compost

Feeding the worms

When feeding worms, it is important to remember a few key tips:

1. The smaller the better. Smaller pieces of food will break down faster, thus speeding up the composting process. Chopping large chunks of food to feed worms is recommended but not necessary. You can puree, freeze, or microwave food scraps before adding them to your worm composter to help break down material. Make sure that food has returned to room temperature before adding it to your worm bin.

You can chop your worm’s food to speed up the composting process
You can chop your worm’s food to speed up the composting process. You can also freeze the food to speed up the process and to avoid vinegar flies (fruit flies).

2. The frequency and volume that you feed worms will depend on you and your family. You can add new food to the feeding tray at any time. Worms can eat up to half their weight in food per day in a fully established, well managed vermicomposter. Make sure that worms are actively engaged in eating the food you added most recently in the top feeding tray before adding more food. If they are not, this is a sign of overfeeding. On average, most people can fill a tray in about one month. It may take shorter or longer than that depending on how much kitchen waste you generate.

Make sure your worms are engaged with the last food you added before adding more. (Image courtesy of Albert Tansey, New Hampshire)

Make sure your worms are engaged with the last food you added before adding more.
(Image courtesy of Albert Tansey, New Hampshire)

What to feed worms in a worm bin:

compostables

When you feed worms always try to add equal portions of greens and browns!

Greens: Vegetable and fruit scraps, bread, pasta, coffee grounds and filters, teabags, dead plant matter from houseplants

Browns: Paper, junk mail, paper egg cartons, cardboard, dry leaves

All organic material will break down, some faster than others; however, there are some suggested foods to avoid:

Salty foods, citrus, spicy foods, oils (like those found in salad dressing), prepackaged foods with preservatives, meat and dairy products because they attract flies and can cause the vermicomposter to smell.

The Difference between BROWNS and GREENS as compost ingredients

This is a popular question among many first composters or organic gardeners. Regardless of the name, “Browns” and “Greens” are not differences in physical color. It is more technical than that. These terms are functions of the C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratios in all once living creatures, plant or animal.

Browns and greens are nicknames for different types of organic matter to use in composting.

Browns to feed worms in a worm bin

Browns to feed worms in a worm bin

Greens to feed worms in a worm bin

Greens to feed worms in a worm bin

Browns are high in carbon or carbohydrates, thus they are organic carbon sources. These foods supply the energy that most soil organisms need to survive. Carbons also help absorb the offensive odors and capture and help prevent most of the organic nitrogen in the piles from escaping by evaporation or leaching. Carbons are also essential in the faster formation of humus from the organic matter in a composting process.

Greens are high in nitrogen or protein, thus organic nitrogen sources. These products help the composting microherd to grow, breed, and multiply fast in the piles, thus creating extreme internal temperatures in hot compost piles.

A simple test to determine if your organic matter is a “green” or a “brown”, is to wet it, and wait a few days. If it stinks, it is definitely a green. If not, it’s a brown.

 

Article is a repost from Nature’s Footprint.

 

Our adventure with the worms was great fun. Those who were a little dubious about touching them overcame that by the end of our session.

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5th Graders Harvest Their Compost

Ms. Lowery’s Fifth Grade students did a soil investigation this week. They worked to answer the question, “How do I know when my compost is ready to be used?”
Students used large screens to sift the contents of their compost bin, harvesting rich, dark, earthy smelling compost that they will add to their garden beds here at school.
Students also used magnifying lenses to observe the numerous decomposers they discovered during the process.

Fourth grader's garden bed - bean plants

Teaching the life-cycle of a bean plant

 

Here’s a description of what we did when meeting with the fifth graders last week.

We specifically worked with our bean plants. We observed the plants to determine whether they were still viable producers. Discussed decaying leaves, leaf mold, and leaf litter. We found dried bean pods which we opened to reveal dried beans identical to those we’d planted in September. We discussed clearing out the dying plants, and decaying plant matter to discourage decomposers from being attracted to the garden. Left three of the plants in as they had lots of green leaves for ongoing photosynthesis and some white blossoms, thus showing ability to produce more  food.  Pulled dead plants, tilled soil and removed roots and leaf litter. Distributed worm castings around base of plants remaining in our garden to nourish them and encourage growth. We discussed the lack of rain over winter break and made arrangements to increase the daily irrigation time.  We are observing our lettuce and kale plants and hope the additional water will help them to mature. They have been slow to grow and we hypothesized this was due to the dry warm weather and insufficient irrigation.

Krista, Garden Rep. 4th Grade

Garden Buddies ~ Mt. Washington School Garden’s Latest Adventure

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Arm in arm they walk together down to the garden, a 5th grader alongside her new “buddy” from Ms. Kehoe’s first grade class.  Side by side little hands reach up to pick a sugar snap pea off the vine, as the bigger kid shows them a little one the proper way.  Returning from the garden, the fifth grade garden docents stop by Ms. Lowery’s classroom to introduce the little ones to “The Compost Guys” who stand ready by the compost bin to show the first graders how they system works.  They illustrate, via handmade posters and peek inside the bin, what goes in the bin and what doesn’t.  “What about peanut butter?  Can you put it in the compost?” a first grader curiously inquires.  The Compost Guys are stumped.  They didn’t know.  Quite the humbling experience to be stumped by a first grader!  Stewardship. Leadership. Interpersonal Skills.  Who would have thought it all grows in the garden?