    • Nitrogen (N)= high;
    • Phosphorus (P) = high;
    • Potassium (K) = high

What next?

Ok, so you want to be like an astronaut and grow lettuce in pots.  You selected some heirloom variety of lettuce from the 1800s.  You bought your pot or container and filled it with some loamy soil. Your seeds have been broadcast and you were successful growing tasty lettuce greens.  So what’s next.. Well, you can complete the circle of life by saving the lettuce seeds.  The steps to save lettuce are really simple.  Check out this seeds saving guide here.

Growing Sugar Snap Peas on a Trellis (Easy & Simple Guide)

a few months ago

Growing Sugar Snap Peas on a Trellis (Easy & Simple Guide)

In this video Jeremy Starke from Green Thumb Gardener teaches about growing sugar snap peas. He shows you some techniques with planting sugar snap peas in your garden, but it can be applied to containers too. These same techniques are also helpful for growing snap peas, peas, & snow peas. Planting sugar snap peas

 

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds – Saving Sunflower Seeds (Easy Way)

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds – Saving Sunflower Seeds – We show you an easy way to harvest your sunflower seeds that you can plant or eat. Saving sunflower seeds is a great way to learn some seed saving techniques.  Best seeds saving envelopes can be found here

In this video Jeremy Starke from Green Thumb Gardener shows you how to harvest sunflower seeds for saving. Saving sunflower seeds will allow you to replant sunflowers for next year or you can eat certain varieties. These techniques can be applied for the giant mammoth sunflowers or the small & medium sized sunflowers. Get your kids involved in harvesting sunflower seeds. It one of the easier ways to save seeds.

You can harvest the sunflower seeds either 2 different ways:

  1. Cut off the sunflower head after the flower dies back and then scrape off the sunflower seeds. You would need to let the sunflower seeds dry out a bit after you harvest them.
  2. Cut the sunflower head off and let it dry out in the sun. This is the lazy way to harvest sunflower seeds. The sunflower seeds will easily pop out once it is completely dried.

QUESTION- Have a question about harvesting sunflower seeds or saving sunflower seeds to plant next year? Post in the comments section below! Saving sunflower seeds could not be easier to do.

Regrow Lettuce: How to Harvest & Store Lettuce Seeds (2 Easy Ways)

Regrow Lettuce: How to Harvest & Store Lettuce seeds.

This is a simple way to collect & save seeds to regrow lettuce for the next season or later. You can find the envelopes that I store & save the lettuce seeds in here

Check out another video about this here

Lettuce or Lactuca sativa shows signs of going to seed when it starts to taste more bitter and starts to grow a long stalk.  This is the perfect time to think about regrowing lettuce. You can easily turn the bitterness in a signal to harvest lettuce seeds. You will love to store lettuce seeds to plant them next season.

Growing romaine lettuce from seeds is a cool way to introduce your children to gardening. The romaine lettuce plant is really easy to start from seed. This video will show you how easy it is to save seeds & teach your children to do this.

QUESTION- Have a question about how to regrow lettuce or how to harvest & store lettuce seeds? Post in the comments section of this post!

In this video, Jeremy Starke from Green Thumb Gardener shows you a really simple way to regrow lettuce. He goes over how to harvest & store Lettuce seeds. This is a simple way to collect seeds to regrow lettuce for the next season or later. Seed Saving lettuce is a great way to start your seed saving adventures. These seeds saving tips are really easy to follow so you can regrow lettuce next year.

Let me know what other way vegetables you want to see taught about seed saving.  What types of lettuce seeds are you saving for next season?  Let me know in the comments below.  Please also SHARE this lettuce seeds saving post with anyone whom loves to save seeds.  This is such a simple way to save seeds.

Growing Carrots in Containers Live Update

a few months ago

Growing Carrots in Containers Live Update

Jeremy Starke from Green Thumb Gardener gives you an update on the progress of growing carrots in a container.  The actual carrots that were grown can be found here.  Check out the original video of growing carrots in a container here.  Jeremy goes over the entire process from selecting the best soil for growing carrots, selecting the correct container to plant carrots, and the actual planting of the tiny carrot seeds in the pots.

He shows you the 4-5 week progress update on growing carrots in a container.  You get to see how large the carrot plant is and what the next steps are.  Jeremy also discusses how to thin the carrot plants and some other optimal carrot growing container tips.

QUESTION- Have a question about growing carrots in a Containers? Post in the comments section of this post!