- Author: Penny Pawl
by Penny Pawl, U.C. Master Gardener of Napa County
Over the years, many people have attended compost workshops conducted by the City and County of Napa and the Napa County Master Gardeners. I have been teaching the worm compost classes and always wonder if the people who made worm bins got all the information they needed to clean the bed when the time comes.
Worms are important composters as they eat 90 percent of what is given them. Their castings(aka worm poop) provide a balanced fertilizer for plants. Over time, they will eat newsprint, dried leaves, straw, coffee grounds, eggshells and various fruits and vegetables.
Sometime after you create your worm bin and worms have been chomping on your kitchen scraps, you will need to separate the castings from the other things you have been feeding them. When you do this, you will see that the worms have transformed most of the newsprint and other bedding into a fine soil-like product.
If you are still using the 18-gallon tub you received at the workshop, you can move the finished compost to one side of the container and build new bedding on the other side. Feed the worms only on the new side and, over time, the worms will move into the new bedding. Then you can remove the old bedding to dry and remove any unfinished compost.
Another approach is to remove all the old bedding and build a new bin. However, you want your working worms to move into the new bedding. The easiest way to achieve this is to put the old bedding on a screen on top of the new and expose it to light. Worms are light sensitive. To escape the light, they will move down into the new bedding. I tried this in one large worm bin years ago and the worms had relocated in a half hour.
I compost in much larger containers. My method for harvesting the castings is to remove all the finished bedding to a wheelbarrow and rebuild the bedding with new materials. I use the “lasagna” method of layering materials. Remember to dampen all the materials as you layer them. They should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Worms breathe through their whole bodies and need to be kept moist.
To coax my worms out of the old bedding so I can put them back to work, I use the mesh bags that potatoes and apples are sold in. I fill those bags with new bedding and favorite foods of the worms and bury the bags in the old compost. In a few days, the worms will move from the old compost into the bags, and I can then transfer the content of the bags to in the new bedding. Another method is to place a large screen with old compost on it over the new bin and let the worms sort themselves.
Once the worms have moved out of the old compost, I dry the compost in the sun and then sift it. Any large pieces go back into the bin. If the compost is clumpy, I put it on a tarp or and walk on it to break it up before sifting.
Make sure the compost is dry before storing it. Otherwise, it may mold.
You can spread the compost directly on garden beds. I usually sprinkle it around the plants and water it in. I also put a little scoop in planting holes to give the roots of new plants a boost.
Fall Faire: U.C. Master Gardeners of Napa County's second annual Fall Faire will take place on Saturday, October 5, from noon to 4 p.m., at 1710 Soscol Avenue in Napa. Tickets are $5 for adults. Children 15 and under are free with an accompanying adult. Purchase tickets online with a credit card. Cash and check only will be accepted at the door. Find more on the Fall Faire at http://napamg.ucanr.edu/fallfaire/.
Next workshop: U.C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will hold a workshop on “Stinking Roses and Edible Alliums: Grow These Essentials for Your Kitchen” on Saturday, October 12, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. For more details & online Registration go to http://napamg.ucanr.edu or call 707-253-4221.
The UC Master Gardeners of Napa County are volunteers who provide UC research-based information on home gardening and answer your questions. To find out more about upcoming programs or to ask a garden question, visit the Master Gardener website (http://napamg.ucanr.edu) or call (707) 253-4221 between 9 a.m. and noon on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.
by Penny Pawl, U. C. Master Gardener of Napa County
A couple of years ago, someone gave me a strawberry plant. I had never grown strawberries as I thought it was difficult. However, I was surprised by this plant and enjoyed the ripe berries. Then I added a couple more plants and decided to build a strawberry tower. Someone else gave me more berries last summer so I now have a full five-story tower.
My tower is constructed of planting containers in five different sizes. At the top of the tower is the original plant in a 1-gallon container. Like a tiered cake, it is stacked on top of a 2-gallon, 3-gallon, 5-gallon and 7-gallon container. Each container is sunk halfway into the soil of the slightly larger container underneath it. The berries are planted around the edges and the fruit hangs down as it grows so it is easy to harvest.
My tower is in a garden bed with other plants. I filled the containers with my improved garden soil which has lots of compost in it. I fertilize the strawberries with worm compost. Watering is easy: Twice a week, I water the top pot well and the water drains down to the bottom. The roots have plenty of room to grow, and the container sides are camouflaged with hanging leaves and berries.
To discourage quail from eating the berries, I made a trellis of square tomato supports and draped a floating row cover over the top. Garden snails also like strawberries, so you must be on guard.
Every morning I go out and graze in the garden. The strawberries are so good, they never make it into the kitchen. I am growing an ever-bearing variety, so even in winter, I harvest an occasional berry.
All strawberry varieties are one of three types: June-bearing, ever-bearing or day-neutral. Before purchasing plants, read up on these different types so you get what you want. June-bearing varieties produce one crop per year and should be planted in the fall. They are usually treated as an annual and replaced each year. Day-neutral varieties have their peak in early summer but continue to produce sporadically through fall. Ever-bearing types ripen a crop in spring and again in fall.
Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family so, yes, they are related to roses. The strawberry that we grow today in our gardens and on farms was first hybridized in France in the late 18th century. It is a cross between North American and Chilean species.
Prior to hybridization, people often foraged for strawberries in the wild. In ancient times, people valued them for medicinal uses. Many European paintings from centuries ago have strawberries in them. I also have wild strawberries growing in my garden thanks to birds spreading the seed. However, the fruit from these plants is neither as tasty nor as large as the hybrid strawberries.
The little spots on the surface of the strawberry are actually ovaries; each one has a seed inside.
Strawberries are subject to a number of soil-borne diseases. To minimize the threat, replant them in a different site every four to five years.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Healthy Fall and Winter Vegetables” on Saturday, August 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. Create your own garden-to-table movement by growing veggies that thrive in cooler weather. From familiar lettuces to exotic Asian greens, from carrots to sugar snap peas, choices abound for fall, winter, and early spring dining. This hands-on workshop provides the essential growing tips that will guide you every step of the way, from planning and planting to harvest. Online registration (credit card only); Mail-in/Walk-in registration (check only or drop off cash payment).
Become a Master Gardener: Do you enjoy gardening? Are you a resident of Napa County? Do you want to teach others to be better gardeners by doing educational programs in the community? Then the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County is for you. Now is the time for experienced home gardeners to consider becoming a UC Master Gardener volunteer.
UC Master Gardeners are trained by the University of California Cooperative Extension to provide research-based information to home gardeners throughout Napa County. Volunteers initially receive extensive training, with continuing education each year.
Attend any one of these informational meetings for an application:
Napa: Tuesday, August 21, 7-8:30 p.m.; Saturday, September 8, 1-2:30 p.m.; Tuesday, September 25, noon-1:30 p.m. All meetings are at University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscal Avenue.
American Canyon: Sunday, September 16, 1-2:30 p.m., at the American Canyon Library, 300 Crawford Way.
St. Helena: Tuesday, August 21, noon-1:30 p.m., at Lyman Park, 1498 Main Street, St. Helena.
All locations are handicap accessible. Application forms will only be available at these meetings. Completed applications are due by 5 p.m on September 28. Additional information about the 2019 Master Gardener training class is available online at hppt://ucanr.edu/sites/ucmgnapa/Become_A_Master_Gardener/.
Registration for these informational meetings is not required. For moreinformation about these meetings and other Master Gardener activities, call707) 253-4221. Up Valley and American Canyon residents can call toll-free at (877) 279-3065.
The UC Master Gardener Program is open to all experienced gardeners, but space is limited and volunteers are chosen based on current program needs.
It is the policy of the University of California (UC) and the UC Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources not to engage in discrimination against or harassment of any person in any of its programs or activities (Complete nondiscrimination policy statement can be found at http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/files/215244.pdf )
Inquiries regarding ANR's nondiscrimination policies may be directed to John I. Sims, Affirmative Action Compliance Officer/Title IX Officer, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2801 Second Street, Davis, CA 95618, (530) 750-1397.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.