FAQ - Frequently Asked Question(s).
Sure, you think of yourself as a friend of the environment, and why not? You are doing your part. You separate your recyclables, invest in energy-saving products, and always water at night. But lately, you wish you could do more. Have you considered adding composting to your list of environmentally beneficial activities?
If you are new to composting, this page is a primer meant to demystify the composting process so that you can sidle up to that compost bin with confidence. If you are a card-carrying Composting Champ—well, basic review never hurt anyone.
Basic Compost Overview
What is compost?
Why should I compost?
What are the various methods for deriving compost from waste?
Which method is best for me?
So, how do I compost?
What can I put in my compost bin?
What should I not put in my compost bin?
What types of composters are on the market?
Which composter is best for me?
What is a compost accelerator?
What is a compost aerator?
Where should I place my compost bin?
How long does it take to make a batch of compost?
How will I know the compost is ready to use?
How do I keep clumps or mats from forming in my compost?
Can I compost in the winter?
Is not composting a smelly process?
Why can not pet waste or human excrement be added to my compost bin?
Can I put weeds in my compost bin, or is that asking for trouble?
Help! What do I do about these tiny critters in my bin?
How can I discourage flies?
What can I do to prevent rodents from ransacking my compost bin?
Do you know of any bear-proof compost bin?
I do not have a garden or lawn, but want to do my part to reduce waste. What should I do with my compost?
Troubleshooting, wagle.com style!
What is vermicomposting?
How does vermicomposting work?
When is vermicomposting a better option than backyard composting?
What organic wastes can I put in my worm compost bin?
What should I avoid putting in my worm compost bin?
How do I feed the worms?
Do you have a bedding recipe you had recommend?
How can I harvest my compost?
Will the worms breed and outgrow the bin?
Is not vermicomposting a smelly process?
Where do I store my bin?
Can I keep the bin outside?
Does vermicomposting attract rodents?
How many worms are in 1 lb.?
What about when I go away on vacation?
How long can I store the finished vermicompost?
How do I use my vermicompost?
What is compost tea?
How do I make compost tea?
Which is better for my gardening needs: compost tea or traditional compost?
How long does compost tea remain potent?
Pet Waste Management
Why can not I put pet waste or human excrement into a backyard compost bin?
What is a pet waste digester?
Will the waste stink up my yard?
How do I decide between a pet waste digester system and a pet waste composter?
FAQ Basic Compost Overview:
Q: What is compost?
A: Simply put, compost is decayed, organic plant matter that packs a powerful, nutrient-rich punch when added to your soil and plants. In more complex terms, compost is the result of aerobic microbes (oxygen-thriving bacteria and fungi) feeding on organic waste and breaking it down into a basic, wonderfully nutritious soil amendment.
Although all organic matter will eventually decompose over time, it is not necessarily a quick process if left to Mother Nature. Composting creates a controlled, ideal environment to more rapidly convert the waste into coveted humus for use in your garden, lawn and potted plants.
Q: Why should I compost?
A: Along with fuel efficiency, water conservation, and reduction in meat consumption, home composting is one of the most environmentally beneficial activities of modern society. Yard and food wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream in the US. If every household participated in composting, it would divert a significant portion of the waste stream from our landfills and water treatment facilities. If you combined composting with recycling cans, newspapers, and plastic, you could reduce your waste flow by almost 50%! Yet, this is only one rewarding aspect of composting.
Properly finished compost is a phenomenally nutritious soil amendment, buffering the pH and retaining moisture and oxygen in the soil. It can cool the soil surface, and help mitigate erosion by encouraging a vigorous root system boosted by nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other nutrients. It improves the structure of problematic soils, breaking up heavy clay soils and adding water to dry, sandy soils. A shining benefit of compost is that it is chemical free—children and pets can enjoy the beautiful bounty of your organic lawn without exposure to toxins or synthetic product. Homeowners everywhere are starting to realize how convenient and economical it is to compost waste they would have tossed. Why buy premium topsoil when you create your own endless supply for free?
Home composting also serves as an invaluable educational tool, teaching children about conservation, the cycle of life, and the inter-connectedness of the natural world. If it gets your child thinking about science or biology, or voluntarily participating in yard work, is not it well worth the effort?
Q: What are the various methods of deriving compost from organic waste?
A: Besides using a compost bin or compost tumbler, you can also use worm bins (known as vermicomposting), compost tea, or compost units designed to manufacture humus from human and pet feces for your waste management needs.
Q: Which method is best for me?
A: This is a matter of personal preference, but there are several ways to narrow down your options. First, read through this FAQ in its entirety, paying special attention to the descriptions of each composting method and what it entails. Feel free to follow the links directly to products being described to get a look at the compost items in question and get individual descriptions. Next, consider your lifestyle and compost needs. For instance, if you feel uneasy around worms or housing the bin in your home, a worm compost bin may not be for you. On the other hand, if you do not have a yard and plan to primarily compost kitchen waste, vermicomposting is a great option. Lastly, if you are still uncertain, a Wagle customer service representative will be happy to answer any of your lingering questions so you can buy a compost unit with confidence.
Q: So, how do I compost?
A: Composting is the art and science of setting up ideal conditions to aid the decomposition process. It is not as hard as you might think it is. The good news: decomposition naturally occurs with or without your help, so half the battle already won. The real trick is to get your pile to decompose as fast as you can fill it. The rate at which breakdown occurs depends on several factors: oxygenation, temperature, water content, particulate surface area, and the carbon:nitrogen ratio (see chart below). Once you understand the major factors behind composting, you can apply them to adjust your efforts and turn your bin an efficient composter.
|Factors Affecting Rate ||Description|
| Oxygenation ||Oxygen is required for respiration by all aerobic inhabitants within the pile. Aerobic microbes decompose waste at a faster rate than their anaerobic brethren, and would not produce the foul odors associated with anaerobic decomposition. Adequate ventilation and manually turning or mixing your pile with aerators or pile turners twice a month increases its rate of decomposition. An unmixed pile may take three to four times longer before it breaks down. If purely manual mixing is not to your fancy, you can invest in a compost tumbler that aerates by turning.|
| Temperature ||Heat is a byproduct of decomposition and accelerates the process. The optimum temperature for fast decomposition is between 90 and 135 degrees F. Whether it is due to cold climate or insufficient bacterial activity, when the temperature falls below this, decomposition will slow, but not cease. To keep temperatures elevated, try an insulation jacket or better placement for maximizing radiant solar heat. Also choose black colored bins in cooler climate zones. |
| Water Content ||An efficient composter needs to have a moisture content of approximately 50% (it should feel like a damp towel) for microbial activity. If it is too dry, decomposition will slow down considerably, while overly wet piles can trigger anaerobic conditions and begin to smell. Keep the pile covered during heavy rains, so that valuable nutrients are not washed away. Add rain water from your rain barrel when dry spells occur (chlorine in municipal water can kill the organisms in your living system).|
| Surface Area ||Maximize this by shredding and chipping all clippings and waste into small pieces with a chipper/shredder. The more surface area you expose for microorganisms to attack, the faster the decomposition.|
| Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio ||Organic materials rich in nitrogen are referred to as GREENS (fresh veggie scraps or grass clippings), while the others can be lumped together as BROWNS (hay, twigs, dried leaves). A good general rule of thumb is use 2-3 parts brown to 1 part green. When initially building your pile, always remember to layer, layer, layer! Alternating layers ensures proper mixing. |
Now that you know the basics, follow these easy steps to a nutritious soil amendment:
- Choose a moderately sunny, accessible area for your composter (for more information, click on Where should I place my compost bin?)
- If using a compost bin, turn the soil in your chosen location.
- Start your green and brown layering process within the bin, beginning with a layer of small branches at the bottom that will allow for proper circulation and drainage.
- Top off your new pile with finished compost or good garden soil to ensure an introduction of bacteria to your waste.
- Aerate regularly by mixing, checking moisture content.
- Harvest finished compost (for more information, click on How do I know my compost is ready?)
Q: What can I put in my compost bin?
A: As long as they have a high surface to volume ratio, most plant material from your garden will work in your pile. When adding larger items, like branches or giant rubber tree leaves, shred or chip them up into smaller pieces with a chipper/shredder picked from Wagle wide selection. Remember, the more surface area of waste exposed to your compost microorganisms, the faster the decomposition process. Mix grass clippings well with other wastes, since moist clippings are dense and restrict airflow in high quantities. Fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen, shredded cardboard boxes, and sawdust from untreated wood will all contribute nicely to your organic potpourri, just do not put too much of any one thing in—it can throw off the N-P-K balance, not to mention the pH. If adding paper products, keep it at 10% or less of the compost material weight, as these products are low in nitrogen and slow rates of decomposition in your pile. Always remember to throw in a handful of good garden soil to inoculate your new pile with living organisms. A few earthworms and rollie pollies are a nice addition, too. Though not required, many individuals add compost starters and accelerators to help their pile along—this is fine, just avoid synthetic additives and seek out organic sources with minimal packaging, like those found on our website.
The following table is a cheat sheet for your convenience:
|From the Yard ||From the Kitchen|
- chemical-free grass clippings
- dry leaves
- shrub and tree waste
- sawdust and wood chips from untreated wood
- straw and hay
- dead plants and flowers
- potting soil
- dead insects
- coffee grounds and filters
- tea bags (without staples) and leaves
- veggie and fruit scraps
- corn husks
- crushed eggshells
- hair from brushes
- cereal, like oatmeal
- bread and flour
- leftover pasta, without oil or dairy-based sauces
- all-natural fibers, like cotton
- shredded black and white newspaper and paper towels
Q: What should not I put in my compost bin?
A: Though all organic matter can naturally break down, some materials are not suitable for the home compost pile. First and foremost, no human or pet excrement should be added to the bins. Feces can harbor harmful bacteria, and there is no guarantee that the high temperatures of your pile will kill them. Second, stay away from greasy foods, dairy products, meat scraps and bones. Not only can their decomposition result in colorful aromas, they can attract rodents. Natural chemicals in citrus peels, eucalyptus leaves, and pine needles can actually slow down your compost pile - avoid mixing them into your artistic masterpiece. Ashes from your fireplace are basically worthless --- they are already broken down as much as possible from heat and flames, and therefore have little potential energy to offer the microorganisms in your pile. Besides, ash can drastically alter the pH of the soil. If your prize tomatoes experienced their worst blight on record, you want to keep their diseased leaves and stems out of the pile, especially if the finished compost will be returning to your vegetable garden. Why propagate pestilence? Rocks, plastic, metals and Styrofoam are not going to do much for your pile either, so keep them out.
The following list is a cheat sheet provided for your convenience:
- Meat and bones
- Grease, fats, and oils
- Dairy products
- Human or pet feces
- Diseased plants
- Citrus peels, eucalyptus leaves and pine needles
- Treated wood products
- Grass/tree clippings treated with chemicals
- Poison Ivy and other toxic plants
- Walnut shells, walnut leaves
- Charcoal/ ashes
- Plastics and metals
- Chemical products (pesticides, fertilizers)
- Sanitary pads and tampons
- Non-organic materials
- Waxed paper
Q: What types of composters are on the market?
A: Luckily, today composter comes in a variety of makes, models and colors. A compost bin usually looks like a slatted or mesh wire pen, but can come cone-shaped, squared with lids, and in other incarnations. Compost tumblers, like their bin counterparts, are sold in all manner of shapes and colors, but are specially designed to turn or “tumble” the maturing compost in an internal chamber for aeration.
Q: Which composter is best for me?
A: Purchasing a compost bin or compost tumbler is as much a personal preference choice as it is a functional choice. While monetary considerations should always be taken into account, also think about such issues as visibility, aesthetics and capacity. Each compost bin on this site will have a Specification Grid highlighting important features and benefits. Some bins are more educational than others; a few require a bit more maintenance, while several allow participation by the whole family. Some are attractive, others ugly. A few are actually fun, while a couple are virtually problem-free.
Q: What is a compost accelerator?
A: A compost accelerators is a handy compost accessory that stimulates microbial activity, hastening the decomposition of organic waste in your pile. Wagle sells organic compost accelerators with minimal packaging for your composting convenience.
Q: What is a compost aerator?
A: A compost aerators makes the life of the savvy composting individual easier. Specifically designed to turn and aerate your pile, aerators are a sophisticated, efficient choice in hand-mixed composting.
Q. Where should I place my compost bin?
A: Take the time to think about your compost bin placement—it can save you hassle and regret later. Do not place your compost bin in a heavily shaded, stuffy, or damp area, or you create the perfect environment for anaerobic activity and consequent odor problems. Avoid placing the composter near wells or slopes that drain to streams or ponds. Compost piles near trees may create future problems; if tree roots grow into the bottom of the pile, it can make turning the compost difficult. From an aesthetic perspective, you may wish to place the bin where it is hidden from the view of your neighbors and street. Your chosen spot should not interfere with regular gardening and should be accessible to you and your family year round. An ideal location is partially sunny so that the pile can reach proper temperatures, and shielded from high winds so it would not dry out. If kept in direct sun or wind, you will need to water the pile more regularly. Suggestions include near the garden or between a garage and house.
Q: How long does it take to make a batch of compost?
A: It would be irresponsible to give an exact time frame for when waste becomes humus, as several factors will impact how quickly breakdown occurs. Peak seasons for composting are spring and autumn, when the atmosphere is warm and damp. Piles created during this time, with shredded materials that are frequently aerated, can be ready in approximately 2-4 months. Properly tended soft waste in warm weather can take as little as 4-6 weeks. Piles prepared in the winter or late fall, created with larger or tougher pieces of waste, or left unattended, will take longer to decay.
Q: How will I know the compost is ready to use?
A: When your compost is done, it will be approximately half of its original size. You should not be able to discern individual items you placed in the bin. Look for a dark color, crumbly texture, and earthy smell. Slimy compost is a sign that the process was done incorrectly at some point.
Q: How do I keep clumps or mats from forming in my compost?
A: If you experience trouble with clumps or mats, organize your organic wastes into thinner layers, and use an aerators or pitchfork to work your pile.
Q: Can I compost in the winter?
You can compost all year long, but be aware the decomposition rate will slow down as temperatures drop. The process rate will accelerate come spring. Another option is stockpiling your winter organics in a covered container stored outside, with the intent of adding them to your compost bin or compost tumbler in the spring.
Q: Is not composting a smelly process?
A: No. Properly managed compost piles should not produce offensive odors. Compost should have an earthy, pleasant smell similar to a forest floor after the rain. Odor problems are easily fixed and should not discourage the prospective compost novice (for more information on squashing odor issues, click on Troubleshooting, wagle.com style!).
Q: Why can not pet waste or human excrement be added to my compost bin?
A: Because there is no way to guarantee your compost pile will reach a temperature high enough to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria in human and pet feces, it should not be added to your compost bin or compost tumbler.
Q: Can I put weeds in my compost bin, or is that asking for trouble?
A: Yes, immature green weeds that have not seeded are an acceptable item to place in your bin. However, steer clear of ripened weeds or you may risk spreading your verdant villain in the garden
Q: Help! What do I do about these tiny critters in my bin?
A: After your compost pile is established (1-4 weeks) you will begin seeing various and sundry critters throughout the pile contents. These little helpers, which usually migrate from other parts of the garden or the soil beneath the pile, can range from arthropods and flying insects to micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi. This soil-borne community is critical to the decomposition process! Do not attempt to eradicate or remove these beneficial creatures. Do not use any chemicals or sprays that would normally harm such animals and fungi. If possible, use rainwater from your rain barrel to moisten the pile, as chlorinated municipal water sources can slow down the natural rate of breakdown.
Q: How can I discourage flies?
A: Keep flies at bay by covering your newly added kitchen scraps with paper or decomposed waste from the pile.
Q: What can I do to prevent rodents from ransacking my compost bin?
A: Like cockroaches and pigeons, rodents will always be a part of human society. While few bins are 100% rodent proof, there are a few steps you can take to avoid rodent entry into your sacred pile of humus. First, make sure the bottom lip of the bin is buried under the soil surface (rodents usually enter through openings in the bottom). Second, keep all lids and doors (if your bin has them) securely fastened and/or locked (some thieves like raccoons, can easily work latches). If you have a known rodent problem, select bins that do not have large openings between the slats. Moreover, when discarding your food scraps, bury them in the compost pile center, so that access is difficult. To prevent entry from below, purchase a few yards of chicken coop wire with a small mesh diameter, then line the bottom of the bin or bury the wire a few inches below the surface. If at all possible, avoid using poisons as a means of control; instead, try predator urine, used kitty litter, hot pepper wax, or peppermint extract. As a last resort, purchase a few humane rodent traps from our Compost Accessories site that allow for release elsewhere.
A: Do you know of any bear-proof compost bin?
Q: Unfortunately, we are aware of no bear-proof compost bin on the market. Your best bet is to move your compost bin indoors, choose an indoor composter from our wide selection, or use a worm compost bin.
Q: I do not have a garden or lawn, but want to do my part to reduce waste. What should I do with my compost?
A: Do not fret! Nothing says "I care" in a unique, environmentally aware way like a bag of tenderly cared for compost! Give your valuable compost to friends and family that have lawns or potted plants and let them reap the benefits of this fabulous soil amendment.
Troubleshooting, wagle.com style!
Before you take a violent rake to your problematic compost pile, take a look at our table below, listing some of the most common problems you will run into with composting. Chances are, the problem is an easy fix and you will be holding fistfuls of black compost gold in no time.
|Problem ||Cause ||Remedy|
|Pile smells like sulfur ||Pile is too wet or not oxygenated ||Turn your pile with an aerators or pitchfork; add dry waste to balance the moisture|
|Pile smells like ammonia ||Too many nitrogen-rich greens ||Add more carbon-rich browns|
|Rats and squirrels and flies, oh my! ||Rodents and flies are attracted to food odors ||Bury your fresh kitchen scraps under a layer of compost|
|Slow decomposition process ||Too many carbon-rich browns or pile is not oxygenated enough ||Add nitrogen-rich greens; aerate your pile; consider an accelerators|
|Pile center is too dry ||Not enough moisture ||Moisten with rain water collected from your rain barrel|
|Pile is too damp ||Too many nitrogen-rich materials/poor drainage ||Add carbon-rich browns|
Q: What is vermicomposting?
A: Vermicomposting uses worms to convert your organic waste to compost rather than the microbial-dependent decomposition process used in backyard composters. The Redworm, also known as the Red Wriggler or Eisenia foetida, is the shining star of vermicomposters, although European Night Crawlers are a fine substitute.
Q: How does vermicomposting work?
A: Compost harvested from a worm compost bin is primarily comprised of nutrient-rich worm castings (worm droppings), and to a lesser degree, decayed organic waste. When worms eat the kitchen waste you throw into their bin, what they really seek to consume are the nourishing microorganisms decomposing the scraps.
Why, you may wonder, is worm poop such a valuable soil conditioner? The answer: their castings contain eight times as many beneficial microorganisms as their food supply did. This wonder poop is chalk full of nutrients: castings contain seven times more phosphorus, five times more nitrogen, and eleven times more potassium than typical soil. It retains moisture in your soil and enhances the growth and yield of your garden.
Once you take the time to understand the factors that create a successfully efficient worm compost bin, you will realize how easy vermicomposting can be!
|Factors Affecting Rate ||Description|
| Worms ||Use the Redworm or European Night Crawler for your worm compost bin. Some worm compost bin on our site specify which to use. Always refer to manufacturer instructions for specifics over this general site. Worms consume their weight in carbon and nitrogen rich organic scraps every 24 hours. A good way to calculate how many worms to buy is to use a 2:1 ratio—two pounds of worms for every pound of organic kitchen scraps your household produces daily. Beginners may want to start with two pounds and progress with their skill.|
| Temperature ||Since worms are living creatures, their comfort is of utmost importance for optimal worm bin operation. The ideal temperature for the bin is between 60-80°F, but you have wiggle room of 40-90°F before the worms are adversely impacted. It is best to store the bin in a cool, dark place within the home for stability. Do not allow the bin to freeze or overheat. |
| Bedding (Carbon Content) ||Bedding for your worms is important. Initially, it takes up approximately 2/3 of your new bin is space and provides half of the worm is carbon-nitrogen diet. In addition, it offers a dark, moist hiding place for the photosensitive worms. Shredded cardboard, paper, coir bricks, untreated wood shavings, and chopped straw and hay are suitable bedding materials. |
| Water Content ||If worms dry out, they die. For this reason, bedding must be kept moist but never dripping wet, or anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions can occur and lead to odors and the suffocation of the worms (they can drown). Since worms themselves produce liquid, it may be necessary to occasionally add dry bedding to the bottom of bins that have become saturated. In addition, make sure your bin has holes on the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. |
| Food Scraps (Nitrogen Content) ||Chop up your organic kitchen scraps and add them to your worm bin composter, along with a grit like soil, cornmeal, or finely crushed egg shells to help worms digest their meal in their gizzard. Feed the worms about twice a week, between 1.5-2 lbs. of accumulated scraps, adjusting portions to your amount of worms as necessary using the 2:1 ratio describe above. |
| Oxygenation ||Worms require a constant source of fresh air, breathing through their skin. Make sure your bin has adequate ventilation holes. You will not need to turn your compost to aerate it like backyard compost. Those gluttonous little worms do that for you! |
Next, follow these steps:
- Choose from Wagle wide selection of worm compost bin.
- Prepare bedding for your worms, making sure it takes up at least 2/3 of the container space and is moist but not soggy. Click for Wagle Bedding Recipe!
- Add your Redworm or European Night Crawlers to the bedding under direct light. Due to their photosensitivity, the worms will begin to burrow into the dark safety of their bedding.
- After the worms have been allowed to settle for a day or two, begin feeding them your organic scrap waste twice weekly.
- When bedding has been almost entirely consumed, harvest the valuable compost. For more information on harvesting your compost, go to How can I harvest my compost?
- Keep in mind these are general steps. For instructions that relate to your specific worm bin composter, refer to the manufacturer guidelines.
Q: When is vermicomposting a better option than backyard composting?
A: Vermicomposting is perfect for the apartment dweller or for those that do not have a large yard—or any yard at all! Because worms consume waste so quickly (they eat their weight in bedding and organic waste daily), it is ideal for kitchen scrap disposal, since food woould not linger long enough to create an offensive odor. And since the worm compost bin can not be exposed to extreme temperatures, the ideal storage spot is right in your home. Another winning benefit: as worms move through the bedding and compost, they aerate the pile for you, eliminating the need for manual pile turning.
If you have kids, give vermicomposting a shot. Like chocolate and peanut butter, kids and worms are a perfect pair. Most children are inexorably drawn to the idea of "pet worms" that they can feed. It is an invaluable educational tool that instills the importance of recycling and the fundamentals of the carbon cycle.
Q: What organic wastes can I put in my worm compost bin?
A: The following list is a cheat sheet provided for your convenience:
- Fruit and veggie scraps
- Leftover pasta (without oil or sauce)
- Plain rice
- Egg cartons
- Coffee trays
- Tea bags (without staples)
- Coffee grinds
- Cornmeal (for grit)
- Soil (for grit)
- Finely crushed egg shell (for grit)
- Grains and cereals
- Untreated sawdust
- Grass clippings
- Hair clippings
- Plant trimmings
Q: What should I avoid putting in my worm compost bin?
A: The following cheat sheet has been provided for your convenience:
- Meats and bones
- Dairy products
- Oily food
- Heavily spiced or hot foods
- Anything with insecticide or chemicals
- Metal and foils
Q: How do I feed the worms?
A: Feed your worms 1-2 times a week. When ready, bury your scraps a few inches into the bedding, making sure to bury the food in a different place each time you contribute to the bin. Cover thoroughly with the bedding to discourage fruit flies and other pests.
Q: Do you have a bedding recipe you had recommend?
A: As a matter of fact, we do! Redworms just love shredded paper bedding. First, get a pile of used office paper and remove the color inserts, plastic windows, and glossy advertisements. Then carefully run it through a paper shredder, a few pages at a time, so it is not too compressed - avoid using the cross-cutting models that mince the paper into confetti sized particles. Next, moisten the paper ever so slightly - you want the bedding to be evenly moist at all times, but NEVER dripping wet. For optimum results, mix in a tiny bit of processed steer manure from your local garden center (do not use fresh cow spore - it will heat up too much and kill the worms). To go the extra mile for your worm new home, pick up a simple pH test kit and occasionally monitor the acidity levels of the bedding. You want to make sure that the pH does not drop too far or too quickly into the acid range - it could kill the worms. You can balance out the pH with a little pulverized limestone from your local nursery. Scatter a handful or two of soil over the bedding - this will provide grit, which aids digestion. You can also do the same thing with shredded cardboard!
Q: How can I harvest my compost?
A: Now comes the exciting part - reaping the fruit of your worms voracious appetites! Two common methods exist to harvest your miracle worm poop, the “Dump and Sort” and the “Side by Side.”
The “Dump and Sort” method requires you to pour your compost bin contents onto a plastic sheet or similar, waterproof platform under bright light. Separate the contents into pyramid shaped piles. Your photosensitive worms will make their way to the bottom of the piles, and in 10-15 minutes, you can skim your rich castings from the top of the pyramids. Repeat until only the worms remain, then place them into your bin with fresh bedding to start the vermincomposting process again.
The “Side by Side” method is recommended for the squeamish that had prefer not to touch the worms. Begin the process by burying your organic scraps in different spots on one side of the bin over a number of weeks. Your worms will migrate to the side with the food, and you are now free to cull the castings on the other side. When ready to harvest again, place the food on the opposite side and repeat the process.
Q: Will the worms breed and outgrow the bin?
A: Worms are hermaphrodites and will breed in your bin. However, worms regulate their population to suit their conditions and many eggs are lost in the compost harvest. You should have no problem with over breeding.
Q: Is not vermicomposting a smelly process?
A: Like backyard composting, a properly maintained worm compost bin woould not stink. If your bin does smell, it indicates anaerobic conditions. Common reasons for the occurrence include overfeeding your worms and bins that are too wet. Make sure the worms have finished all the kitchen scraps before adding more, and gently fluff bedding to aerate. Add more bedding or use a turkey baster to suck up excess moisture.
Q: Where do I store my bin?
A: Store your bin someplace within the home where it will be of convenience to you and provide a dark, quiet spot for your worms. They are not fond of bright light, noise, and vibration, and many people find success storing them in a closet, kitchen, or basement.
Q: Can I keep the bin outside?
A: Yes, it most places within the United States and Canada, worms can be kept safely outdoors in the spring, summer and fall. Make sure the place is cool and shaded. However, bring them inside during the winter. Never allow your bin to freeze!
Q: Does vermicomposting attract rodents?
A: Because vermicomposting is done primarily indoors, it should not attract rodents.
Q: How many worms are in 1 lb.?
A pound can range from 100-1000 worms, depending on season, harvesting mechanism, temperature, and species.
Q: What about when I go away on vacation?
A: Your worms will be fine for 2-3 weeks, and would not exhibit too much separation anxiety. If your cruise to Jamaica is longer than 3 weeks, you will need to enlist the aid of a friend to worm-sit.
Q: How long can I store the finished vermicompost?
A: As long as it is stored in an airtight container, the vermicompost can keep for approximately a year. Once it dries out, it loses a lot of its nutritional value and resists moisture.
Q: How do I use my vermicompost?
A: If you are using the compost on a flower bed or garden, simply distribute some of your compost by lightly digging it into your soil. Vermicompost is so potent that you should typically use half of what you would have used with normal compost. However, if you are using it for potted plants, no more than 25% of the potting soil should be compost. Experiment to find the best results for your botanic beauties.
Q: What is compost tea?
A: If you have never heard of compost tea, it is best described as a liquid soil conditioner for your garden and lawn. For the organic gardener, it is just one more way to utilize the compost harvested from your compost bin, compost tumbler or worm compost bin.
Q: How do I make compost tea?
A: Making compost tea is a snap! The name says it all—simply steep your compost or vermicompost in water to create hearty liquid sustenance for your plants.
For compost tea, grab a large 5 gallon bucket or similar container and fill it loosely with only your finest batches compost. If you have a poor compost yield, your tea will be similarly lackluster. Add water to cover your compost, then stir the bucket contents daily for a week. When the tea is ready, simply drain the liquid from the bucket, now awash in the nutrients and minerals it leeched from your compost. Use a strainer or cheesecloth if you plan to spray your tea from bottle to remove clogging residue. Because the tea is so potent, make sure you dilute your liquid loveliness by mixing 10 parts water to 1 part compost tea before applying to plants. If you do not, you risk burning your plants with the tea high nitrogen content.
Making vermicompost tea is a similar process. Add two tablespoons of your worm castings to a liter of water and let it sit for one day, shaking occasionally to facilitate mixing. The tea is now ready to be sprinkled on your plants, straight from the bottle.
Q: Which is better for my gardening needs: compost tea or traditional compost?
A: Compost tea and traditional solid compost both accomplish the same goal of nourishing and improving soil conditions. However, you may find one meets your organic gardening goals more than the other.
If you are looking for an immediate boost in your plants, compost tea is the way to go. As a liquid, it is immediately absorbed by your plants, and can be applied to the soil, or the roots and leaves of your foliage. However, its liquid form is a double-edge sword, requiring frequent applications to balance how easily the tea is washed away. In addition, just as plants treated with good compost tea derived from a proper compost batch show immediate benefits, a toxic or weak compost tea from a poor compost batch will become instantly apparent in your garden. A tea with too much nitrogen, salts and unwanted microorganisms can burn or impair your gardening efforts. Compost tea is not the most forgiving form of compost application.
Solid compost offers more room for error, and does not need frequent application to perform its soil enriching duty. However, it would not be the instant perk some gardeners seek in their flower beds and gardens.
Q: How long does compost tea remain potent?
A: Unlike vermicompost, compost tea does not have a long shelf life. The more quickly it is used, the greater its potency. If you must store it, keep it in a shaded area with ventilation.
Pet Waste Management:
Q: Why can not I put pet waste or human excrement into a backyard compost bin?
A: It is all about safety, safety, safety. For the standard backyard compost bin or vermicomposter set-up, there is no guarantee that the pile will heat up enough from the microbial activity to destroy any harmful pathogens in the waste. Imagine a nick on your hand caused by yard work. Now imagine that hand dipping into contaminated compost—not a pretty picture. Unless your compost has been specifically designed and allocated for fecal management, steer clear and keep your composter poop free!
Q: What is a pet waste digester system?
A: A pet waste digester system is similar to a composter, except instead of microbial activity leading to decomposition, special digesters with non-toxic enzymes work to break down your pet poop into completely benign residue. This liquid then enters the surrounding soil, cleanly and with no risk to children or pets. This process keeps hazardous waste materials out of our landfills and water treatment facilities. Most systems come with a plastic or metal receptacle you partially bury into your yard, and the liquid or powder digester you throw in to break down the poop. Today is systems are compact, aesthetically pleasing, and many sport foot-pedal operation of the receptacle lid, for greater convenience.
Q: Will the waste stink up my yard?
A: No. The receptacles are designed to control odor, complete with a lid. Once the enzymes begin to break down the pet waste, the odor is neutralized.
Q: How do I decide between a pet waste digester system and a pet waste composter?
A: Our site does sell quality pet waste composters, and it is a valid, eco-friendly way to deal with pet waste. However, until one is well-versed in standard vermicomposting or pet waste digester systems, we recommend holding off. Pet waste digesters are designed as a low maintenance alternative to trashing the poop. If you are a seasoned compost participant looking for a change, than the pet waste composter is for you.