The focus of the day was soil - good soil, bad soil, what's in soil - and how worms compost soil. Gopher adventurers gathered 'round as Extension educator and Master Gardener state director Julie Weisenhorn demonstrated worm composting using a commercially available worm bin called the Worm Factory.
"Do any of you compost at home?" Weisenhorn asked the kids. Almost all raised their hands. "What do you put in your compost pile?" Kids replied "Veggies!", "Bananas!", "Coffee filters!" Weisenhorn talked about carbon and nitrogen, and the importance of balancing green items (fruit rinds, vegetable peelings, grass clippings) with brown (dead leaves, paper). When Weisenhorn saw the kids were getting a little fidgety, she pulled the lid off the worm bin and separated the two bin sections. Worms dangling from the top section held their attention as she explained how worms need mucus to slither through soil and how they consume (and eliminate) soil through their digestive system to create vermicompost or "black gold" that's high in nutrients for plants.
"The worms are always a hit", said Weisenhorn. "No one can resist these squirmy, living creatures - especially when they find out how important they are to our gardens."
Gopher Adventures is one of the summer day camps offered by the University's Rec Sports Deparment for kids ages 7-11. Gardening is one option campers select when they register. Kids also choose from sports, computers, dance, art and more. Taught by Extension Master Gardener volunteers, the gardening option is a collaboration between the U of M Department of Youth Sports and Rec, Department of Horticultural Science and the College of Extension.