vermicompost vs. composting...

fagopher(zone 5)April 6, 2009

I have the bins running with worms for about a week now... things are pretty slow yet (I know I need to be more patient)... still I went to the nursery on the weekend and found a tumbler for composting they claim it can produce compost for as little as 21 days (in optimum conditions) as far as I could read I can use food scraps and paper on that as well.

So my questions is .. what are the advantages and disadvantages from one to the other...

What I can see (from this only week) from the worm bins is that it produces little composting and is not intended (I think) for yard waste... My yard is 2000 - 4000 sf size and have around 20 small trees and lots of plants.. plus my family is of 4...

This link shows the tumbler I saw on the nursery:

Thanks in advance!!!

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First of all, let me categorically state that any form of composting is better than none at all. By all means continue composting; whatever the method.
While your rotating composter can produce finished compost in 21 days; this is if you fill the composter at point 'a' and follow the process for 3 weeks until you reach point 'b'.
At that time you have produced a product resulting from the bacteriological breakdown of the initial organic material introduced. This means you have introduced no more organic waste between day 1 and day 21. Because, if you have, the new waste takes 21 days to be processed from day of introduction and will not be ready for collection for another 21 days.
Vermicomposting allows continual introduction of organic waste without the resultant layering and turning. The worms do the work while introducing essential micro organisms into the finished product that are not present after the conventional composting process.
Whichever method you choose, keep composting! Good for you!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 6:20PM
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fagopher(zone 5)

Thanks for the clarification... What about the compost quantity.. How much it would cover,.. how many trees, bushes, grass?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 6:47PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Your going to want to do both worms are great for kitchen scraps as you don't have animal problems, mixing with browns ect but it is just not for the volume of yard and garden waste

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 7:30PM
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fagopher(zone 5)

Let me rephrase my question here...

My worm bin is been running for almost 2 weeks now and I have not been able to put many food scraps on it yet... (1 banana peel, a bit of used coffee and peels from papaya and paper...) I started it with 2 pounds of worms... and I have been checking on them.. they are moving and are around the food... I know eventually would run better.. but ..

1. I feel it is not going to manage all my food scraps (for a family of 4). How much food do you think it would eventually process a week?
2. If I want to use the vermicompost.. (to early to tell, but does not seem to produce much of it) how many bushes, trees, flower beds I can fertilize by using only vermicompost? (how much compost should I put on each one?)

To give you an idea of the bins I have,.. I got the 5 tray gusanito. They say it handles up to 10,000 worms.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 10:37PM
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If you can do both!!!

I can't tell you how much compost you will get from your worm bin. I have had a three tier one outside for a few years and it barely gives me enough for my 5 rose bushes and my five containers of tomatoes. I could use more. I also have a trash can with holes drilled in it and that is slower, but useful as well. I guess together they add up to your five tier farm. It is not really enough for my small city garden. I'd like more,much more. If I had room I would also get the tumbler.
I think I cover the ground under my neediest plants with compost twice a year.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 6:39AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

..."My worm bin is been running for almost 2 weeks now and I have not been able to put many food scraps on it yet..."

Fagopher -- (sigh) I've been saying the same thing about my outdoor WF for months.

... "I feel it is not going to manage all my food scraps (for a family of 4). How much food do you think it would eventually process a week?"

In the Worm Bible ("Worms Eat My Garbage") they say that to determine how many worms you need, you should collect and weigh your food waste for one week, then divide by seven to get the daily output. Under the *best* conditions worms can consume half their weight in food, so multiply the daily food waste by 2.

7 lbs of waste / 7 days = 1 lb per day
1 lb of food X 2 = 2 lbs of worms

I started off with roughly 2-3/4# of worms in June and even though they've been prospering, the worms still can't handle the output of our 2-person household. I'm hoping that once the weather gets consistently warm and dry, they'll get hungry and active.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 3:21PM
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fagopher(zone 5)

Thanks ... I think I got the idea... patience :( and look for other alternatives as well :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 6:35PM
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Definitely if you have space- compost. Ordinary garden compost is also a great way of speeding up worm composting. A handful of it mixed with your food waste and left for a week or so before feeding to your worms will ensure that the food waste is well into the rotting process before the worms have to start eating it.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 4:46PM
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Do both. I don't recommend a tumbler, personally, unless you have no other options. A commercial tumbler is too expensive in my opinion. And I have not heard any good reviews from people that actually have them, including Franklin College who uses them in their compost system. They said last year that the tumblers were a terrible disappointment considering the piles that were waiting to be placed in the tumblers were decomposing faster than the material in the actual tumblers. Essentially, my understanding is that the claim on 21 days is based on having all the materials at once. Not based on the feed as you go systems that you would use for kitchen scraps.

I have a family of 4 all week. 6 on weekends when my teenage son and daughter come over. My worms handle all the food waste, plus. Except those items I don't want them eating. Those go to the outside compost bin. Things like potato parts and onions, for example.

I use compost from my hot bins that has gone past the thermophilic stage for bedding in my worm bins. I have 5 worm bins. The tiered one sucks in comparison. It is a 5 level worm factory. It does the job of composting (slower), but not with results that are to my liking. My homemade bins have me spoiled now. The castings in the tiered bins grow anaerobic easily as the moisture from the upper levels seeps down and keeps the lower levels from getting as much oxygen. Not the kind of bacteria you really want. It's not going to hurt your garden, but the fresh castings that have aerobic microbes thriving will better inoculate your garden with the beneficial bacteria annuals (most veges) love.

I started out with approximately 1200 worms. 1000 were put in the worm factory. I ordered them online. As an experiment I started a homemade bin from a 14 gallon rubbermaid container and gathered worms from my uncle's horse manure spread. Long story short: My 200 free worms (if you don't count the labor of finding them) multiplied faster and eat more voraciously than the ones in the worm factory. Just to be sure it wasn't a matter of species difference, which there appeared to be none to me as they all had the same length and tell-tale yellow end (I'm no taxonomist), three months or so into it I made another homemade bin and used worms from the ones I originally ordered. In the homemade bin they did much better and have out paced those in the worm factory. I now have 4 homemade ones that could use dividing further while the worm factory still has yet to require dividing. One is specifically a breeding bin. My guess is that the free worms were more used to having to adapt because of the elemental issues they contend with that farmed worms are often protected from. That's just a guess, though.

Don't be discouraged by slow eating. Worms will eat best if the temps are at 70 degrees or so. They will also breed best in that range. Want them to breed faster? Use cornmeal. I have read several times that this is a "misconception". I'm convinced by my own eyes otherwise. The worms you order are used to a certain diet (which usually contains cornmeal and other grains) and environment. Your best activity will actually come from their children as they will be born into this new environment and won't have to adapt at all, so the first goal should be to get the ones you bought to breed. That is, after all, why you purchase breeders.

One last thing: Freeze your compostable kitchen scraps for worms. We put our scraps in a coffee can. Each day we put it in the freezer. The next day I take it out and let if thaw. The slow freezing breaks the cell walls of plants, which is why freezing your own food doesn't compare to the flash frozen food from the grocery. As it thaws, the tissue is softened for the worms and much of the excess moisture can be drained. This helps to control the ammonia produced by the decomposing food which can cause a bin to go "sour" (acidic).

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 1:16PM
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Your observation on a one week operation with new worms, will tell you nothing - they're going to need a few weeks to settle in properly.

The main advantage of the worms has got to be the better plant nutrition and as joe.jr317 says, you get the benefit of having your soil "innoculated" against pathogens by all the beneficial bacteria in the worm castings.

I wouldn't bother with the tumbler for a big garden, but would just set up a couple of traditional timber DIY hot compost bins (they work better in pairs) and then as he says, you can use some of the partly digested material as bedding or extra food stock for a worm farm.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why Farm worms?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 5:44PM
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fagopher(zone 5)

Wow... Great feedback.. Thanks a bunch!!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 10:34PM
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My vermiposting is on the scale of bathtubs, bushel baskets and raised beds. once you have a mass of v\worms going they can really keep up with masses of food. I also have two brands of worm towers, a Can-of-worms and a cascade. They do fine once well underway, but it takes at lest 90 days for the population to build to a good size.

Any compost will improve with adding worms to break it down further. And the resulting response from your veggies and ornamentals will be rewarding.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 9:00PM
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