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What is Easy (Static) Composting?

Choose a container to hold the materials

 

From the Garden…
Leaves (chopped)

Grass (not wet)
Plants & Weeds (without ripe seeds)
Old potting soil
Soft plant stems

 

From the Kitchen… 
Fruit scraps
Vegetable trimmings
Egg shells (crushed)
Tea bags
Coffee grounds with filters
Shredded paper

 

DO NOT include…
meat, fish, bones, plastics, metals, fats and oils, dairy products
pet waste, cheese, or other sauces

 

Getting the Pile Started…

  • Place the composter where it is convenient to access and water is available

  • Have a material storage area beside

  • Put small branches and sticks at the bottom to promote airflow

  • Begin to layer, alternating between dry (max 15 cm thick) and wet materials (max 6 cm thick)

  • Add compost starter or handfuls of other compost and natural soil from nearby to inoculate with good biology

  • Continue to layer throughout the season

 

Managing the Pile….

  • Every time material is added, check the moisture level - it should be be like a wrung out sponge

  • Too wet= smelly  Too dry= longer to break down

  • Every time material is added, mix the top layers together

  • Continue to layer materials thru winter, spring turn required

  • Break up pieces and keep composter full

  • Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown,

  • crumbly and smells ‘earthy’. Sift as desired.

 

Pros

Simple layering of green and brown materials 

No heavy lifting or temperature monitoring

Inexpensive and fun!

Cons

Takes 1-2 years to mature

Does not kill pathogens or weed seeds

Need to maintain moisture for success

What is Hot (Thermophilic) Composting?

 

Basic Recipe for a 40 Bucket Pile

 

For every 10 buckets, you need:

Woody materials:

  • 6 buckets of wood chips (presoaked for 24 hours)

Green materials:

  • 1 bucket of coffee grounds

  • 2 buckets of greens (garden/kitchen compost)

High nitrogen materials:

  • 1 bucket of spent brewing grains or manure

 

*You will need 2-3 buckets of chlorine free water in a watering can to wet the pile to 50% moisture.

 

Equipment Needed

  • Two 3’or 4’x10' 1/2-inch hardware cloth (mesh) formed into a cylinder. 

  • *Extra mesh is needed to cover the pallet.

  • zip ties or velcro ties to fasten cylinder together

  • 2 pallets (1 pallet is for turning)

  • 9'x12' tarp

  • bungee cords to fasten tarp to pallet

  • 40 buckets (4-5 gallon)

  • 5-10 bucket lids with holes for draining water

  • compost thermometer

  • pitchfork/shovels

 

As the bacteria begin to feast on the brewing grains, the party starts. Within 24-48 hours, the bacteria are multiplying and putting out enough heat to warm the pile up to at least 55 C. 

Depending on the temperature, you can turn the pile every 2-3 days until it cools down to ambient temperature.

55-65 C - Turn after 72 hours 

65-70 C - Turn after 48 hours

70-75 C - Turn within 24 hours

Turning the pile: EVERYTHING MOVES DOWN A LAYER

1. put top on tarp 

2. put hot middle in new spot 

3. put top (tarp) on next

4. bottom becomes new top

After the pile has gone through its cycles, it can be used in as little as 2-3 weeks. 

BUT…it’s better to wait a few months (up to 6 months) before using it. This will establish a strong, diverse community of microorganisms, and most importantly a greater mass of fungi.

 

Pros

Promotes growth of good microorganisms, kills pathogens and weed seeds, quickly breaks down organic materials to be used as compost sooner, inexpensive and fun!

 

Cons

Requires careful monitoring- temperature, turning and moisture levels for 10-14 days 

Need the proper proportion of greens and browns for the pile to compost properly

What is Vermicomposting?

 

Earthworm Biology

 

Red Wigglers (Eisenia Fetida) are the most common type of compost worms. They are hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive systems, but still need another worm to share sperm and reproduce. Under good conditions, a worm population can double every 2 months. They are excellent at taking waste materials and making a rich organic soil amendment full of plant nutrients and beneficial microbes.

 

Moisture 

The worms need consistent moisture, which can be monitored when feeding them. If it is too wet the conditions can go anaerobic and the bin will start to smell bad.  If it is too dry, the worms will also start to dry out and die.  You can re-moisten with a spray bottle as needed.

 

Oxygen

Worms are aerobic organisms and need oxygen to survive. The bedding used helps maintain oxygen throughout and the holes in the lid provide air exchange, but are located in the middle of the lid to avoid potential escapees. Worms will only try to escape if their living conditions are poor. Keep them happy and they’ll stay put and on the job!

 

Temperature

The ideal temperature is between 16-27C (60-80F), keeping them indoors is great. Put the bin under your sink, in your pantry or in a convenient location where you won’t forget about them. If you put them outside, make sure the bin is not going to be exposed to any direct sunlight or that the temperature doesn’t drop below 10C over night.

 

Light

Worms like the dark and will avoid light by hiding when you open the lid. You will see them squirm down as soon as they are exposed. This is why the bin is opaque.

 

Bedding

Vermicompost bins require bedding that the red wigglers can move around in, that holds water well and that provides some structure for air to circulate.  The bedding that comes in your bin is made from moistened coconut coir and shredded paper. Coconut coir has excellent water holding capacity, while the shredded paper provides a digestible carbon source that the worms will eventually eat.
 

Food

What to/what not to feed your red wigglers:

  • Raw fruit and veggie produce waste: salad greens, peelings, ends of peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, cores

  • Large melon rinds need to be chopped into tiny pieces

  • No sandwiches, sauces or garbage

  • No onion, garlic or citrus (worms don’t do well with these)

  • No meat, bones or any cooked foods (these will make your bin smell bad)

Tips:

  • Start slowly - the sign of too much food is that it will start to decay and mold because the worms can’t consume it fast enough. Once your worm population increases, they will be able to eat more.

  • Monitor the bin every 3-4 days in the beginning few weeks to determine how much food is just right. (Better too little than too much).

  • Chop up the food in small pieces as this will speed up the rate at which it can be consumed

  • Any seeds in the food will not be destroyed by the worms, and you make see sprouts either in your bin or later in your soil that you have added the castings (worm poop)

  • Feed more veggies than fruit, as fruit sugars are attractive to fruit flies

 

Biology in the Bin is a Good Thing!

Various bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other micro arthropods also make up the diversity of your bin and are all part of an important food web that works together. If you see a little bit of fungi or tiny little white springtails, don’t be alarmed, your bin is working just fine.  If, however, your bin stinks and you see lots of mold and flies everywhere, it may be time for the Worm 911!

Worm 911

What should you do if you have a worm 911? 

 

Begin by preparing more clean bedding in a separate container: 50/50 well hydrated coconut coir and shredded paper. Set this aside.

Get a pair of disposable gloves on and begin taking out the large pieces of food in your bin that are moldy. Try and scoop out any large fungi that seem to be taking over. After you have removed any material that is questionable, push all that remains over to one side of the bin.  If it is super wet, use some paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Mix in a handful of new bedding to this material to help get the moisture level back to normal. The worms and their castings will still be in here, so this will help them survive.

 

Take several handfuls of prepared bedding and place it on the emptied side of the bin.  Put a little bit of new food into the new bedding. Your worms are going to migrate over here to enjoy a new home after a few days. Keep feeding them on this side of the bin for a week or two.

 

Once the bin seems to have recovered, you can gently mix the halves together again and continue feeding as normal for at least 2 weeks or more before harvesting.

 

Harvesting Vermicompost

You will know your compost is ready to harvest when it starts to look like dark rich soil.The easiest way to harvest the compost is to move all the material to one side of the bin and make a new home for the worms on the other side (following the same process as the Worm 911). Only feed them on the new side going forward and after a few weeks, there will be little to no worms in the finished compost.  Take the finished compost out and spread it on a newspaper lined tray or shallow box.  If you see any worms, you can easily pick them out and return them to the bin. Store it in a container that has some air exchange as it is still full of living microbes that need oxygen and some moisture to thrive.  

 

Using Vermicompost

Application of vermicompost is generally 10% by volume.

Soil mixes- use 1 cubic foot of vermicompost mixed with 9 cubic feet of soil media. Use this for seed starts or potting up planters.

Ground transplants - use 1/4 cup vermicompost for every inch of hole diameter. For example, a 4” hole would use 1 cup vermicompost, a 6” hole, 1.5 cups. Put the compost into the hole where the roots will be in contact with it.

Top dressing - use 0.5-1” of compost over the surface in a radius equal to half the plant’s height and gently work into the top 1-3” of soil. Irrigate immediately.

 

If you have any questions, please contact us at jen@flowingsprings.ca!

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