By Dave Pawson
I’m UK based (Cambridgeshire) and new to vermiculture. Last summer I purchased 2lbs Dendrobaeana worms (European Nightcrawlers – Dendrobaena veneta / Eisenia hortensis) from Kathy at Witneyveg.blogspot.com. I’d already built two containers for my garden compost from four by one timber, treated and jointed using simple halving joints (allows me to reduce the height to enable turning the compost).
Initially I split the worms between the two compost heaps and hoped for the best. I cover the top with some old carpet (not foam backed!) which helps keep moisture in and the birds out. I just left them to it initially, let them acclimatise. Since I fill the bins alternately throughout the summer (grass cuttings, weeds, dead flowers, shredded hedge clippings etc) I’m afraid it wasn’t nicely rotted food they were getting. I set up a kitchen waste container, a plastic ‘bucket’ that holds a couple of pounds of waste, and we fill it with leftover (raw) foodstuff, mainly vegetables. This is fed to the worms, probably once per fortnight? I alternate between the bins, or split it between them.
In using the compost I tend to fill one and leave the other till it’s mature. Once I’ve used the mature one on the garden (I leave about six inches in the bottom for the worms) I swap over and start to fill the near empty one, leaving the fuller one to mature. I should turn the bins over every few weeks… but like others, I’m a bit lazy. I guess I do it about twice or three times a year. OK, I’m a lot lazy, but I do get my compost! My worms are there though I’ve no idea on quantity. I’ve tried shredded paper and cardboard, which they seem to love, coming up to the surface to munch on it! Other than that they have the place to themselves and seem to manage.
Winter bothered me at first, but it’s now February and I can still find worms fairly easily, even in the (what was) near empty bin with barely six inches of ‘food’ for the worms. So I guess the temperature didn’t drop to low values for too long, although this winter has been harsh by UK standards.
More recently, my wife bought six chickens (don’t ask) which we duly set up in the garden. We tend to let them loose in the garden after noon, but so far the carpet has kept them out of the compost bins! One of the benefits of the chickens this winter is that they scratch up the leaves from our boundary fence (Hawthorne hedge) which keeps them moist and over time has created a great layer of mixed grass and leaves, which I’m frantically trying to rake up and feed to the compost heap… worms (not sure which benefits the most!). Either way I’m grateful to the chicks for the service! Now if only they would rake up my lawn, get the dead grass out of it? Ah well. Another problem they posed was what to do with their droppings collected in the hen house each week. A mix of straw(for the laying boxes) and chicken muck. I have read it’s a bit acid (alkaline?) to go directly on the garden and I was tentative about putting it in the compost heap, so I’ve split it between a new part of the garden I’m digging over… the chickens are better at turning over loose soil than I, and the compost heap. No damage so far, the worms seem not to have reacted negatively.
In summary, my compost quality has improved, the chickens have increased the volume and the worms are still there as we approach spring!
Dave Pawson is a software engineer, nearly retired, with gardening pretentions
but little skills! He maintains a couple of web based standards FAQs. His homepage is: http://www.dpawson.co.uk
Written by Compost Guy on February 3rd, 2010 with 1 comment.
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Humble beginnings for this year’s sandbox garden
Last year I wrote about a new raised bed garden I created from a sandbox that wasn’t getting much use in our yard. Of course, I wasn’t about to settle for making a run-of the-mill raised bed – mine needed to be a little different! At the time, I was starting to experiment with vermicomposting trenches (which you can learn all about on my Red Worm Composting site – check out the “Hot Topics” page), so I thought it might be fun to try running one of these trenches through the middle of the garden.
The crop plants I settled on for the original sandbox garden were giant pumpkins and potatoes. I figured the pumpkins would really benefit from the the water- and nutrient-rich food waste that was being added to the trench (and subsequently processed by a herd of Red Wiggler Worms), and that the potatoes might do well in the loose, sandy soil of the bed.
Despite the fact that the pumpkins didn’t get planted until mid-July, they still ended up doing quite well, We didn’t get a truly ‘giant’ pumpkin, but I was nevertheless very impressed with the sizable specimen that was ready in time for Halloween.
The potatoes, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. Looking back, I can’t help but chuckle though, since I now realize how little I knew about growing spuds. As such, I don’t feel so bad about the poor show in that department (and have come back with potato guns a’ blazin this year to see if I can grow a better crop).
Speaking of which, while I certainly didn’t intend to grow any potatoes in the sandbox garden this year (I have other beds set aside for them), as it turns out, some leftover tubers have been making their presence know by growing into very healthy looking plants. I decided to just ‘go with the flow’ and see how well they end up doing among the other plants growing there.
My main intended crop this year is actually sweet corn. I thought the corn would appreciate the sandy, fertile soil – I should mention that the garden basically served as an overwintering bed for a sizable population of composting worms, so there was plenty of vermicompost left behind when I cleaned up the garden (transferring many of the worms to my main vermi-trenches) this spring. I also predicted that, if all went well, the corn garden would make for a pretty impressive show as part of my surburban mini-farm.
Sweet corn, pole beans, and renegade potato plants growing in this year’s ‘self-fertilizing’ garden
My dad (a retired professor of Anthropology) told me how native people used to grow climbing beans close to corn so as to provide the demanding corn plants with more nitrogen, while also providing the beans with natural supports (the corn stalks). I thought this sounded like a really cool idea, and ended up planting two rows of yellow pole beans between my four rows of corn.
The vermicomposting trench in the sandbox garden is pretty low-key this year. I don’t have access to the same (massive) supply of food waste as I did last year, and have switched to using mainly aged horse manure and grass clippings.
I’ve been pretty impressed with how well the plants have been growing thus far. It has been a really cool summer so the corn is definitely behind schedule, but we live in a very serious corn-growing region so I’m frequently reminded of the fact that my corn plants are actually quite similar in size to those growing in local fields – yet are not receiving any chemical fertilizers. They ARE receiving a little something extra however, but I’ll save that topic for another post.
I can’t wait to see how the pole beans do! I must admit that the plants were all in pretty rough shape by the time they finally made it into the ground, but they seem to have bounced back very nicely and are growing up the cornstalks as predicted.
Pole bean runner winds its way up a corn plant
I was a little worried about the big potato plants impacting (literally – haha) the growth of the corn, but everyone seems to be getting along famously!
Anyway – I will be sure to provide one or two more updates on the sandbox garden as the summer progresses!
Previous Sandbox Garden Posts (2008):
The Sandbox Self-Fertilizing Garden
Self-Fertilizing Garden Update
[tags] gardening, organic, compost, compost trench, composting, composting worms, worm composting, vermicomposting, vermicompost, worm castings, sweet corn, pole beans, potatoes, red worms[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on July 22nd, 2009 with 2 comments.
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As mentioned in my last post, I took a bit of a hiatus from Compost Guy this fall – partially to give more attention to Red Worm Composting, and partially due to a new time-challenged schedule (I decided to take on the role of ‘Mr. Mom’ for my baby girl most days during the week). I’m not sure what’s gotten into me lately, but I’ve recently had a strong gut feeling telling me that it’s time to get back at it! So here we are…face to face…a couple of silver spoons.
Sorry – you can blame too much TV watching as a child!
Anyway – I thought I would start with a MUCH needed update on my ‘Sandbox Self-Fertilizing Garden‘. Last time I wrote about it was just after setting it up in July. As you can see from the picture above, the garden did ok with the assistance from my vermicomposting trench system (link to article on RWC) – one of two I set up last summer. It was pretty funny watching the trench as my pumpkin patch grew – it was almost as though someone (in this case, the pumpkin patch) was taking a big straw and sucking down the contents of the trench.
I have little doubt that some of the shrinkage was indeed due to a significant removal of water leached from the organic matter largely food waste) as it decomposed, but the worms and other compost critters certainly helped by reducing the wastes down to some beautiful humus (also undoubtedly appreciated by the plants).
I only had one pumpkin that really took off for me – not too surprising given how late I got the garden started, and my lack of experience growing these things – but it thankfully grew very well. All I wanted really, was a nice big jack O’ lantern for my daughter’s first real Halloween (she was only an infant for Halloween ’07). Mission accomplished!
I’ve always admired uniqueness in people and things, and I like to think that our big ol’ pumpkin was a little different from the typical boring ones you get at the supermarket.
Looking back, ‘Scarface’ might have been a good nickname for him, but we didn’t end getting to the naming stage of our relationship with the pumpkin (in fact, I’ll tell you in a future post about the horrible things I did to him after his presence was no longer appreciated on our front porch).
Our daughter seemed to enjoy hanging out with (or in) Mr. Pumpkin before he went on display, and all in all we were quite pleased with his spooky presence for the trick ‘r’ treaters on the big night.
The potato plants on the other side of the trench seemed to do fairly well also, although the final potato tally wasn’t really anything to brag about. I thought the sandy soil (from the sandbox of course) would work really well for the spuds, but I’m no garden guru, so I’ll give it the ol’ college try again next year and see if I get better results (again, starting a month or more earlier certainly wouldn’t have hurt!).
Overall, I was really pleased with the results of my trench experiments this past summer and can’t wait to use them again (and set up some new ones) next growing season! I’m planning to make some vids about this topic (trench composting), and will certainly have more to say about it here again before too long.
Written by Compost Guy on December 19th, 2008 with no comments.
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My dad surveys the patch of land he groomed for our garbage garden.
Just when I thought I might have to scale back my restaurant food waste vermicomposting project – due to the accumulation of excess waste, with no place to put it – my dad came to the rescue, suggesting that we start up some composting projects on his property. He has a fair amount of available garden space and a lot more privacy than I do, so it should be a great opportunity to really test out some different methods.
Our first project will simply involve converting his old vegetable garden into a ‘garbage garden‘. My hope is that with enough food waste and ‘bedding’ materials, this system will make an excellent winter home for lots of composting worms, and will become the ultimate grow bed for whatever we decide to plant in it next spring!
Putting my dad to work digging trenches, while I barked commands from behind the camera (haha)
In an effort to really take advantage of the space, I decided to start with a series of shallow composting trenches. There will likely be 6 or 7 of these, covered with a thin layer of soil. Next we will start piling up materials directly over top of the soil. It is going to be really important to add LOTS of bulky absorbent ‘browns’, such as cardboard. Aside from soaking up and holding lots of moisture, this will help to maintain aerobic conditions in the bed. I will also be adding lots of straw, and brown leaves (once available in the fall) to cover up the waste materials and create more good habitat for the composting worms (and other helpful critters).
Should be really interesting to see how this pans out! So far so good. It’s been great taking a bit of a break from adding new materials to my own trenches and beds – it’s allowed the worms to play ‘catch up’, and has helped me avoid seriously offending any of my neighbours.
[tags]composting, compost, garbage, gardening, food waste, lasagna gardening, lasagna composting, worm bed, composting worms, compost worms, red worms, red wigglers[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on July 30th, 2008 with 7 comments.
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I recently wrote (on the Red Worm Composting blog) about the ‘vermicomposting trench‘ systems I’ve been using to compost restaurant food waste, and to provide my vegetable gardens with water and nutrition all summer long.
One of these trenches was added to a raised bed garden I created this year. In an unexpected turn of good fortune, my wife decided that our backyard sandbox (aka ‘neighbourhood cat litter box’) was no longer needed, and granted me permission to do whatever I wanted with it.
Of course, among the first things to pop into my mind was some sort of worm bed to help me expand my herd of Red Wigglers. Given the extreme visibility of my backyard however, I decided it might be better to use it for some sort of raised bed garden – complete, with its very own worm bed installed in the middle (a reasonable compromise, I’d say).
While some might assume that the sand would need to be completely removed in order to make a good raised bed, it’s important to remember that I’m not a ‘good’ gardener (haha). Seriously though, given the fact that the soil in my yard is a pretty heavy clay, I thought it might not be a bad idea to use the sand to my advantage – simply mixing it with some of the soil I’ve been removing from my trench systems.
One important step along the way was to remove the thick landscape cloth that had been installed along the bottom of the sandbox when it was first built (by a previous owner). It was a bit of a pain – but on the plus side it provided me with the opportunity to loosen up the compacted soil down below.
After the landscape cloth was removed, the next step was of course the digging of the trench, which involved a lot of physical labour (something I’ve grown quite accustomed to this summer)! I didn’t end up measuring the final depth of the trench, but I suspect that it was somewhere between 2 and 3 feet. Deeper trenches will obviously hold more waste materials, but the deeper you go, the slower your waste near the bottom will decompose due to the lack of oxygen.
If you are going to use composting worms in your trench (definitely recommended, but not required), you might want to monitor the temperature (with a compost thermometer) in the trench for a little while after adding all the materials when you first set it up. There is a pretty good chance it will generate a fair bit of heat initially. I’ve added worms to all my trenches, but I’ve noticed that they seem to be congregated along the edges of this one, rather than interspersed throughout the materials – likely due to the larger volume of material (per unit length) that it holds, and thus the greater amount of heat generated.
Once the trench was excavated, the first thing I did was add a lot of ‘brown’ material. I lined the bottom with a layer of straw, then added a considerable amount of corrugated and ‘egg tray’ cardboard. This will help to soak up excess moisture dripping down from the decomposing waste materials and will help to balance the C:N over time as well. Speaking of which, since I am trying to build really active worm beds, and since I don’t want there to be any smell from the rotting wastes, I’ve chosen to add more brown materials than I would if simply trying to create a hot composting heap. Over time I suspect the C:N will decrease since most of the materials I’m adding on an ongoing basis are ‘greens’, but this won’t be nearly as much of a concern once much of the bed has become more stabilized and more worm-friendly.
I next dumped in my first batch of restaurant food waste. Some of the materials I’ve been receiving in abundance include: lettuce, broccoli stems, turnip peelings, egg shells, celery waste, apple cores and peels, and cabbage waste.
Over top of the organic waste I added a nice thick layer of straw. In general, my approach with these trenches has been quite similar to “lasagna composting” (aka “lasagna gardening”), whereby alternating layers of browns and greens are added. Some suggest that this is not really an effective composting technique, but I personally think it can work very well if composting worms are being added – since they will naturally help to mix everything up (ie no turning required).
This is a shot of the bed after I added quite a bit of coarse (worm-filled) vermicompost from my large outdoor worm bin. I spread the material around as much as I did partly to help the worms get distributed throughout the bed, but also to help reduce the chance of people smelling the rotting waste below. Compost has been used as an effective biofilter (the complex structure of humus has many binding sites that can trap odour molecules), so I figured it was worth a shot!
I should mention that for the sake of saving space (downloading time etc) I’ve left out some shots of other alternating brown/green layers added during the set up. The final layer was yet another thick layer of straw (although I’ve certainly added some more upper layers since then).
Here is a shot of the garden once the trench was totally finished and plants had been added (for a more recent shot, you can simply refer back to the one at the start of the post).
I’ve heard that potatoes prefer a loose, sandy soil, and I know from experience that they are relatively easy to grow, so I thought they would be a good choice. I transferred a number of plants from another bed (where they had popped up from last year’s leftover tubers), and also put in some sprouting chunks cut from some potatoes that had been sitting in my basement for quite some time. I made sure to add some vermicompost with each plant and sprout-chunk (for lack of a better term – haha) to help stimulate root production and overall growth.
By normal standards this would have been considered a pretty late planting for potatoes I suspect (early July). I did get some wilting of the transplanted plants during the heat of the day for the first little while (totally understandable), but I was impressed with how quickly the plants took to their new bed, and the sprouts started growing into small plants.
The other plants I decided to add were pumpkins. Again, I’m pretty late with these, but I can’t wait to see how they will respond with access to the big compost trench. They are actually giant pumpkins so I am hoping to produce some big ones for the fall. Aside from being a great crop for demonstration purposes (helping me educate people about my project etc), I’m also hoping to be able to make at least one or two nice Jack o’ Lanterns by the time Halloween rolls around. Once they get going I think they will do very well. The watermelons shown in my garbage gardening article really seem to be taking off, so I’m definitely optimistic.
For those of you who don’t have access to a large organic wastestream, it might not make much sense to install as extensive trench system as I have done in my yard, but do keep in mind that there are plenty of different materials you can add, aside from food waste. Grass clippings and green yard waste (weeds etc), fall leaves, cardboard and manure are all great choices. I’ve actually been adding all my grass clippings to my trenches this year (they are normally mulched back into the lawn). Aside from providing addition nitrogen (and other nutrients) they also help to provide structure for the worms.
In my opinion, it is best to treat your trench as a ‘continuous’ composting system vs a ‘batch’ system (for a comparison of these, see: ‘Continuous vs Batch Composting‘), but completely filling your system in the spring or fall, then simply letting it sit is certainly an option as well. Just keep in mind that the level of materials in the trench will continue to sink as the wastes are broken down and the water released, so you might end up with a noticeable depression.
As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about my new sandbox garden. Rest assured, I’ll be providing plenty more updates before the end of the season!
[tags]compost, composting, raised bed, raised garden, lasagna gardening, lasagna composting, worm composting, vermicomposting, vermicompost, worm compost, vegetable garden, pumpkin, potatoes, sustainable gardening, eco gardening[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on July 25th, 2008 with 11 comments.
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..but my herd of composting worms are helping me look pretty good this year!
I’ve had an interest in ‘growing things’ for quite a few years, but to be totally honest I’ve never actually dedicated myself to the task of becoming a real gardener. In a sense, one of the things I actually love about gardening is the fact that you don’t really need to be a green thumb in order to make something happen. If you put some plants in the ground and give them some water, they will generally grow. This is why I strongly encourage everyone to give it a try – regardless of your skill level!
Still, when I see what serious gardeners are able to create, I can’t help but be a little envious. The problem likely stems from the fact that I’ve always preferred to do things my own way (not necessarily “by the books”), so I’ve never focused on learning all the proper techniques or the special requirements for different plants – I just ‘wing it’ for the most part!
Here are just a handful of things I do wrong, year after year:
1) My veggies always go in late
2) I never give any thought to the fact that some types of plants don’t grow well when planted close to one another.
3) I do little to nothing about pests and disease
4) I don’t do anything different for plants that are acid/alkaline loving
5) I often don’t provide enough spacing between plants (without using any ‘square foot gardening’ techniques to compensate)
6) Most years, I let weeds run wild – undoubtedly sucking up valuable nutrients and water that could have otherwise been used by my plants.
My gardening efforts have always produced fair to good results – and to some people who aren’t gardeners themselves, it might seem like I know what I’m doing. But when it comes down to it, I really don’t. Having a care-free attitude, while perhaps making my gardening efforts more relaxing and enjoyable, certainly won’t help me win any gardening awards!
This year has been a little different. I’m still doing a lot of things the wrong way, and lazily at that – but I’ve been more active in the garden, and more importantly, I finally unleashed my secret weapon – vermicompost!
It’s funny, I’ve been composting with worms for close to 10 years, yet I’ve hardly ever used vermicompost in my gardens. I guess this is partially due to the fact that I just haven’t produced enough of the stuff to really be able to put it to use outside, but there’s also my overall vermicomposting laziness to take into consideration!
This year, I finally decided to make an compost access door for my big outdoor worm bin. The bin was built two years ago, and has processed a lot of organic waste during this time – yet I’ve never removed any vermicompost from it. In a sense I am glad I waited – with the launch of my new composting business, it’s probably not a bad idea for me to have a decent looking garden, right?
The beauty of vermicompost (especially the material that is almost entirely worm castings) is that a little goes a long way. While many refer to it as an organic “fertilizer” (I myself am guilty of this), it is not really the N-P-K values that make vermicompost so special – in fact, from that perspective it actually looks pretty pathetic in comparison to a regular inorganic fertilizer.
Extensive research at The Ohio State University has demonstrated time and time again that there is something extra in vermicompost that helps to boost plant growth and overall health, above and beyond that provided by nutrients. They’ve demonstrated this by comparing the growth of plants that have ALL been provided with their full nutritional requirements (via quality inorganic fertilizer). Some of the plants are grown with vermicompost as well, while others are not. Not only have researchers found that vermicompost provides significant growth promoting effects above and beyond those provided by the fertilizer, but they also found that it can have a significant impact when it makes up as little as 5% or less of the potting mix.
Interestingly enough, plants grown in pure vermicompost (still with the required nutrients provided) didn’t do as well as many of the other treatments!
Is is important to mention that there are countless different types of vermicompost, and an endless range of maturity levels – like ‘regular’ composts, vermicomposts are not all necessarily created equal. Although the terms ‘vermicompost’ and ‘worm castings’ tend to be used synonymously, it is quite difficult to create 100% pure worm castings, which is technically the material that passes out the rear end of the worm (i.e. ‘worm poop’). Most vermicompost contains varying levels of castings, along with lots of other humified organic materials, and other materials not fully decomposed. Screening worm compost will obviously help to refine the mix, but it is still a stretch to claim that every last particle of waste material has been through the digestive system of a worm.
But I digress…
With all that being said, I don’t mean to imply that vermicompost can’t be used as the sole source of nutrition for plants. This year I have been doing exactly that, as well as incorporating various in situ vermicomposting systems into my gardens. The results have been outstanding! My tomato plants are already bigger than the maximum size they reached last year, and look like they will bear and abundance of fruit (I fed my plants with regular inorganic fertilizer last year). My honeysuckle looks more like the plant from ‘Little Shop of Horrors” (“feeeeeed me some worm poop, Seymour!”) than a climbing vine.
The list goes on…
I can only imagine how well everything would be doing if I was using proper gardening techniques and/or some slow-release inorganic fertilizers! Surprisingly enough, all of this is making me want to be a better gardener. I think it would be fun to see what is possible.
Time to hit the books, I guess!
[tags]worm composting, worm castings, vermicompost, vermicomposting, compost, organic gardening, gardening, garden, vegetable gardening, tomatoes, fertilizer[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on July 21st, 2008 with 2 comments.
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Down below this jungle of tomato and snap pea plants lies layers of organic waste and lots of composting worms busily converting the materials into rich vermicompost.
As I mentioned a while back (and written about recently on Red Worm Composting), I’m involved in a pretty sizable restaurant food waste composting project this year. In a nutshell, I am receiving hundreds of pounds (per week) of fruit and vegetable waste from a very popular local restaurant and have been composting these materials on my property.
Given the quantity of wastes, I’ve had to get a little creative with my methods, and I’ve certainly discovered some methods that really work well, and others that…well…don’t work quite so well!
Most of my efforts have focused on various forms of vermicomposting. I have been adding lots of food scraps to my traditional worm bin systems, but I’ve also been creating a variety of large-scale outdoor systems to help me to deal with all the waste.
One simple technique that seems to be working quite well for me is what I refer to as ‘Garbage Gardening’ (although this name could actually be applied to much of what I’m doing in my backyard this year). Basically, you dump a bunch of waste directly on the soil, you then add a decent amount of good (composting) worm habitat, lots of worms, and some sort of carbon-rich mulch over top. The worms convert the waste materials into worm castings which in turn fertilizes the plants in a slow-release manner.
In some ways I kinda stumbled upon this technique accidentally. After doing a fair bit of ‘pit composting’ (aka – digging holes and burying the waste – haha) I was desperately looking for more places to get rid of food scraps. Initially I decided to take over two flower beds and convert them to worm beds, but after seeing how quickly watermelon seeds sprouted up out of the composting mass, it suddenly dawned on me that these beds could be used for more than just worm composting!
People often ask if composting worms can be added directly to garden soil to help boost fertility (the idea being that they will produce castings and fertilize the plants). Although I am continually trying to instill the idea that ‘composting worms are not the same as soil worms’, and I recommend that Red Worms be added to a worm bin not a garden, in actuality they CAN be added to your garden (or landscape in general), provided you create a nice habitat for them.
The humble beginnings of a ‘garbage garden’ – I’ve simply dumped a bunch of compostable waste materials on the soil surface
If you simply dump some waste on or in your soil and add a few composting worms, there is a decent chance some of them will want to stick around and feed on the organic matter. A better approach however would be to add a lot of prime worm ‘habitat’.
Over top of the wastes I added a substantial amount of well-aged manure, absolutely chock full of Red Worms.
This ‘habitat’ can either be a large quantity of materials (and worms) from an established vermicomposting system, and/or a nice mix of bedding/food that has been aged for a period of time (as I recommend when setting up a normal worm bin).
This way the worms have a nice place to call home – they don’t need to live directly in the waste materials or in the soil, neither of which is an ideal habitat for them (at least not in the case of food waste).
For this particular garbage garden I decided to add a layer of coconut coir to give it a more decorative mulched appearance. I ended up adding straw over top of this layer.
Some people may obviously be worried about the aesthetics of this approach – after all, who wants to have rotting banana peels and apple cores lying around on their flower beds? This is where your ‘carbon-rich bedding’ material of choice will come in handy. I initially decided to add coconut coir as a mulch over top of my first two garbage gardens. I was actually quite impressed with the look – from a distance it just looked like I had applied a layer of decorative mulch. The problem I had with this material however was that it was difficult to add new waste materials without it ending up looking a little rough. I ended up opting for straw once I got a hold of a supply of it. While it doesn’t look quite as nice, it is much easier to work with (easy to cover up the wastes).
Young watermelon plants that grew up out of the composting waste materials.
Aside from planting seeds and seedlings directly in the composting mass, you can also use this technique in garden beds where plants are already established. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I think this would be a great technique for mulching/fertizing shrubs and trees – the added advantage of these larger plants is that they would help to shelter the worm bed below from both heat and cold.
Adding new food waste simply involves pulling back the layer of straw and creating a shallow depression, dumping in the wastes, then covering it back up.
As far as how much material to add – that’s really up to you. Obviously, you don’t want to dump a cubic yard of food waste on top of your garden and hope for the best. This will work best when you add small pockets of food materials on an ongoing basis. Once it looks likes materials are rapidly breaking down you can add more. Given the amount of air flow, and the larger size (compared to a small indoor worm bin for example), you definitely don’t need to worry too much about overfeeding – but if you live in an area where there are a lot of backyard nuisance animals like racoons/bears etc you should definitely test this out on a small scale first, and be sure to bury your wastes fairly well.
Another method that I’ve been testing out quite a bit is what I refer to as a ‘vermicomposting trench’. I’ve been blown away by how well this technique has been working for me, and I’ll be sure to write more about it fairly soon.
[tags]garbage, organic waste, food waste, vermicomposting, worm composting, worm bed, composting, gardening, red worms, red wigglers, composting worms[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on July 16th, 2008 with 8 comments.
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Way back at the beginning of May, I wrote a post about my plans to purchase some biodegradable bags – specifically, ‘Biobags’. Well, I did end up buying some, and have been having fun testing them out ever since (and even selling them now that I have a composting biz).
Right after the bags arrived I had to go away for a couple weeks, so I decided to put some in a couple of my composters (with food scraps inside them) to see what would happen. Without a doubt, the most dramatic results came from my large indoor worm bin. I filled a doggy-poop Biobag will bean salad and buried it in the middle of the bin – I then added 5 lbs of Red Worms to the bin (the bin was actually set up as a holding bin for the worms while I was away). What exactly happened next I’ll never know for sure, but I do know this – when I arrived home from my trip, not only was the overall level of materials in the bin greatly reduced, but there was also no trace of the Biobag to be found…at least not until several days later, when I finally found one remnant – the knot I had tied at the top, along with the tattered remains of the bag itself.
I think I would have found it more believable if someone had told me the bag had been filled with blood, punctured then lowered into a tank full of man-eating Piranhas!
I guess those worms were hungry! One thing that certainly helped to speed up the break down (or should I say ‘slaughter’?) of the bag was the fact that I added some small holes before burying it. This would not only let some oxygen in, but also the worms. I imagine there were probably some other bag fragments in the bin as well, but I honestly couldn’t find any.
My other Biobag test involved partially burying a full (10 litre) food waste bag in my large outdoor worm composting bin. The results from that test weren’t nearly so dramatic. The bag had clearly degraded a considerable amount by the time I arrived home, but it was still pretty much intact.
I still want to see how long it takes for these bags to totally vanish. Unfortunately I’ve kinda been like a squirrel as of late – burying my treasure, but never keeping track of where and when I buried them!
Anyway – you’ll certainly hear more about my ongoing Biobag testing in the weeks ahead.
[tags]biobags, bioplastic, cornstarch plastic, biodegradable, compost, composting, worm bin, worm composting, vermicomposting[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on June 30th, 2008 with no comments.
Read more articles on Bioplastics and Worm Composting.
Well, I must say these promised posts have been flowing out like cold molasses!
I guess it’s better to be slow than to not write at all!
As some of you undoubtedly know already (especially if you follow Red Worm Composting) I decided to take a leap of faith and start up my own ‘real world’ eco-business this spring – focused primarily on a topic that is near and dear – COMPOSTING!!
Initially, my main activities have involved selling vermicomposting supplies (worms, bins, kits etc), but I am slowly expanding from there. I will be focusing primarily on selling in my own region (Southwestern Ontario) and in Canada in general. As such, I decided to put together a new website called Worm Composting Canada.
Luckily I’ve been able to connect with a great supplier in the U.S. as well so I’ve even been able to sell to U.S. customers (essentially a separate business altogether) – this has certainly helped, since much of my website traffic comes from the U.S. The one limitation of the U.S. biz is that I am only currently selling composting worms (am looking into dropshipping for other products however).
So far it has been a very interesting experience to say the least, and I am SO glad I finally decided go for it. Originally I had planned to wait until I had a larger property (preferably in the country), but I finally just got sick of planning for some future date. At the risk of sounding cheesy, this is the sort of business I’ve always dreamed about owning one day, so it’s been pretty exciting thus far.
One thing I’ve really loved about the new gig is the fact that it’s allowed me to get outside and do a lot more composting/gardening work this year – thus giving plenty of ideas for blog topics (the sad irony is that I now have less time for writing). As mentioned in my recent update post, I am now working with a local restaurant to help divert a fair bit of their food waste (more about that in an upcoming post). It is far more material than I’ve ever had available for composting so it has been an interesting experience to say the least. It has certainly provided me with a great opportunity for various composting experiments (some working out really well – others, not so much! haha).
Anyway, I’m really excited to see where this business takes me, and have little doubt that it will (as mentioned) provide me with plenty of good material to write about…hopefully I can just learn to write a little faster.
[tags]worm composting, vermicomposting, red worms, worm bins, composting, ontario, canada[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on June 24th, 2008 with 3 comments.
Read more articles on Announcements and Worm Composting.
For the record, to the rumors about me ‘finding the edge of the earth and falling off’ have been greatly exaggerated!
All joking aside, I do apologize for the lapse in posts over the last little while! I’ve been taking a wee bit of a holiday since last week, and have also been busily absorbed in the planning stages of an exciting new venture, which you will certainly hear a lot more about in coming weeks.
I have also been dusting off the cobwebs from my Compost Guy vermicomposting section, which I had actually intended to publish quite some time ago (surprise, surprise). While certainly still a work-in-progress, my new Worm Composting Basics page is now ready for visitors. Originally I thought it would be rather redundant to have a vermicomposting page on this site when I have an entire site dedicated to the topic, but then I realized that there are probably a lot of people who are simply looking for a decent worm composting overview – not necessarily the ‘whole enchilada’!
For those of you already actively (or at least familiar with) vermicomposting, it may not be all that exciting – but my hope is that it will help newcomers gain a basic understanding of the process and get pointed in the right direction should they be interested in learning more.
[tags]worm composting, vermicomposting, worm bin, red worms, red wigglers, composting worms, vermicompost, worm castings[/tags]
Written by Compost Guy on May 22nd, 2008 with no comments.
Read more articles on Announcements and Worm Composting.
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