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Worms are fantastic for the soil! Believe it or not, worms can turn limp, anemic soil into a nutrient wonderland perfect for gardening. Vermiculture, also known as vermicomposting, is a fascinating way to improve the quality of your home-grown compost with worms. Let’s take a look at how vermiculture works on the homestead.

Vermiculture basics

Vermiculture is a great way to process fruit and vegetable waste into something useful for your homestead.

The benefit to using worms instead of, say, a traditional compost system, is that worms break down the organic matter more quickly. They also churn the soil and help return more nutrients to your soil. Vermiculture benefits your homestead garden by encouraging more robust root systems, disease resistance, and improved water storage capacity during droughts. Vermiculture also introduces beneficial microorganisms into your soil. Say bye-bye to store bought fertilizer and make your own nutrient-dense soil with little cost.

How vermiculture works

Like any homesteading endeavor, vermiculture requires a small startup cost. You’ll need to buy worms, a small amount of quality soil, and ten gallon buckets to hold the compost and worms. You can get larger containers if you have more waste, but it’s best to start small in the beginning. You can always upsize later!

Your worms can process a wide variety of organic matter. Feed them kitchen scraps like lettuce, egg shells, and banana peels. If you have grass clippings, leaves, or mulch, your worms will happily chomp them up. As with any other type of composting, don’t toss meat or dairy into your vermicompost.

In my opinion, the best type of worm for vermiculture is the red worm. They’re surface-dwellers and do marvelously in your compost. The great thing about worms is that they’re a very low-maintenance homestead project. Toss your scraps and a little water in the bucket with them and you’ll have compost very soon! Once a quarter you’ll need to separate the worms from the compost and start a new batch. This keeps your worms happy and healthy, and gives you a constant source of great soil for gardening.

The bottom line

Vermiculture is essentially the harvesting of worm poop. It’s strange to think about, but worms are an essential part of your homestead’s life cycle. With vermiculture, you’ll have hardier plants, improved harvests, and less disease in your garden with vermicompost.

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Must-Have Cut Flowers for Bouquets

While the farmer was once responsible for simply putting food on the table, many farmers are now finding themselves in a new role as floral artists, as the market for cut flowers continues to take deeper roots, grow taller, and bloom quickly. Cut flowers are one of the most profitable “crops” per square acre than nearly any other undertaking, luring even the most macho farmers into the business. Whether you are looking to take flowers to market or simply pluck your own centerpiece from your front yard, you’ll never cease to please when including these eye-catching blossoms in your arrangements.

Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

Zinnias are by far one of the easiest flowers to grow, and the diversity of varieties amongst zinnias are beyond plentiful. Amongst the extensive list of varieties out there, you can find this flower in nearly any color with many varieties multi-colored. These focal flowers also come in an an assortment of shapes and sizes, all with long stems most suitable for bouquet-building. Zinnias thrive in heat and can often withstand drought conditions once established. Not only do they grow quickly and require little on the side of fertilizer or amendments, most zinnias serve as “cut-and-come again” flowers, meaning you’ll only have to plant once to harvest throughout the entire season.

Dahlias (Dahlia spp.)

Dahlias are one of the most sought-after flowers by florists as these stunning blooms are often featured in weddings and serve as a darling centerpiece for any bouquet. Dahlias come in different size varieties from the medium-sized 4 inch blooms, like the Cornel or Critchon Honey varieties, to the 8 to 10 inch dinner plate varieties. The diversity of colors amongst dahlias are unmatched amongst its cut flower friends, ranging from hues of soft whites, pinks, yellows, and oranges to shades of bright red to deep maroon.

Purchase dahlias as tubers and plant them horizontally 6-8 inches deep in a moist, but not saturated soil. The bud should be facing upwards. Be sure the ground temperatures have reached at least 60 degrees before planting, often late April or early May for most places. Wait to water until the dahlias sprout above the soil surface! Stake tall varieties when planting as to not disturb the delicate tubers later on.

Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Sunflowers are iconic to those good summertime-feels, supplying bright color to a home garden or to a market bouquet. There are two main types of sunflowers that are actually quite different from one another. Single-stem varieties, such as the Sunrich or the ProCut series, will produce one flower for each planted seed. Single-stemmed sunflowers have long, sturdy stems and come to bloom quickly, often about 60 days. Spacing between single-stemmed varieties will determine the bloom size; the more room for each plant, the larger the bloom.

Single-stemmed varieties are pollenless, prized for their durability in bouquets. For a steady flow of flowers throughout the season, you will need to succession plant these sunflowers about every two weeks. Branching varieties, on the other hand, will bloom multiple times throughout the season from a single plant. The stems are shorter, and each plant will need a considerable amount of space, blooming typically around 90 days. Branching varieties can make a great addition to a home garden for an endless supply of blooms throughout the summer. Whether you choose to grow single-stemmed or branching sunflowers, these resilient flowers will last up to 10 days in a vase.

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