Well, a couple things I learned, anyway.
First – compost from the worm bin, or at least my worm bin, is not good seed-starting material. The main reason is that it is simply too dense, almost fudgy. Some seedlings didn’t seem to mind it, such as the tomatoes and corn. Others, especially the brassicas, didn’t cope as well – their seedling roots didn’t penetrate well and pushed the rest of the seedling up and out as they grew. Yet others, such as the cucumbers, were in between.
I’ll probably get a few people reading this nodding sagely and sanctimoniously prattling about how seed-starting mixes should be loose and free-draining and sterile and low-nutrient and blah blah blah. To all that I say, bullshit. Seeds have little to no control about where they land up and most seeds will germinate anywhere given the right conditions. That the horticultural industry propounds a certain method doesn’t mean that no other way will succeed. Any experienced gardener can tell you that, more than one might expect, what succeeds is often the opposite of what the books and experts say to do.
In fact, my worm compost is nice and loose – when it’s dry. It only turns into fudge when it gets watered. And in fact, I usually start my seeds in topsoil – which is not the recommended method, but it’s never failed me.
Second – even tough plants do have their limits. Today I harvested the Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), and like so many other crops this year, the harvest was poor. I mean, half of what I get in most years. I originally planted them so I could get a crop out of what is essentially waste ground otherwise; it’s a very difficult spot for most things (at least, most things that most gardeners would consider desirable). Fartichokes are extremely tough and adaptable plants; in favourable conditions they quickly take over. Even so, it was a bit of a surprise to find that this unusually hot and dry year had such an impact on their production, because the top growth wasn’t unusually different – slightly shorter and fewer flowers, but that’s it.
Having said that, the quality of the harvest (vs. the quantity) was very good – all the tubers are solid and well-formed. I haven’t eaten any yet, so I don’t know if the flavour has been affected.