Walnut Shells & Banana Peels – 3-07-18

It’s been more than 1 month since my last “Walnut Shells & Banana Peels” update. This is yet another of the “slow” projects I have on the go right now, so there isn’t all that much to add in the way of commentary on a regular basis (I am planning some more “active” projects to add to the mix, so things should start hopping a bit more on the blog soon).

My bag of banana peels was gettinng quite full and I seemed to have a decent amount of accumulated walnuts shells by this week, so I figured I should do a feeding and post this update!

Conditions in the system are great. The banana peels have broken down nicely, giving the worms a nicer habitat material to move around in. Everything looks and smells good.

The moisture content actually seems on the high side in most areas of the bin, with little puddles accumulating in various spots at the bottom – but the air flow is so good that this doesn’t matter in the slightest – everything is staying nice and aerobic.

This time around I decided to keep the banana peels in the freezer and then to chop them up really well before adding them, so as to help the microbes and worms do their thing more quickly.

I mixed together a total of 1740 g (3.84 lb) of banana peels with 648 g (1.43 lb) of walnut shells. I figured I would need to add a bit of water, given how dry the shells are, but as it turns out the combined moisture content of the mix looked spot on so I just added it the way it was.

I simply excavated one side of the bin, all the way to the bottom, then dumped the mix in before covering with a layer of the older material.

Lastly, I put my trusty garbage bag back in place!

Naturally, there isn’t a whole lot going on with the walnut shells by this point. They have darkened somewhat, but there still isn’t any obvious decomposition. Considering shells are lignfied like wood, this is not surprising at all. I am toying with the idea of maybe boosting nitrogen levels in the system later on to see if that has any effect, but I will likely continue on as-is for at least a month or two before considering that option.

Speaking of feeding – since I already have a lot of shells in there now (and they are not going anywhere anytime soon), I probably won’t add any more for a while. I will simply continue to collect banana peels and add those periodically.

A few things to note about the worms and ecosystem in general…

The worms seem very healthy to me, but what’s interesting is that I have yet to find a cocoon in the system, and the population doesn’t seem to be expanding at all. Part of me wonders if there might be pesticide residues on these wastes that might be having an effect. Or perhaps the nutritional value of banana peels alone just isn’t that high (again, pretty clear that no real nutritional benefits are being provided by the shells).

I noticed that pill bugs seem to be doing OK in the system – I will be very interested to see if their numbers increase. I am actually surprised they haven’t left the bin, given how wet it is (they normally prefer lightly moistened environments) but perhaps there is something else keeping them happy in there. There are various other critters in the system as well, including white springtails (common ones that dont jump), beetle larvae and a small number of gnats. But no population explosions by any means.

Like my various other “slow” experiments, I think this should is going to get pretty interesting…eventually!
In the meantime, I may just let the system chug along for a few months before providing my next update.

Previous Posts In Series
Walnut Shells and Banana Peels?
Walnut Shells & Banana Peels – 1-25-18

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    • Caleb
    • March 11, 2018

    Very interesting point about the residual pesticides on Banana Peels – I have not thought about that before. Makes me wonder about other produce from the store and how much pesticides they all have. We typically buy organic, but there are still “acceptable” pesticides in certified organic produce as well. Definitely makes me think.

    Also curious about the critters in your system – you said these experiments are in your basement, correct? How are the critters getting into your system? Do they come in with the living material you add? Do you ever add critters like pill bugs and ear wigs on purpose? My understanding is they accelerate decomposition correct? Like, they eat the material, and the worms eat their waste?

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2018

    Hi Caleb!
    There may be something else at work here. I wonder if certain gases are released during the breakdown of banana peels that might not be super worm-friendly. When I checked on the system yesterday there seemed to be a lot of worms up at top (just under plastic) on the side where the new mix had been added – virtually none down below.
    Anyway – should be interesting to see how things play out over time.

    Critters are very normal for ANY vermicomposting system. Virtually impossible to have a batch of composting worms that doesn’t bring its own batch of critters (often as eggs, resting stages etc). If it was ONLY worms I would probably be a bit worried – lol. I don’t think I have ever really stocked a system with critters simply because they are usually in there anyway. A lot of them are “helpers” (like the pill bugs, millipedes, springtails) but some are predatory, such as beetles etc. The predators rarely seem to have any impact on the worms – pretty sure they focus more on the herds of springtails (easy pickins)! haha

    • Stephen
    • April 3, 2018

    Interesting about the banana peels, as to whether they are good or not so good. We use a lot of bananas in our house, and so banana peels are a significant part of our worm food supply.


    • mjswider
    • October 14, 2023

    Hi Bentley, I’m wondering if you recall how this system ended up. I have some macadamia nut shells which I’m considering throwing into a bin and wonder if they will break down during my lifetime. Hope all is well with you.


    • Bentley
    • October 16, 2023

    Hey Matt,
    My recollection is that the shells ended up becoming quite dark and fragile over time, but it was pretty obvious that it would take a long time for them to get full broken down. I say toss em in (as long as not salty) – worst case, you end up with some extra living material which can be screened out or left mixed in with your castings.

    • mjswider
    • October 17, 2023

    Thanks Bentley! I forget if it was walnut seeds or something else, but found a reference to someone saying they did hot soaks with some nut seeds (maybe peanuts?) and they had good results. Part of my goal is a bit of moisture absorption in the bin, but I could see if one did hot soaks in water of shells the decomposition would begin, or at least be prepared better. I did put them in my pre-decompose bucket for now with other scraps and carbon prior to putting them into my UWB.

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