July 2011

Cardboard ‘n’ Coffee Vermicomposting

Ever since emptying out my wooden backyard worm bin it has been sitting empty…well, sort of. After a little while I started basically using it as a cardboard storage bin! I have stacks upon stacks of cardboard coffee trays (thanks to the efforts of my wife’s helpful co-workers), and the sheer quantity of them taking up space in my house and in the shed was starting to become a wee bit aggravating (sad, but true – haha).

It didn’t take long to essentially forget about the contents of the bin (out of sight out of mind) while I was busy with my various gardening projects, but I was reminded once again when I was faced with the task of cleaning out a plastic garbage can containing old brown paper yard waste bags that has been sitting open on my deck since last fall! Needless to say, there was a lot of stinky stagnant water in there (perhaps the rotting potatoes that somehow found there way in there contributed? haha), and of course the stinky, soaked yard bags. Just as a funny aside, I also found at least one or two fat Red Worms living semi-submerged in the upper zones of the soggy paper bags! They never cease to amaze me I tell ya.

While thinking of a good place to dump most of the water and compost the wet bags, I suddenly remembered my stash of (essentially dry) cardboard in the wooden bin. And thus, my “cardboard ‘n’ coffee vermicomposting” project was born!
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The first thing I did was pull apart a bunch of the coffee tray stacks (i.e. separate the trays from one another), although I did end up leaving plenty of stacks as-is, simply because I didn’t have the time to do them all. My aim was to provide a lot more surface area for soaking up moisture and worm/microbe habitat.

Next I simply dumped in the wet contents of the garbage can, potatoes at all!

I then added a bunch of aged, used coffee grounds, some vermicompost and some rock dust for good measure.

Finally, I gave everything a good soaking so as to help get the ball rolling!

I don’t have any formal plans for this experiment – just going to fly by the seat of my pants as per usual. My main aim is to see what the composting critters can do with all this cardboard by the time late fall rolls around. While I’ll almost certainly add more grounds along the way, I am using them more as a water-holding filler (and N-source), so I won’t go too crazy with them. I may however add lots of old coffee filters.

Other than that, I will likely just water the system periodically and see how everything is coming along down below!
Should be interesting.
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Vermicompost – Not Just for Hobby Gardeners!

I recently received an email from my good worm-friend, Allison Jack, letting me know about a really interesting article on the topic of vermicompost.

Here is a blurb:

β€œI’m not a tree hugger,” says Elzinga, who oversees 1.4 million square feet of greenhouses. β€œI went into organics for the money.”

Elzinga says it was around then that he discovered Worm Power, a vermicompost company based in Upstate New York that recently partnered with Harris Seeds to distribute its products. He ordered a few samples and then more. He’s now a fan, mixing up powerful tea – or vermi-espresso, as he likes to call it – which uses 10 percent vermicompost to water by volume. Elzinga touts the tea as the secret to keeping his organic plants growing strong. The mix is a combination of droppings from red worms mixed with molasses, sea kelp and other organics. Together, those ingredients create a bacteria-rich liquid that, Elzinga says, outperforms commercial fertilizers.

Be sure to check out the full article here: Vermicompost: Breaking Down The Benefits

Reminds me…I definitely need to start brewing up some of my OWN “vermi-espresso” so I can run some experiments!
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Thanks again, Allison!

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Compost Sak Vermicomposting?

One of the perks of plugging away at a website for a number of years, and building up your audience, is that you end up connecting with lots of interesting people and being presented with a variety of interesting opportunities. Once such “opportunity” which recently fell into my lap was an offer from “High Caliper Growing Systems” to test out one of their “Compost Sak” fabric composting bags. As it turns out, they ended up sending me TWO to play with, so I am pretty stoked about the situation!
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Needless to say, one of my compost saks will be used as a vermicomposting system. I’m curious to see how effective these bags are when used in this manner. My suspicion is that it will work very well since there is lots of room (they claim more than 100 gallons) and everything should remain well oxygenated. I think it will be even MORE fun to combine compost tumbling with Compost Sak vermicomposting, so this is likely where a lot of my tumbler “gold” will end up over the next couple of months.

What I’d like to do with my other Compost Sak is turn it into a potato tower! Some may recall that I didn’t have much success with my last potato tower attempt, but I’m pretty sure the problem was that I was trying to get the plants to grow well in an active vermicomposting system. Clearly, some types of crops do a lot better in that sort of environment than others! This time, while I’ll certainly be using lots of vermicompost in my soil mix, I won’t be trying to maintain a population of Red Worms.

Anyway – as always, I will be sure to keep everyone posted!
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Compost Tumbler Gold

So far I have absolutely been LOVING the new compost tumbler. I’ve only really been using it for a week or so, but the results have been amazing. While I’m certainly not going to claim I’ve created beautiful finished “compost” – I am really impressed with how quickly this system is partially stabilizing the waste materials I’ve been adding. Speaking of which – it’s not as though I added a bunch of stuff a week ago and just left to sit – I’ve continued to add new materials a number of times since then. Other than the stuff I added yesterday evening, it all looks to be nicely broken down.

One little experiment involved adding a rather rancid heap of material you might refer to as poorly prepared “homemade manure” – originally intended for a worm bin experiment, then left to sit once I realized that housefly maggots had invaded. Even the maggots were gone by the time I added it to the tumbler, but the powerful foul smell certainly wasn’t! I wasn’t overly optimistic that it was going to develop an “earthy smell” all that quickly (based on previous experience with foul materials – such as the “bokashi gone bad“), and actually feared that I’d end up offending my neighbors while I waited for it to do so! Needless to say, I was amazed to find that the foul odors were all but gone by the next day! The same certainly can’t be said of stinky materials I’ve added to my worm beds in the past (and vermicomposting is a great way to eliminate foul odors).

Today I decided to start testing some of the material as a “worm food”.

This involved moistening it then simply adding it to one of my worm beds, before burying it under a thick layer of straw!

I’ll be very interested to see how quickly the worms move into the “food” zone, and how many show an interest in it!
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As mentioned in my last tumbler post, I am getting ready to release a small tumbler info package featuring the plans we followed to create this tumbler, along with my own tumbler building experience. It should be ready for release this week for sure. Will keep everyone posted.

P.S. Almost forgot to wish my American friends a HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!!!!!!

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