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Posts Tagged ‘carbon’

Crock Pot Composting

How to make the ultimate worm food!

By: Diane Hollister, Master Composter

Worms have no teeth, so they can’t consume the kitchen scraps you feed them until the scraps are broken down a bit.  You can do this yourself very easily by putting your food waste in a crock pot.  Here’s what I found works.

1.  I bought an inexpensive 5 qt. crock pot from Target for around $20.

2.  Put about ½ cup of good compost or some soil from around any plant that is growing well.  This will provide the microbes needed to break down the material in the pot.

3. Add kitchen scraps, the smaller they are cut up the faster they will break down.  Crushed egg shells are great to provide grit.

4.  Put the lid on and set the crock pot on warm.  Check the temperature in 24 hours.  In mine, the temperature was 140 degrees, which was ideal.

5.  Stir when you think about it and add water to keep it moist.

6.  If the contents start to smell, add some paper from your paper shredder, some compressed pine pellets (sold as kitty litter), some coir or any other small sized carbon rich material.  Mix well.  If it still smells add more carbon.

7. In about a week everything will be nicely broken down.  Let it cool and feed it to your worms.  They will go crazy for it!

I found you can add meat and dairy to the pot as there is no problem of rats getting into it.  Also, if I think about it I turn the pot off at night and back on in the morning and that works fine too.

If there is more material than your worms can process, just bury the rest in your yard or add it to your compost pile.

Leave about a cup of material in the pot to start your next batch.

Have fun!

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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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If you put too much "green" material in your bin, it will not heat up and it will become malodorous.

If you put too much "green" material in your bin, it will not heat up and it will become malodorous.

Sometimes, composters find themselves lacking in browns (carbon rich materials like straw, mulch, shredded paper, etc.) and having a surplus of greens (nitrogen rich materials like kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, freshly cut grass, etc.). But is it bad to have too many greens? What happens if you have too many greens in your compost bin?

You will probably be able to smell your compost bin if you have too many greens. Your compost pile will get slimy and start to smell as the green material begins to putrefy. In addition to the malodorous quality of the bin, the compost pile will probably not heat up because it will not have the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio. The preferred carbon to nitrogen ratio is 30:1. This equates to about 50% of both green and browns by volume.

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HayFieldHay is considered a nitrogen source, or a green, and can be added to your compost bin. Because hay often has weed seeds in it, make sure that your bin is reaching a hot temperature, 100 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are passively composting and not achieving high temperatures, you can bag the hay and put it in the sun for a few days to kill off any seeds.

Straw is considered a carbon source, or a brown, and can also be added to your compost bin. Straw also helps aerate your pile.

When adding hay or straw, our Master Composters recommend moistened it first to help it break down faster in the bin.

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sifting-compost-2

photo from awaytogarden.com

Sifting or screening compost helps remove sticks and other materials that have not broken down. These materials are often rich in carbon which can drain the nitrogen from your plants if added directly. Sifted or screened compost is also less  bulky and makes it easier to combine with other amendments in customized potting mixes. In addition, the material you screen out of your compost can help activate your pile as it still contains a large quantity of fungi and bacteria.

We suggest using 1/2″ or 1/4″ wire mesh over a bucket or wheel barrow. To make things even easier, you can create a frame for the mesh so it fits nicely over your collection container. After sifting you will want to make sure to cure your compost.

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image0051Does your compost pile smell, even though you know it shouldn’t? Is your compost not turning quickly in spite of your close watch and care? A simple yet frequent cause of both problems is that the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) in your compost is not ideal, which can hinder proper digestion and promote uwnanted microorganisms. What can we add to our compost to “fix” the carbon to nitrogen ratio back to its ideal 30:1 setting?

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A new development of robotic super suits will now allow us to have a whole army of Earthworm Jims who can defeat evil and save the world from the clutches of doom. If only this were true.

We are not going to have super hero earthworms who can help us save the world. Or are we? Researchers and scientists from Purdue University have been conducting a study on the earthworm’s effect on not only the soil, but also the climate. Their main focus is studying the effect that earthworms have on forest chemistry by studying the carbon composition of soils with various levels of earthworm activity.

What they have found is that soils with high levels of earthworm activity tend to have carbon sequestered deeper in the soil. Bacteria cannot readily reach the carbon and degrade it – releasing it to the atmosphere. The earthworms eat the “litter” (leaves, surface decaying matter, etc) on the forest floor and then release the carbon deeper in the soil. Since it is harder to degrade this carbon, scientists believe this can lead to a buildup of carbon in the soil. This is preferable to having the “litter” stay on the surface of the forest floor and undergoing natural oxidation, thereby releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Great. So why aren’t we throwing tons and tons of worms into our forests to help with carbon sequestration via soil? Well, like most things in life, this comes at a cost. Earthworms would leave the forest floor with a bare surface. A dark, bare surface would attract more heat (remember dark attracts heat, light reflects it?) and, therefore, dry out the soil a lot faster. Researchers believe this could effect things such as soil temperature and snowmelt.

Another problem is that earthworms could be eating microorganisms that aid in the distribution of nutrients in the soil. This would disrupt the timing of nutrient delivery.

Read the original article here: http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008b/081029JohnstonEarthworms.html

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