Vermicomposting

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID 

This is the system I use for vermicomposting.  http://www.wormwigwam.com

I’d recommend not using the large commercial ones. You can usually find systems on craigslistt cheap, from retirees who bought into them to make some retirement money.

A worm360 is great for home use, but to produce enough castings for a small farm operation you want to go somewhat bigger. Get a reliable source of rabbit, horse, goat, sheep manure to feed your worms (no chicken… too hot). Also, tap into your local coffee shops and get coffee grounds. Worms love them. You can also get bags and bags of veggies and scraps from Blimpies, Subway and sub shops. Just talk to the managers. But unless you are producing 50 lbs. or more of castings a day, (100 lbs. of worm population) then you may not want to tap into that resource.

Most newsprint (not on glossy paper) is printed with soy inks these days, so don’t worry if some newspaper has a little color ink. Soaked and shredded cardboard works great too. So does coco coir. Soaked fall leaves and straw are good bedding too. Worms will double population under good breeding conditions every 3-4 months. If you are starting with just 1 lb. of worms, it will take a while to get your population up to where they are producing a lot of castings. Consider an investment of 10 lbs .or more to start if you have the bins and space. I started with 15 lbs. and currently run about 50 lbs. of worms in my bins.

Here are a few links for you wanna-be worm farmers.

http://www.wormdigest.org/
http://www.acmewormfarm.com/vermiculture2.html

worm bin plans
http://www.acmewormfarm.com/vermiculture1.html
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/worms/neighborhood/index.html
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/FilesHtml/Organics/OscrJunior.pdf
http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~compost/binplans.html

worm farming for profit:                                                                  http://www.ecologytek.com/kit1.htm

 

Cost/Benefit of Transplants

Courtesy of Bingo B., Boise ID

I’ve found that while starting your own transplants is fun, the money for starting up such an operation will be about the same as buying your starts. If you plan on doing it year-over- year then the investment will pay off, and you know what you will be getting. But for a first year, with other costs involved, I would source out your starts. What you will be saving is a lot of time. However, selling veggie starts at your farmer’s market is quite profitable and would justify the time and start-up expense.

Selling Peppers

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID 

Last year I tried selling 1/4 & 1/2 lb. bags of peppers and didn’t sell hardly any. So I switched to woven baskets with each kind of pepper labeled, and then offered them up at 3 for $1, using SPIN’s mix & match pricing.  I sold quite a few that way. This year I’ll be stringing the unsold hot peppers each week and drying them for later in the season.

 

Keeping Cats Out of Beds

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID

To deter cats, I put chicken wire down on newly tilled beds. Keeps ’em from digging.Once plants come up so does the wire. But sometimes I just leave it in until the end of that bed. You can get 24″ high rolls of the stuff cheap.

Using Onion Sets

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID

Technically, chives are a perennial and have really thin tops, from a pencil lead or a toothpick-sized leaf. Scallions are onions that are harvested small so that the bulb portion hasn’t formed yet. Some varieties of onions resist setting a bulb for quite some time and are more scallion varieties. (See Tokyo long and other oriental varieties.) The larger they get (the longer you let them grow) the more likely they’ll begin to form a small bulb. At this point they are technically called green onions. Again, if you give these enough space and time, most will grow into a large bulb onion. Of course, then there’s the short day and long day varieties that are tuned in to the amount of sun you get depending if you are in the North or South.Thoroughly confused yet? Most customers glaze over when I try to explain the difference to them.

This is my first year growing sets from seed started in pots. I plant about 25 seeds in a 4×4 pot and let them get to about 4-5″. I cut the tops at about 5″ to encourage root growth. The hope is that by early May they will be big enough to transplant out into the garden as sets.
I’m growing Walla Wallas, a purple Greek salad onion and a couple of Cipollini varieties. I’m also doing shallots this way.

Idaho has a quarantine on onion sets from outside the state so if we want unique varieties to sell we have to start from seed. There are a few bulb sets around available at nurseries, but we’re limited to “white”, “yellow” and “purple”. I planted scallion varieties and green onions from seed directly in the soil last year and they grew great.

Last year I planted “yellow” and “purple” bulb sets thick and thinned them early in the season for “green onions” leaving space for the rest to grow into big onions in the fall. It worked great.

One thing that really got attention at my market was a bag with an onion, a couple peppers and a few tomatoes. I called it a salsa in a bag kit and they sold great. This year I’m growing a lot of cilantro to enhance the bag. These were a hit when everyone at the market had tons of tomatoes and you practically couldn’t give them away.

Salsa in a Bag

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID

Last year I planted “yellow” and “purple” onion bulb sets thick,  and thinned them early in the season for “green onions” leaving space for the rest to grow into big onions in the fall. It worked great.

One thing that really got attention at my market was a bag with an onion, a couple peppers and a few tomatoes. I called it a salsa in a bag kit and they sold great. This year I’m growing a lot of cilantro to enhance the bag. These were a hit when everyone at the market had tons of tomatoes and you practically couldn’t give them away.

Converting Lawn to Cropland

Courtesy of Bingo B. Boise, ID 

Depending upon what kind of grass you have, grass can regrow itself from the live roots. Some grass varieties are more invasive than others. So just rototilling it under can actually create more grass plants in your lawn than before. Converting an existing lawn is hard work. It can be expensive too. I’ve done all of these at one point or another.

1. Rent a sod cutter and cut out the grass. Rototill after you remove the sod. Use the pieces of sod to create berms or earthen raised areas. On one garden I put an ad on craigslist and people came by and picked up the sod. On another I created a circular bench out of the sod pieces using them like bricks. The plan this year (now that all the grass is basically dead on those sod pieces) is to encase it in real bricks with a flagstone top to create a bench-like wishing well feature.
2. Hand dig out the sod. The easiest (actually it is all hard) way is with a pick using the flat side to cut up under the sod. (See #1 with what to do with the sod.) Or, you can use a flat edge shovel and cut out square pieces. Make sure you get down about 3-4″ (look to see how deep the thickest grass roots go.
3. Double dig and put the grass/sod/root piece really really deep. I’ve tried this way and still have a grass problem.
4. The “lasagna method”. Do a search in the SPIN Online Support group discussions for details or google it.
5. Solarize using clear plastic(not black). This will take about 90 days of your hottest weather and usually an entire season. You want the grass to have a nice warm environment to grow, like a greenhouse. Then when it gets really hot under there with no water they all die. It even does a good job on weed seeds too. This may take longer than you want.
6. Chemical Herbicide—uck. Not recommended.
7. Make raised beds on top of your sod with a really thick layer of cardboard or newspaper between the sod layer and your soil. You have to bring in all new soil for this one and it can be costly.