Worms, Hairy Vetch, and Garlic

Last year, the hubs installed a small vegetable garden in our backyard. It made sense. He grew up at his farmer dad and granddad’s knee, growing and tending things. We want to be less dependent on the random fluctuations of the economy. We like fresh tomatoes.

He did pretty well, considering how busy he was with other things and how little we knew about soil building. The tomatoes were AMAZING. The strawberries were not too bad. The birds got more of the blueberries than we did, but the ones we got were little gems.

Then, I got into the “real food” blitz. It started by reading “Little Changes.” (btw I totally enthusiastically highly recommend this book to every thinking person). Kristi’s writing inspired me to look on Local Harvest for a CSA. I found one. The CSA farmer (henceforth Farmer J.R.) told us about Joel Salatin. I read “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer.” Then we watched “Food Inc.” and “Fresh.” Hey, when I jump on a bandwagon, I jump with both feet!

This summer John started volunteering out at the farm 3-4 days a week. I go out there when I can, and I have been learning what I like to call the mystical, arcane secrets of organic food production from Farmer J.R., who has become my personal vegetable-growing guru. My historical black thumb has finally met it’s match. (maybe? no, definitely. affirmation, folks!)

We did not plant anything this summer, because we were just starting to learn about effective composting – and because we were getting almost all our veggies from the CSA. But I did start laying the groundwork. Meet the Soil Minions:

One pound of red wiggler worms from The Urban Worm Girl

The Soil Minions – Red Wiggler Worms

We got these guys all set up in their new little happy home back in July, and last weekend we harvested our first haul of beautiful fertile black vermicompost. I love worms!!! You should too. Worms are AMAZING. Don’t believe me? Check out the Urban Worm Girl website. She’s my vermi-hero. Isn’t “Urban Worm Girl” kind of a super-hero name?

Next step in preparing for next spring’s planting – a ground cover for my two idle beds. I chose a mixture of winter rye and hairy vetch. Partly because it is nitrogen-fixing, grows quickly, and beats the pants off of most weeds. But honestly also partly because the name Hairy Vetch sounds like something I want to name a character in my next novel.

Did I mention “grows quickly?” I sowed cover crop seed less than 10 days ago in my front bed. Today, it looks like THIS:

Hairy Vetch

The foreground is the liriope that has always been in that bed. I like it. Pollinators like it, especially the bumbles. It can stay. And when I pulled out all the weeds I let the clover stay. It seemed silly to pull up a perfectly good cover crop in order to plant another cover crop – white clover was one of the options I considered before choosing the Hairy Vetch. Hee. I just really like typing that. Hairy Vetch Hairy Vetch Hairy Hairy Vetch Vetch!

Next up – sometime in the next week or so I should receive the seed garlic that I plan to put in the one remaining bed. I’m also pretty excited about growing my own garlic. We eat a LOT of garlic! My zone is warm enough that I had to stick to softneck varieties, so I ordered some Silver Rose and some Early Italian Purple. I am hoping to get enough of a good harvest to keep some for next winter’s seed garlic, and braid the rest!

What are your favorite foods to grow?

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