Charcoal ash

southafricawormoSeptember 22, 2010

I have read on various worm-forums that one should not put charcoal ash in the bin, why exactly is this?

The other day my fiance put quite a lot of charcoal ash in our worm bin by mistake. When I discovered it, after yelling at him rather extensively, I managed to get most of it out, though I didn't want to sacrifice too much compost so had to leave some in. I then covered it with potting soil and damp newspaper and the next day added chopped spinach as I heard that the nitrogen from leafy green plants would help to stabilise the bin again. When I was taking the ash out I could see the worms moving about in the compost just below the layer of ash, I was hoping that would be a good sign that they weren't too bothered by it? And the last time I checked the worms seemed to be happily moving about in the layer that had some charcoal ash in it, so I'm hoping that they are ok.

Any advice about what to do? And why not to use charcoal ash?

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My advice would be to find out if something like ash is harmful before you start yelling at people. Lol they are just worms. On the ash I haven't got a clue. Wood char from outdoor fires seems to be OK, my worms like it.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 4:32PM
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Charcoal is almost pure carbon and will never decompose. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered intact charcoal at some very ancient digs. This material will not hurt the worms but will add nothing to the quality of the compost.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 4:35PM
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Well maybe someone knows about the alkalinity of charcoal ash I would think it is like wood ash and be high?


    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 6:23PM
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Thanks guys. I was worried about the alkalinity and also about the fact that its totally "dead" material so it wouldn't promote microbial growth etc. and might suffocate the worms. On the other hand, the grittiness of it would be good right?

Anyway, I think things are ok but this morning I had another mini heart-attack when I found some worms on the lid of my bin, trying to escape I guess, so now I'm worried that something else is wrong! There were only about 5 on the lid, and some others on the side but then there was a pretty large squirm just underneath the first layer of fresh veg/fruit.

If the ph is wrong the worms will leave right? So how does one correct the ph?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:36AM
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Well to start out your local garden center or hardware store should have a simple PH test kit. You can go from there I have never had the problem of high PH but I add egg shells to help when the bin gets sour (acid) some wormers add lime to sweeten the bin so alkaline is not common and I Have not had to deal with it. May be some extra citrus would work if the PH is high.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 10:41AM
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I would not add bbq ashes if it was started with hydrocarbon fluids. I do, however, add crushed wood char (bio-char) to some of my wormery. I think I am adding long-term worm-poop memory to that char! This char/castings then goes into the garden and potted plants.
Good luck and don't freak out. Worms are amazingly tough and will overcome and correct PH in their castings.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 10:08PM
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The poor guy probably thought he was making you happy. I would not add formed charcoal briquette ash to my bin. I do not think the ash from one cookout would harm the bin. Like mendopete I put purchased, on clearance wood char into my bin. It is not for the worms, the worms do a process for me on the char. I process the char twice. Once through to get the water phobic char wet. The second time I wrap it in paper and step on it to crush. This makes no dust particles floating in the air. I want to add the char to my garden and purchased it for that. The worms get the char ready for the garden by helping it to gain life. I use slow times of food availability to keep the bin filled to the top with char. I want to try to get the whole bag through the tiny system over the winter. People have been tossing wood ashes into their garden for years. Maybe he will try to make up by giving them them a big pumpkin? The worms would forgive him then.

If in the past you posted about using seaweed in the bin I think seeweed that was rained on or rinsed even a bit would be a good addition to bin or garden due to the minerals and trace minerals. I have no seaweed. Sad. Those who have it are lucky.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 12:32AM
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