In the garden

Pet worms? Well, not exactly.

But those whose plants have benefitted from the rich vermicompost that worms produce are usually enthusiastic about having a plastic bin of these wiggly red creatures in their home. Vermicompost is a humus-like material that contains large numbers of worm castings produced when organic materials pass through a worm’s gut.

“It’s an alternative to conventional backyard composting,” said Henrico Extension Agent Karen Carter. “And it’s generally a faster process.”

Conventional composting depends on micro-organisms to break down organic wastes. Vermicomposting uses worms for most of that work. The worms are housed in a plastic “worm bin.” Carter periodically gives “make and take” workshops for people interested in trying the process.

“None are scheduled right now,” said Carter, “but if you’re interested, call the Extension Office, and we’ll put your name on a waiting list.”

To make a worm bin, drill air holes around the top of a 14-gallon plastic container, roughly 24 x 16 x 12.5 inches. Add roughly 4 pounds of shredded newspaper, a gallon of water, and 2 quarts each of coffee grounds and purchased bagged compost.

“We recommend the bagged compost,” said Carter. “With backyard compost, you run the risk of bringing in insects.”

Last, and most important, add a pound of worms.

“Be sure you get the right worms,” said Carter. “That’s critical because not just any earthworm will work. You need Eisenia fetida, the red wiggler worm.”

The worms are commercially available on line, or you may be able to get them from someone who is already vermicomposting. Periodically, the bins have to be divided both as a method of harvesting the vermicompost and because the worms can easily double in number.

“Harvesting the compost can be the most challenging part,” said Carter. “Some people use purchased systems rather than making their own because they can make separating the worms from the vermicompost a little easier.”

Worms can eat most fruits and vegetables provided they are not too salty or too acidic. Meat, dairy products, and fatty or greasy foods shouldn’t be given to the worms. Coffee grounds including the filters and tea bags also make excellent food.

“Make sure you don’t overfeed the worms,” cautioned Carter. Under optimum conditions, worms can process their body weight in food each day. Typically, however, they can’t quite eat that much, and overfeeding can create odor problems.

Carter recommends anyone interested in starting a worm bin look online at the Virginia Extension publication, “Composting Your Organic Kitchen Wastes with Worms.”

“It’s excellent,” she said. “But we recommend one slight change. Don’t drill drainage holes in the bottom of the bin. Not having them doesn’t turn out to be a problem, and sometimes having those holes in the bottom of your bin makes a mess.”

Without the drainage holes, a worm bin can be kept in the kitchen or basement, anyplace where temperatures don’t fall below freezing or go over 100 degrees Farenheit.

“Vermicomposting can be more convenient than backyard composting,” said Carter. “Plus, it’s an interesting process to watch, particularly if you have children and want to teach them about the natural world.”
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Museum District Association’s 23rd annual Mother’s Day House & Garden Tour will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The tour provides a rare opportunity for guests to go inside some of Richmond’s most beautiful and historic homes, gardens and institutions. The hospitality center is located at the Virginia Historical Society. A tour trolley will run continuously between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tour proceeds benefit non-profit agencies in the Richmond area and help protect and beautify this historic neighborhood. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of. For details, visit http://www.museumdistrict.org. Full text

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