Compost Making at Home, With Worms

composting worms

It’s easy to make compost at home. You can start a compost pile outside and put 3-6 months of back breaking labor into sorting and stirring your organic garbage with a rake. Or, you can outsource the hard work. No, I’m not talking about kidnapping Oompa Loompas — there are better workers who don’t sing and are less likely to cause headaches with OSHA. They’re even available at the local bait shop and pet store. I’m talking about composting with worms.

Turning your kitchen scraps into compost is what worms enjoy doing. They dream of finding big piles of banana peels and coffee grounds! Give them exactly what they want, and you’ll have a happy workforce. To start your sweat shop, all you need is a worm bin.

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Making your own Homemade Compost

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Synthetic fertilizer is made from petroleum and it poses a triple threat to the environment. When oil is extracted, processed, and transported, it produces greenhouse gases. Synthetic fertilizer also is unstable and will release additional gasses as it breaks down. Finally, synthetic fertilizer washes away when it rains, contaminating rivers, lakes, and bays with nutrients that can cause algal blooms.

Instead of using synthetic fertilizer, you can improve the health of your garden with home made compost. There are plenty of ways to make earth friendly fertilizer by composting your food scraps, and doing so also cuts down on the amount of gas that the garbage truck burns. Instead of throwing valuable nutrients into the landfill, change your habits and save a few bucks too!

Compost can be made in several different ways. You can use a compost pile, compost trenches, a composter, or a worm bin. Each of these methods produces humus that can be used around the yard. Humus is well balanced soil that contains an ideal mix of nutrients, retains water better than depleted topsoil, and has a rich, healthy color. Humus is also gentle on young plants, because it’s easy for their roots to burrow through.

A compost pile is one of the oldest ways to make compost. Simply stack together branches, twigs, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps in a clearing in your yard. Every couple weeks, take a spade or pitchfork and stir the contents together. Fresh ingredients can be stacked on top of the pile, and finished compost will settle to the bottom.

Compost trenches offer similar results with lower maintenance. When you have a big pile of kitchen scraps, simply dig a deep hole in the ground and bury the organic waste. A 4-6 foot deep hole is about the right depth. Shallow trenches are also useful, but they can attract unwanted animals like possums, skunks, and rodents. Shallow trenches are also a bad idea in certain areas because they stink.

Enclosed composters give a great deal of control over compost and they offer protection from the weather as well as small animals. Compost bins are available in various styles. Tumbling models will aerate the compost for you, while stationary models require turning in the same way that compost piles do. Composting bins can accelerate the decomposition process because they offer insulation and they compress compost ingredients into a small space where the heat that bacteria produce will build up. Finally, when the compost is finished, enclosed composters make it easy to transport humus by rolling or pushing the bin to the spot where it’s needed.

Vermicomposting bins are a unique variation on compost bins. They use small animals such as worms or grubs to break compost down into soil. As the animals eat scraps, they will digest them into soil and use the energy to breed.

No matter which method you choose to produce compost, this natural fertilizer is a great alternative to chemical fertilizer. By composting organic waste, you can make your slice of the world a healthier, more natural place to live!

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Add Manure to your Compost? What kinds are okay?

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When disposing of manure, composting is a quick and efficient way to get rid of the mess. Each type of manure should be treated differently though. Manure from herbivores has very different types of bacteria than manure from omnivores and predators. If you raise cattle or sheep, their manure has very few pathogens and can be composted easily. Droppings from cats or dogs require special treatment, and they should only be handled with protective gear such as gloves and face masks.

Cow patties make a great compost starter for compost piles or composters. Manure from sheep, cows, rabbits, llamas, goats, hamsters, and similar animals is a “green” compost – high in nitrogen and aerobic bacteria. This type of manure should be stirred into compost heaps and added when turning compost piles. It makes a great accelerant, but should be balanced with carbon rich compost to avoid overheating.

Horse manure is a unique case, because horses love to eat wildflowers and weeds but they don’t have a particularly efficient stomach system. Often, the seeds of these weeds will pass through the horse intact, and they can grow from horse droppings. Horse patties can be used in compost just like other plant eater’s manure, but they should only be used in situations where the compost pile reaches gets hot enough to sterilize the seeds. That requires sustained temperatures in the 140-160 degree range (anything cooler than that and the seeds will survive, anything hotter than that and there’s a risk of spontaneous combustion). Horse manure can also be used in worm bins, because worms will eat the seeds and prevent germination.

Waste from meat eating animals should not be mixed with food scraps. Poop from cats, dogs, lizards, and snakes is often contaminated with harmful bacteria such as e coli. Not only are pet droppings unhealthy to touch, but these bacteria can interfere with proper decomposition in a compost pile. Stomach bacteria are generally anaerobic, and they work using slower mechanisms than aerobic bacteria. Anaerobes can also linger in the soil, where they attack the roots of plants and contaminate food grown in that area.

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