Is Your Vermicompost Better Than Mine?

equinoxequinoxMay 13, 2010

I'm a hard core toss it in whole, no chopping vermicomposter. In the results I see 4 inch pumpkin stems, bananna stems, grape stems. I am starting to wonder if those of you who chop, process, pulverize, blend, freeze, and nuke have way finer vermicompost than I.

I just toss the residuals back on top and figure they quickly add islands of biodiversity to innoculate the new stuff.

But just maybe next time I will give that brocolli stem, cabbage core, grape stem or mango seed a single quick jab with my knife to start the ball of worms rolling.

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I doubt ours (I am a grinder) is better than yours. It just happens faster. You choose to let your micro herd do some of the work that I am doing for them. It might be that by the time mine reaches the bottom of the flowthrough it will be processed better than yours because I gave it a head start. Who knows. The stuff you toss back in for a second go-round might be processed more than mine.

The key to quality VC is in what you feed the bin. Kitchen scraps probably don't result in the best VC. I would guess (and it is just a guess) that horse manure or cow manure holds that honor.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 1:51AM
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Apologies, I skipped right over grinders. :-) Which I can respect due to not using the electicity of blend, freeze, nuke. Plus results in even size with minimal effort. Thus results for energy imput is maximized. My bane evil brocolli stems and onion skins stand no chance.

I'll let you know if I see that pumpkin stem a third time. A worm had its head stuck in it. I jabed the stem to increase air flow. I don't even want to know what is going on in there. Or in the one I pulled out last week to let dry to step on to crush.

I'm a bit jealous of that faster and maybe finer you choppers, grinders, blenders, freezers, and nukers have.

I vermicompost kitchen scraps because that is what I want to get rid of, (not having 1st choice to rabbits, and 2nd choice to chickens, 3rd choice to BSFL) and having no horse or cow. And only two 4 gallon buckets of flow through. It would have to be a very small cow. :-)

I do enjoy reading about everybody's experimentals and experimenting on my own.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 2:40AM
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I promise you, getting onion skins through a hand cranked grinder is not minimal effort.

I also feed kitchen scraps, because that is what I have, but I will toss in some horse manure if I come up short.

I also freeze. It kills fruit fly eggs, allows me to save up scraps without any objectionable smells, and makes everything go through the grinder better.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 2:46AM
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I have a butcher knife that I use both for weeding and chopping worm food. We don't get many random visitors anymore. '-)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 9:28AM
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I don't grind. Maybe because I don't have a grinder. I do the best I can with a sharp knife and toss it in. It sometimes takes awhile but the worms seem to like it just fine.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 12:44PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

I like what someone said a while back, that the worms work for me, not for them. Yeah, my VC may not be the prettiest, but it works, I don't add much to the landfill, and my strawberries and tomato plants look amazing.

I *would* like the perfect, black, coffee-ground looking VC you sometimes see for sale, but mine will do, I suppose.

But if I had manure, I would flaunt my perfect VC, youbetcha!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 1:26PM
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Could rotten grass clippings eguals manure? The smell is almost the same to me

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 4:56PM
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sorry I meant "equals"

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 5:36PM
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protea_king(Western Cape)

Along with fym I also add bonemeal and seaweed, which makes for a richer and more rounded palate. I guess the only way to gage how successful you were is to note the reactions of your plants in terms of growth rate, blooming, fruiting, etc.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 8:19PM
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I think maybe a worm poop is a worm poop. I don't think the quality would be that different. But if I had to pick one I'd bet it's the outside bin that would end up with a better quality. More air circulation, the warmth of the sun helping along. That's the worms true home.
My bin is kinda like Camp Tomahawk for worms. They're sheltered, they're conditions are closely monitored for too much wet and too much stink. And they're food is processed not too fine and not too rough so they easily pound down a couple jars a week.
You want a true test, give some of your castings to a gardener. They'll tell you the truth about the quality based on what it does for their plants.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 9:05PM
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I run my scraps through a processor, so I tend to remove the really tough things like pumpkin stems. Everything else goes in and the resulting VC is very nice though a bit damp and sticky, if I try to use a sieve, it tends to clump into balls.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 9:27PM
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I just need a way to remove seeds from the worm slop bucket. Seeds seem to go from table to garden via worm system and then sprout where least expected. Maybe 'hot' compost for a worm box snack or thermo treat the finished VC. Always extra work for me though.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 5:48AM
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Lately, I have been using a different approach to my harvesting. I am only removing the castings themselves, not the compost.

A couple days ago I decided to harvest my EH's. Partially to see how many worms I had in that bin as I had selected the parent colony from a bin I had mistakenly mixed with red wigglers. Also my 11 year old nephew has been staying with me and I'm trying to keep him busy with little projects that might teach him something. (better than the TV and video games he prefers).

We dropped the contents a couple handfuls at a time onto a 1/2 inch screen. We broke up larger lumps by hand. Anything that did not pass that screen went straight back to the bin with the worms. The smaller stuff was pretty damp and tended to clump a little like Random describes, so I let it sit for a day or so stirring it occasionally.

At first glance most of it looked like excellent compost. Certainly better than some of the stuff from my regular bins. Looking closer I could see alot of paper and undigested stuff.

It was still pretty damp when we (nephew mostly) ran it through the collander. The result was almost entirely castings. This I saved back and am using for tea, which I brew continually. I have about 3/4 gallon stored.

I find that I am feeding alot less now mainly because I am re-processing alot of what goes through my bins. The same thing applies to my flow thru's. I started having more undigested stuff many more worms come out the bottom as I was harvesting too fast. I needed the castings for tea but now that I have 'caught up' I am letting it sit longer.

I am only feeding to keep the bins full. The remainder of my scraps/garbage goes into an outside compost bin. Like alot of you, I try to reuse or compost everything that I can. The garbage guy and recycle company picks up only the stuff that I can not process myself.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 8:28AM
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"Anything that did not pass that screen went straight back to the bin with the worms." Same here. I feel this second time through material is important to balance of the bin. It appears to be mostly pieces of egg carton or cardboard that has surounded itself with a collection of sticky compost. I figure the second time through is the charm.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 5:34PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

Yes, my VC is better than yours, because it's in my possession! :-)


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 3:40PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Well I finally tossed all the pumpkin stems under the lawn mower after 3 years of picking them out and putting back in (:

I to have to many pumpkins and tomatoes growing in my vermicompost my thought is to throw more of them in my hot pile and use that for worm food also I am going to make tea with all the seed infested stuff

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 6:52PM
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The last time around, we used the larger unfinished pieces as mulch in the flower pots, which worked out pretty well.
As for food, I store all scraps in large zip-lock bags which then go into the freezer for a day or more (or until the wife freaks out about all the "garbage" in the freezer). The freezing/thawing breaks down the cell structure so that watermelon/melon rinds come out soft and rubbery. It then goes into my food processor (the emphasis here is "My food processor" (not hers); hysterics over "garbage" in the food processor usually come before "garbage" in the freezer). On Fri. morning I nuked a bunch of stuff (primarily varied fruit, melon and banana peels). Bananas, I remove the stem as well as 1/2" from the bottom. These parts never break down and seem to remain in the bin forever. I processed enough stuff to cover half each of two large rubbermaid-type bins. I layered the slop over half of each bin, so that when it heated up (as it always does) the worms would have somewhere else to go. Even though outside temps were 95F, and the inside temp (on the side where the new food was added) was approaching 90F, within a day the worms were all over it (probably due to the high microbial action).
Also, if I have moldy citrus, (grapefruit, orange or lemon), I'll put it in whole or cut in half, and within hours the worms will be having a feast.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 7:19PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

"I think maybe a worm poop is a worm poop. I don't think the quality would be that different."

That is very true.

Some may produce more or less material that has not been processed by the worms, like egg shell bits or grape stems, but anything that has been through a worm's gut is the same. That is the magic of vermicomposting.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:16AM
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I'm wondering if a two bin system would be best. You have your main bin which you throw everything in and then every month or 2, you take the finer material and 100 worms you're willing to sacrifice and let it go until the container becomes pure castings. Save what worms are left from living off castings and throw them back in your main bin and repeat process.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 10:31AM
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I too look at my wormless vermicompost curing bin and wonder... what if I put this through a second flow through bin and group of worms? Since it is evenly, nicely damp, the new neighborhood of microbe population should make it a tasty treat the second go around. I'm pretty sure GOLD would fall out the bottom. No?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 9:11PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

When I harvest my castings, I usually use them right away. If I don't, I stash them in a large plastic box (a bit bigger than a shoe box). There are always a few cocoons and wee stragglers who then inhabit the casting storage box. They continue to work it over and after some time, I end up with amazingly pure castings. The worms seem to be fine in that environment.

I also store castings in old food containers, like what cottage cheese comes in. The same refinement process goes on in them. I call these the 'gift packs' because sometimes I give them away to visitors and friends who are interested in worms and the benefits of castings. There is always much witticism about literally giving someone sh!t. :-)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 4:10PM
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I do not have a 'finish" bin. I have found that if I first sieve through a 1/2 inch hardware cloth frame and then use a collander, the end result is excellent castings.Anything that does not pass the 2 screenings is returned to the worm bin. One of my bins seems to drop through to my 'harvesting rods" very quickly. I think it is a function of the high population of worms in the one bin as I treat both FT's the same, humidity wise etc..

I harvested over a gallon of good quality castings yesterday from one of my flowthrus. I am guessing that FT is not more than 6 gallons total. I really need to measure the dimensions. Each is 2 purina kitty litter buckets stacked in column as I have described before.

I have been amused to notice I was returning material to the worm bin that was better compost than alot of what I produce from my regular compost bins. It was just not full castings and therefore did not pass the test and needed to be recylcled.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 7:11PM
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