Basic Guide to Composting How to Go Organic in Composting How to Succeed with Your Composting Venture Making Your Uwn Compost Bin Teach Composting to Kids The Big Deal on Industrial Composting Techniques The Greens and Browns of Composting The Low-Down On Home Based Composting Processes The Pros of Worm Composting To Compost or Not to Compost Avoiding Composting Dangers Common Materials for Composting from Your Own Home Compost Smells This and Other Composting Myths Dynamic Composting Tips and Tricks Evaluating Commercially Available Composting Heaps Getting the Most Out of Your Compost Getting to Know Your Composting Equipment Helping Nature by Composting
Discover some insider tips,tricks, and techniques for creating your own compost and using it to grow the organic garden of your dreams. Topics include cold composting, hot composting, and vermicomposting.
This book discusses the proper way to set up a compost pile. Contents Include: Article 1: What is Composting? Article 2: Misconceptions Surrounding Composting Article 3: Compost Smells: This and Other Composting Myths Article 4: To Compost or Not to Compost Article 5: The Benefits of Composting Article 6: How to Succeed with Your Composting Venture Article 7: Creative Composting Article 8: Materials Needed to Start Composting Article 9: A Review of the Steps to Successful Composting Article 10: Composting Precautions Article 11: Getting to Know Your Composting Equipment Article 12: The Low-down on Home Based Composting Processes Article 13: The Dirt Paybacks: Advantages of Composting Article 14: The Best Place for Your Composting Bin Article 15: Building Your Own Compost Bin Article 16: How to Choose a Composting Container Article 17: Different Types of Composting Article 18: The Greens and Browns of Composting Article 19: The Best Food for Your Compost Bin Article 20: Non-edible Composting Items Article 21: Store-bought Fertilizer Versus Mature Compost Article 22: Worms for Vermicomposting Article 23: Wriggly Friends Help Make Compost Article 24: What Not To Compost Article 25: Seasonal Considerations for Composting Article 26: Maintaining a Compost Heap Article 27: Ongoing Care for Your Compost Pile Article 28: Composting Problems Article 29: If Your Compost Pile Won’t Heat Up Article 30: Common Uses for Finished Compost
With “everything you need to know” about composting in one small, easy to read volume emphasizes my philosophy that composting is so easy. In his book, Stu Campbell takes the scientific mumbo jumbo and simplifies it into terms that anyone can understand.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Here’s what others have to say about Let it Rot!
From Library Journal
A readable, quietly humorous introduction to composting, this covers reasons to compost; differing approaches; how decomposition works; various methods, ingredients, and containers; how to speed decomposition; and how to use the end result. Campbell is an experienced gardener, and the book goes into great detail, but the text remains clear and interesting. The simple black-and-white illustrations vary between decorative sketches and straightforward diagrams; they could have been more frequent and more informative. The bibliography lists 14 other books on composting; a list of sources of composting supplies is also given. An interesting treatment of a basic subject for general readers, this is recommended for all gardening collections needing material on compost heaps. - Sharon Levin, Univ. of Vermont Medical Lib., Burlington
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
And here’s more…
“…the composter’s bible…Let It Rot will change the way you look at your garbage.” – Horticulture Review
“A good general book for setting up a composting system.” — Natural Health
“This is the book we most often use in our composting classes at the Garden. The content is excellent, easy, and entertaining to read.” – Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Plants & Gardens News
“The little classic that introduced thousands to composting.” – The Boston Globe
“An excellent paperback book … an easy read with plenty of clear advice.” –The Cincinnati Enquirer
“The best book on composting I’ve found.” — Howard Garrett in The Dallas Morning News
“…perhaps the most comprehensive book available on composting …from a publisher that all serious gardeners should know about.” – Marke Andrews in the Vancouver Sun
“Campbell is an experienced gardener and the book goes in to great detail but the text remains clear and interesting.” – Library Journal
“This paperback thoroughly covers the subject, touching on various composting methods, types of containers, where to locate the compost heap, procedures and what to do with the finished product.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“…the composting stand-by…” – Salt Lake City Tribune
The Tumbleweed Pet Poo Converter consists of two sturdy nesting boxes with a lid, which form a neat, compact portable unit. The worms eat and breed in the top box.
The top box has a perforated base to allow any liquid waste to drain through to the bottom (collector) box. The “worm poo” or worm castings remain in the top box and can be harvested as desired. The bottom or catcher box collects the valuable liquid waste which can be diluted and used as a fertilizer on your (ornamental flower) garden.
There is no difficulty in getting the worms to eat dog droppings. Commercial worm farmers rear their worms on manure.
Please note, however, that it is not possible to mix diets. They must be fed exclusively on pet poo.
If you want to recycle vegetable scraps you must set up a separate farm.
# Constructed of UV treated High Impact Polypropylene Hardened Plastic
SUSTAINABLE SOIL building for organic gardening begins after the initial garden soil testing and the addition of fertilizers and conditioners. It is very important to maintain and improve the soil when trying to garden organically. Sustaining the soil means that you have a means of replenishing the garden soil with what you have at hand – compost, beneficial microbes, enzymes, and earthworms. Ideally, once your organic garden is established it could be sustained with garden compost alone – by removing garden soil and layering it in your compost. This method uses the microbes in your soil to inoculate your compost, which in turn will feed your soil. SHREDDED ALFALFA HAY is one of the secrets of great compost. It is worth it to rent a shredder for the weekend, and shred up a few bales of alfalfa hay. Worms thrive on it, and it provides the best mulch and soil additive for your garden soil.
BUILDING YOUR PILE
BUILD YOUR PILE about four feet in diameter, and four feet high, on a well-drained site. A ring of hog wire with a ring of chicken wire on the outside of it works well – providing air circulation, keeping the pile contained, is easily taken apart for turning or sifting, and, it is economical and very easy to maintain. We let our piles set for a year and then sift them in the spring when we are adding compost to our garden beds. No Turning! If you want to turn your pile, let it set 3-4 months, remove the wire and set it up next to your pile. Take the pile apart, mix it, and add it to the new pile, moistening it as you go. You may do this as often as you like. This will speed up your composting process.
FIRST LAYER on the bottom should be about three inches of roughage – corn stalks, brush, or other materials to provide air circulation.
SECOND LAYER is two to four inches of dry vegetation – carbon-rich “brown” materials, like fall leaves, straw, dead flowers shredded newspaper, shredded alfalfa hay or dry manure. Water well.
THIRD LAYER should be two to four inches of green vegetation – nitrogen-rich materials, like grass clippings, weeds, garden waste, vegetable peelings, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and crushed eggshells. Kitchen waste may be added but never use meat scraps, diseased plants, dog or cat manure, or poisonous plants, plant-based kitchen waste. Water until moistened. (Too much water will compact your pile and reduce available oxygen.)
FOURTH LAYER is garden soil, two inches thick. It is important to add garden soil because it contains a supply of microorganisms and nutrients, which will inoculate your compost pile. As microorganisms grow, they collect essential nutrients containing antibiotics, vitamins, and catalytic enzymes in their body tissues and release them slowly as they die and decompose.
REPEAT LAYERS of dry vegetation, green vegetation, and garden soil – moistening each layer – until the pile is three or four feet high. To insure enough green vegetation one can plant extra garden greens, or devote one of the garden beds to the growing of compost. Good composting greens are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, comfrey (grow it in an isolated spot, and do not disturb the roots, because it can be invasive), peas, beans, and all the rest of the garden weeds and greens.
COVER THE TOP of the pile with three to four inches of garden soil, making a ridge around the outside edge to prevent the water from running off. Use a broom handle or iron bar to make air holes from the top, deep into the pile every eight inches or so, for ventilation and water. Top off the pile with two inches of shredded alfalfa hay. Water regularly to keep moistened.
CURED COMPOST has almost all the nutrients the crops contained, and so many beneficial microbes that it is one of the best things you can do for your garden. It also contains enough humus to replenish your soil’s supply. Your compost is ready when it is dark, rich looking, broken down, crumbles in your hand and smells like clean earth. Parts of the compost pile along the outside edges that have not completely broken down will be removed when your pile is sifted and can be placed at the bottom, and between the layers of the next compost pile.
SIFTING COMPOST is easily done by placing a 4 x 4 foot square of ½ inch wire mesh over your wheelbarrow and bending the edges over the sides. Then a shovel full of compost may be placed on top of the wire mesh and rubbed. The siftings fall into the wheelbarrow and the lumps will remain on top. One side of the wire can be lifted from the wheelbarrow and these clumps will fall to the ground into a pile. When you are done, these can be shoveled into a new compost pile, and be layered accordingly.
PROBLEMS can occur if conditions are unfavorable. Some of the problems are:
BAD ODORS indicate that there is not enough air in your pile make more air holes in your pile, or turn the pile, or start a new one.
CENTER OF PILE IS DRY means there is not enough water in your pile. Make more air holes, and fill them with water, and the water will disperse throughout the pile.
PILE IS DAMP BUT ONLY WARM IN THE MIDDLE indicates that your pile is too small. Increase the size of your pile to at least four feet high and four feet wide.
PILE IS DAMP AND SWEET SMELLING, BUT REMAINS COOL indicates a lack of nitrogen, not enough green matter or manure. Cover the pile with black plastic for a few days, but be careful not to cook all your microbes. The pile also may need more water.
SPEEDING UP COMPOSTING
TO SPEED UP THE COMPOSTING PROCESS and increase the decomposition rate you can add extra nitrogen, fishmeal or blood meal, to your layers. Using a metal rod to make holes in your pile will increase the amount of oxygen and stimulate aerobic activity. You can also shred your components fine, which causes faster decomposition. Compost innoculants can also be used to add nitrogen fixing, decomposing, and other soil bacteria, enzymes and hormones.
VERMI-COMPOSTING is another organic gardening technique, which uses earthworms to make compost, which will be rich in organic matter and worm castings, and is one of the best soil builders available. Worms can eat their body weight daily in organic matter and convert it into dark, soil enriching castings full of live micro organisms, growth hormones, and nutrients, humic acids which condition the soil, and a neutral pH. Worm castings are free from disease pathogens, which are killed in the process. They prefer a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees, but will tolerate 32 – 84 degrees. They require a moist, pesticide free environment with plenty of organic matter to eat. There are two types of Vermicomposting, indoor and outdoor.
OUTDOOR VERMI-COMPOSTING, ABOVE OR BELOW THE GROUND
ABOVE THE GROUND BIN: composting red worms are an excellent addition to a compost pile. The worms help to process the pile by eating the decayed matter and turn the waste into fine topsoil in approximately 2 to 3 months, depending on the quantity of worms introduced into the pile, the outside temperatures, and the time of year. A compost heap that is 4 x 4 x 4 should have a minimum of 3,000 to 10,000 worms introduced into the pile – about two pounds. Add them to your compost pile when it has broken down and is warm but not hot in the center. Dig down about a foot and add the worms. Keep the pile moistened, but not soggy wet. This pile will be your “breeding area”.
WHEN YOU WANT TO REMOVE some of the worms for next compost pile, begin feeding the worms at one spot near the edge, and when the worms move to this area after a few days, add some of the worms to your other compost pile. At this time you can also remove some of the soil and worm castings for your garden lowering your pile a foot or so. Keep feeding the worms in the breeding area by adding greens and shredded alfalfa hay to the top of the pile every few weeks. Be sure to add four or five inches of shredded alfalfa hay for winter protection, and keep the pile moistened, but not wet.
BELOW THE GROUND BIN: Dig a 2×8 foot trench two or three feet deep into the ground below frost level. Place a six-inch layer of peat moss and shredded newspaper or cardboard on the bottom, and water until evenly moistened, but not soggy wet.
FILL THE BIN ¾ full with a mixture of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded leaves, or shredded alfalfa hay, add a little crumbled aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand mixed with equal parts of wood ashes, and ground limestone. Mix well, moisten, and add two to three inches of a mix of finely chopped vegetal kitchen wastes, garden waste, and aged manure to one end of the pit.
ADD ONE POUND of red compost worms, which can be ordered through the mail. (When your worms first arrive they may be dehydrated, you can feed them a light dusting of corn meal before you cover them.)
LOOSELY COVER worms/waste with a 2-inch layer with shredded alfalfa hay. Water and feed two or three times a week – adding vegetable waste under the alfalfa layer to keep the process going. Each time you feed your worms place the waste mix next to the previous feeding area, working your way toward the opposite end of the pit. When you get to the end of the pit, feed back towards the beginning. As you continue these layers and reach the top, leave a four-inch space between the cover and the mixture for ventilation.
COVER THE TOP of the pit with a sheet of plywood to keep out the elements and critters, and weight down with rocks.
IN A FEW MONTHS and under the alfalfa layer you will have worm castings, which can be transferred to your garden beds. To harvest your worm castings wait until the worms are being fed are at one end of the pit. You can remove the castings from the opposite end of the pit. Replace the castings with the mix of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded leaves, a little crumbled aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand mixed with equal parts of wood ashes, and ground limestone. Cover with the 2-inch layer of damp shredded newspaper or cardboard mixed with straw.
INDOOR WORM BINS
COMPOST CAN BE MADE INDOORS by using wood, metal or plastic bins with lids. Special worm composting bins may be ordered through the mail, or you can easily make your own. Special worms are used in Vermicomposting: Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellas, which can be ordered from worm farms, or some nurseries. Start with about a pound or worms, around 1000. They can multiply quickly, and the surplus can just be added to your summer garden, or given to friends.
BUILD OR BUY A BOX:
FOR TWO PEOPLE, a box 2′ x 2′ x 8″ deep, or so, wood, metal, or plastic, will suffice. For a larger family, make it 2′ x 3′ x 1′ deep. There should be some small ¼ ” holes in the bottom for drainage, and the box should be set on a tray with 1″ spacers between the tray and the box, for aeration and drainage. A garden shed would be a useful to hold all of your extra supplies and gardening tools.
LINE THE BOTTOM with shredded 1-inch strips of newspaper, inch wide strips of cardboard boxes, and peat moss. A mix of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, or newspaper, is a good bedding mixture. You can also add shredded leaves and a little aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand, ashes, and limestone. Moisten the bedding, mix it well, and add the worms. Let it set for a few days before kitchen waste is added. Your worms will happily feed and make castings.
ADD KITCHEN WASTE every day or so, by burying it a few inches or so in the bedding mix in one end of the box. Kitchen waste can include: vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and the filters, tea bags, without the tags, any vegetable matter, bread scraps, dried and crushed eggshells, and small amounts of finely chopped meat scraps, garlic and onion.
COVER THE TOP of the compost bedding with a layer of damp newspapers, and a loosely fitting lid with holes for air. Every time you add waste, work your way to the other end of the box, so you will have about 8 or 9 different adding areas. When you get to the end of the box, start over at the other end. Worms will eat the bedding along with the scraps, and you may need to add more. Keep the bedding mix/scraps moistened, but not soggy wet. In a few months you will be ready to harvest your compost.
TO HARVEST COMPOST castings, follow the same procedures for gathering outdoor castings. Only add the castings to your garden beds, these special worms live indoors only.
“Worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibers of plants, by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it, and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain or grass.” The Rev. Gilbert White of Selborne, 1777
Resources for compost supplies
Home of the Organic Gardener Planet Natural Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Fertile Garden Harmony Farm Supply All Natures Safeway Extremely Green Gardening Company
Frank and Vicky Giannangelo Copyright (c) 2008 Giannangelo Farms Southwest
Composting has been practiced by gardeners for centuries as a great way to not only get rid of garden and yard waste, but it’s a very cost effective way to improve and enrich the soil in a garden or even an indoor container. Almost all gardeners value the “black gold” of compost as one of the best additives to the garden soil.
But many gardeners, especially “indoor” gardeners, don’t have a place to build and maintain a compost pile of any sort. And the idea of building a traditional compost pile indoors is not really feasible. But it turns out there are some options for making compost indoors. Let’s take a look at a couple.
Vermiculture (or How About Them Worms?)
At first blush, the idea of a worm bin or worm farm sounds like the last thing that you would want to have in your home, especially your kitchen. But it turns out that worm composting (the technical term is vermiculture) is one of the cleaner ways to make compost. The worms are contained in a plastic bind, and you can successfully make the compost without ever even seeing or touching the worms.
The bin is built with multiple layers, and you add the worms, and then add the kitchen waste to be composted. One of the advantages of worm composting is that you can add materials that would never do well in a traditional compost bin, like citrus peelings and the like. You let the worms do their magic, and add another layer or bin and the worms move on to the fresh kitchen waste.
Worm castings are among the best forms of compost, and do wonders for the composition of the soil. Take a look a the pictures of a worm bin and you may find that it’s better than you think.
One example of a bokashi composter is the Happy Farmer composter. This is an indoor composting technique that has been used for years by the Japanese and Koreans.
Bokashi is a mixture of bran and sawdust which is mixed with microorganisms. The kitchen wastes are put in the composter, and a mixed with the bokashi. After a couple of weeks the mixture can be buried outside, where it will finish off into compost in just a few more weeks. The process is more similar to fermentation than it is a traditional composter, in that it’s an anaerobic process (not requiring oxygen) and the finished product has more liquid. In fact many bokashi composters have a spigot that allows you to drain the liquid off separately, and you can use it to fertilize your plants.
Advantages of indoor composters
Both of these approaches have some common advantages:
1) You don’t need a lot of waste to start the bin. With a traditional compost pile, you need enough mass to get the pile to heat up. With these indoor composters, the active agents can get to work right away, you don’t need to wait for a big pile of waste to get going.
2) You can compost many things that won’t work in a traditional compost pile. Don’t think of meat or dairy products in a compost pile, but small amounts of these in these kitchen composters can do OK.
3) Compost in a hurry – These active composters can give you compost in four to eight weeks, much faster than a traditional compost pile.
So, if you want to adopt more of a green lifestyle by composting your wastes, but thought that living in an apartment or condo without a yard kept you from doing so, there are options.
Worm composting — also known as vermiculture — is the proverbial win-win situation. It gives you a convenient way to dispose of organic waste, such as vegetable peelings. It saves space in the county landfill, which is good for the environment. It gives worms a happy home and all the free “eats” that they could want. For those that have gardens or even potted plants, homegrown compost is a great way to feed and nurture plants.
Worm composting, which some advocates have dubbed “the organic garbage disposal,” recycles food waste into rich, dark, earth-smelling soil conditioner. It’s such great stuff that Planet Natural sells a variety of organic compost that ranges in price from $5.95 to $10.95 as well as potting soil that contains compost.
And despite its reputation, worm composting doesn’t need to be a smelly endeavor. If you take care to set things up correctly, your compost bin shouldn’t be stinky.
Worm composting is being seen more and more as a way to help our environment and reduce waste. The City of Oakland in California has a recycling program expressly for food waste. (It supplies the bin and you supply the organic garbage.) The City of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, supplies residents with worm bins and even has a hot-line you can call to find where to buy worms. Spokane, Washington posts information on how to get started in worm composting to encourage residents to try this environmentally friendly way of disposing of garbage.
To get started you need: worms, a container and “bedding.”
Don’t go out and dig out night crawlers that live in the soil by your home to populate your compost bin. Night crawlers need to tunnel through dirt to eat and survive and they can’t live on vegetable waste. Instead, you need redworms — Eisenia foetida (also known as red wiggler, brandling or manure worm) and Lumbricus rubellus (manure worm).
You can buy worms from sites like Planet Natural. (We sell 500 red worms for $20.95 – shipping included.) If you’ve got the time and the access, you can also find a horse stable and recover worms from horse manure or ask a farmer to ransack his manure pile for worms.
Mary Appelhof, author of “Worms Eat My Garbage” recommends two pounds of worms — about 2,000 wigglers — for every pound per day of food waste. (Some experts recommend a one-to-one ratio — one pound of worms for one pound of garbage.) To figure out how much food waste your household generates, monitor it for a week and divide by seven.
When populating your bin with worms, also keep in mind that worms, provided you give them adequate food and a good home, can double their populations every 90 days. It’s probably best to start out with slightly fewer worms than you need and just expect that your worm population will increase to fill your demand for processing organic waste.
You’ll also need a container for the worms. We have a variety of worm bins on sale here including the Wormtopia ($109.95) and the Can O Worms ($126.95).
If you prefer, you can also build your own. Size does matter when it comes to compost. You’ll want a container with depth of between eight and 12 inches. Wood is a great building material. If you don’t feel like building from scratch, you can even adapt a “Rubbermaid” type tub and turn it into a composting bin. Books such as “Worms Eat My Garbage” give details on how to build your own compost bin. Just remember that worms like a dark, moist (not wet) environment and they hate light. Any container should be opaque.
Bins can be located anywhere from under the kitchen sink to outside or in your garage. One important consideration is temperature. Ideally a worm compost bin should be located in areas where the temperatures are between 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Red worms generally prefer temperatures in the 55 to 77 degree range. If you live in an area that has harsh winters, you’ll need to move your bin inside during the winter months or compost on a seasonal basis. Another consideration: worms are like people in that they do not like a lot of noise or vibrations. Keep them away from high traffic areas.
Once you’ve got the worms and the containers you’re ready to set up your “compost shop.”
First you’ll want to build a home for your worms and one which will make them happy and prolific. You’ll need bedding that will fill the bin from one-third to one-half full. To create bedding soak a large quantity of shredded newspapers or cardboard. Worms want an environment that is about 75 percent water. Newspapers should only take a few minutes to take up enough water to make proper bedding. Allow cardboard, such as toilet paper rolls and tissue boxes, to soak overnight. Don’t use garden soil or mix fresh cow, horse or chicken manure into the bedding. These emit gases and will raise the temperature of your compost bin. You could end up “cooking” your worms to death.
Once the bedding matter has been soaked, wring it out until it is moist, but not dripping. Place it in the bin along with something gritty such as a bit of soil, fine sand, leaves, cornstarch, sawdust or ground egg shells. (Worms don’t have teeth so they need something gritty to help them grind up the paper and food.) Once your bin is up and running it will be self-sufficient and you won’t need to add additional grit until you harvest the worm castings and clean the bin.
To make your worms feel at home, dig down until about the middle of the bedding and place your worms there. Don’t just put them on top. Then place the lid on the bin and keep it at a moderate temperature. Leave them alone for about a week to settle in. They will feed off the bedding.
After about a week, start feeding your worms food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. Avoid meat scraps, bones, fish, leftover dairy products and oily foods since these will make your compost pile smell as well as attract flies and rodents. Experts are divided on whether pasta and grains should be tossed into the compost or thrown away in regular garbage. Your best bet is to experiment and let your worms tell you what they’ll eat or won’t eat.
Of course, there are certain things that worms won’t eat or shouldn’t eat. Do not dispose of glass, plastic or aluminum foil in your compost. Although paper can be used as bedding, don’t include paper with colored printing on it. Many colored inks are toxic to worms. Also avoid rubber bands and sponges.
It’s best to feed worms once a week in small amounts. If you feed them more than they can process you will end up with a stinking compost bin as the garbage literally backs up.
Compost actually doesn’t smell. The foul odor comes from rotting food that the worms haven’t eaten yet. If you give them appropriately sized meals — not supersized entrees — they will eat the food before it starts rotting (and smelling.)
If they are eating too slowly, chop up vegetable matter, which is easier for them to eat and gives new meaning to the term “fast food.” If the chopping doesn’t help enough, reduce the amount of organic matter you are feeding them.
When you feed your worms, check and see how things are going. If the bedding is wet, give some additional paper bedding to soak up the excess. (Remember that the bedding should be moist, not dripping.) If the bedding is too dry, use water from a spray bottle to moisten it.
Once your compost bin is up and running, it requires little maintenance until little or no original bedding is visible and the contents of the bin are reduced in bulk and mainly consist of worm castings, which are brown and “earthy” looking. Once your bin has reached that point, it’s time to harvest the worm castings and give your worms new bedding. Castings can be harvested anywhere from two and a half months to every six months, depending on how many worms you have and how much food you’re giving them.
There are several harvesting methods. For those with the time and patience or little kids, you dump the bin’s contents onto a large plastic sheet and then manually separate the worms from the compost. Children usually love helping out with harvesting the worm casings. Remember that your helpers as well as yourself should wear gloves. Once all the worm casings are removed, keep aside some of the compost to mix in with the new bedding and then the cycle starts all over again.
A more common way to harvest is to move everything – worms, castings, bedding, food – to one side of the bin. Pick out partially decomposed materials and push to the other side. Place some food on top of the partially decomposed materials. Replace the lid and leave it alone for a couple weeks. During that time, the worms should migrate over to the new food. Once they’ve gone to the other side, put on a pair of gloves and harvest the castings. Make sure you don’t remove any worms in the process. Then give the worms new bedding mixed in with some residual compost.
Compost is useful whether you have an apartment adorned with potted plants or you have a backyard garden. Use compost to enrich potting soil and the soil in your garden. It also makes great mulch. It’s relatively hassle-free and you’re not only helping your plants, but the environment as well.
Common Problems and Solutions
Problem: Strong, unpleasant odors from the compost bin.
Solutions: Most likely the odor is from rotting food because you are giving your worms too much to eat and food is sitting around too much so it rots. The solution is to stop adding food waste until the worms have broken down what they have. (Also avoid meat and other greasy food which can cause odor problems.) If odor becomes a problem, also try stirring the contents of your compost pile. That will allow more air in, which can also reduce odors. At the same time you are exploring those solutions also check your bin’s drainage holes to ensure they are not blocked and drill more holes if necessary. Worms will down if the bin’s contents are too wet.
Problem: Worms are crawling out of the bedding and onto the sides or lid of the bin.
Solution: The bedding may be too acidic which is forcing the worms to migrate. Bedding can become too acidic if you add too much acidic food scraps such as orange peels. Try reducing the amount of acidic organic matter that you’re putting into the bin.
Problem: Fruit flies.
Solution: Avoid the problem in the first place by burying food waste and not overloading your worms with too much food. You can also try keeping a plastic sheet or a piece of old carpet or sacking on the surface of the compost bin. If flies persist, consider moving the compost bin to a location where the files will not be a problem. Also think about recruiting a few friendly spiders to take up residence near the compost bin.
This article was written by Eric Vinje of Planet Natural.
Convert kitchen waste into soil-nourishing organic matter with worm bins available at Planet Natural.
Have you ever had really great soil for gardening around your house? Few do. In my case, the clay-like soil prevented good water drainage and was difficult for cultivating new plants. At other times the sand content was too high, providing the opposite problem – water retention. Additionally, a proper soil nutrient for great plants was missing. One could replace all the soil – a very expensive time consuming process, build raised beds or work to improve existing conditions. To do this, composting is the answer.
Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is a great way to help the environment. Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost.
Composting is a lot like cooking, and the easiest compost recipe calls for blending parts of green or wet material, high in nitrogen and brown or dry material, high in carbon.
Materials – Materials that are excellent for composting are kitchen waste, like coffee grounds, wastes, things you might throw down the garbage disposal. Meat, bones, eggs, cheese, fats and oils are not recommended for backyard composting because they attract animals. Composting materials are divided into two types, green and brown. Green materials include green leafy plant residues like weeds, grass clippings, vegetable tops and flower clippings. Brown materials include fall leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips and shredded newspapers. To speed up decomposition, use two-parts green material to one-part brown material. For best results, mix materials high in nitrogen such as clover, fresh grass clippings, and livestock manure with those high in carbon such as dried leaves.
Compost Bin – First, choose a location for your compost bin. Place the bin at least 20 feet away from the nearest house. Avoid placing the bin against a tree or wooden building; the compost could cause the wood to decay. Bins can be built from scrap lumber, old pallets, snow fence, chicken wire, or concrete blocks. When building a composting bin, such as with chicken wire, scrap wood, or cinder blocks, be sure to leave enough space for air to reach the pile. Usually when building a composting bin, one side is left open or can be opened to facilitate turning the materials. Once your bin is in place, you can begin immediately to fill it with yard wastes and kitchen scraps. While a bin will help contain the pile, it is not absolutely necessary – some prefer to compost in a large open area.
Process – Basically, backyard composting is an acceleration of the same process nature uses. If left alone, these same materials will eventually break down, decompose and produce soil rich materials. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves. Home composting provides ideal conditions to greatly reduce the time it takes
Cooking refers to the process where the compost heats up and breaks down, which is necessary before you can use it as soil additive in the garden and on your house plants. The cooking process takes about 4-8 weeks once you stop adding to the bin. Don’t be surprised by the heat of the pile or if you see worms, both of which are part of the decomposition process. If you want to accelerate the process, turn it every four days, but more frequently than that is not recommended.
Carbon – Carbon and Nitrogen are the essential elements of a compost pile. Carbon rich materials are referred to as “browns”. Carbon-rich, relatively low-nutrient material are slow to decay. The rate at which breakdown occurs depends on several factors – oxygenation, temperature, water content, surface area size, and the carbon to nitrogen ratio Soak high carbon materials with water before composting. Alternate six to eight inch layers of high carbon materials such as leaves and other dry plant debris, with layers of high nitrogen material such as grass clippings, kitchen waste or manure.
Nitrogen – Nitrogen is the most important food nutrient, because a nitrogen shortage drastically slows the composting process. Brown materials composted alone require supplemental nitrogen to feed the decomposing bacteria. Greens are quick to rot and they provide important nitrogen and moisture. Add one-quarter to one-half cup nitrogen fertilizer per bushel of brown material. If you are low on high-nitrogen material, you can add a small amount of commercial fertilizer containing nitrogen. In other words, the ingredients placed in the pile should contain 25 to 30 times as much carbon as nitrogen. Some ingredients with higher nitrogen content are green plant material such as crop residues, hay, grass clippings, animal manures.
Manure – Manure may be used to increase your compost piles nitrogen supply. Animal manure should only be collected from vegetarian animals, such as horses, cows, sheep, poultry, etc. Sheep and cattle manure don’t drive the compost heap to as high a temperature as poultry or horse manure, so the heap takes longer to produce the finished product.
Moisture – Moisture and oxygen are important factors in the composting process as both influence temperature. An active compost pile will be warm – frequently between 75 – 85 degrees. Every time you add fresh grass or kitchen waste you add some moisture retention to your compost pile. Moisture is provided by rain, but you may need to water or cover the pile to keep it damp. To test for adequate moisture, reach into your compost pile and grab a handful of material and squeeze it; if a few drops of water come out, it’s probably got enough moisture, if it doesn’t, add water.
Eliminate Odor – The most common problem is unpleasant, strong odors. To prevent this ensure a good flow of oxygen in the compost, don’t overload the pile with food waste so that the food sits around too long, and if the bin contents become too wet add in more dry materials.
Home composting is both fun and easy to do, and does not require large investments of time, money and effort to be successful. Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into valuable food for your garden. Composting is a way to reduce the volume of organic wastes and return them to the soil to benefit growing plants. Your garden will love you for it.
Robert Schpok is an avid gardener who has used his gardening skills to greatly enhance his culinary techniques and ability to create great new recipes. Gain valuable gardening [http://www.got-eats.com/gardening.html] insight and make cooking fun at his newest site Got-Eats [http://www.got-eats.com/].
Don't blow your money on useless materials or waste your time with back-breaking labor while trying to grow a healthy garden. You can easily create the mother of all plant nutrition right in your backyard, using less time, energy, or money than you ever imagined was possible.