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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2004 8:57 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2003 9:37 am
Posts: 28
Location: Frisco,TEXAS
Hello,

I am brand new to gardening, much less composting. I'd like to make better use of my kitchen scraps than throwing them in the trash, and if I can save any money on buying compost, then that'd be great too.

My question is should I start with worm composting or regular? I've been saving scraps in the kitchen for a week now, and it's not all that impressive. Mostly egg shells and coffee grounds with a little discarded onion and green pepper. Plus there's half a head of lettuce in the refrigerator that doesn't look too good anymore. It's just me and my wife, and we don't cook at home as much as we'd like. Once mowing season starts, I'll also be able to contribute grass clipping as needed (otherwise I'll mulch them back in to the lawn).

So, any advice on which way to start?

--Bill


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2004 11:57 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:48 pm
Posts: 45
Location: California, San Joaquin Valley - home of 105* summers, foggy winters.
I think it is so much easier to start out with worm composting (vermicomposting). You don't have to worry as much about getting the right proportions of greens to browns, and vermicomposting works well when you have small amounts to add over a period of time.

You can figure that red wigglers can eat from half to their full body weight in kitchen waste a day, so get enough worms at the outset to make sure that they can clean up most of what you give them in between new additions.

In general, worms will eat anything that has lived and died. They'll take that dead head of lettuce, and 'most anything else going south in the fridge, if it's not too salty. They'll take those lawn clippings too. If you want to build up the population to accept seasonal extras, such as your lawn clippings, supplement the worm's diet with corn meal a few weeks before your expected surge.

Egg shells are best crushed very well before adding. They will help keep the pile from becoming too acid, but they will take a while to break down.

In order to start a pile, find a shady spot that is protected from the elements. Clear the ground of grass and weeds. Dig the dirt up till it's loose, and water so that it's wet but not too soggy. Add your kitchen refuse and about a cup of corn meal. Stir it up together. Add earthworms - at least a couple of hundred. If you want to make sure that bugs stay off, dust the top with some dried grass clippings, leaves, sawdust coffee grounds, or even soaked stove pellets.

From there, you can add more kitchen refuse to the top whenever it becomes available. Keep the pile moist but not soggy and free of weeds. You can dig the pile up a bit an aereate it once every 2 weeks or so, but turning the pile is not as critical in vermicomposting as it is in a hot pile.

Once the worms get established, the pile will be rather like a bottomless cup of coffee. You keep adding to it, and it will pile up for a bit, then collapse without seeming to get any fuller.

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 Post subject: Composting
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 3:27 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 5:33 pm
Posts: 829
Location: Dallas,TX
Interesting methodology you proscribe. In my experience north Texas summers have been too hot for red wigglers but found they are very good used in an enclosed bin in more temperature controlled areas here.

As for buying & adding earthworms, I have yet to see a compost pile started in this area that doesn't draw its own worms up throug the soil and into itself. Thus in this area for me and for most people I know, composting becomes vermicomposting by virtue of the healthy populations in the soil that are just looking for a place that offers good food and shelter. If you build it they will come.
:?: :idea:
I would be interested in seeing others' input on starting out compost piles. I have never done anything to the soil beneath it. I just gather enough material to cover about a 3' x 3' area, balance it out with green & brown, add some molasses and microbe source like existing compost or bio-innoculant, moisten thoroughly and then let it do its own thing. Using cornmeal in compost never appealed to me as I find it too valuable out in the yard or in planting to use there; but I would be curious to find out why you recommend it and whether it would be good to use as a compost enhancement because of its beneficial fungus fighting abilities?

How about anyone else? How do you start out your compost piles?
Kathe


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 10:30 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 10:51 pm
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Location: Garland, Texas
Tossing in my $.02...

MotJuste, don't bother catching you grass. It adds unecessarily to your groundskeeping time, and the clippings will contribute to the health of your lawn.

Priswell, I am fascinated with vermicomposting, I just can't seem to motivate myself to make even the simplest of bins. I believe that once started the vermiculture will yield more benefits with less work ie. worm casting and tea than with the more traditional compost pile.

So what's keeping me from moving forward? I guess it is the couch potato compost pile that I keep. I don't do anything with it other than add to it, and keep it covered with straw. I've had the same pile in the same spot for 10 years next month. I don't layer it or balance the browns and the greens. The first year I had it, I I don't even harvest it, it is just a tool I use to eliminate kitchen waste and yard refuse and a lot of it.

When I originally started the pile, I did make a "platform" of twigs and small branches in an attempt to allow for air circulation, those sticks and many others are now long gone. This all goes to prove the point of one of my favorite bumper stickers (which does not reside on my bumper)...Compost Happens

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:44 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:48 pm
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Location: California, San Joaquin Valley - home of 105* summers, foggy winters.
I just can't seem to motivate myself to make even the simplest of bins.

"Bin"? What's a "bin"? :wink:

OK, a bin might be nice, but I have had vermicomposting piles that have used no bins at all, just a pile on the ground. The red wigglers will stay where there is food to be had.

Compost Happens

Actually, yes. On the other hand, adding worms will break stuff down faster.

In my experience north Texas summers have been too hot for red wigglers

How hot is "hot"? It gets 105*+ here. Yes, a bin, tub, or pile in a protected, and therefore cooler location is a definite plus, but I have a pile out in the open under the blazing sun and as long as it gets water, it's OK. Of course, the other pile that is out of the sun does better, but the other one hasn't been killed off yet.

I have yet to see a compost pile started in this area that doesn't draw its own worms up throug the soil and into itself.

If you've already got them in the area, then you don't have to buy them, but where I am, it's hot and dry and unless you cultivate them, you aren't going to have many.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2004 12:02 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 10:51 pm
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Location: Garland, Texas
Priswell wrote:
"Bin"? What's a "bin"? :wink:

OK, a bin might be nice, but I have had vermicomposting piles that have used no bins at all, just a pile on the ground. The red wigglers will stay where there is food to be had.


I definitely was unsuccessful in my attempts to seed my pile with worms. I don't know if the pile got too hot for them, or what. There was/is plenty of kitchen scraps for their dining pleasure, but the population just seemed to dwindle. Early this Spring I have a nice population, but this past Summer/Fall the worms were scarce as hens teeth.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 12:02 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:48 pm
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Location: California, San Joaquin Valley - home of 105* summers, foggy winters.
I definitely was unsuccessful in my attempts to seed my pile with worms.

That's too bad. Of course, as you pointed out, compost happens if you just make a pile, so worms aren't an absolute necessity, and I don't want to belabor the point too much. However, for others that might be interested - usually when worms die out it's because:

1) The worms aren't red wigglers. Other types of worms are not suited to the compost pile like this worm is, and they'll die off or go their merry way.

2) There isn't enough food to keep them alive. Of course, you have already pointed out that this is not likely to be the problem in your case.

3) The pile was not moist enough. Too dry is much worse than too wet.

4) The pile got too acidic. If you load up a pile with too much fruit it will ferment and make the pile a lethal place for worms. Or, if there's too much food in general, and not enough worms to clean it up in a reasonable time, the pile will go sour and the acidity will kill the worms.

5) The pile got too hot. However, if you don't use a bin, this is rarely a problem, because the worms will eat from the edges of the pile and back away from the heat when necessary. I've never had a problem with too much heat.

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