4 Cool Season Pests To Watch For

In the cool season garden, the pests that will be most likely to drive you crazy are worms, slugs, critters that visit for a midnight snack, and the weather. Today, I am going to show you how to get a plan to deal with them all. This is a season of low pest pressure, but we can’t let our guard down. Cool season pests can do serious damage!!

The first step to getting a pest plan is to raise your tolerance to insect and disease damage. There is no need to panic if there are a few spots or a few holes in a few leaves of your plants. Insect and disease problems often come and go without causing a substantial amount of damage. In a vegetable garden on Pinterest, there won’t be any munched leaves on the cabbage and cauliflower, but that just isn’t reality. Chances are, you will have holes in your leaves. And that is not a huge cause of concern.

Left unchecked, however, and insects and disease can quickly reduce or even wipe out crops we have worked hard to grow. So regular monitoring and early intervention are the key. The best techniques to reduce pest problems are proactive. Make it a point to inspect your garden every day, at least in the mornings, preferably morning and evening, to know what is going on.

One of the best defenses against pest problems is to keep your plants in tip top condition through good culture. A healthy, vigorous plant is usually more resistant to disease and withstands insect attack better. Good culture includes proper spacing when planting, and planting the right plant in the right location where it receives the proper soil, drainage, water, light and nutrients.

LSU Ag Center

Starting off right is the best way to help your garden through the season. We focus so much on spacing and soil building and sunlight, and this is why! Now, it isn’t a guarantee because we are dealing with nature of course, but this is a great first step. Now let’s talk about specific pests and how to deal with them.

Worms in the Garden…And Not The Good Kind

In the warm season, army worms and horn worms wreak havoc on our summer veggies. In the cool season we will deal with cabbage worms. They act the same way as an army worm. The come meaning business and are very hungry. These worms make the leaves of your plants look so raggedy and drive gardeners crazy.

These are the two most common cabbage worms we will see this season, and believe it or not, the easiest way to get rid of them is to just pick them off. Generally, you can get rid of them before they do too much damage if you are inspecting at least once a day. Some signs to look for are always black or green residue on the leaves. When you see that, you know that a worm is close by. You will also sometimes see their web. The leaf will be rolled over with webbing inside of it. If you see this, pry open the leaf and you will most likely find a worm inside.

There are a couple ways to get rid of them. Picking them off is gross, but it is very efficient. You can also hose them off of your plants. Chickens love to eat them, so if you pick them off, pass them along to the chickens for a little treat!

PREVENTION

Companion planting is the key to prevention for fall worm invasions. Planting marigolds and nasturtiums really help out in the pest control department. The worms LOVE these plants , so they will wreak havoc on nasturtiums, particularly, but will leave your brassicas alone. AND, the spiders feast on the larvae (worms) that are all over the nasturtium, keeping them from coming back next year! Companion planting is key!

You can also use Dipel Dust to kill any infestation of caterpillar that you can’t seem to get rid of. Remember, in order for this to work, the worms must ingest the dust. This is only a good remedy for worms you are seeing. If you aren’t seeing worms, but you are seeing munching, you may have another pest problem.

Slugs and Snails In The Garden….Harmless? No Way!

Slugs are one of the most common garden pests during the cool season, and facing a slug infestation is serious business, filled with slime trails, damaged leaves, and missing seedlings. The truth is that organic slug control is both manageable and affordable, when you’re armed with the right tools. Here is how to deal with these garden gobblers.

Now that the weather is cooling off, the slugs will begin coming out for a midnight snack more often. Garden slug control can be difficult because many times the problem is misdiagnosed and the damage is blamed on another garden pest. Since slugs feed primarily at night, gardeners tend to notice the damaged plants, but they can’t find the culprit when they search the garden during the day. So, the cause of the damage becomes a mystery and the gardener might choose to spray the plant with a general insecticide in an attempt to kill the bug, which is useless, of course, against a slug.

So what do you do?? You have to get smarter than them. If you have had damaged leaves on your plants, but aren’t seeing any worms, you may have slugs coming to visit. If you are gardening in raised beds, the chances of slugs finding your plants are less, but if you have been spraying your lawn for cabbage moths in the last few weeks and now you have vegetable damage, you may have inadvertently driven the slugs to your garden. Here are some signs:

• If you come out to the garden in the morning and nothing remains of your seedlings but leaf mid-ribs and stumps, slugs are a likely culprit.
• Perfect, round holes in tomatoes, strawberries, and other soft fruits can also indicate the slugs are coming by.
• Ragged holes in leaf edges and centers is another sign of slugs.
• Slime trails on plants, walls, rocks, or mulch are another tell-tale sign of slug troubles.

PREVENTION

Seeing any of these signs?? Let’s talk about how to test the waters to see if you may have a slug problem. It is easier than you think. Next time you snack on a citrus fruit like a satsuma, unpeel the rind carefully so you can keep one bowl-shaped half in tact. Poke a hole that’s large enough for a slug to fit through, and then sit the fruit upside down like a dome in a shallow pan of soapy water in your garden. The sweet scent will lure slugs in, distracting them from their usual meal: your plants. If a predator doesn’t get to them first, you will have a nice dish of dead slugs in the garden the next morning. You can also use this same idea with beer. Just leave out the satsumas and fill the pan with beer instead of soapy water. The kicker here is that you will need to place several pans out. I like to use tuna fish cans or cat food cans. These are just the right size. Fill them up and cross your fingers.

One of the best ways to prevent slugs from coming to your garden is to water in the mornings, not the evenings. Slugs and snails love a moist environment, so watering at night is like rolling out the red carpet for them!! For many reasons, not just slugs, keep the watering to a morning chore!

Other Critters To Watch Out For In The Cool Season Garden

Visitors like mice, rabbits, deer, and even skunks and raccoons will enjoy those tender baby seedlings the first night you put them out. If you are having a hard time keeping anything past a night or two, you probably have some visitors feasting on your veggies.

A few things can help with critter invasions like creating a scarecrow, or even installing a fence around your garden area. These may be things that you want to look into investing in the off season, but right now as we are just getting our gardens underway, my recommendation is to use the same method for the critters that I will suggest for temperature! You gotta cover the plants! Let’s talk about that now!

Freezing Temperatures Are The Biggest Pest of All

While worms and slugs and even pesky critters can and will do extensive damage when they pay us a visit, nothing will wipe out a garden faster than an unexpected frost or a dip down into freezing temperatures when you aren’t prepared.

Here are The Veggies That You Have To Keep An Eye On

  • any newly planted tender seedlings
  • tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumber
  • basil, mint, warm season herbs
  • pumpkins
  • okra
  • beans

If you have any of these growing now, you will want to begin making preparations for covering them now, not the day of the freeze warning. With a first frost date usually falling in early November for most of South Louisiana, we are overdue now and need to get a plan to protect our hard work.

Tip: All summer veggies should come completely out this month. Their fruit will be mushy if there is a frost, whether they are covered or not, so don’t give them any more time. Instead, plant something for the cool season in their place where your production will be so much more.

The most uniform way to protect your vegetables for both critters and frosts is to cover them. You not only need frost protection for newly planted seedlings and some veggies, but if you are seeing critters, this is a great way to protect your veggies from them at the same time. Your brassicas, leafy greens, and root vegetables are all frost tolerant, so no need to worry about them, but they are also a favorite of the overnight visitors, slugs, and worms.

Use a lightweight cloth for insect protection. This will allow sun and water to filter through, but at the same time keep the critters at bay. This is the fabric I like to use. For a frost protection fabric, choose something a little bit heavier like this, or just plan to cover newly transplanted seedlings when needed with a bed sheet, or sleeping bags work well. The only difference is that when using a sheet you will have to uncover them the following morning to allow them to get sunlight.

I hope this has been helpful to you. While there is no easy answer that will solve all of our garden woes, these very few pests will most likely be all you deal with this season. Taking measures now to stop them in their tracks will do wonders for your garden in the coming months.

Join me live for Wild Child Wednesday, every Wednesday at noon on Facebook! This week I will be sharing about getting a frost protection plan and how to know when to put it into place. It is easier than you think when you’ve got a plan!! I will also have a free handy download for you too!! I have taken all the guess work out of frosts and freezes, and I am going to help you get a plan too! Join me!!

Make Room For Tulips In Your Wild Child Garden

If you don’t want to add tulips to your backyard garden, I am not sure if we can be friends. I am just kidding, but I really, really, really want you to give tulips a try this season. I learned the trick to growing tulips about 5 or 6 years ago from a gardener friend of mine in North Louisiana. He encouraged me to try it, and asked me what I had to lose? He suggested I buy a box of them from Home Depot my first year to see how I liked it. I did. He walked me through planting and all the confusion of “refrigeration” periods, and I have never looked back. I cannot imagine not planting tulips in the fall, and I hope after you learn how to grow them, you won’t be able to imagine it either.

Tulips Basics

Tulips are grown primarily in Northern climates with very long periods of cold. We don’t have that here in South Louisiana, but we do have refrigerators, so we are in business. Tulips are refrigerated because our Louisiana winters are not cold enough for long enough to allow them to bloom properly without additional chilling. These bulbs should be refrigerated at least six weeks prior to planting, which means you need to have your tulip bulbs in the refrigerator NOW!!

Where To Buy Tulip Bulbs

For your first year growing tulips, I will give you the same advice my gardening friend Mr. Harold gave me…get some from Home Depot. They cost around $10 and have been in my garden for years!! They have a nice variety to choose from, and they have served me well.

I also have some online companies that I love to order from that I will link for you below. Beware, the options are much more than Home Depot, so you could get yourself in trouble. Remember your available space and how much of it you want to devote to tulips this year. Don’t get alot of bulbs that you won’t plant.

Here are my favorite online companies to order from

Breck’s Bulbs

Breck’s Bulbs come straight from Holland, OH MY WORD! They can really get you in trouble. I love to dream on their site though!! They have great reviews. Don’t pay attention to the gardening zones and how they say that tulips don’t grow here. Watch and see baby, is all I have to say about that!

Breck’s Bulbs

Holland Bulb Farms

Holland Bulb Farms is also another great source! They are a family owned business and are based in Milwaukee, WI. The farm was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1975. This website can also get you in trouble. There is so much to choose from.

Holland Bulb Farms

One Thing To Consider When Buying Bulbs

Tulips look better when planted in masses or groups rather than single rows. Plantings are also more dramatic when one or just a few colors are used. If several colors are used, they look so much better when planted in small groups of individual colors within the larger planting. If you purchased your bulbs prepackaged in mixed colors, you don’t have any choice of the colors and will have no way to group individual colors. Remember that. I don’t recommend buying the mixed colored bulbs. Instead, I like to buy bulbs in single-color packages and mix them the way I want them instead.

I am also a huge fan of mass plantings of one color. My first year, I planted only white, pictured below, and I absolutely fell in love!! I have added other colors since then, but white is still my favorite!

Got Your Bulbs, Now What?

The best bloomers come from pre-chilled bulbs that are planted into the Louisiana garden in late December or early January. So ordering bulbs in late October to get them in refrigerator by mid-November is ideal. You will need them in the refrigerator by early December, so get yours now!

Without 6 weeks of refrigeration, you have little chance they will bloom properly. So, as soon as you get your bulbs, place them in a paper or plastic bag punched with holes and store them in the refrigerator for six weeks or more. Don’t place bulbs near apples because they give off ethylene gas, which causes bulbs to rot.

After 6 Weeks of Refrigeration You Are Ready To Plant

If you take nothing else from this content, hear me on this. The best blooms are obtained when pre-chilled tulip bulbs are planted into the Louisiana garden in January. Here’s why: For one thing, the soil is too warm until late December. Planting your bulbs in soil that is still too warm can cancel the chilling process and lead to the bulbs blooming poorly. That is not what we want at all!! We want heavy bloomers, right? Also, bulbs planted earlier bloom earlier – as early as February – and the weather is so unsettled at that time that the flowers are more likely to be ruined by freezes and winter storms. Tulips planted in late January generally bloom in March and April when the weather is much better for blooming flowers.

Where To Plant your tulips

Plant tulips in sunny to partly shaded areas that have good drainage. Drainage is really important for all bulbs, but especially those that are in the ground during potential freezing temperatures. Plant your bulbs into beds that have been generously amended with organic matter and a light application of fertilizer.

How To Plant Your Tulips

Here in Louisiana we don’t plant spring-flowering bulbs as deeply as is recommended on the plant label. Remember, we are breaking the rules a bit to grow tulips here. We have tweak the system. Plant your tulips about 5 inches deep, spaced about 3 or 4 inches apart.

There is a trick to planting tulips that you want to know. Look carefully, and you will see that one side of the bulb is flattened. Plant the bulbs so that the flat side faces the outside edge of the raised bed or container that you are growing in. The first leaves the bulbs send up will then all face the outside, and it looks so much better!! The first year I grew tulips I didn’t know about this trick, so I spent the entire season wondering why they were all growing in different directions.

how to care for your tulips

Just keep the soil moist and enjoy the show. You have given them all they need to thrive. As long as your spot is sunny and drains well, your tulips will be gorgeous. Enjoy! Below are some tulips from last year in window boxes in my backyard. They are the best!!

Storing Bulbs For Future Seasons

The down side to growing tulips here is that they can’t stay in the ground all year. Bummer! The summer months allow the bulbs to reproduce, but we can’t have it all, I guess. So, we will take what we can get and be glad!

We will have to dig up the bulbs and store them indoors for the summer and fall. Here’s how to do it:

Lifting Bulbs

It is best to lift bulbs after blooming is finished. Then gently spade up the bulbs, being careful not to cut into the bulbs/tubers and damage them.

Drying Bulbs

Store bulbs in a well-ventilated, area until they are dry. I like to lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and leave them on the patio until they are dry. And, just let the leaves remain on the bulbs until they become dry.

preparing bulbs for storage

The bulbs should be dried for about a week before you prepare them for storage. Pull any loose any remaining foliage, shake the bulbs gently to remove any clinging soil, dust them with a fungicide powder like this to prevent rot. Then place them in unsealed paper bags or old nylon stockings with some dry peat moss to keep the bulbs from touching one another. Store them away from sunlight in a cool, dry place until next October when you can put them back in the refrigerator.


I hope this helps as you get ready to grow bulbs for a beautiful spring show of color!!

Getting Your Garden Storm Ready

We think that pests in the garden are the destroyers of our precious veggies, and they certainly can be. But, worse than a pest is a rain storm in a garden that is not prepared. With hurricane season quickly reaching its peak, now is the time to get our gardens storm ready. Here’s how to do it.

Pick! Pick! Pick!

The first thing that you must do before a storm is pick as much as you can. Picking ahead of a storm has two benefits. But first you must understand why we pick before a rain instead of after. It is because excess water is not good for veggies. When the garden is used to a certain amount of water each day, that is what it wants. When an excessive amount of rain is dumped in the garden, the roots will continue soaking it up, and the vegetables, in turn, will grow in size. While this may sound like a good deal at first, it really isn’t. Vegetables that grow in size because of water generally lack flavor and they will crack and split on the sides. Neither is appealing.

Picking before the storm is beneficial because it allows the veggies to continue ripening in a sunny window inside where conditions are more stable, and it lightens the load on those tender branches. As the rains beat down, and the fruit gets larger, the branches are forced to carry more weight. The more weight they carry, especially all of the sudden, the more chance that the branch will break. When you pick before the storm, you are guaranteed to have vegetables after the storm.

What To Pick

  • Tomatoes that are starting to turn (don’t pick green tomatoes)
  • Peppers that are the correct size, but need a few more days to soften
  • Squash and Zucchini that are a little smaller than normal, but still ripe
  • Cucumbers that are a little smaller than you’d like but still ready
  • Give herbs a good haircut before the rain
  • All cutting flowers that have bloomed and could be beaten down by the rain

Stake and Secure Plants

As the wind and rains pick up, already leggy plants can easily be blown over or pounded by the rain. This is not ideal because it is really difficult to get them to stand back up after a rain without breaking branches. The last thing a gardener wants at this point in the season is a broken branch with three or four almost ripe tomatoes on it.

Stake and secure plants even more than they already are. Overstaking is not a bad idea before a storm. Anything you can do to keep the branches from breaking in the wind and rain will be time well spent. And if you end up with a few branches that fall or end up laying down on the ground after the storm, it is probably best to just leave them for the remainder of the season. Broken branches cannot be mended, so take extreme precautions when moving them this time of the year.

Bring In All of The Garden Charm

When a storm is rolling in, do in the garden as you would on the patio. Bring in all bird feeders, bird baths, wind chimes. tables, chairs, and any other garden decorations you have to keep them safe. This is important because most likely, these accessories are items that you love. You have put them out in your happy place, so you want to keep enjoying them after the rain is over. My garden gnomes are especially important to me. While they don’t have much risk to be left out, I pack them up every time because if something happened to them, I would be heartbroken. They were my grandmother’s, and I got the entire set when she died. Going to the garden and seeing them is like going out to her backyard, where I spent so much of my childhood. I don’t want anything to happen to my gnomes, so I pick them up before a bad storm.

Hold Off On Watering

It seems a bit unnecessary to mention, but if we are about to get a lot of rain, hold off on watering. If plants are already saturated when the rains come, it will be even worse on them. Plants and veggies love consistency. Hold off on watering and let the storm do the job for you.

If you need to feed, do it right before the storm and let the rain water it in for you. This is one of the easiest ways to protect your garden in a storm.

Doing these simple things will ensure your veggies are taken care of when the storms come. A little bit of prep work ahead of time is time well spent before the rain.

You may also like:

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Nurture Others With Your Garden

Nurture the garden this month, and in turn it will nurture you right back. Then, you can nurture others. It is a beautiful harmony and the most fulfilling part of backyard gardening. Gardening brings out the best in people, and with the fruit of your labor, you can change the world.

Bring over some herbs, give away canned pickles to neighbors, share seeds with friends. This is how you bring the growing season full circle. And the cycle continues. You will be amazed at how these plants will heal your soul, and the souls of those that you share with.

Here are some ways to nurture others with the work of your hands.

Herb Bundles

One of the easiest things to share from the garden is herbs. They need to be harvested, and by now, you may be tired of them. Use what you have to spare to brighten someone’s day. Make a basil bouquet, a mint bundle, or even put together a variety of herbs and bring them to someone else to enjoy. Or have them on hand for visitors who come to you.

Photo credit @tribevantassel (Instagram)

Garden Fresh Bouquets

Cutting flowers is healing to the mind and soul. You will awaken your senses with each flower you cut. The sights and smells will bring your mind to a place of rest and comfort that cannot be overstated. When I am having a rough day, I go out to the garden and start making bouquets. There is something about bringing in these beautiful flowers that just makes things all better.

Remember to leave some flowers for the pollinators, but in the garden symphony, these companions are the most beautiful note. Bring them in to enjoy, or give them away to someone who needs their day brightened.

Spend the Morning Canning

If you have never channeled your inner Ma Ingalls, canning is a wonderful way to simplify your pantry and enjoy the fruit of your labor on a higher level. This practice is soothing and will make you so proud of what you have accomplished in the garden this season. Canning pickles or salsa or two favorites around here to share as well. My go to canning recipe for pickles and my salsa recipe can both be found here.

Supper In The Garden

One of my favorite summer time activities is supper in the garden. Whether it is on a picnic blanket or a fully set table, eating outside is a special treat all in itself. I love to nurture my family and friends by setting a beautiful table, and enjoying supper outdoors. When there is plenty, the garden repays us for our hard work by nurturing us right back with a menu fit for a king. Invite some friends over for a special evening, or just serve your family in the garden. It will make a memory for a lifetime!

Share Your Seeds

One easy way to nurture other gardeners is to share the seeds from your favorite vegetables this season. I have lots of seeds leftover from this year’s planting that I can’t wait to share with other gardener friends of mine. It is a really special thing that can brighten someone’s day when you offer an envelope of seeds and tell your friend how much you loved this variety this season. And sharing seeds is like sharing gold in a lot of ways. There is no telling whether or not the seeds from this year will be available next year. Most experienced gardeners know this, so to share something you love with them, is a big deal. It makes them feel special, and they will always remember your generosity! Changing the world one shared seed at a time!

Share Your Veggies

This goes without saying to most gardeners, but if you have never bagged up some tomatoes for a friend or neighbor, you are missing out on my favorite part of gardening. I think most gardeners would agree that giving away veggies is the most rewarding part of the growing season. To be able to make someone’s day with a bag of produce that you grew is hard to beat. If you haven’t yet, make sure you do that this week.

As gardeners, we have the ability to change the world, one vegetable at a time. And we are on the mission. By nurturing our gardens all month, we have extended the growing season well into the summer, when most gardeners have given up. As we worked to keep the soil in tip top shape, the garden in turn, nurtured us. Now, we have the opportunity to nurture others with what we have grown. It is the best feeling in the world!! Join me this week, and make someones day. Nurture their bellies and souls with a little love from your backyard!

The Wild Child Garden Club will be opening to new members on July 1st!! Don’t miss out on this coaching community!! Subscribe to my email list and receive $5/month off our your Garden Club subscription! Once you see the garden as a symphony, you will grow like you can’t believe!

Letting Go of What Isn’t Working Anymore

Giving up on a garden plant is easier said than done, but at this point in the growing season, there may be cause to let go of something in order to enjoy something better.

What Might Not Be Working In The Summer Garden

Potatoes, lettuce, greens, strawberries, and other cool season veggies are just done at this point in the season. They will not continue producing a high enough yield to make it worth while for them to stay, so you may want to consider letting them go to make room for something better.

Veggies like squash, zucchini, and cucumber are short term veggies, which in the beginning of the season is wonderful because in just about thirty days, they are producing. But in the later season, they have given just about all they’ve got. It may be time to let them go.

What Does It Mean To Let Go?

When veggies are no longer beneficial in the garden, you can cut them off at the ground, leaving the roots behind, and put them in the compost. By doing this, their job lives on as their roots become food for the soil microbes in your garden beds, and the spent plants turn into soil for next season in the compost.

Be sure to jot down when you removed each plant in your garden journal. This will help you next year as you determine how long a particular veggie will take up real estate in your garden bed.

All plants have a life cycle, so it is not something to feel guilty about or question. If you feel that a particular plant has served its purpose, let it go.

How To Know When To Let Go

When veggies begin to look dry and discolored, even after watering, and the fruit production begins to slow, it is a good indication that a veggie is spent. You may have disease or pests, or it just may be the end of this veggie’s life cycle. He has done his job and is ready to move to the compost, where he can continue to serve your garden.

The easiest way to determine whether it is time to let something go is to remember that while not everything is a crisis, if something is looking worse and worse in spite of your best efforts OR if it is no longer bringing you joy, it is time to let go. This can be different for everyone. I still have strawberries in my garden because they still bring me joy….even though I am only getting one or two strawberries a day. They plants are spent. The season is coming to an end. But they still bring me joy, so I leave them.

Gone are the days of a shirt full of strawberries.

And The Cycle Continues

It is not too late to plant something in the place of the spent veggies you remove. Squash and zucchini are great to plant in succession. Keep seeds started indoors and as you remove one plant, replace it with another that you have already growing.

Warm season veggies like okra, melons, and green beans are just starting to get going. There is plenty of time to enjoy them. Plant only transplants this time of year. It is too late to direct sow these summer favorites, but it is not too late to plant a started plant for a late summer harvest.

Finally, it is important to remember to not be afraid to remove what is no longer bringing you joy. In its place, just waiting to be planted, may just be something you really love.

Garden To Table Recipes For The Summer

Of course as a gardener, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labor. I love garden to table simple suppers. They make summer so sweet. These are some of my favorites. They are tried and true and kid approved! All just use simple ingredients and are perfect for the beginner or most advanced gardener to enjoy!

Tabouleh

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 cup cooked pearl couscous
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 purple onion or 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small cucumbers
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

This recipe is just prep and mixing! Chop all vegetables and parsley very small and add to large bowl. Cook couscous according to package and let cool. Juice lemons and set aside. When couscous is cool, add a little olive oil to the pot to loosen and add to vegetables. Add lemon juice and olive oil and stir really well. I like to use my hands. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Finally top with feta cheese and serve! Delicious!

Summer Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Ingredients

  • cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Balsamic vinaigrette or Italian dressing
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Slice and peel cucumbers and cube or quarter tomatoes. Then add to a bowl and mix with salad dressing. Add salt and pepper and serve. There is just nothing better!

Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • 10-12 medium sized jalapeno peppers
  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 lb. bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Cook breakfast sausage in a small skillet until no longer pink. Set aside. Create slit in peppers lengthwise and remove seeds. Combine sausage with cream cheese in mixing bowl. Using a small spoon, stuff cream cheese mixture into each pepper. Once all peppers are stuffed, wrap each with half a piece of bacon and place on sheet pan and cover with foil.

Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and broil to get the bacon crispy. You may need to turn the poppers over to brown the bacon underneath half way through broiling. This should only take a couple minutes, so stay close and watch it.

Once bacon is brown, serve it up!

Grilled Squash or Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 4 or more large zucchini or summer squash
  • olive oil
  • Tony’s seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Slice veggies lengthwise about 1/4″ thick and cover with olive oil. Sprinkle Tony’s and salt and pepper on the top side and lay, Tony’s side down, on a hot grill or stovetop griddle. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until you see grill marks, and turn over. Sprinkle Tony’s one more time, and cook 2-3 minutes again. Once you see grill marks, it is done! The perfect summer side dish!

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium sized banana peppers
  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Cook breakfast sausage in a small skillet until no longer pink. Set aside. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, remove stem and seeds. Combine sausage with cream cheese in mixing bowl. Using a small spoon, stuff cream cheese mixture into each pepper.

Top each pepper with a slice of mozzarella. Then place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. You may need to broil for the last 3-4 minutes if the cheese isn’t completely melted. Delicious!

Squash Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 – 9″ pie crusts
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6-8 medium summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup green onions, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sautee onions in butter until translucent, add squash. Salt and pepper to taste, add sugar, and cook 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place pie crusts in pans. In measuring cup mix mayo and eggs. Grate cheddar and mozzarella cheese and combine in a large bowl. Add green onions and mayo and egg mixture to squash. Put half of the cheese mixture in the bottom of each pie crust, leaving the other half of the cheese to top pies with.

Split the squash mixture between the two pies and finish off with the grated cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until crusts are golden brown. Enjoy!

P.S. These pies freeze perfectly. Just let them cool completely and remove from pie pan. Store in a gallon ziploc in the freezer.

Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1⁄4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups thickly shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchinis)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking pan lightly with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients (vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla) until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix it all together until just combined. Don’t over mix.

Shred the zucchini and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out any excess liquid. Fold the zucchini into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour. Cool on a wire rack until completely cool, about 30 minutes. Cut like cornbread and eat it up!

Maw Maw’s Smothered Squash

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium summer squash
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 tbsp. bacon grease
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

I still remember eating smothered squash at my Maw Maws. This is the old, classic southern recipe that is so simple and nostalgic. All you do is thinly slice 3 – 4 summer squash. Melt butter and bacon grease in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent. Then add squash. Cover the skillet and cook until squash are tender. Remove lid after a few minutes and stir. Replace the lid and cook some more. After doing this a few times, the squash will fall apart. At this point, use a large spoon to cut them up into bite size pieces as you stir. Salt and pepper to taste. If there is too much liquid, just cook a little longer without the lid. Serve it up!

Rosemary Red Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 15 or so red potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Quarter or cube red potatoes, leaving skin on and place on sheet pan. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the potatoes and toss with hands to coat the potatoes on all sides. Sprinkle rosemary and toss again. Add salt and pepper and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Yummy!!

Easy Veggie Pickling

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • a few slices of purple onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

First, wash 2 wide-mouth pint jars, lids, and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. This is important because you don’t want any bacteria to grow inside your jars once you are storing them. Dry them completely.

Wash and dry the vegetables and cut into desired shapes and sizes. Then divide the herbs, spices, or garlic you are using between the jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing.

Place the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use it all. Always remember to tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more brine if necessary.

Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings until tight. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Place each jar in the boiling water. It takes longer to do this one at a time, but it is so much easier to me. You can do them one at a time or multiple in the pot. It is up to you. Leave in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then remove them from the pot and set aside to cool. The lids must pop on every jar you store. If the lids don’t pop, you will have to refrigerate them. Store pickles at room temperature and the pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open. There is nothing like a summer pickle!

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions

Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times. Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Toss with pasta to serve immediately or store in airtight containers in the freezer.

Fresh From the Garden Salsa

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tomatoes (or 10-12 cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 quarter of a purple onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • tiny squeeze or lime

Directions

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. Pulse for just a few seconds to mix and chop everything. So easy! You don’t even have to put in the blender if you like it more fresh. In that case just chop everything and combine. In either case, when the salsa is mixed to your liking, add salt to taste. Always taste test on a chip since the chip will add salt as well.

To store, pour into a pint size jar and place the lid on the jar and screw on the rings until tight. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Place each jar in the boiling water. It takes longer to do this one at a time, but it is so much easier to me. You can do them one at a time or multiple in the pot. It is up to you. Leave in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then remove them from the pot and set aside to cool. The lids must pop on every jar you store. If the lids don’t pop, you will have to refrigerate them. Store salsa at room temperature.

You May Also Like:

Our Kitchen Gardening for Beginners course is the perfect introduction to gardening the wild child way. Once you see the garden as a symphony, everything changes. If you love these garden to table recipes, grab this course today for half off!! Then begin creating the harmony right in your own backyard that will grow with you season after season.

Enjoy 50% off of this foundational gardening course for beginners through May 31st only.
Get all of the details by clicking the image.

The Wild Child Garden Club is a community for crazy plant ladies that have all kinds of experience in the garden. Whether you have been gardening for years, or you are building your first raised bed, there is so much to learn and love in this club. We will open the doors to new members in July, and we would love to have you. To make sure you don’t miss out, get on the waiting list here.

The Garden Club will welcome new members in July for fall gardening.
Get all of the details by clicking the image!

Enjoy Some Heat Loving Plants This Summer

Some of the most popular veggies haven’t even begun to show us what they can do in the backyard garden. While some plants thrive in the milder temperatures of spring, others prefer the scorching heat of summer. Today, I want to encourage you that you may not have even begun to see what some of your plants will do, and I hope to give you some ideas of what you can plant now that will love the warmer weather to come.

Plants That Turn It On When The Weather Heats Up

Bell peppers, cucumbers, okra, melons, eggplant, basil, and mint all love the heat. So do flowers like sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos. If you haven’t been seeing much action coming from these plants, just be patient. Once it warms up they will take off.

It is also not too late to plant a lot of these as well. If you don’t have these plants in the ground, now is the time to get them planted. It is the perfect time to plant them. My favorite plants to get in the ground when the weather heats up are some of the most delicious veggies and fruit to come out of the garden….and also the easiest to grow!

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THESE IN THE GARDEN THIS SUMMER:

  • Okra
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber

And the best part is that if you plant them now, there is still plenty of time for a productive season. These are all fast growers that start producing quickly. Planting watermelons in early May will give you lots of fruit by the end of July, and cucumbers will be ready to harvest in less than 60 days.

As the weather begins to heat up, it is the perfect time to get some to these garden favorites in the ground. And to note, starting them as transplants from the nursery instead of as seeds will cut down the length of time to harvest by half. There is just no reason not to plant these heat lovers now!

Plants That Shouldn’t Be Planted Once It Warms Up

Veggies like tomatoes and peppers need a long growing season. It takes a Classic Beefsteak tomato over 100 days to be ripe for picking. If you plant in May, you won’t harvest your first tomato until August. And by then, you will be ready to get your fall garden underway and the pests will be at their peak. Other plants that prefer to be established before the weather warms up are peppers, squash, zucchini, green beans, and corn. It is simply to late to start those now for a productive season.

Don’t Forget Heat Loving Companion Plants

What would the garden symphony be without some herbs and beautiful flowers? You can read all about my favorite warm season herbs HERE, but if you don’t plant any herbs this season besides basil and mint you will be one happy gardener. Both are pollinator attractors and pest deterrents. You will need both for your organic summer garden to thrive. And now is the perfect time to plant them. Basil can be harvested just days after planting and will keep on coming all summer long. When you get tired of eating it, just leave it to flower for the bees. It is beautiful, fragrant, and irresistible to the pollinators. Mint is the wild child of the summer garden, and I love her for it. Check out my favorite things to do with fresh mint HERE, then get some planted!! You will love her too!

Sweet and Purple Basil are my favorite varieties to grow.

The cherry on top of the garden sundae is the beautiful flowers that you plant with your herbs and veggies. They will make you smile and have you wanting to be out in the garden more than you ever thought possible.

My Favorite Heat Loving Flowers

  • Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Cosmos
  • Sunflowers
  • Pentas

These flowers are perfect for bouquets that can be cut straight from the garden, and they will keep on blooming all summer long. It is like the hot weather causes them to get so excited they multiply overnight. It really does seem that way. You don’t want to miss out on this gift of the garden season. Zinnias are my all time favorite, but they are all beautiful. And nothing works harder in the summer garden than a marigold. They are the ultimate pest deterrent!!

Beautiful zinnias

May is the last chance to get anything new in the garden for summer. By June, it is time to enjoy the fruit of your labor. And by July, the fall garden plans are in full swing. We will be opening the Wild Child Garden Club to new members in July as we get ready to plant for fall, and we would love to have you in our community. If you would like to be the first to know when it opens, you can join the waiting list HERE. And if you don’t want to wait for fall, my “Kitchen Gardening For Beginners” course will teach you how to have a successful backyard kitchen garden. Using the idea that the garden is a symphony, this course will teach you in just four modules what it took me decades to learn. I first introduced it to the garden club this spring, and now I would love to share it with you. For the entire month of May this course is only $49.00. It is the perfect time to build your garden and start growing some of these heat loving veggies, herbs, and flowers to create a beautiful symphony in your backyard garden. Once you take this course you will never see organic gardening the same again. You can get all the details HERE.

A bouquet and some veggies from the garden are always included with our eggs!

Setting Up A Brooder For Your New Baby Chicks

Before you ever go to the feed store and feel the temptation to bring home all the fluffy cuteness, get supplies together and set up a brooder for your new additions. A brooder is just a fancy term for anything you make a home for baby chicks. They will live here for about 4-6 weeks before they outgrow it, so it needs to be spacious and comfortable for them, and also safe from other pets too. Here is my favorite way to set up a brooder for baby chicks.

Supplies You Need For Your Brooder

Setting Up The Brooder

The first thing you will want to do when setting up your brooder is make a way to attach the secret weapon for brooder happiness. The guinea pig waterer.

This little bottle will change your life from frustration to easy street, trust me. With a traditional chick waterer, the chicks can turn it over, get shavings in it and even use it for a bathroom, leaving you cleaning the brooder two and three times a day. If you take a little bit of time, cut out a small rectangle on the side of the Tupperware bin, and replace the plastic with a small piece of hardware cloth, you can attach the guinea pig waterer to your brooder in no time and keep clean up to a minimum.

You can see how it is done here. Screw the hardware cloth on from the inside to make sure that you don’t injure your babies. This system is a game changer. And is well worth the extra effort.

Next, fill your brooder with shavings about 2 inches deep.

Then add food to the feeder and place the feeder on one side of the brooder.

Finally attach the heat lamp to the top of the brooder and adjust it to a low position of about 6 inches from the shavings.

Understanding The Heat Lamp

In the first few weeks of life, chicken require temperatures of about 95-100 degrees. After about two weeks, you can reduce that temperature by five degrees each week until they are fully feathered. You may be wondering how to know the temperature inside the brooder. And the easy answer is that your chicks will tell you. If you chicks are huddled under the heat lamp, piled on top of each other, and making a lot of noise, they are probably cold and you will want to lower the lamp a bit more into the brooder for them. On the other hand if they are spread out in the far corners of the brooder with their wings open or panting, the brooder is too hot, so raise the lamp up immediately. Keeping your chicks warm, but not hot, is super important. They will signal you and tell you what they need from you, so keep a close eye on them for the first few days as you learn how to keep the lamp at a comfortable height for them.

Also remember this as you are taking them out to socialize them. About five minutes or so is all they can stand in the beginning. Love on them for a short period of time and get them back under the heat in their brooder.

Things That May Go Wrong

A few common ailments you may see in your chicks while they are at this delicate stage are pasty butt and lethargy. Here are some solutions to help if these concerns arise.

Pasty Butt

Pasty butt is pretty common and just as easy to fix. Because the babies do a lot of sitting and sleeping, they may end up with waste caked to their backside. This is very dangerous and can be deadly, so you want to watch for it right from the beginning. If you see this happening with one of your chicks, immediately place her in a shallow bowl of warm water and clean her up real good. You may even find that she loses a few feathers in the process. That is ok. It is just important to get her clean again. Her feathers will grow back. Be sure to dry her off really well when you get her clean. And place her right back in the brooder under the lamp.

Lethargy

Lethargy is common in chicks after they travel across the country to get to you. Then getting adjusted to their new home is just exhausting. You can help your baby chicks by adding a dose of Nutri-Drench to their water the first time you fill it. You will only need to do this one time if you use a guinea pig watering system. If you choose to go the traditional route, you will add it to the chick waterer each time you fill it, for the first week. After about a week, the chicks should be adjusted and settling in well.

Not all chicks will make the transition. It is a difficult one. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose a chick. It happens. Choosing strong and healthy chicks are one way to lessen your chances of losing one, but it may still happen, even if you do everything right.

By following these simple steps, your brooder will be a nice and clean home for your chicks’ first month or so of life until they move out to the coop.

Herbs Are For Everybody

Herbs are one of the easiest and most rewarding things to grow for a backyard gardener. Herbs can be grown with vegetables in the garden or in pots as gorgeous decoration for your porch or patio. Today, I am going to tell you all about herbs…how to grow them, how to harvest them, and how to enjoy them the whole season long.

Growing Herbs

When growing herbs, the first thing to remember is herbs and spices are not the same thing. Herbs are the green fleshy parts of the plants, and species are the seeds, bark, and stems. For example, cilantro is an herb used in many Mexican dishes. But coriander is a spice which refers to the seeds of the cilantro plant. Herbs and spices come from the same plant, but they are different parts of the plant.

Second, with herbs, a little goes a long way. Herbs are prolific. One plant is all you need of each herb you want to grow. Herbs can also be invasive. They will take over their container and smother out their neighbors, so give your herbs plenty of room, and plant them with some companions that enjoy their company.

The herbs above love warm weather and thrive in dry conditions, so make sure you plant some of these in your garden soon. You will see that they have many benefits, in addition to being delicious. Herbs are a huge part of the companion plan that has been so beneficial to my garden for so many years. Herbs will bring in the pollinators, add so much beauty to your space, and smell amazing. And they deter pests! Yes, please!!

Growing Herbs in a Container

Maybe you don’t have room in the garden for all of the herbs you want to grow. An container herb garden might be just what you need. I love to plant containers with herbs for the patio and porch. They grow voraciously and fill in so much faster than ornamental flowering plants, and they are useful. Like all plants, different herbs require different sunlight and water requirements. Below you will find a chart of my favorite herbs that grow well together. Plant these in a large pot and make a beautiful container for your porch or patio. Also, containers look amazing in raised bed gardens. They add dimension to the beds and as the herbs grow and overflow their pots the beauty will just be the cherry on top of the backyard garden.

How To Put Together An Herb Container

When arranging the herbs in your container, the first thing to think about is how tall the plants will get. You want to make sure that your pot is big enough to sustain the weight of your tallest herb. Although hopefully you will be trimming your herbs often, you don’t want to come home to a spilled out pot of herbs because it got too top heavy.

In addition to determining height and pot size, you will want to make sure you plant upright herbs in the back of your pot. Herbs like basil, lavender, chives, and dill will grow in an upright posture, so you want to plant them in the back of your pot. Herbs like rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, and cilantro grow in a shrubby type form. As you continue to prune and trim and use your herbs, you will continue to encourage that shrubby form. Plant these in the middle and front of the pot. Finally, herbs like mint, thyme, and sage will grow in a compact or trailing form that makes them perfect for the front of your pot. They will stay very close to the soil, but some will actually spill out of the front of the pot, making a beautiful show on your porch or patio. Planting them up front also makes them easy to trim and prune as you need them. Just a little snip off the ends and you get the herbs you need or want, and the herbs get a little haircut that will encourage them to just keep growing.

Photo Credit: diyfanatic

How To Trim Herbs To Keep Them Growing

When harvesting herbs, you have to shift your thinking a little bit, but once you know the tricks, harvesting herbs all season long will be a piece of cake for you.

Harvest from the top to the bottom

Counterintuitive, but the best thing to do is to prune the leaves at the top, not the bottom. The big leaves on the bottom act as a sturdy base.

Take basil for example. When they are only a few inches tall, you want to prune, or “pinch” off the newest leaves at the top from the stem. It may seem weird, leaving the big, full leaves to grow at the bottom. But you need them to act as the basis of your plants to absorb up all the sun. Plus, the leaves at the top are tender and delicious!

Tipping The Top

Remove the end 1-2 inches of your plant’s stem. This is called “tipping.” That exposed end will split and grow into two separate branches. Once you get into the habit of doing that, your plant will become bushier, creating more foliage for you to trim as you need it.

Trim at the Stem

Leafier plants like basil can become bitter quickly after blossoming, so pruning is particularly important. When pruning these types of plants, cut them right where the leaf meets the stem to prevent blooming.

Woodier herbs, like rosemary and thyme, should be trimmed so that they don’t become too woody (as they generally do with age), as no new leaves will grow. As soon as you start to see new growth, trim some of the leaves back at the stem here as well. This will encourage new leaves to grow, which will in turn keep the whole plant growing.

If you want to do more in the garden this season but need some help and encouragement, check out my FREE workshop on January 28th called “Garden Like A Wild Child.” I am going to show you three ways to increase your success in your backyard garden. This is garden gold!! Join us!

You can get all the details here!! I promise you, it will be time well spent as you begin to dream of your spring garden possibilities!!

Photo Credit @RootedGarden

Vermicomposting – Using Worms To Build Your Soil

If starting a composting bin seems like more work than you are ready for, starting a worm bin might be just what you are looking for to start your composting efforts. Maybe you have heard of vermicomposting maybe you haven’t, but it is a fun and easy way to turn kitchen scraps into amazing soil in a short amount of time, with very little work. Give vermicomposting, or composting with worms, a try this spring. You will be surprised!

Photo courtesy of Lazy Worms Supercharged Red Wigglers

Composting can seem intimidating, and maybe feel like a costly endeavor to take on for some gardeners. Maybe you don’t have the space or don’t like the look of a compost bin in your backyard. Or maybe it feels like a waste of time. Vermicomposting takes all of those doubts and turns them upside down and into soil in no time.

Here’s How It Works:

Worms are scavengers and they like their home to be cool, dark, and moist. When you provide them with those three things plus something to eat, they will work day and night turning organic material into a nutrient rich soil that is perfect for your garden beds, containers, and pots. This process only takes around 8 weeks from start to finish, so you can have garden gold to add to your soil in no time!

Keep Their Home Cool

To start, their home has to be cool. This means that you will probably want to keep it in a sheltered location like the garage or laundry room. THE LAUNDRY ROOM? Yes! This method of composting is super discreet, so you never have to worry about smelling the worms or even seeing them. That is because their home just looks like a bin of Christmas decorations. Yep, the ideal worm bin is simply a tupperware bin that you have laying around. We prefer a 35 gallon bin, with a lid, as our ideal size. Use a quarter inch drill bit to drill holes around the top of the bin, NOT IN THE LID where water can get in, for optimum air flow. You can see in the picture below how to drill the holes. I forgot to take pictures of ours when we built it, but this is exactly how we did it.

Photo Courtesy of Homestead and Chill

Keep Their Home Dark

Think about it. Where do worms live? Underground. So you want to mimic that environment for them. It needs to be dark. The easiest way to give your worms a dark domain is to make sure you use a colored tupperware bin. This will not only keep it dark, but also help it stay cool and moist. All things worms love. And as a bonus, because the bin is not see through, nobody will ever know what you secretly have stored in it. SCORE!

Keep Their Home Moist

This is really important. Too wet and the worms will drown because they breathe through their skin. Too dry, and they will dry out and die as well. You want your bin to keep the consistency of a wet sponge. By using a spray bottle or the sprayer at your kitchen sink, this job is super easy. Each week when you add food for the worms, check the feel of the soil. If it doesn’t hold together when squeezed in your hand, add some water. More on this below.

Setting Up Your Worm Bin

So, you have your tupperware bin, and you are ready to go. Perfect. In about 30 minutes, you will have a working worm bin. It is that easy.

Bedding

Bedding for your worms is the first order of business. We use a combination of potting soil, coco noir, and paper shavings to create the bedding for our worms. This combination doesn’t have to be exact, but the three ingredients are important. The potting soil provides sand and grit for the worms that they need to digest the scraps. The coco noir is loose and fluffy, so it helps the bin retain moisture, and the paper shavings or newspaper clippings give the carbon element that is needed to give the worms energy. They will eat the bedding too, so you will have to replace it occasionally. We usually add a handful of “browns” (small piece of cardboard or paper bags, newspaper clippings, or shredded newspaper) to the bin each time we add food scraps. It keeps everything balanced, and just like in a traditional compost, the browns help to balance the high nitrogen content of the scraps or “greens” we are adding when we feed them.

This is the bedding in a new worm bin we just built.

Tip: Coco noir is sold in bricks that must be rehydrated in order to be used. I place the brick in a shallow bin or bucket and spray it with the hose until it begins to break apart and crumble. Remember, you want a moist bin, not a soggy one. When the coco noir begins to crumble, take it out of the water and work it with your hands in your bin. When it is too hard to break again, place it back in the water for a few minutes. Repeat this process until it is completely crumbled. If you leave it in the water for too long, it will become soup and won’t be usuable.

Food For The Worms

After your bedding is in the bin, the next step is to add food for your worms. This process is simple. Form a small well one corner of the bin. Then take kitchen scraps like vegetable peels, fruit, veggie scraps, egg shells, and coffee grinds and place them in the well. Easy right? That is all you do. Now the next time you feed your worms (anywhere from a few days to a week) you will feed them the exact same way, but on the other side of the bin. This keeps them moving from side to side week after week adding air to the bin as they move along.

Here I added lettuce, sweet potato peels, an apple core, and coffee grinds for food.

Tip: Never use meat, dairy, citrus, or sweets in your worm bins. They don’t balance the bin well and are hard for the worms to break down. Remember that we are what our animals eat, so feed the worms well. And always chop your scraps into small pieces. The smaller the pieces the easier for the worms to digest and the faster the process gets done.

Adding worms

Once you have the bedding down and food in place, it is time to add your worms. You can get worms locally or buy them online at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. We have done both with great success. To get started you will want to purchase between 500-1000 worms. This is a mistake that most people make, and that I made on our first, second, and third worm bins we built. Adding 10 worms is only going to create a nasty mess inside your bin. They can’t eat the scraps fast enough, so bacteria and fungus finds its way in and will overtake the bin in a very short amount of time. Worms will not overpopulate an area, yet they will double their population in no time, so don’t worry about adding too many. 500-1000 worms is a good place to start. When you add worms for the first time, place them right on top of the food pile and cover it all up. This will help your worms get right to work and not have to spend time trying to find the food source when they are first introduced to their new home.

Building a worm bin is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. They love the worms!!
Here we are adding worms to our new bin.

Tip: When buying worms, always choose Red Wigglers. This is very important because they are surface eaters and will devour their body weight in no time. This is the perfect worm for your bin.

Maintaining The Bin

Now all that is left to do is put the lid on the bin and let the worms go to work. Easy huh? They will begin devouring the scraps right away, so check your bin every couple of days and see how things are going. If the bin looks dry, give it a spray of water. If the food is gone, add more.

Keep your scraps in the kitchen and add them to your bin about once a week, or as needed. Mostly, you will be feeding the worms once per week. But check the bin every few days to make sure that they haven’t devoured their last meal already. If they have, just add more.

When you feed your worms, it is also a great time to get the air circulating in the bin. Mix all the bedding with your hands before adding the food. This allows you to see what has been eaten at the same time. You can see if you need more carbon or “browns” and then dig a well again, and bury it just like you did during start up.

Mixing the bedding for our new worm bin during the Wild Child Explorers Club

Tip: If there is a fair amount of food scraps left when you check the bin after a week, add less scraps than you added the first time. You can also add more coffee grinds to the bin as a little bit of an energy booster for your worms. The coffee will get them moving, just like it does for us in the mornings!

Harvesting Worm Castings

After a couple of months, you will begin to see that your bin is filling up with dark, rich castings. Castings is just a nice way of saying POOP! Yep, worm poop is the gold of the garden. The easiest way to harvest the castings is to begin a few weeks ahead of when you want to harvest and just start feeding your worms on one side of the bin only. Almost all of the worms will migrate there to eat, leaving one side of the bin worm free…or almost.

When you are ready to harvest, scoop out the finished castings from that side only. Then go through the castings and remove any rogue worms that may have been left on the wrong side of the bin. If you hitch a few stragglers who end up in the garden, that won’t hurt a thing. They will become useful residents in no time.

After you harvest the castings and put the runaways back in the bin, spread the bedding that is left back across the whole bin, adding more “browns” if needed, and start the process over. The only difference is that this time, you will probably have more worms. That is because worms can double their population in 90 days. So, at the very least, you will probably have more than you started with. That means you may want to add more scraps to the bin each week to keep them happy.

Give the bin a good misting if it needs it, and the lid goes back on. Now you can add those castings to your garden, potted plants, or containers around the yard. These little guys do a lot of work in a short amount of time! You will love them!