do you chop, blend or grind foods first?

patsuwebJune 18, 2012

About 2 weeks ago, I transferred the partially composted contents of my Rubbermaid type of bin to a 13 gal. flo-thru that SusanfromHawaii designed.

I must say that I found this bin very easy to make using just a drill and a box cutter. It seems to be working very well. As the trashcan is totally black, I put in a white ruler to help me see the level of the bedding. The level of the moist part has dropped 3" and though I think that the contents may have settled some, I think that the red wigglers are quickly processing the bedding and food. I have been chopping the food into about 1" pieces and freezing before adding.

I am wondering if using a blender to finely chop the food which is mostly watermelon, banana peels and apple cores would be better since it would enable the worms to process the food even faster? I keep a layer of cardboard and several inches of shredded dry paper over the food and usually see worms swarming over the chopped food, but it does take a few days for them to process it.

Should I drain the food or leave some of the excess juice since it is a flo-thru and there doesn't seem to be a problem with too much moisture? I used thin cardboard as a base to hold the vermi-compost and it is still moist and intact. I had a gnat problem right after doing the transfer from the old bin which seemed to be too wet near the bottom, but there are very few now. Will blending the food lessen the chances of them returning or increase them? This is an indoor bin and can't be kept outside due to 100 degree plus temps here.

I know that many of you may have a similar system and can offer some expert advice on the pros and cons of using a blender or food processor before feeding.

...thanks, Pat

Here is a link that might be useful: Susan's mini flo-thru bin

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A quick note, you might want to support/brace the bottom harvesting chamber. There's been a few bin collapses here due to the bottom part being weakened with the cutout door and just overall weight. Garbage containers are not really designed to hold materials off the ground, normally the weight is directed directy to the ground via the garbage and the bin just holds the stuff in. Think of it as the difference between you standing in the bin with your feet on the ground inside, or standing on top of the bin on the lid. All depends on the size and type of bin, but something to consider, collapse pic about half way down.

As for your food processing question, I do freeze all my foods but that's to keep the fruit flies and gnats out of the system. Freezing, chopping into smaller amounts etc will always speed things up, but I've found that a mature FT system with lots of worms processes so much anyway that I don't really need it any faster.

The nice thing with more breathable systems is as stuff travels down, it still gets air and is eaten. So I don't mind if I have to put one feeding on top of another still being worked on. For me I just lean to keeping the work to a minimum. I just freeze, mix in bedding and old VC (to add bacteria to jumpstart the process) and dump it in. Adding a layer of old harvested VC on top also speeds things up, keeps smells down (and flies/gnats) and gets worms in quicker.

PS. I have a Worm Inn FT system, with a fresh start, a great mesh lid (tight seal) and freezing everying before adding I've been totally fly and gnat free for 18 months now.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 1:16PM
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PeterK2: Gee, I hope that this new flo-thru will hold up and not collapse on me as it seems to be working so much better than the old plastic bin. Already, I see lots of fluffy, finished vermi-compost near the top. But, if it fails, I did not spend much to make it...less than $20 and most of that was for the brand new Hefty tall trash can. Still it is only a 13 gal. so it doesn't hold all that much, probably only 12" of nearly finished VC and that seems to decrease in volume daily. It's been 2 wks since I first filled it, so hoping that since it hasn't collapsed yet is a good sign. I am seeing fewer gnats everyday, but I could easily make an elasticized netting cover for it if needed(that is a really good idea)....however, it probably won't keep me from checking on it daily
I had considered getting the Worm Inn, but if this works and holds up, I can easily make another one once I have more worms. I may go back to just chopping the food, as it is easier and less wear 'n tear on my blender.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:41PM
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PeterK2 (like a mountain K2 of worms?) already gave an excellent answer.

"watermelon, banana peels and apple cores" typically do not need any processing since they melt into a bin very quickly. "I keep a layer of cardboard and several inches of shredded dry paper over the food" You are already to answer questions, your system sounds great. "but it does take a few days for them to process it." A few days? You type that like it is a looooong time. A few days is excellent progress. Enviable. "Should I drain the food or leave some of the excess juice since it is a flo-thru and there doesn't seem to be a problem with too much moisture?" I vote for not draining since I think half of the good stuff is in the liquid. But not all agree with this. If there is liquid then it is a great oppertunity to add more bedding. I am glad you already add a lot of bedding. That is key to a healthy system. I really enjoyed reading this postinge exchange. You seem to be doing very well with the worms, specifically providing them bedding along with food. I am a big advocate of not processing the food, but then again with a smaller system it may be necessary, as I learn with my two microscopic sized vermicompost systems that I insist on putting things whole into. You can get away with the big opening in the 18 gallon system. Sizing up will result in bad things happening. Plastic bends and folds. What does need processing or at least a few chops is broccoli stems, corn cobs, whole cabbages if you do not want to put them through the system a second time. I figure the second time around they are just getting good and innoculate the other stuff. I almost did not want to answer because sometimes I feel that by answering it prevents others who may be holding back and hesitating from jumping in and giving their own unique viewpoints. Your post gave us lots of information to work with so your replies will probably reflect that and the posters will be able to be very helpfull.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 1:19AM
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I am still a newbie - and have learned a lot also from reading this forum and from asking questions. My worms are thriving and I have been "farming" for about 3 months.

I do not want my venture to be too time consuming or add too much work to my life. So therefore, I do not chop - or blend - or microwave - or freeze - I just dump it in and cover with bedding. I do shred my cardboard in the shredder that cuts in strips - and shred my paper in that one and one that does cross cutting (so I have a mixture of both types of shreds) - and then soak it for an hour or so (not long as I don't deal well with too much prep work). If cardboard is too big for the shredder - and too much work to cut up - I soak it and then tear it (or don't use that piece - and it goes in the re-cycle bin).

I don't blend - it takes too much time but mainly because I can't deal with that visual of blending garbage in the blender I make smoothies in.

I don't microwave - because then I have to wait for it to cool down. I don't want to do that. When I go out to "farm" I don't want to have to do a lot of prep work first.

I don't freeze - as it doesn't seem to keep the fruit flies away - and mainly because frozen bags of worm "food" gross my family out.

So I walk a fine line between efficiency and adequacy balanced with the "gross out" factor.

As I said - my worms are doing fine - making babies and my bin doesn't smell. I have fruit flies -- no maggots. The big pieces of food can take up to two weeks to be "eaten" - but most is gone in a week. I feed once a week - or when my OXO counter top compost bin thingy is full (so a few time maybe at 3/4 of a week).

Thanks everyone for your input - and questions - I love to read and learn.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 4:03PM
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I don't have enough worms to take care of all of our scraps. I chop big (2-3") for outdoor bin, and much more finely (size of diced onions up to 1/2" chunks) for the worms. I like to freeze first as a safeguard against Fruit flies, and make sure to give the woms a well balanced diet. Plus freezing seems to speed up the rot process. I find dicing for my worms a very relaxing way to prepare me for the after dinner kitchen cleanup! I keep a container in the fridge freezer that is easy to pull out and add to. Day before I plan to feed the beasts in my 3 bins, I pull it out the night before to thaw.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 12:49PM
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I have 2-large, Rubbermaid-type plastic bins and I've been raising EF's for almost 3-years. There was a time when I froze all the fruit/veggie waste, but since we produced it at a far greater speed than the worms consumed it, the freezer ended up being a repository for bags of rotting scraps which created a lot of friction in the home. Now I store the scraps in food-grade airtight 5-gal. plastic pails which I get for free from a local bakery. When I'm ready to feed, I grind/blend it all up in MY food processor and blender (that's right, my food processor, not my wife's)which I also got for free off a local Freecycle list.
Sometime's if I have alot of scraps to process and it's very liquidy I'll put it into a large plastic container mixed with shredded cardboard and let it sit and compost for a week. I cover the container with very fine mosquito netting (tied down tight) which still allows airflow but keeps out all the bugs. As for the fruit flies and gnats, I hang large sheets of yellow-colored, sticky fly paper over the bins which take care of 95% of those bugs. The few stragglers that get in are not a bother.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:11PM
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