Citrus Vermicomposting Update

I’m sure some people must be wondering how my citrus vermicomposting experiment is coming along. Well…the “bad news” is that my outdoor beds didn’t prove to be the ideal testing grounds for this sort of thing, so I ended up letting the whole thing fall by the wayside…until recently, that is. I should quickly mention, though, that the citrus waste materials DID seem to break down quite quickly in the outdoor beds – almost “too quickly” – but this actually served as a reminder of the fact that it’s really only the smaller indoor systems where citrus wastes are going to have the potential to cause issues.

In light of this, I’ve decided to do some testing in some of my indoor systems instead. Apart from being more relevant for the average vermicomposter, it will also be a lot easier to see what’s happening (my indoor bins don’t get disturbed nearly as much as my outdoor beds). It is ALSO a good way for me to get things going again with yet another project that kinda fell by the wayside – my springtail experiment!

On Saturday I collected some fairly “fresh” juiced lemon halves from a bin of coffee grounds I had picked up the same day (as you may recall, it was the frequent presence of these lemons in my coffee grounds that gave me the idea for the citrus vermicomposting in the first place). I rinsed them off and cut them all in half again before putting…uhhhh…half of them in the bins right away, while the other half of the halves (confused yet? lol) went into the freezer. These frozen halves have now been placed in the bins as well (as you can see below, I took my pictures shortly after adding them – they’ve obviously thawed out since then).

The bins being used for this experiment are:

1) My wooden flow-through bin

2) My two springtail experiment bins (one with springtails + worms, one with only worms)

3) My European Nightcrawler bin

**NOTE** – I had some extra frozen lemon pieces so I just added them to this bin (the other yellow scraps are zucchini in case you are curious)

The idea here is to see how quickly these pieces of lemon will break down in these various bins, and whether or not freezing them beforehand makes a difference. I’m actually thinking this might be a case where freezing doesn’t help at all – citrus rinds are pretty resistant and I don’t imagine freezing them does much to break down their structural integrity. Nor do I think it has much effect on the oils in the rind (which should also contribute to a slow decomposition).

I’m really interested to see if there is any difference when springtails are present. One thing I’ve noticed is that they tend to congregate on a lot of less-worm-friendly materials (including citrus wastes) well before the worms seem to take an interest in them.

The worms in the wooden flow-through bin seem extra hungry these days, so I will likely need to start adding some other food fairly soon – I will make sure to leave the lemon zone open though so I can continue to monitor their decomposition.

I hope to have another update in a week or two (depending on how quickly things change).
Stay tuned!

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    • Jeff Cummings
    • July 23, 2012

    Nice! That mold on the peels breaks down the oils (which are anti-microbial in nature), I’ve added a lot (…did I mention a lot…I juice 3 grapefruit before I go to work every day, and ALL the peels go into the compost bin with my worms) of peels to my compost and that mold has broken them down sufficiently and the worms love the ‘mold poo’. The mold break down the peels, and the waste product of the mold is what the worms eat…of course, my tub has a lot more compost in action (it’s warm) than worms. I also don’t freeze any of my kitchen scraps, but I used to shred as much as possible nightly (with scissors, I might add…!), I simply add shredded newspaper, cardboard and peat moss. The compost looks great. I should take some pictures, and I even found a cocoon bigger than I’ve ever seen one! It was about 1/2 inch in size.

    Take care, I’ll write more as I follow your blogs 🙂

    Jeff C

    • Bentley
    • July 26, 2012

    Interesting stuff, Jeff – thanks for sharing!
    It seems the springtails REALLY love that mold that grows on citrus peels, since they always congregate on the peels before the worms start feeding on them.
    Unfortunately, I’d had to delay this one yet again due to a fruit fly outbreak in the house! Look forward to getting back to my testing before too long!

    • Jeff Cummings
    • July 26, 2012

    Recently I went outside berry picking, and grabbed some leaf mold, dirt and carbon stuff in general from the forest floor. I am going to try to incorporate this into the bedding material.

    When I first started worm composting, I did it indoors! So I’m familiar with the fly infestation problem you are having, now I have it all outside, and I recently merged my small worm tubs into the one large tub of compost, so we’ll see what happens.

    I garden off site at a community garden (very cool btw) and started taking some of the vermi-compost and compost mixed with peat moss and applying it as a mulch to the garden plot that I am growing herbs and squash on!

    Take care, I’m enjoying your blog, thanks!

    Jeff C

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