We have worms. And ladybugs. The worms live in my husband’s office, and the ladybugs live in our crawlspace. We’ve been composting our scraps, leaves, and grass clippings for several years. But during the winter, not much happens in our compost bins. They freeze by about the end of November, and although we do get some warm days in the winter, and there’s a very slow composting action going on, it’s nothing to brag about. So my husband ordered worms. He bought them from this site, and they arrived in a box a few weeks ago. He went to the thrift store and spent $5 on large plastic totes that stack inside each other. He drilled holes and arranged the totes in what is apparently a dream home for worms. We’ve been putting all of our kitchen scraps in with the worms, along with paper from our shredder, some leaves that we raked up from the lawn, and some cardboard. They are happy little campers, and making all sorts of good compost. My husband’s current project is making worm compost tea to use as nutrient in our hydroponic garden. It’s a pretty good cycle: eat lots of veggies, give the scraps to the worms, worms make compost, compost tea goes into the hydroponic garden, garden grows lots of veggies that we eat.
We are fully committed to an organic lifestyle, and neither of us want any toxic chemicals on our food, our lawn, or in our house. So when we started noticing whiteflies on our plants in the hydroponic garden, ladybugs were the obvious answer. You can’t just go out and pick ladybugs off of bushes in December, so we ordered those online too. They arrived in a bag inside of a box on Monday, and have been happily munching away on our whiteflies ever since. We dumped them out into the hydroponic garden, and they seem thrilled to be there. Just in case there weren’t enough whiteflies for them to feast on, my husband made them a concoction of yeast and h0ney that they seem to thoroughly enjoy. Now I just have to be careful not to injure any ladybugs when I go down there to harvest veggies, but so far it’s working great. Our outdoor garden with the homemade greenhouse on it has been staying above freezing (and is still producing greens, although at a slower pace than it does in the summer), so we added some ladybugs to that as well. I think most of them will just hibernate for a while in the cracks around the bottom of the greenhouse, but we’ve seem them out and about during the day.
We’re loving our organic winter gardening methods. It’s great to be able to harvest fresh veggies (peppers, tomatoes, kale, spinach, and swiss chard) every day, even though there’s snow on the ground outside. And although we did have to pay $22 for the worms upfront, they’re earning their keep by making us amazingly rich compost and compost tea for free. Same goes for the ladybugs – we paid $15 for them, but they’re keeping our gardens from being infested by bad bugs, without any nasty chemicals. And that’s worth a lot to us.