Vermicomposting Pine Cones?

Ever since starting up my vermi-filtration barrel system I’ve find myself looking at resistant, carbon-rich materials in a whole new light.

On some recent local nature walks with my son I noticed that there were a LOT of dried teasel plants along the creek we were exploring. The heads in particular caught my eye since they have countless cavities and I imagined them being great for microbial colonization in my new vermi-filtration system. Yet they would also gradually break down over time and get processed by the worms.

Similarly, yesterday afternoon I saw that there were countless old cones on the ground underneath red pines at a local park. It almost seemed funny that I had never even noticed them, let alone thought about testing them out in a vermicomposting system before.

They are very resistant to breakdown (similar to woody wastes) but have a really interesting lightweight bulky structure that I think would be great for helping to maintain air flow in a system.

It’s important to note that not all conifer cones are created equal. I would imagine that old dried spruce cones (and likely some others) might be even better for a more typical worm bin since smaller and softer – but I would be careful not to collect a lot of needles at the same time. Also note that any cones with lots of sap on them will likely be less ideal as well.

I don’t want to give the impression that these types of materials – like kitchen scraps – can actually be easily processed by the worms and converted into beautiful worm castings, but they should at least provide some carbon balance, help to improve air flow, and get converted into a nice living material that can be screened out and used again.

I’ve collected a bunch of the woody red pine cones (along with some teasel heads) and will likely collect a lot more, not only for my vermi-filtration barrel, but to also test in more typical vermicomposting systems I have on the go.

Should be interesting!
Stay tuned

P.S. Another one I will be keen to add to the barrel is corn cobs – will likely come back to that in another post.

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    • Sarah
    • July 8, 2020

    I wonder if pine cones would cause the bin to be too acidic?

    • Bentley
    • July 8, 2020

    Hi Sarah
    I wouldn’t recommend pine cones for a typical (smaller) worm bin simply based on how bulky and resistant they are. In terms of acidity, I think this will vary a lot depending on what tree they come from and how old they are. The ones from Red Pine trees in the image above likely wouldn’t add any acidity to speak of – but younger cones, especially ones with sap on them could create some issues and would likely be very resistant to break down.

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