Magnolia Club: Welcoming worms as growing experts

Posted 6/6/18

The Magnolia Garden Club met in May at Stuart Elementary School, in the classroom of member Sheila Webb. Webb gave a presentation on vermiculture following the business meeting. Ginger Cloud served a …

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Magnolia Club: Welcoming worms as growing experts

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The Magnolia Garden Club met in May at Stuart Elementary School, in the classroom of member Sheila Webb. Webb gave a presentation on vermiculture following the business meeting. Ginger Cloud served a beautifully themed luncheon of sandwiches, googly-eyed grape “caterpillar” skewers and “dirt pie” with gummy worms.

Chaplain Sheila Webb opened with a devotional of garden poetry written by Stuart students. Praise for garden treasures and the joy provided by the school garden was referenced in the touching selections read aloud by Webb.

President Linda Cross conducted the meeting, reminding members of a community involvement seed planting project at Ace Hardware on June 2. Members will be helping children plant pumpkin seeds in preparation for a fall pumpkin decorating event. A reminder was made of the Sept. 14 District III Flower Show, to be held in the historic Old Woolen Mill, in Cleveland.

In her presentation to members, Webb walked through her last couple of years learning about vermiculture, which she said has been “at the expense of some little worms that are now compost. God bless those little worms’ hearts, in the kindest way.” Members giggled in a horrified manner as Webb described the painful experience of unintentionally over-feeding and “sun-baking” – and then accidentally freezing – two straight sets of commercially grown red wigglers purchased for her school composting project. Determined to succeed, Webb continued to read and learn alongside her students who provided her with worms from the school garden. 

There is a recipe for success, and Webb has clearly perfected this art, with the help of her eager student helpers. Her current worm population has thrived and multiplied in the special composter for over a year and a half. The worms created a batch of rich, fertile worm castings the students used in a seed planting project this spring. Webb oversees the project while students are responsible for feeding the worms and spraying the soil on a rotating basis.
For Webb’s composter, feeding 1-2 times per week is ideal. Kitchen vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags, and coconut fiber help keep the moisture level correct. A layer of newspaper which is kept moist is laid over the soil to maintain temperature and cut back on pesky gnats. Broken down eggshells and sand are helpful for worm digestion. Peat moss, coconut fiber and soil make up the worm’s base environment.

Among other interesting facts learned by members, Webb showed them how the composter works, how worms leave behind the product of their decomposition as rich soil, and how they need light on them at all times to keep them from crawling out of the farm. Many members were unaware that worms are hermaphrodites and they “mate” like snakes, by simply sliding next to each other.

Other members in attendance were Elsie Yates, Fredricka Lawson, Sue Taylor and Brenda Nakdimen. Specimens brought to the meeting included dianthus, Love in a Mist, rose, speedwell, purple larkspur, alum root, viburnum, Geranium Cranesbill, Bumblebee million bells, coreopsis, Indian Pink, Happy Returns Daylily and Pelargonium Geranium.

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