My friend Paul has a new mission this winter. He had a few years worth of fun with his seed bombs, bringing colour to dull neglected corners. His latest thing is collecting discarded cans and bottles from under the hedges and path sides in his town. He’s yet to find a full bottle of beer but when he picks them up, but lives in hope. What he does do though is plant a daffodil bulb where the empty can or bottle was. He says there will be loads of daffodils in Pleasley Vale this year. Only he will know what the flowers mean, which for Paul is enough.
Why oh Why?
Someone came up to me this week and asked me why Brussels Sprouts were called Brussel Sprouts. I’m sure I knew at one time but at that moment I forgot so said the first thing that came into my head, which was because they came from Brussels. It turns out that in a way I was right, so my reputation is intact.
I have found out a bit more just in case I am asked again. Early versions of the vegetable are said to date back to ancient Rome, they were bred from wild cabbages found in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Chinese medicine, they are prescribed to improve digestive health. Modern-day Brussels sprouts were embraced and widely cultivated in Belgium as early as the 16th century. They excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C vitamin K, as well as beta carotene, folic acid, iron, magnesium and fibre. They’re also high in selenium, which is associated with reduced risks of certain cancers, as well as increased male virility. That should keep anyone happy should they ask over the dinner table.
If someone asks you why the Brussels are smelly when cooked it’s because of two things. Firstly they tend to only get really stinky when overcooked, especially when boiled with the lids on. And also the smell is associated with glucosinolate sinigrin, an organic compound that contains sulphur: hence the odour.
I was poking around in the compost bin this week and was amazed at the amount of worms in there. Hopefully they will spread to other parts of the garden and to do that they need a bit of incentive. You won’t find worms in soil where there isn’t any food so it’ll give me a good reason to collect the horse muck and seaweed. Dee Sewell from the website and training centre Greenside Up (greensideup.ie) has a passion for growing vegetables and knows the virtues of worms. Here she tells us ten earthworm facts, some of which you might not know!
Ten earthworm facts from Dee
1. “Invertebrates make up 97% of species on earth without backbones and Earthworms are just one of them.
2. There are around 3,000 species of earthworms around the globe that range in size and colour from 1cm to 3m and from green to brown, blue to pink.
3. Earthworms are most definitely a gardener’s friend and are vital to soil health. As they burrow beneath the ground, they consume soil, feeding on decomposing organic matter such as roots and leaves, sand grains and microorganisms. As the organic matter passes through their digestive systems, vital minerals and nutrients are transported and it’s been shown that not only is worm digested soil healthier, it also has more phosphorous.
4. Earthworms are a sign of healthy soil. If there’s no food they’ll go elsewhere. The more worms in your soil, the more nutritious it is, not only for them but for your plants! If you don’t see many signs or worms, simply add more organic matter and they will find it.
5. The burrows that earthworms create act as ducts that water and oxygen can pass through, helping to keep soil moist and aerated, vital for good plant growth allowing roots to grow and develop.
6. Earthworms are hermaphroditic (they have both male and female reproductive organs) but they need to mate with other worms to produce offspring. After they’ve mated, earthworms form tiny, rice sized cocoons that are buried. They can produce two cocoons a week, each containing 1-7 hatchlings. After a two to four-week gestation period, the baby worms emerge.
7. Amongst other creatures, birds, toads and hedgehogs love to eat earthworms but there’s enough for them all in a healthy garden – there could be as many as 1,000,000 earthworms living in a one acre field.
8. Earthworms don’t have lungs, they breathe through their skin. If there’s too much rain, earthworms will rise to the surface to breathe as they may become starved of oxygen in water drenched soil. However, light paralyses earthworms so if they’re out in it for more than an hour, they can’t retreat back into the safety of darkness and will die.
During darkness earthworms often feed on the soil surface. If you head outside with a torch you’ll spot them all diving back under cover when they see the light, just like a pool full of synchronised swimmers.
9. Worms have no eyes, ears or teeth but do have five hearts.
10. Contradictory to popular belief, if you chop a worm in half it won’t grow again!”