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Posts Tagged ‘compost bin’

Yes, it is a great solution when a compost pile is just not feasible because of small yards or sensitive neighbors.  Here’s a cheap and easy way to convert one of your garbage cans into a compost bin.

Materials:

- 30+ gallon plastic garbage can, with locking lid (optional: bungee cords to hold the lid on)

- Drill with 1/2″ to 1″ drill bits for drilling holes

- Bricks or something to rest the bin on top of

Begin by drilling holes into the body of the trash can, about 4-6 inches apart, around the circumference and vertically. Drill a few holes in the lid and the bottom of the bin to allow for air circulation and fluid drainage.

If the bin is going to be placed on soil, use the shovel to dig a hole the same diameter of the bin. Dig the hole about 6 inches deep, or deeper if you like. Place the bin in the hole and back-fill any remaining space to secure the bin in place. To encourage earthworms, you can experiment by drilling more holes in the bottom and sides of your bin that are below ground.

Begin filling your bin. Some suggest filling the bottom couple of inches with loose carbon materials such as wood chips or dry straw to help with air circulation and moisture retention.

Finally, affix and secure the lid and leave in place.

If you selected a circular bin, and it’s freestanding, you have the option of rolling the bin (with the lid on!) to turn and aerate the contents. If you can’t roll your bin, that’s not a worry. You can turn the contents using a compost turner or aerator, or just leave the contents alone.

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Do you own a Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin or a worm bin in general and wonder what the liquid that forms in the bottom tray is? It is worm tea, sometimes it is also called “worm castings” or “vermiwash.” You may not be aware but there are numerous benefits of using worm tea in your soil. Worm tea is a natural fertilizer which is used to promote the growth of plants. If you own a wriggly wranch bin, worm tea forms in the bottom tray that can be drained from the spigot. If you are a gardening enthusiast, you can use worm tea to replenish the soil with nutrients and protect plants from many plant diseases.

Worm tea has the same benefits as worm castings, but in liquid form. Castings are produced when worms break down the organic matter in the soil. It is also called “worm manure” or “worm humus.” These castings are present in the worm beds. When you run water through these castings, nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium and magnesium are picked up. The process of harvesting worm castings is called “vermicomposting.”

How to Make Worm Tea

For making worm tea, you will need a large bin or worm compost bin, such as the Wiggly Wranch bin. The bottom tray should have a drainage spout and holes for aeration. Soak a handful of worm castings in at least 5 liters of warm water. Allow the castings to soak for a couple of days. Next add a teaspoon of molasses (optional). Molasses will promote the growth of micro-organisms. If you feed your worms a balanced diet such as fruits and vegetables (no meat or dairy) they will produce the best castings and worm tea.

The water must be chlorine free because chlorine will destroy the “good” bacteria. To help conserve water, rain water is a good source of unchlorinated water to use. Pete Ash, an experienced gardener, long time master composter, and organic farming and gardening teacher, crafts a tea bag of the compost and vermicompost to soak in water. He suggests using an aquarium pump to keep the water aerated to stimulate micro-organism growth. Pete says, “The idea is to wash the microbes out of the compost into the water; adding a simple starch or sugar to the brew to feed the bacteria that are breeding. Use the wash water from rice rather then washing it down the drain.”

How to Use Worm Tea

The best way to use worm tea is to dilute it. Pete owns a few Wriggly Wranch bins. He dilutes the worm tea with 4 to 6 parts water (or more) for foliar spray applications. He also recommends using the tea within a couple of days and as it accumulates it may spoil. It is not clear to anyone how long worm tea should brew for, but if it smells bad you should not use it. Pete harvests his castings regularly because the mucus can build up along with bacteria and can actually become toxic for the worms. As Pete says, “No one likes to live in their own feces.”

Benefits of Worm Tea

Worm tea and compost is excellent for a garden. Pete uses worm tea as a foliar spray and compost tea as a field spray. There are many, many uses for worm tea. Here are a few ways to use worm tea to grow healthy fruits and vegetables:

  • Use worm tea as an inoculant for potting soil. The nutrients in worm tea help seedlings grow strong. It is suggested that inoculation should be done two weeks before you plant your seedling.
  • Plants that are grown with worm tea are healthier. Worm tea has many nutrients of food and medicine the plant needs to thrive. Plants grown with worm tea are also more nutritious than plants grown in soil treated with chemical fertilizer.
  • Worm tea also helps recover polluted soil. If you repeat the worm tea applications, the microbes will convert and metabolize organic and inorganic chemicals. The worm tea will help sequester the heavy metals found in chemicals.
  • Sometimes lawns can become sterile due to chemical treatment. Worm tea will repopulate the soil with microbes, enrich the roots and break down the thatch turning it into food for grass.
  • During hot summer days, worm tea can help retain water in soil.
  • If you decide to use worm tea as a foliar spray, it will help your plants produce more foliage and larger stems. This greatly helps plants that are lacking enough sun.
  • You may also add worm tea to a compost pile to speed-up the break-down process.

By using worm tea, you can help the environment by reducing and even eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers that can cause water pollution. Studies show an average American family produces a ton of waste each year. The estimate is 1/3 or ½ of household waste is organic matter (kitchen waste). If you vermicompost, you will reduce the amount of organic matter that ends up in landfills, help mitigate global warming and make nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer and worm tea for yourself. Vermicomposting is nature’s way of completing the recycling loop. If you are interested in learning about “the circle of life…the circle of rot” please refer to our March 2003 newsletter for a discussion of why you should compost, how this is improves healthy soil, which in turn creates healthy vibrant plant life.

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An inexpensive paper shredder is a great tool for shredding paper for your compost bin.

Paper provides a carbon source for your compost bin. Many kinds of paper can be added to your compost bin, even those with colored ink. The secret to using paper successfully is to shred or chop it and then moisten it before adding it to your bin. It is also helpful to alternate layers of paper with materials that provide more aeration (chopped branches, etc.) to avoid matting. For worm bins, a moist layer of paper on the top of castings and food can help keep away flies and also provide a carbon source for your worms.

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It is very important to consider the possibility of extreme temperatures that may occur while you are gone if you have a vermicomposting bin.

Make sure your worms are safe from any extreme conditions that may occur while you are gone (hot/cold temperatures, etc.)

With holiday season approaching, we have received a lot of questions about what to do with your compost bin while on vacation. No need to hire a compost bin sitter!

If you have a backyard composting bin (Biostack, tumbler, etc.) your bin will be fine while you are away on a trip. Your bin will continue to decompose on its own. You may find when you return that the temperature dropped and the bin is dry but this can be fixed very easily. Just turn your bin, add water, greens and browns and your pile should heat up once again.

If you have a  vermicomposting bin (WrigglyWranch, etc.) your bin should be able to manage on its own for an extended amount of time. The most important thing to keep in mind is the possibility of extreme temperatures. Be sure that your worms will be safe from any extreme temperatures that may occur while you are gone (heat waves, etc.). Make sure  you leave your bin with plenty of moisture.

If you just started your bin, make sure you leave plenty of food and bedding to keep your bin going. If your bin is nearing harvest and has lots of vermicompost, less food is necessary. The worms will continue to process the vermicompost while you are gone. Our Master Composters suggest adding carbon rich bedding and coffee grounds or vegetables that take longer to break down (carrots, brocoli, etc.).

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biostack4This is a very common question. The best way to get started is to attend a Free Composting Workshop. Workshops include information about choosing a bin, how to get started, and how to maintain compost bins and worm bins.

One thing to consider when getting started is what type of material you have on hand. If you have a lot of yard trimmings, grass clippings, and food scraps /coffee grounds a Smith & Hawken Biostack will probably fit you best. If you have food scraps/coffee grounds, paper, and a limited amount of space a Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin is great. Some people prefer using both. Biostacks can compost more material than worm bins but worm bins produce worm tea in addition to vermicompost.

For more information about getting started please see the Composting 101 page.

If you have any questions please contact the “Rotline” at (760) 436-7986 ext. 222 or send us an email.

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j0309457With spring planting time approaching we have been receiving a lot questions about when compost is ready for the garden. It is very important to ensure your compost is mature before adding it to you garden to avoid “burning” your plants, etc. Master Composter Juliet Salbato offered some great tips for determining the maturity of your compost in our last newsletter. Click here to view the article.

The Solana Center will be emailing the Composter Quarterly Newsletter next month. To sign up to receive the next newsletter click here.

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