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Composting

l
lilmomma Jun 11, 2010 08:16 AM

Who does this? Can anyone help me get started? I was thinking maybe I should do the worm thing. I feel terrible throwing out food peelings and such in the garbage can or down the disposal. I live in a house so I can have something outside. Someone said I could just get a galvanized garbage can and a pitchfork. I am not sure. I sort of like the idea of raising worms but need a cheap and convenient way to do it. What do you do?

  1. m
    MamaCrunch Aug 31, 2010 12:46 PM

    I've found this blog to be pretty helpful when my family started composting. It's a two part series. You can go to the second part using the arrow just about the post.

    http://thelittleboygreen.com/2010/02/...

    1. toodie jane Aug 26, 2010 08:40 AM

      Count me in as a new vermiculturist--just bought two totes for $9 at Ace (they are on sale) and set up a small colony of red wigglers in a mix of soil and shredded newsprint.

      They seem to really like my coffee gorunds, but I worry about adding too many becasue they are so acidic. Can I add too many? I don't have much vegetable waste as it is just me in the house, and I eat most everything. I guess I could "add a row" for the worms, lol.

      After doing some more online research, I'm going to modify my two-bin stack system with a lower bin to catch liquid and put a spigot in it. Looks also like I didn't put enough vent holes in the bins, so will add more. So far so good. My bins are up against the north side of the house in coastal California, so should take the winter O.K. Looking forward to lots of castings by spring. My sandy soil needs it.

      Would love to hear more about your worm farming escapades.

      1 Reply
      1. re: toodie jane
        The Dairy Queen Aug 26, 2010 08:45 AM

        I had the same worry as you because In winter, most of what we feed our worms is coffee grounds. The worms seem fine.

        ~TDQ

      2. s
        Sal Vanilla Jun 15, 2010 09:36 AM

        We just do two neat piles in the corner of the yard.

        Layer your yard clipping, brown leaf littler (softer leaves) and veggie pieces (and egg shelss if you do not have raccoons or other critter problems). Keep it watered, turn it frequently.

        I am not more specific because it depends on the amount of sun it gets (more sun - more turning and watering). You know you are on track when you plunge your hand into the pile and it is hot. If you do not have many trees, hold back some of your leaves so you can spike your pile in the Spring and Summer. Really, unless you live in the desert, there is no need to spike your pile with anything.

        We keep two piles for organization and simplicity. One is the older pile that is well composted and for use. The other is the work in progress. So you will start with one. Seeds from produce and weeds are killed by the heat the pile produces. If you use your pile too soon or add (say) grass with weeds late and do not give it time to cook the weed seed, there will be problems. So patience grasshopper!

        We do not use eggs. No animal products because we live in critterville. Also no really woody stems (from like peony flowers). We do compost watermelon rind. Cut big things up so they compost quicker.

        When you add the kitche scraps, peel back the top layer of the pile, sprinkle in the kitchen stuff and replace the top. Water. Basically We turn and water, add and water. Water after we mess with it. If we are out in the yard and in the area - we water it.

        You might want to locate your pile (if convenient) uphill from your veggie garden or an orchard.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sal Vanilla
          coll Aug 27, 2010 01:47 AM

          Last time we had a loose compost pile, we had the biggest colony of ants take it over. So many really, really large ants (possibly a new species!) that we freaked out, threw the whole pile in the back of the truck and dumped it in the woods miles away. But once you start composting, you feel so weird throwing out coffee grounds and veg clippings, I really have to do another one. I was thinking of the beehive type, if I could get some kind of plan for my husband to make a couple for me (would be a great Christmas present, hint hint).

        2. flylice2x Jun 14, 2010 03:12 AM

          Most cities have free classes on composting. Many of these classes offer composting bins at a discount price. The Black square ones and bins for the worms. Some even sell the red worms and the coconut husks.
          They give all kinds of handouts and teach about composting.
          Usually these classes can be found where they have city gardens..
          One of the handouts I got, was what you can and can not put in your composter

          1. j
            Jay D. Jun 11, 2010 01:58 PM

            I have a bio stack composter and it works just fine. In the past I just made a circle with chicken wire and piled every thing in it and after a year or so I had quite a haul of compost. I put every egg shell in there(good for tomatoes) used coffee grounds and to kick start the pile I will get a bag of steer or chicken manure for .99 cents. Also the green to brown ratio is important if you want it to break down fast(fast is relative) so to every one bucket of kitchen scraps (green) you need twice that of brown. Which can be news paper shredded, card board tubes(paper towels) pressed fiber egg crates. You can even dry some leaves or other yard scraps in the sun and save that for your browns.

            To get rid of the volunteer seeds you can bag up the compost and let it cook in the sun for a week or so. That can take care of most of that. But I had the BEST butter nut squash volunteer and grow from the base of the compost bin.

            Composting takes time, but it is cool to see all the stuff that was tossed in the trash get digested down into the best plant nutrient you can get.

            15 Replies
            1. re: Jay D.
              l
              lilmomma Jun 11, 2010 02:44 PM

              So if I do the worm thing in a basic bin, how do I spread it out onto the garden without losing all my worms?

              1. re: lilmomma
                The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2010 02:50 PM

                Well, you remove the bottom-most tray to get your soil. But, by then, you will have added 2, 3 or 4 more trays and most of the worms should be in the top-most tray, or the second to the top-most tray because that's where the new food is. Nevertheless, there might be a few worms in the bottom-most tray, so, you just spread your soil out on something (I use a big trash bag) in the bright sun. The worms don't like the bright sun, so, they burrow to the bottom. You just skim off the top layer of soil to put in your garden. No matter how careful you are, you will lose a few worms. The robins will love you for a day or two.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: lilmomma
                  litchick Jun 11, 2010 11:12 PM

                  ...and if you use a rubbermaid tote sort of set-up, there are lots of different methods for harvesting worm castings. A lot of people use a fine mesh screen (like for a window) stapled to a wood frame, then put handfuls of composted matter on the screen to sift. The castings fall down, the worms (and unfinished material) stay on the screen, and then are added back into the bin. But there are as many different methods as there are vermicomposters. I really recommend you check out the videos as redwormcomposting. Bentley is thorough and they'll probably answer a bunch of your questions.

                  You can also make compost tea with the worm castings, and use it to water your garden. Making the tea can be fussy, though -- you need to aerate it with a pump (fish tank pumps work well). Google worm tea and you'll get a lot of instructional info and how-to's.

                  1. re: litchick
                    The Dairy Queen Jun 12, 2010 01:18 AM

                    Whoops, I hadn't noticed she said "basic bin".

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      litchick Jun 12, 2010 09:30 AM

                      TDQ: I'm psyched there are other worm composters up in here. Wonder-worm powers, activate! ;)

                      Where else do you look for your vermicomposting info, other than redwormcomposting?

                      1. re: litchick
                        The Dairy Queen Jun 12, 2010 09:32 AM

                        Yes! My worm tea comes out in a spigot at the bottom and I just dump it on the most thirsty-looking plant nearby. Is that bad?

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          litchick Jun 12, 2010 09:39 AM

                          Ah, I think you've got leachate, not worm tea. Leachate is the liquid that drains out of the bin -- usually from the condensation the warm compost creates. Some folks use leachate the way you do, some others say that it might be to anaerobic to use directly on plants. I don't get leachate out of my bin, so I have't had to figure out where I stand on this.

                          I do know that for the actual worm tea -- steeping castings in aerated non-chlorinated water -- there are a bunch of fussy steps. Mostly the steps have to do with bubbling plain water for a few hours so get rid of any excess chlorine so the good microbes won't die when the castings are added. Then adding castings to the bucket of water, and bubbling that for about 24 hrs to make sure the mixture is aerobic and the beneficial microbes can survive. Then you strain out the castings, and use the liquid to water plants. Supposedly, this is excellent for vegetable and tomato plants.

                          1. re: litchick
                            The Dairy Queen Jun 12, 2010 12:57 PM

                            Oh my. Those steps do sound fussy. I can barely keep up (with my crazy life) as it is. I might just continue my lazy ways with the leachate. Maybe I should mix it with some water though before dumping it on my thirsty plants, though.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              litchick Jun 12, 2010 08:34 PM

                              If you have a big jar, you could put in some leachate, some water, and shake vigorously (as you would a cocktail shaker) for a few minutes to aerate.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                litchick Jun 12, 2010 09:49 PM

                                FYI: here's a detailed discussion of making worm tea:

                                http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/lo...

                          2. re: litchick
                            toodie jane Sep 7, 2010 11:57 AM

                            http://www.savvygardener.com/Features/worm_composting.html

                            http://www.ehow.com/video_5926934_mak...

                        2. re: litchick
                          d
                          dfrostnh Jun 15, 2010 03:29 AM

                          I have a the simple Rubbermaid tote system. I find removing the worms from the finished compost to be the hardest thing to do and messy. What has worked is to invite our two granddaughters (ages almost 4 and almost 6) to 'hunt worms'. I spread a pile of worm compost on the plastic covered child-sized table and the three of us pick out worms. When I think we've gotten most of them out, I sweep the compost into a plastic tote or bucket. The girls think it's fun and I get them cleaned up before their mother sees them.
                          I'm in NH so the worm bin is in our cellar. I suggest being careful about having the worms outdoors because they can't take high temperatures. The bin heats up. A friend had his in his barn where he thought it was protected but the worms died. Even our garage gets pretty warm on summer days.

                        3. re: lilmomma
                          d
                          DGresh Jun 12, 2010 02:54 AM

                          personally I don't bother adding worms in particular. I imagine they are in there on their own. It still composts. This is a very convenient method especially if you've got room for two bins-- one "active" and one "to be used". I just more or less alternate between them year by year. And I am very cavalier about layering and all-- it's basically green stuff all year, with the dumping out of my dead container plants in the fall. It still works fine.

                          1. re: DGresh
                            The Dairy Queen Jun 12, 2010 06:30 AM

                            The one thing I will say is that if you live in a harsh climate where you have dark, super cold winters, the worm bin is something you can use in winter, if you bring it indoors. (I don't know where the OP is.)

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              d
                              DGresh Jun 13, 2010 04:45 AM

                              I live in the northeast us and do continue to "use" the compost bin outside during the winter. Of course nothing happens over the winter, it just freezes. But it starts up again in the spring (minus whatever hungry critters have eaten of course. But that's ok)

                      2. litchick Jun 11, 2010 10:15 AM

                        Vermicomposting (worm composting) is really easy, and totally worth it. We've totally reduced the amount of organic waste that ends up in the trashcan to nearly zero. The first thing I'd suggest is heading over to redwormcomposting.com -- it's run by a guy named Bentley and is a total one-stop shop!

                        Building your own worm bin is super easy and cheap (all you need is a big rubbermaid tote bin), but there are also good ready-made systems out there like the Worm Inn, the Can'O'Worms, etc. You'll want to start with about a pound of worms. I vouch for the quality at redwormcomposting.com, that's where I bought my worms from when I started my bin. There's a good section of that site on getting started; watch the videos there and check out the informational articles:

                        http://www.redwormcomposting.com/getting-started/

                        Once you're up and running, another good resource is the vermicomposting forum at GardenWeb:

                        http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/verm/

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: litchick
                          The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2010 02:56 PM

                          Rd worm composting is where I bought my worms.

                          ~TDQ

                        2. Gio Jun 11, 2010 09:25 AM

                          Dirt is disgusting. Soil is the heavenly nutricious medium in which we grow vegetables and other plants. Composting is a wonderful way to use up all the kitchen and garden scraps and make that heavenly mixture to enrich the soil in your garden. We call it Garden Gold.

                          Composting is easy. You basically need layers of green matter: kitchen scraps, grass clippings, flower stems and weeds, etc. A brown layer: leaves, wood chips, paper, straw. An even layer of moisture as you add stuff to the pile. Here's a link that describes how to do it.
                          http://www.compostinfo.com/tutorial/B...

                          BTW: We've been composting for more than 25 years, outside in a sunny spot near my potting table. We use a bin we bought but you could easily make your own wooden one.

                          1. The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2010 08:22 AM

                            I compost produce trimmings (no citrus), coffee grounds. and crushed eggshells with worms and it works pretty well. The eggs shells don't really get broken down in the same time frame everything else does, so, that ends up in your dirt. I have to bring my bin indoors in winter.

                            Really, you're composting paper as much as you're composting your produce trimmings...it really helps if you have access to a paper shredder.

                            It's nice to get the dirt, too, but, be forewarned that it ends up with a lot of volunteer cucumbers and such.

                            ~TDQ

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              l
                              lilmomma Jun 11, 2010 08:37 AM

                              I don't understand your last sentence.

                              Could you tell me about the system you have set up for your worms. Thanks.

                              1. re: lilmomma
                                d
                                DGresh Jun 11, 2010 08:50 AM

                                volunteer cucumbers (and tomatoes) means that those seeds don't get "cooked" in the compost, so you end up with a lot of seedlings the next year.

                                1. re: lilmomma
                                  The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2010 08:54 AM

                                  I can't exactly remember which system we have, but it was basically a 5-level worm bin we bought off of Amazon. Each level looks like a a square tray with a mesh bottom. You order the whole kit and they send you the 5 layers, the worms, and some starter material. Once you're kind of "started", what you do is cover the worms with a layer of damp shredded paper. And, every time you have trimmings, you lift up the layer of paper and put the trimmings on top of the worms. Once that tray is "full" of trimmgs, you put the second layer on top and keep going.

                                  The worms eat through the paper and trimmings and leave behind dirt. When they are done making dirt on one level, they wriggle up to the next level. It's that dirt that you can use for your gardening or whatever. My last sentence above was basically saying that the dirt isn't sterile. There are still sometimes small seeds --tomato, cucumber, etc. --in the dirt that the worms didn't break down for whatever reason. So, if you use the dirt in, say, a flower bed, you might be surprised when the occasional tomato plant sprouts.

                                  Does that help?

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    l
                                    lilmomma Jun 11, 2010 09:11 AM

                                    Thanks. You like the worm bin you got off amazon? How much was it and which brand, if you don't mind me asking.

                                    1. re: lilmomma
                                      The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2010 09:16 AM

                                      I'm sorry, I don't remember, but if I recall it was the only 5-layer bin. It was about $90 or so. I've never had a worm bin before, so I can't really compare to other bins, but it seems to work fine!

                                      ~TDQ

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