Author Topic: Composting  (Read 12182 times)

Danielle

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Composting
« on: February 27, 2012, 04:00:53 PM »
I want to get started with worm composting (http://lifehacker.com/5882478/diy-worm-compost-bin), but I'm a little concerned about A) the smell and B) leaving it outside on my 1st floor patio, in case it attracts animal scavengers.  Any of you fellow mustachians have experience with composting and tips to share?

I'm also wondering what kinds of things can be composted, or rather what should be avoided due to pH and whatnot (ie. citrus), or if that makes a difference.

Bakari

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Re: Composting
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2012, 08:25:17 PM »
I have been worm composting for about 3 years.

I bought one bag at the farmers market, dumped them in a bucket with some dirt in it, and started putting in food scraps, and covered it with a piece of wood.  I throw anything edible in (although I am vegetarian, so idk about meat) with absolutely no thought to whether it is organic, or acidic, or processed, or anything.  Any food scraps, and anything that has gone bad, goes in the bin.
In order to avoid smell or critters, I always dig a hole in the dirt, and bury the new food a few inches down, the put the "lid" back on.

If it does start to smell, that would mean it is getting aerobic; the solution is to stir it up thoroughly ever now and then, not let it get to wet (drain holes at the bottom help, and if you can collect what drips out, it is GREAT liquid fertilizer) and maybe adding some dry mulch like material, like dry leaves or shredded newspaper.

After 6-12 months, I sift out all the worms and remaining food scraps, put the dirt/compost in a new bucket to finish, and start over.  In a couple more months the old bucket is ready for adding to the garden.

Some people (like my girlfriend) prefer to micro-manage the worms moisture levels and what goes into the bin, but I haven't found it to make much difference.

I do notice that the worms REALLY love avocado rinds.

Danielle

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Re: Composting
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2012, 07:43:17 AM »
Thanks for the tips, Bakari :)  I feel better about digging a little hole and burying the scraps slightly.  We don't eat too much meat (I'm actually ex-veggie; I didn't manage my diet right during grad school so I'm taking a few years off to recoup), so I can just avoid adding that to be on the safe side.  It's good to know I'll still be able to enjoy my hammock without wearing a gas mask, haha.

If temperatures got too cold, would they have to be brought inside?  I live in Texas but winter nights can get cold.  I plan on making a box like the video (with two bins, the inside one with small holes for drainage...the liquid fertilizer is the main goal as I live in an apartment), so bringing it in wouldn't be impossible.  What do you think?

We REALLY love avocados, so my worms should be happy with that!

MsLogica

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Re: Composting
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2012, 09:09:37 AM »
I've been compositing on an off since I was a child, and as far as I'm concerned you can pretty much compost anything natural!  However, I would be careful with meat.  I use my compost for growing veg, so I cannot compost the following:
- meat
- cat and dog poo
- citrus (don't compost this ever as the insects won't like it.  However, you can make cleaning solution or put it on flower beds to deter cats.  Or burn it if you have an open fire, it smells yum.)

If you're going to use your compost for non-edible growing, you don't need to be as strict as you're not going to eat any bacteria.  I don't grow flowers, but if you want to grow both veg and flowers, I've seen people recommend having two compost heaps so that you can put the unsafe waste in a separate compost for flowers and keep your veg compost safe.

I live in the UK, which has coldish winters, but my compost is usually ok outside. It's in a bin about 60cm in diameter (~2 ft).  I put some tea leaves in it earlier and I could see insects and a worm wriggling around, so they have survived winter!

Bakari

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Re: Composting
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2012, 09:33:57 AM »
I've never brought mine inside (no space, I live in a trailer). 

It gets down to about freezing here occasionally, but almost never any lower than that, so I can't speak for other climates.

There are fewer of them in winter, and they are less active, but they survive. 
If there are enough of them, and the pile is big enough, the worms and bacteria generate their own heat.  You could probably just insulate them, maybe put the box-in-a-box in a box.

I've heard the same thing about citrus, in fact, I have heard it pretty consistently.  Maybe I'm just lucky, but my orange peels disintegrate into the soil just like everything else.  Maybe the worms avoid it, but something else eats it - it isn't really just red wrigglers, there is a whole vibrant ecosystem in there, with at least a half dozen macroscopic species and untold numbers of types of bacteria.
Not saying I recommend it, I'm sure the conventional wisdom has a reason, just saying it works for me.

twinge

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Re: Composting
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2012, 09:39:54 AM »
We got a worm composting bin as a gift and kept it in the corner of our kitchen and it never smelled a bit. 

We found that we had too many coffee grounds and onion skins (those we generate daily!) to keep a healthy environment in our compost, so those we tend to just feed our acid loving plants (e.g. azaleas, rhododendrons and hollies) directly mixed in with the mulch.

Danielle

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Re: Composting
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2012, 11:14:18 AM »
Yeah, the citrus thing was mostly for pieces of pith and seeds/etc not usable for homemade cleaners (been eating oranges like a boss lately for that reason).  I'll be careful about onions and coffee grounds (I too generate this almost daily!). 

I'll probably give away/trade the actual soil, so I think I'll plan on putting veggie-safe items only.  Yay, I'm excited!

Schwartz

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Re: Composting
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2012, 01:30:22 PM »
I have been trying to get started with worm composting but haven't been able to find opaque plastic storage boxes for the job.  There are plenty of giant ones at Target and other stores, but I was looking for something more on the order of 12"x24"x8" so it would fit under my kitchen sink. Has anyone used plastic pails for this purpose? I don't see them in use anywhere online, but they would be very easy and cheap to find. I worry about whether they will be too deep compared to the surface area. Thoughts?

Bakari

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Re: Composting
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2012, 04:59:42 PM »
I used a large bucket like this one: http://www.beveragefactory.com/draftbeer/pumps/kegjackets/R4219.shtml
just because it is what I happened to have on hand.  My girlfriend had her own worms, and we since combined them into a big rectangular storage container.

If it fits in the space you have, I can't imagine any reason the depth or dimensions would matter.  The worms don't mind living near the surface as long as it is dark, but they can borrow down at least a foot as well (online sources say they don't go more than a couple inches deep, but I have witnessed them living that far below the surface)

spacecoyote

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Re: Composting
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2012, 12:13:05 PM »
I don't have a lot of personal information on worm composting, but I do have experience with "regular" composting (the big-pile-of-organic-matter kind). But when I was a kid my dad did some (small scale) worm farming in our basement, so I remember a little of what was going on down there. He would fill a container with shredded newspaper for the worms use as bedding, and add food scraps for them to eat. They loved to eat the scraps, but due to the nitrogen given off from the scraps the worms find it too "hot" to be comfortable living in/around. So keeping the bedding and food separate worked well for him.

I never remembered the bins smelling at all but if vermicomposting is the same as regular composting, if it smells then something is wrong (not enough oxygen, too little carbon-based material, etc). As for things to avoid adding, I would agree to steer clear of meat and carnivore poo - although I compost for vegetables so don't want to risk possible bacteria problems - as well as any fats and oils. My somewhat lazy rule of thumb is: if it comes out of the ground, it's safe to go back in.

kaeldra

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Re: Composting
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2012, 04:51:54 PM »
What do folks use for bedding for their worms? People tell me to use my paper towels, coffee filters, and newspaper... but I don't drink coffee, use cloth towels, and read the paper online. Do you find that this isn't a big issue? Or do you have other paper materials you use?

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Re: Composting
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2012, 06:12:04 PM »
What do folks use for bedding for their worms? People tell me to use my paper towels, coffee filters, and newspaper... but I don't drink coffee, use cloth towels, and read the paper online. Do you find that this isn't a big issue? Or do you have other paper materials you use?

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menorman

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Re: Composting
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2012, 06:26:40 PM »
What do folks use for bedding for their worms? People tell me to use my paper towels, coffee filters, and newspaper... but I don't drink coffee, use cloth towels, and read the paper online. Do you find that this isn't a big issue? Or do you have other paper materials you use?
Just about everyone who gets newspapers subsequently discards them, either in a recycling bin or the trash itself. If you have any neighbors, see if any of them subscribe to the paper and ask someone for one every few days. A whole paper should last for awhile, so you probably wouldn't need to bother them that often. Might also try libraries and schools, they're often frequent users of newspapers. Alternatively, you could just go out and buy a paper every time you need to add more. Depending on where you live, there may even be some local papers that get put out for free.

Bakari

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Re: Composting
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2012, 07:30:42 PM »
I don't use any kind of bedding.
The worms live in the dirt, (as nature intended)

The Money Monk

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Re: Composting
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2012, 11:23:45 PM »
I haven't done a lot of worm composting, I use Black Soldier Fly larva instead. They have a couple of advantages over worms.

1. They compost MUCH faster. A small bin of Soldier Fly Grubs can consume several pounds of food a day.

2. You can put in things you can't put in a regular worm bin. The BSF grubs will eat meats, manure, and basically any organic matter. Stuff that you can't put in a worm bin or compost pile.

Definitely something to look into if you are in an area where they can live.

Brett

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Re: Composting
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2012, 03:23:11 AM »
I haven't done a lot of worm composting, I use Black Soldier Fly larva instead. They have a couple of advantages over worms.

1. They compost MUCH faster. A small bin of Soldier Fly Grubs can consume several pounds of food a day.

2. You can put in things you can't put in a regular worm bin. The BSF grubs will eat meats, manure, and basically any organic matter. Stuff that you can't put in a worm bin or compost pile.

Definitely something to look into if you are in an area where they can live.

That's pretty interesting. What do you do about them turning into flies? Are they just left to fly off? Is this something you do inside?

MEJG

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Re: Composting
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2012, 06:50:34 AM »
I haven't done a lot of worm composting, I use Black Soldier Fly larva instead. They have a couple of advantages over worms.


I was planning on BSFL when I get chickens (at some unforeseen time in the future).  I have three questions.... 
1)what do you dow with the grubs? if you have no chickens or fish
2) what do you do in the winter?
3) where do you house them?

fiveoh

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Re: Composting
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2012, 09:52:14 AM »
Thanks for the link.  I've been trying to do traditional composting outside and it hasn't been going well.  I think I'm going to try this approach instead.  Another positive note... free fishing bait! 


The Money Monk

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Re: Composting
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2012, 09:42:40 PM »
I haven't done a lot of worm composting, I use Black Soldier Fly larva instead. They have a couple of advantages over worms.


I was planning on BSFL when I get chickens (at some unforeseen time in the future).  I have three questions.... 
1)what do you dow with the grubs? if you have no chickens or fish
2) what do you do in the winter?
3) where do you house them?

1. If you don't have anything to feed the grubs too just let them turn into flies and continue the process. The flies only live 3-5 days and their sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs. They are not a nuisance and don't bite. They don't even have mouths. They literally only mate as adult flies.

2. In the winter they go mostly dormant unless you insulate the bin pretty well or keep it in a greenhouse or something.

3. I house them outside in the bin. The grubs self-migrate when they are mature, which makes collecting them super easy, but it also means that a fair number crawl out so I wouldn't want to have the bin inside probably.

I raise them primarily to feed to the chickens. If you don't have anything to feed them to, you'll have to decide what your goal for the compost bin is. If it is to quickly dispose of all various kinds of food waste, then go with the BSFL. If it is to create compost for planting, then you might want the worms. They are slower but much more of what you put in there is turned into compost. With the BSFL, so much of it goes to metabolic function and just fueling their explosive growth that not as much of it is turned into compost. It is turned into fat grub protein instead. Last year I probably put well over 100 lbs of scraps into the grub bin, and was left with MAYBE 5 pounds of actual compost. I probably got 20 lbs of grubs though.

Although, you can use both. As the worms apparently thrive in the compost created by the grubs, and process it faster than raw vegetation scraps, and grow faster in it.

Another reason to have both is because they tend to eat different things. You can give the grubs almost anything, including meat, animal products and even manure, as well as almost any kind of human food. The only thing they really don't eat is stuff that is super high in cellulose, like cardboard or leaves and plant stalks (which the worms DO eat). The grubs will eat stuff like spinach, cucumbers, etc, but not just any random plant material.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 09:46:17 PM by The Money Monk »