Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why compost organic waste first?

In a small worm bin you can add your household waste directly to the worm bin, but in a mid-scale vermicompost system we have found it to be advantageous to combine the materials in compost bins first. Our objective is to process the compost into WORM FOOD. Two bins are better than one, and they must be at least 3'x 3'.

We keep some grass clippings or shredded leaves on hand to cover any fresh household waste or fresh manure. That discourages flies and vermin. We avoid sticks, branches and stalks, and the leaves and grass are chopped fine with a lawn mower. Large leaves will mat together and slow the process of decomposition. (No domestic pet manure or meats or dairy wastes are allowed).

Our compost goes anaerobic immediately and we encourage it by keeping it damp. Our leaves, grass clippings, and household wastes tend to begin as layers, sandwiched between the coffee grounds and filters from the local coffee shop. When we use a pitchfork to toss the contents of one bin into another the materials get mixed better.

After the compost has been tossed once and has heated again, we screen the worm food through a 1/2" screen. This gives us a uniform texture. The people down at the coffee shop tend to throw bottle caps, etc. into the pails, so the screening also gives us a chance to remove the inorganic waste. Sticks, stalks, and big lumps go back through the compost bins for another cycle.
 Since composting worms live in the top 6"-8" of forest litter, each VermiChester tray represents about 3 square feet of forest. By stacking them up and keeping them full, the worms can travel in every direction just as in nature. One full stack of 5 would be like 15 square feet of forest space. I thought that the vermiculture manager at La Palmichal told me that he doesn't allow their litter to get deeper than 20" deep, but in retrospect he must have said 20cm. He wouldn't normally use inches.That would be about 10", which is why I prefer the shallow bread trays.

I designed the VermiChester system with the cloud forest rainfall in mind. Even a steady rainy season won't harm the system. It merely washes out "VermiJuice" and leaves worms and undigested organic waste behind. During the dry season, or indoors, the system should constantly drip into a bucket. When it stops dripping, your moisture content has reduced to under 50% which is too dry. The ideal is 70% moisture.

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