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Share your holiday meals with some worms

Two Placer County workshops focus on vermicomposting

This might look like a failed chocolate cake, but it's rich compost harvested from red wigglers.

This might look like a failed chocolate cake, but it's rich compost harvested from red wigglers. Kathy Morrison

I'm here today to ask you to invite some worms to Thanksgiving dinner.

Don't know any worms? OK, the timing's a little tight, but here's a tip: This weekend the Placer County master gardeners are going to have two sessions of worm meet-and-greet, as it were: Workshops in Roseville and Lincoln.

The Roseville one, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center, costs $20 for Roseville residents and $22 for non-Roseville residents. Seating is limited, but when I looked this afternoon, there were still two spots available. Attendees get a starter family of red wiggler worms and a bin for them to live in. Check the city of Roseville's registration site here.

The afternoon workshop, at the Lincoln Library, 485 Twelve Bridges in Lincoln, is also Saturday, from 2 to 3 p.m.  There is no fee and no registration required, but no wigglers or other materials will be provided. Attendees must acquire a brood of worms and a bin on their own. The workshop listing is here.

A worm home is not a complicated set-up: My bin is nothing more than a heavy-duty Husky bin, with holes drilled in the sides and the bottom. It sits on top of some bricks so any moisture can drip out. For bedding I use Eco Flake Animal Bedding -- shavings that are sold in bales for about $10 each at feed and some hardware stores. Leaves or shredded newspaper can be used as bedding as well. My previous bale lasted three years, so it's a worthwhile purchase.

The master gardeners will have plenty of advice on what and when to feed the worms, but I will add one tip: No cranberries.

My worms are going to be dining this Thanksgiving on apple cores, carrot trimmings, potato peelings and coffee grounds. (No meat, grease or citrus.) For dessert, they're going to get a pumpkin -- a whole one, left over from Halloween. That will last them until Christmas.

Red wigglers are shy, so they soon ducked into
their bedding after I removed the bin's top.

These little wigglers pay me back regularly with the richest compost you can imagine. I don't have a big space to harvest the entire bin, so I do micro-harvesting when I feed them. The plate in the photo above shows my typical haul, which gets spread on top of some soil in the garden, usually at a spot I think needs a boost, or in one of my potted plants.

If you can't attend either of the Placer workshops, you can still make friends with some worms in time for New Year's Eve, and certainly by Valentine's Day. The Sacramento County master gardeners' worm composting tips can be found on this page (roll down).

You and your plants will be glad you invited worms to dinner.


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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