Together: We Compost

Maureen and Steve Demenna are neighbors.  They do not have a suitable area around their house for a composting bin.  We all live close to Hingham Harbor and our land is limited.  They have asked if they could share my composting bins.  They really wanted to participate in composting.

Some mornings when I’m eating breakfast, I see them sharing food scraps with my red wiggler worms.  Kind of neighborly.   I believe that when neighbors share in a common goal, we begin to realize the more we all have in common.

All winter they have been dropping off  their raw food.  Yesterday I harvested the compost in the bin that they were using.  The red wigglers made it through the winter and there were hundreds of them.  The worms are not suppose to survive the New England winter.  I would guess that the increase in the mass of scraps and with Maureen’s coffee grounds, they were able to stay healthy.

I believe that during this pandemic, nature is sending us a message.  Composting is one thing that will reduce chemicals and pesticides in our environment.  Healthy plants do not often get attacked by bugs.  From my experience, if they do, they will survive.

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Big Blue II

Today Big Blue was completed.  My motivation is to produce large amounts of compost and lots of red wiggler worms to share with other gardeners.   Using pure compost, we are able to grow a lot of food in a very small area of Square Foot Gardens.

The technique for using this compost bed is to fill it from left to right.  As decomposition takes place, the raw materials will be emptied and moved toward the right side of the bed.  Once the materials are filled at the far end, the left side of the bed should be ready to process.

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Big Blue’s unique components are: PVC aerating tubes, a solar air pump, used shower curtain for moisture and heat control and easy access to the process the finished product.

 

Big Blue

I just wanted you to share the photo in order to show people reading this post the mechanics of how this rapid composting systems works.  The raised bed was given to me.  Now it will be used to make lots of compost.

When oxygenating compost materials, the results for good rich compost is accelerated.   Traditionally, people turn over the compost by hand and aeration helps the microbes digest plant material faster.  With this new concept, the air will be circulated through the white PVC pipe that is lying on the top of 2′ by 4’s.  In the beginning we will cover the aeration tubes with leaves.  Air will circulate during the day.  The energy for the pumping the air into the bed will come from the sun.

Food scraps will be placed at one end of the bed.  Decomposition will take place.  As the initial food scraps decompose, the new scraps and leaves will gradually accumulate toward to the other end of the bed .  When it completes the first cycle, the compost at the starting point should be ready to sift and use.

In addition to the aeration process, red wiggler worms will be doing their duty.  Worm castings are selling right now for $15.00 a gallon.   Keep in mind that this process means no fertilizers or pesticides.  Weak plants are the ones that get attacked by pests.  During the pandemic and uncertain times regarding food security, this might be the year to turn your thumb green.

This technique has been done successfully on a commercial level.  We feel confident that the same process can be replicated in a garden space.  The next post will show the composting bed as a working model.

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Worm Composting

We do worm composting.  In the winter some red wiggler worms survive the winter in New England but not so many do well in freezing temperatures.  The part of our basement in the photo has a dirt floor.  Originally we were going to make it a wine cellar.  But the red wigglers are special and so we now have a winter worm cellar.

Red wiggler worms digest 50% of their body mass daily.  In those four bins there are thousands of worms.  Worm castings are very expensive to buy; more expensive than  an inexpensive wine.  A five gallon container of worm castings sells for $75.00.  Many farmers refer to compost as farmers’ gold.  Worm castings in the world of farming are considered to be farmers’ platinum.

Worm Casting are very dense and very heavy.  I mix the worm casting into Mel’s mix which is a blend of peat moss, vermiculite and five different types of compost.  The plants are so healthy and strong that there are no pesticides needed or used in our garden.

Red Wiggler Worms

Composting Partnerships

Some of our friends and neighbors might be a little distant from the benefits of composting.  It may be possible however to slowly introduce the use of waste products in a positive way to them.  Let’s call it “The Art of Composting”.

One of our neighbors collects compost and drops it off into our green compost bin.  The composter in the photo gets so heavy that it is hard to turn on the rollers.  Worm castings are very heavy.  I aerate the bin with a little aquarium air pump twice each day.  The pump works on a timer.

All of the Square Foot Gardens in the yard use no soil.  Each spring, I just add compost.  The original soil less mix is: 1 part vermiculite, 1 part peat moss or coconut core and 1 part of five different types of compost.

With this rich organic compost mix, no need for pesticides in our Square Foot Gardens.  Pests pick on weak plants.

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Coronavirus 19

During this time when we are stuck at home, just maybe there are some things that we can do to improve the environment.

Through this blog I will share some ways that actions speak louder than words.  These might be interesting projects for parents or grandparents to share with children.  Or older kids can just get involved in planet fitness.

Do you compost?  Why not?  Why not try and reduce the waste stream?  The waste from food represents about 22 % of what is thrown away as trash.

I will post eight different ways to compost through this blog.  I would like you to share with us when you decide to get involve with a composting project.  You can share on this blog as comments and I will enthusiastically post some of the projects that are being developed.

YouTube is a great place to get ideas.

My neighbor uses a technique that takes a little bit of space.  He starts with one heap of compo-stable materials and when that is filled he starts another and lets the first one mature.  He uses lots of worms that seem to do well surviving New England winters in the compost heap.  You can see in the photo that the first pile is ready to be sifted ready for use in the garden.  He does not spend much time turning the compost which would oxygenate the microbes and speed up the composting process.   However, this process works very well for him.

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Smoothie Obsession ?

You stop into your local smoothie shop and pay too much for a 16 ounce drink.  And you think; “this will pick me up” and it does because you have conditioned yourself.  You have bought into the smoothie cult.  Certainly, that smoothie is much better for you than a Coke and probably more nutritious than a Miller Lite.  What did you pay for that smoothie?

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Think for a minute where those ingredients came from.  How far did they travel?  How long were they lying around the shop and at what temperature?  Were they refrigerated for a long period of time?  What kind of soil were they grown in?  Are they truly organic?  Is the soil that it came from nutrition rich?  Vitamins and enzymes can be produced by plants but minerals cannot.

With Square Foot Gardening it is ease to control mineral content because the soil medium is contained.  I use Azomite and kelp to provide the essential minerals.

I advocate for you to compost and best with red wiggler worms.  However, if there are no minerals in the vegetables and fruit that you are composting, there will be no minerals in the soil or in the plants that you eat.

Do you have questions?  I do not have all the answers.  I have some and welcome having you message me.

Start When They are Young at Heart

I had a great afternoon at Allerton House in Hingham.  There is a real possibility that we may be able to start worm farming at Allerton.  The presentation on Square Foot Gardening was received with lots of enthusiasm.  Many of the people there have vegetable gardens that they tend however the location is less than suitable.  Summer plants need sun, sun and plenty of sun.  With the flexibility of raised Square Foot Gardens, finding sunny locations is not a problem with all the open space.

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It is important that people learn to enjoy organic choices.  It is my hope that as residents at Allerton get involved, they will share their joys, insights and enthusiasm for the beginning of sustainable living with their love ones.

I will be posting as this evolves.  I hope that I will be able to do justice while sharing their enthusiasm for composting with worms and Square Foot Gardening raised thirty two inches off the ground.

TURBO – Composting Helper

Just tried out our new compost sifter.  It is especially effect with worm castings because the worms are obvious as they past through the half inch screen.

I have called it Turbo.  It is named after a very good friend of mine who has a gift for being funny and kind.  He receive his name from a waitress in Naples, Florida who enjoys his visits and generous tips.

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Composting; “Just Do It”

Everybody is doing it.  Well; some people are doing it.

Square Foot Gardens only work well when using good compost.

Mel Bartholomew says that it takes 5 different kinds of compost to maximize the production of great plants and vegetables.  With our maximum circumstances, we use cow, shrimp, lobster and mushroom compost.  Then we add 1/5 worm castings to the compost mix.  Those worms digest half of their body mass daily, so we keep them well feed.

Not all Mel’s mix is created equal.  In Honduras the students are composting.  However the compost doesn’t come in a bag.  So the students who are structuring square foot gardens are making their own blend of compost.  Their composting system is different than ours because they add to their original mix a variety of materials; horse manure from the dirt roads near their dorm, banana leaves from the plants on the property, left over dinner scraps, grass that they cut with a machete and the pile has been topped with rich soil crawling with worms.

So who is doing it?

Hingham High School students have been doing it for some time now with lunch scraps and cardboard lunch trays.  They sell the compost at the local farmer’s market in the spring to raise money for environmental projects.

Randolph Middle School students have done Bottle Biology Composting and will start their full scale project in March.

I’m doing everywhere that I can find space; in the basement, in the garage, in planters, in tumblers and in a three foot by three foot outdoor composting cage.

My neighbor is doing it and has two piles; when one matures he develops the other.

Student at Honduras Hope are doing it. (referenced above)

My friends who has just purchased a Square Foot Garden are about to do it.  They just bought a tumbler for their garage.

Preschool students are going to learn about composting shortly.

Things to remember: No – meat or bone, grease, whole eggs, cheese, seeds, cat or dog manure, milk or dairy products.

Say Yes to: egg shells (crushed), cow, horse or chicken manure, shredded paper, spoiled garden products, grass and leaves.

Caution: Not too much sawdust, coffee grounds, twigs or corn cobs.

Composting needs to be an aerobic process (with oxygen).  That means that the compost needs to be aerated.  This can be done by turning it over or by using a solar aeration pump.  If the composting process starts to smell bad, then anaerobic respiration (without oxygen) is taking place and the microbes are dying; the compost is rotting.

People in the United States are all excited about recycling.  From my perspective recycling is good BUT it costs energy and money, lots of money.  Composting is a reuse process that gives all of us excise.  Reusing is an excellent environmental solution.

Using that compost to put nutritious food into your family’s bellies makes everyone healthier.  Let’s get more people “doing it”, 1 Square Foot at a Time

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