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Composting

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?

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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

            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

              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

      2. 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. 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/gett...

          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

            Rd worm composting is where I bought my worms.

            ~TDQ

          2. 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.

              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

                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

                  ...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

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

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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.

                        2. re: litchick

                          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

                          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 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

                              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. 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