Mid-winter update

Pretty view of the swamp from the balcony Even in midwinter there’s some gardening activity worth preserving.

First the mushrooms. The enokitake had to get moved out of the fridge to the basement to make room for holiday food. Unfortunately stuff in the basement gets neglected, and we’ve had only one half-hearted flush.

We’ve gotten two pretty good flushes from the pioppino and cinnamon caps in the laundry room. We need two more to break even on money versus buying oysters and shiitake at the grocery store. I’m hoping to get them once the unheated laundry room starts to warm up again.

These two kinds of mushrooms seem to be identical. They look the same, they taste the same and they flush in sync.

The oyster mushrooms are a disappointment. They’re doing nothing. There’s a bunch of mycillium but no fruit. I’m not even sure it’s oyster mycillium. since it no longer seems connected with the lumps of spawn I put in. I’ll keep watering it till spring. If nothing happens by then, I think I’m just going to dump it in the woods and see what happens.

I’m ending up rather down on the whole idea of doing mushrooms indoors. It’s way too much work and expense for the reward. I will keep messing about outdoors. We have space and wood chips, we ought to be able to get enough into the freezer to get us through the winter.

The worm tower is a qualified success. The worms seem to be happy and multiplying. I put too much bedding into the bottom bin, so it has undigested coir in it. This is my error. However there are two trays above it which seem to be done, and all three trays still have worms in them. The whole plan was to have worm-free castings available.

We are also unable yet to feed them all all our garbage. Admittedly, with Lisa cooking daily, we have a lot of vegetable scraps, but still, we’re only two people. The blurbs also say it can take 6 to 9 months to reach steady state.

Nonetheless, I’m pleased on the whole. The worm tea drainage works and Lisa’s houseplants love it. We’re starting to stockpile it for the seedlings in March.

Also, the small bins will make harvesting easier even if we have to deworm the stuff manually. We can do a bin at a time and still have the top bin to put garbage into.

The biggest downside is fruit flies. They’re much worse than they were with the closed bins. However, we just got a fruit-fly trap from Gardener’s Supply which really seems to be working. There’s still a few about, but not swarms.

So, I ordered another tower from composters.com, and matching fly trap. I figure I’ll split the trays to bootstrap the two systems (dodging a bizarre image) and that should support enough worms to eat all of our garbage.

While I was at composters.com I ordered a bottle of Bio-lift for compost piles. Most of the compost starter for sale is lots of nitrogen and a few bugs. Bio-Lift is just a rather stinky solution of bugs. I used their pond filter mix last summer with good results.

We have coffee for nitrogen, and wood chips for browns. However the coffee is pasteurized, and the inside of a tree is pretty sterile too, so it needs a boost to get going. In the old bin I just mix in a little finished compost. Out in the new garden, I can and will use dirt, but I hope the Bio Lift will help start things off till I have finished compost out there as well.

Finally, this year I remembered to stock up on growlight bulbs in January. K-Mart was already out. Wal-Mart had ten and I bought them all. Lisa already has some pansy seeds from Burpee, and is looking at a Feb 1 start for them so she can put them out in early May.

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