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Get to know worms, and what they can do for your garden

Master gardeners offer spring workshops in vermiculture

Red crawlers (not earthworms) live and eat well in a large bin filled with pine shavings.

Red crawlers (not earthworms) live and eat well in a large bin filled with pine shavings. Kathy Morrison

Let's talk worms, shall we? Specifically, composting with worms. 

This type of composting is easier, I believe, than starting and maintaining a classic compost bin. The worms and their kitchen-waste food are contained, as is the compost (castings) they produce. And those castings are so rich, so wonderful for the garden soil! It's sustainability at its finest. As a plus, it's a great activity for kids.

This spring, several UCCE master gardener groups in the region have scheduled classes in worm composting. Three types of classes are being offered, but the signup for the first and most detailed class -- one which comes with worms and supplies -- closes Monday, March 11, so move fast if you are interested.

The classes are:

-- Saturday, March 23, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., UCCE office auditorium, 4145 Branch Center Road (off Bradshaw), Sacramento. The Sacramento County master gardeners will offer presentations on the care and feeding of worms, options for harvesting castings, and a question-and-answer period. Each participant will receive education materials, a worm bin with bedding, red wiggler worms and adoption papers. Cost is $30; ages 13 and up only. Register here by March 11. No drop-ins; no refunds. Information: https://sacmg.ucanr.edu/?calitem=574965

-- Thursday, March 14, and Thursday, March 28, 3 to 4 p.m., online via Zoom. These paired classes from the Yolo County master gardeners are part of their semi-monthly gardening workshops. Both classes are free and do not require registration; gardeners can take either or both. The March 14 workshop with master gardener Jennifer Gilbert will be on "backyard composting," including worm composting. The Zoom link for this class is https://yolocounty.zoom.us/j/89236348462. In the March 28 class, master gardener Janet Gaard plans to lead a lively discussion about worm castings, compost and fertilizers -- and when plants don't need fertilizing.  The Zoom link is https://yolocounty.zoom.us/j/87053297221 For more information on Yolo master gardeners events, go to https://yolomg.ucanr.edu/Public_Education/

-- Thursday, June 20,  6 to 7 p.m., Vacaville Library, 1020 Ulatis Drive, Vacaville. This is a free, in-person class offered by the Solano County master gardeners, taught by Jennifer Baumbach. The master gardeners note: "Bring a shoebox and take home your starter worm composting bin. You must RSVP that you'll participate in the shoebox activity to rehabnurse@sbcglobal.net so she'll have enough worms for everyone." For all the spring events planned by the Solano master gardeners, go to https://solanomg.ucanr.edu/?calendar=yes&g=101656

A personal comment on the shoebox, from a worm "mom" of four years: The worms won't be staying in a shoebox. My worm colony started with two dozen wigglers that eventually grew to fill a large, heavy-duty tote. I've moved some worms into the garden, both accidentally and intentionally, but the main group still hangs out in the bin. They are terrific garden "pets."

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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