To Rot or Not To Rot - That is the Question

equinoxequinoxFebruary 22, 2014

The topic of pre rot or not needs way more information. It is almost like civil war makings. I almost think it is not rotting we want to do but getting the material dirty or encouraging enhanced microbial action. What say ye?

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hummersteve

Im thinking warmth gets the process going quicker. The warmer the rottier, the quicker.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 9:09PM
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mendopete

To rot, or not to rot, that is the question!

If you are starting out a new bin, it helps to pre-rot or pre-compost. It get things going quicker, adding microbes. This would be a good time to chop or juice worm food. This makes a new bed "worm ready" quicker.

Once established, worms will process whole veggies, even whole potato gone bad, without per-rotting. It just depends on how big of a hurry you are in.

Instead of pre-rotting, chopping, freezing, microwaving or juicing, I prefer to just toss it into the bin whole. I let nature take its course. It is the greener way to do it!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 9:54PM
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sbryce_gw

IMNSHO, the most efficient way to pre rot worm food is to toss it in the worm bin. Pre-rotting in anaerobic conditions can create volatile organic compounds, which can be toxic to worms. Like Mendopete, I have placed whole vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, and a head of lettuce, in the bin, and they broke down just fine.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:47PM
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chuckiebtoo

Well.....if the amount of potential input exceeds the capacities of your worm populations to keep up with the flow, it is perfectly OK (and also highly recommended anyway) to maintain a pre-composting container

Almost all my veggie scraps and other stuff goes into a nice little decorative container that sits innocently on a shelf with no one even knowing it's full of just-about-to-start-smelling-like-rotting-food-waste.

At the time I detect just the beginnings of an unpleasant aroma, I present it to the worms. They jump on it. If I happen to need foodstuff without that little preparation step, that's OK too.

And always remember that there remains a lot of foodstuff for the wormies even after the visible chunks and little bits have disappeared.

The important thing is to not overwhelm the bin with more than they can handle because then it will become a little bit challenging to play around in the bin. It kinda winds up unattended to like it shouldn't be.

Chuckiebtoo

Moderation, diversity, patience

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 7:48PM
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11otis

As per my observation/experience, scraps rot faster outside a worm bin than inside.
My reasoning/thinking, since worms live among others on MO/bacteria, the scraps outside the bin is exposed to more bacteria ergo a faster rotting process. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 7:59PM
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Boukmn(10b)

Moderation, diversity, patience .... ditto!

I have had time to really grow and mature my heard over a year and I am a little less strident about precomposting. As a rule of thumb, precomposting is still a no-brainer. Especially for the inexperienced and when you have larger quantities. However, I made a few more observations of my worms:

1. Moderation - In a very mature bin, when I added fresh material on the surface in one corner, the easy soft material is immediately attacked and swarmed. Swarming does not happen when the bin also has fresh compost or horse apples distributed throughout. Thus, concentrating moderate amounts of food seems to be critical. Give 'em less than you think they need. Check their actual feed-rate before you add more.

2. Diversity - If tougher material is mixed in with the soft stuff is goes down faster in a concentrated swarm than when it is by itself. It seems important to keep the ratio at least 2-1 in favor of the soft stuff.

3. Patients - The wormer has got to have the patients to wait for a mature herd living in well worm-worked bedding and castings. I still am a strong advocate of the compost and horse apples diet for a new bin to avoid balance problems.

I made two observations that may be helpful to even the experienced wormers.

A. Fruit flies seem to be attracted to the fresh material. However, when the fresh material is swarmed (by worms), the flies may feed but cannot reproduce. This seems to be true even if the fresh food is in a quantity that will take the worms at least a week to consume (my observation). No FF eggs/larvae are ever found.

There has to be something else going on here besides worms simply out competing the FFs. My hypothesis is there is a chemical byproduct of the worms activity that hinders FF reproduction. We know that Black Soldier Fly larvae produce waste byproducts that scare away other flies so this is not without precedent.

B. The worms feeding process seems more complex than what I have been lead to believe thus far. We have all been told the worms eat the bacteria/fungi that do the actual eating of the garbage. They may even slurp in the really soft, rotted stuff directly... so the story goes. However, I had the chance to observe one of my swarms feeding on 1/2 of a green-turned papaya that fell too early from my tree. The worms made Swiss cheeze-like holes through several places that could not be explained by worms feeding on bac/fungi growth or by slurping in the rotted stuff. It was not rotted or even fully ripe.

My hypothesis here is the worms may be extruding enzymes in "saliva" that promote plant decomposition independent of bac/fungi.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:24AM
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Boukmn(10b)

Moderation, diversity, patience .... ditto!

I have had time to really grow and mature my heard over a year and I am a little less strident about precomposting. As a rule of thumb, precomposting is still a no-brainer. Especially for the inexperienced and when you have larger quantities. However, I made a few more observations of my worms:

1. Moderation - In a very mature bin, when I added fresh material on the surface in one corner, the easy soft material is immediately attacked and swarmed. Swarming does not happen when the bin also has fresh compost or horse apples distributed throughout. Thus, concentrating moderate amounts of food seems to be critical. Give 'em less than you think they need. Check their actual feed-rate before you add more.

2. Diversity - If tougher material is mixed in with the soft stuff is goes down faster in a concentrated swarm than when it is by itself. It seems important to keep the ratio at least 2-1 in favor of the soft stuff.

3. Patients - The wormer has got to have the patients to wait for a mature herd living in well worm-worked bedding and castings. I still am a strong advocate of the compost and horse apples diet for a new bin to avoid balance problems.

I made two observations that may be helpful to even the experienced wormers.

A. Fruit flies seem to be attracted to the fresh material. However, when the fresh material is swarmed (by worms), the flies may feed but cannot reproduce. This seems to be true even if the fresh food is in a quantity that will take the worms at least a week to consume (my observation). No FF eggs/larvae are ever found.

There has to be something else going on here besides worms simply out competing the FFs. My hypothesis is there is a chemical byproduct of the worms activity that hinders FF reproduction. We know that Black Soldier Fly larvae produce waste byproducts that scare away other flies so this is not without precedent.

B. The worms feeding process seems more complex than what I have been lead to believe thus far. We have all been told the worms eat the bacteria/fungi that do the actual eating of the garbage. They may even slurp in the really soft, rotted stuff directly... so the story goes. However, I had the chance to observe one of my swarms feeding on 1/2 of a green-turned papaya that fell too early from my tree. The worms made Swiss cheeze-like holes through several places that could not be explained by worms feeding on bac/fungi growth or by slurping in the rotted stuff. It was not rotted or even fully ripe.

My hypothesis here is the worms may be extruding enzymes in "saliva" that promote plant decomposition independent of bac/fungi.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:35AM
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sbryce_gw

I think we need to make a distinction between pre-rotting and pre-composting. Pre-composting: absolutely! Pre-rotting: I wouldn't.

As Boukmn said (twice!), using partially finished compost (or aged horse manure) as bedding in a new bin is one of the best ways to get a new bin going.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 11:25AM
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barbararose21101

Is a potato "gone bad" rotted ?
I am pureeing scraps. Some have decay. Some is somewhat not decayed. The vermicomposters who really want to hurry up decomposition, put the scraps, even pureed scraps, in the sun . I don't know for how long. I like to puree for the esthetics. Also, it adds moisture that is more nutrtious than water.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 5:56PM
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chuckiebtoo

Composting, decomposing, rotting, coming apart at the seams, softening up, aging ("aged heavy beef" is just a more palatable way to say the structure of the biology is beginning to break down)......all mean the same thing to the wormies.

Time to eat .

Chuckiebtoo

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:50PM
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equinoxequinox

sbryce: Tell us more about this "distinction between pre-rotting and pre-composting." Feel free to start a new topic. I think there is something to the distinction.

I'm thinking rotting smells where as composting does not.
Rotting is what long forgotten chicken leftovers in the back of the refrigerator do.
Rotting might be where the nitrogen is released faster than the carbon is available to or can absorb the goodness or resources being released.
Rotting might release things not good for the worms like alcohols and things not conductive to life.

But I'm thinking you have a more thought out definition.

Eventually even rot will find a way to turn not evil and balance.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:50PM
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sbryce_gw

The distinction I intended was aerobic vs anaerobic decomposition.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 9:11AM
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equinoxequinox

"The distinction I intended was aerobic vs anaerobic decomposition." If I am on the right track I take that to mean aerobic being pre-composting vs anaerobic being pre-rotting.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 11:25AM
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11otis

sbryce: if pre-rotted stuff has gone anaerobic, do you agree that airing a 2 gal slop (with turning every so often) will make it OK? (I mean, the smell was gone by then)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 4:06PM
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mendopete

Compost consists of rotting, decaying vegetation and sometimes animal waste.

Pre-rot?? I think of fresh stuff we eat. Maybe cooking, freezing ,chopping, juicing, ect. would be pre-rotting. Getting food ready for the herd.

Pre-compost?? In the vermicomposting world, pre-compost generally refers starting the rotting/composting/decaying stage. We are making fresher food start rotting and getting it worm-ready, the same as pre-rot.

Anaerobic stuff left in a sealed container too long sure smell BAD! I sealed up some chopped kelp a few years ago
for about 3 months .BAD IDEA!! Food sealsd up a week or so, it will not hurt the worms IMO.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 7:36PM
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sbryce_gw

Yes, I think of pre-rotting as anaerobic, and pre-composting as aerobic.

As for airing 2 gallons of slop, I have never tried it, so I cannot comment.

As for the food prep we do in the kitchen being pre-rotting, no, since no bacteria is involved. And, no, I do not consider such things as making yogurt to be pre-rotting. Neither rotted nor composted OM is fit for human consumption.

The stuff in the fridge? I go by smell. If it stinks, the worms don't get it. Worms can handle some anaerobic bacteria. It is the VOCs created by anaerobic decomposition that I believe to be harmful to worms.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 12:02AM
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equinoxequinox

I agree with sbryce and others who said similar to:
"I think of pre-rotting as anaerobic, and pre-composting as aerobic." and "I go by smell. If it stinks, the worms don't get it. Worms can handle some anaerobic bacteria. It is the VOCs created by anaerobic decomposition that I believe to be harmful to worms."

I think we sometimes want to take the time and effort to start the material down the path but we do not want to get to an airless end of the path that is putrid. (of organic matter) decaying or rotting and emitting a fetid smell.

I'm thinking bokashi might be right for me on those few days I have a huge amount of kitchen waste material. It pickles the material until those times in the worm season when I do not have as much food available. Lots of bedding and safe places to move away as I do not intend to pickle the worms. With outdoor composting the possum is making his rounds. I do not mind him but he might have friends.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:01AM
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