Posted Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 12:44 pm
All of my investigations into organic fertilizer have led to a single consensus: worm castings are the shit. Rich in nutrients and microbeasties, many people believe that it is the best amendment a soil could hope for.
Realizing that this organic garden gold could produce miracles in the clay soil of my yard-share, I had a bee in my bonnet to get me some on the double. I got up bright and early Sunday morning, and hurried down to the Main Street Farmer’s Market, where I heard there would be a woman who sold it – only to find out she no longer had a booth there. Crap!
But a quick search on Craigslist turned up Steve Gottlieb, owner of a worm-growing outfit way out in Northridge called Golden Wiggle Worms. Responding to my inquiry, he said he sold it for $1 per/pound. That seemed like a fine price.
I did some sloppy math and figured I’d need about 35 pounds to cover the garden. In retrospect, I think I bought way too much. But perhaps there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to worm poop. Okay – does anyone want some worm poop?
I called Steve in the morning to tell him I was coming over. His voice was scratchy, his words were slightly slurred and he spoke with the hint of a Southern twang. “I have it out here waitin’ for ya.” He said and put down the phone.
Suddenly, I felt insecure about driving out to a strange worm farm in the Valley. My husband, not nearly as excited about the merits of worm defecation as I was, declined my invitation to join me. I was on my own.
Since I was heading all the way out to this far flung outpost of garden treasure, I figured I should at least try and share the wealth. I called all of my gardening friends and asked if they wanted me to pick some extra up for them. Only one said yes! I couldn’t believe the benefits of the fecal matter of worms was lost on so many. It’s just sad.
After braving the freeways, and navigating my way through the wide boulevards intersecting a typical suburban valley neighborhood, I finally turned into the right cul-de-sac. I pulled down the driveway of a ranch style house that blended into the landscape. Parked out front was a pristine, Dodger blue Ford sedan, circa 1982 or so. Well at least I knew Gottlieb had style.
Steve came to the door, a skinny, disheveled man who looked to be in his early 60s, dressed in a bright purple shirt. The smell of kitty litter and stale cigarette smoke wafted out. Behind him I could see a dim living room in its own organic state of decomposition – filled to the rafters with decades of junk. My suspicions about him being a character living on the fringes of society were confirmed.
Though his pale blue eyes were glazed over, he still managed to look at me with a gentle intensity as he instructed me in using his precious natural fertilizer. He explained that the soil should never be more than 20% worm castings, otherwise it will burn the roots. With wonder in his voice, he told me that the castings will hold five times their weight in water, so I would need to water much less.
“So can I see the worms?” I asked.
He was only too happy to let me witness his red wiggley money-makers at work. We cut through the house. The backyard was a disaster zone too and looked as if it hadn’t been picked up in decades. He led me around the side of the empty pool, which had a brown puddle of rain water laying stagnant at the bottom. Overturned lawn chairs, broken pots, empty buckets, and detritus of every sort littered the patio.
Finally, he showed me the long row of trays where he kept the worms. They were neatly laid out, with a clean plastic cover over them. He may have been struggling, but his worms were livin’ the life.
Picking up one worm with a whitish band around his body he looked at me and said, with a proud smile, “Preggers.”
It dawned on me that, as weirded out as I was by that house, Steve may actually have himself the easiest job in the world. He could just sit back and let the worms do the work for him.
I emerged unscathed with about 20 plastic shopping bags filled with worm castings. Of course one spilled all over my backseat on the freeway, and now my trusty Civic has lovely a Farm Fresh Scent.
Oh, the things I do for my garden.