(Lots of comfrey growing in various corners of my yard – time to put it to good use!)
Adding green wastes to a home worm bin isn’t something I typically recommend – especially not to those just getting started. Materials like grass clippings and garden weeds tend to require more pre-processing (so as to make them worm-friendly) than most of the usual kitchen scraps , and when they break down they can release ammonia gas (which – as frequently mentioned – is very toxic for worms). Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from using these materials a fair bit in my own systems – and writing about it here.
Here are some examples…
Comfrey is a plant I have a particular interest in A) because it is well-known as a “dynamic accumulator” (aka “nutrient miner”, and B) because I happen to have a lot of it growing in various parts of the yard. Unlike many other “weeds” it also seems to break down really quickly in a composting environment.
My recently-renewed interest in vermicomposting comfrey (and other green wastes) actually developed rather accidentally. On a whim I had tossed – into a fairly new plastic worm bin – a big handful of comfrey leaves straight from the garden. I can’t even recall what my motivation had been – I guess I just basically wanted to “see what would happen” (that seems to be my motivation a LOT of the time! lol). Another motivator for using something other than fruit and veggie scraps at this time of year is the seemingly-unavoidable appearance of fruit flies around the house. As much as I love “playing” with fruit (and other) fly infestations – and writing about it here, it’s sometimes nice just to keep things under control!
Anyway, getting back to what I was saying…once I added the leaves, I closed up the bin and then basically forgot about it for a couple of weeks (another common practice of mine – lol). When I finally did remember to check on it last Friday, I was quite surprised to find almost no trace of the leaves other than some remnants of the thick stalks and veins.
Here are the “Before” and “After” shots:
Now, I realize 2 weeks is not exactly “overnight” – lol – but considering how resistant these sorts of fresh plant materials can be (in comparison to a lot of food wastes), and the fact that I did absolutely nothing to “optimize” the leaves for vermicomposting, it’s still pretty impressive.
Given these positive results, and the fact that I have loads of green materials available at this time of year, I decided to take things a bit further with my experimentation. I collected a second, larger batch of comfrey leaves (along with various other weeds) for my plastic bin system. But unlike the first time, I decided to chop it up and moisten it before adding it to the bin.
This was done last Friday. Today – just shy of 1 week later, this is what the plant material looks like:
There are lots of worms in the habitat zone just below, and based on the volume reduction I’d say they are definitely consuming the material. My guess is that, unlike last time, it will be mostly gone within a few days (so just over 1 week total time).
Now that I’ve got “weeds on the brain” (hmmm…good thing I didn’t forget the “s” – lol), I’ve also decided to dedicate my next Worm Inn Mega system (once set up – hopefully soon) 100% to green waste vermicomposting. Once my safe habitat zone has been established, I will aim to add only comfrey, various other yard weeds, and grass clippings. No bedding, no “living material” – nuthin but weeds!
My gut feeling is that the plants will provide enough resistant, fibrous material to offer the worms a livable habitat without the need for shredded cardboard etc. But let me emphasize again the fact that I WILL be creating a safe habitat zone (in my usual manner) before the onslaught of weeds.
As always…it should be fun!
*** MANDATORY WARNING FOR BEGINNERS ***
As touched on earlier, if you are fairly new to vermicomposting I do NOT recommend using any sort of green waste in a typical small to medium sized enclosed plastic worm bin. For those who are determined to test the weedy waters – MAKE SURE your bin has excellent ventilation (notice in my pictures that my air holes are nearly an inch across), and make sure you leave the material up top. Don’t mix it in. One other caution is to make sure you NEVER use green wastes that have been sprayed with any form of pesticide.