Two weeks ago I started up my Walnut Shell and Banana Peels system. As the name implies, those were the primary materials added to the bin (worm-rich living material being the only other component) – and in fact will be the ONLY things (not including water) added from here on out.
So far the results have been…well…interesting. Early on it became pretty clear that the system just wouldn’t be moist enough from the moisture released from the banana peels, so I decided to hydrate it a bit more by adding some ice cubes up top. Yes, this likely slowed things down for a little while (due to drop in temperature) but I felt the slow-release hydration approach would work better than simply pouring water in given the limited quantity of absorbent material in the system.
I must say the smell of the system is fantastic! Imagine the smell of a forest floor after a warm summer rain and you’ll get pretty close. Obviously the rich living material I added has had a major influence on that. But I suspect the excellent aeration (given how bulky these materials are) is also a major factor.
In terms of visual evidence of decomposition, I am not seeing all that much. Not surprisingly, the banana peels have all turned brown, and the shells have darkened, but that’s about it. Of course, I fully expected the walnut shells to be highly resistance – but I guess I was expecting the peels to break down a bit more quickly. I’ll talk more in a minute about my plans for speeding things up a bit.
Although I know for sure that a lot of worms went into the system, I really haven’t been finding an abundance of them in there now. That said, it is important to note that I have not really wanted to be too invasive with my explorations, and the main congregations I have found were all down at the very bottom of the bin. Over time, as the peels are converted into more of an ideal habitat material, I have little doubt that I will see a lot more worms up closer to the surface.
I also want to point out that the worms I did find seem very healthy and vigorous – so that’s a great sign (and again – perhaps the excellent oxygenation is playing a role in that).
Naturally, I am collecting a lot more banana peels than walnut shells (in terms of weight anyway). I needed some serious nut-cracking sessions yesterday and today just to get to the point of having a reasonable amount of shells I could add.
Today I added 428g (0.94 lb) of walnut shells and 1406g (3.10 lb) of banana peels to the bin.
I must say it felt really uncomfortable to simply leave the peels sitting on top like that. Normally I would, bare minimum, cover the peels with a really thick layer of bedding (eg shredded cardboard) – but dem be da rulez, right?!
That said – coming back to something touched on earlier – I do plan to take additional optimization steps, not only to help the peels break down more quickly, but also to (hopefully) avoid having this system overrun by fruit flies at some point.
1) I will likely freeze/thaw the peels from now on. This will help start the structural break down process, and it will also kill off any fruit fly eggs that may already be in the peels.
2) I will chop up all peels really well before adding them. This should also greatly aid the break down process (much more vulnerable surface area for microbial attack).
I will also aim to mix the newer materials in under older materials to (hopefully) help make the bin a bit less of a wandering fruit fly beacon! lol
IMPORTANT NOTE: Needless to say (yet I still feel the need to say – lol), you should NEVER set up a typical worm bin the way I am setting up this bin. Please remember this is just a fun experiment – not even remotely close to “optimized vermicomposting” (although I suspect the system will improve over time)
Before putting my garbage bag back in place, I decided to add a bit more water. Moisture content in the bin was quite good already but I found some dry areas around the perimeter, so I figured I’d bump it up a notch.
Seeing those whole banana peels sitting in a heap up top (in the images) is nagging at me, so I will likely go back and chop them up really well (likely mix them in as well), rather than wait until next feed to start optimizing.
It may be a few weeks before my next update – but do stay tuned. We’re only just getting started with this one!
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Walnut Shells and Banana Peels?