Worm Composting—Part 2

COMMON MYTHS
1. Compost bins smell.
If your compost bins smells, it’s only because the wrong items were added—super fatty foods, high dairy, or high meat amounts. If this happens, you can either remove what’s left of these items, or work to neutralize the compost with the correct decomposers and extra fillers like pinestraw and dried leaves.

2. Compost bins attract animals.
They can, however I’ve not had one animal come around or bother my bin. If they have, they’ve been very polite about it all. Really the same solution applies here as in #1. If you are concerned about wild animals and attracting them, simply avoid high concentrations of fatty or meat based foods that would normally attract animals. Also remember to cover any added foods with newspaper scraps, pinestraw, or shredded paper.

3. Compost has to be turned regularly.
There may be some differing opinions, but in my experience, unless you are composting large piles of yard debris or livestock manure, your everyday worm bin does not need to be turned. In fact, it really operates best when left alone. In full summer heat and excess fresh produce scraps, I find myself separating my fresh compost from my food pile about once a month. But now during winter, maybe once a season.

4. If I’m composting food scraps, I can’t mix in yard debris.
This is like the square that can be a rectangle but the rectangle can’t be the square thing. Kinda. While I wouldn’t suggest adding food scraps to a yard debris-based, open-air, compost system you totally can. On the flip side, you are more than welcome to add yard debris to your kitchen scrap-based worm bin. Feel free to add in grass clippings and smaller bush trimmings from your yard. Monitor how quickly or slowly things are decomposing and how much heat your bin is getting, but otherwise, pile it on.

OUR PRACTICE
So I told you in Part 1, I’d detail more about how we use our bin in full cycle. Not because we know all the answers, but we can demonstrate how two ordinary people who work full time and cook most nights out of the week are able to continually put this system into practice.

First, I highly recommend an indoor compost pail for your kitchen. This one is made by Oggi and available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. My aunt and uncle bought this for us and it’s been such a huge help. It’s also very affordable. You can easily pay twice as much if you prefer to shop at Crate and Barrel or Williams & Sonoma, but they’re all going to work the same. They have an amazing charcoal filter (see black disc inside the lid) that blocks absolutely 100% of any decomposing materials. And the filters are good for up to 6 months. We keep ours under the kitchen sink just because I hate having things on my counter, but you totally could keep this out all the time if you preferred. It actively begins the decomposing process for you—and trust me—it gets steamy in this little pail. By the time I dump it in the compost bin, it’s half molded and steaming and ready.


We also keep our shred box nearby in the garage. Whether junk mail or sensitive documents, they get shredded and added in bulk to our big shred box, and become worm food. I mean, sensitive information doesn’t get processed any better than that my friends. After dumping the compost pail, I grab a couple handfuls of shredded paper and cover any scraps that have been added to the box for two simple reasons:


1. A good cover just helps keep heat packed down and continues the decomposing process, and
2. Come summer time, especially, this simple, easy step makes the difference between having fruit flies and gnats swarming your bin or not. It’s seriously that easy—they bugs just aren’t that smart.

This pictures also gives a clear example of how I try to keep all of our food scrap contributions on the left hand side to be composted. Like I mentioned under Myth #3 about turning, I’ll somewhat regularly sort through the left hand side to separate finished compost from decomposing food and worms, and transfer the finished compost to the right hand side. This is the pile I pull from when potting plants and what we’ll till into our garden soil here soon. A great tool for this is a compost sifter. We’ll be making one of these this spring to help with this process and we’ll be sure to post pictures once we do.

 

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