Tag Archives: winter composting

How to best use Coco Fiber with your composter, compost pails and crocks

Coco Fiber in Collection Pails/Compost Crock: Generally one must take the disc or brick of Coco Fiber and rehydrate and decompress it by placing in a container of water. Once the fiber has expanded its best to dry it out by leaving the fiber out on your porch or deck or at the very least in an open bucket in your kitchen. Coco fiber works best for collection pails when its its completely dried out. The reason for drying is that the coco fiber can then be added each time you add green matter to your composter and it will immediately absorb excess moisture to prevent odor and improper breakdown. If you store coco fiber in expanded dry form you will have the best results. Each time you add green matter to your collection pail or compost crock add a layer of coco fiber to completely cover the newly added green matter.  You will notice less odor and pests in the collection pail. When you are ready to transfer your collection pail to a larger composter the material will already be premixed with green and brown matter.

Hint: If coco fiber discs are used in the compressed form, it can be broken up by hand and added to the pail without having to decompress.  You can even drop the whole disc in and it will eventually absorb the excess moisture and start to expand.  Its simply a  matter off convenience. But a good rule of thumb is to maximize the benefits of the coco fiber by storing it in expanded dry form.

Coco Fiber in Composters: It’s always best to expand the coco fiber and dry it out before use in the composters. But generally it’s ok to expand the coco fiber and add immediately to large composters because they tend to dry out faster (due to the higher temperatures) and the added moisture in coco fiber could be beneficial to the compost mix. A 1:3 ratio of coco fiber to green matter is a good rule of thumb but it really depends on the types of green matter being added. So the user needs to balance the mix based on his needs. Again how you use the coco fiber can depend on need and convenience so some may want to simply add a compressed brick or disc directly to the bin. The decision to decompress and dry out simply depends on whether the user has time or more importantly is whether they need an immediate effect. For example if their compost is starting to smell then dry expanded coco fiber will rapidly solve their odor issue. If the compost is well balanced and without significant odor then they can get away with adding the compressed form directly or even the expanded wet form immediately after expansion.

Coco Fiber in NatureMill: In the NatureMilll an easy way to use the coco fiber is to break up a coco fiber disc and spread a layer over the top after adding green matter. We recently added a coco fiber pellet pack. If you are using the pellets you simply have to add 3 pellets for every 5 cups of green matter. The pellets are small enough so they wont jam the machine and will absorb moisture and expand on their own.

Coco Fiber in Worm Bins: Decompress the coco fiber by soaking in water and then drain off excess water and place directly in the bin as a bedding for the worms.

The Things You Can Compost! Yes, you can!

We found this neat list from Treehugger. This list provides a great start to composting. The list gives you lots of ideas of the many, many items that are just right for your composting efforts. The composting process benefits from materials being broken up into pieces about the size of a golf ball. But if that is a problem, no worries, compost happens. Don’t throw this stuff away, use it for making compost.

From the Kitchen

Coffee grounds and filters
Tea bags
Used paper napkins
Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
The crumbs you sweep off of the counters and floors
Plain cooked pasta
Plain cooked rice
Stale bread
Paper towel rolls
Stale saltine crackers
Cereal
Used paper plates (as long as they don’t have a waxy coating)
Cellophane bags (be sure it’s really Cellophane and not just clear plastic—there’s a difference.)
Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which can be toxic to plants)
Old herbs and spices
Stale pretzels
Pizza crusts
Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)
Wine corks
Moldy cheese
Melted ice cream
Old jelly, jam, or preserves
Stale beer and wine
Paper egg cartons
Toothpicks
Bamboo skewers
Paper cupcake or muffin cups

From the Bathroom

Used facial tissues
Hair from your hairbrush
Toilet paper rolls
Old loofahs
Nail clippings
Urine
100% Cotton cotton balls
Cotton swabs made from 100% cotton and cardboard (not plastic) sticks

Personal Items

It might be a good idea to bury these items in your pile. Just sayin’.

Cardboard tampon applicators
Latex condoms

From the Laundry Room

Dryer lint
Old/stained cotton clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces
Old wool clothing—rip or cut it into smaller pieces

From the Office

Bills and other documents you’ve shredded
Envelopes (minus the plastic window)
Pencil shavings
Sticky notes
Business cards (as long as they’re not glossy)
Receipts

Around the House

Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister
Newspapers (shredded or torn into smaller pieces)
Subscription cards from magazines
Leaves trimmed from houseplants
Dead houseplants and their soil
Flowers from floral arrangements
Natural potpourri
Used matches
Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pit

Party and Holiday Supplies

Wrapping paper rolls
Paper table cloths
Crepe paper streamers
Latex balloons
Raffia
Excelsior
Jack o’ Lanterns
Those hay bales you used as part of your outdoor fall decor
Natural holiday wreaths
Your Christmas tree. Chop it up with some pruners first (or use a wood chipper, if you have one…)
Evergreen garlands

New and Improved Rolypig!

Fur from the dog or cat brush
Droppings and bedding from your rabbit/gerbil/hamsters, etc.
Newspaper/droppings from the bottom of the bird cage
Feathers
Alfalfa hay or pellets (usually fed to rabbits)
Rawhide dog chews
Fish food
Dry dog or cat food

Winter Worm Composter Tips: From No-odor, to Ways to be Lazy!

worm composters are odorless and effective indoor composters.

worm composters are odorless and effective indoor composters.

Here are a few tips I have discovered using my worm composter (mine is a can-o-worms) inside this winter. My wormery composter has been inside for about 3 months now and the worms are multiplying like crazy and more than keeping up with our family of 4 kitchen wastes (except citrus and onions of course). Here’s how I have been keeping my worms happy and busy!

  • First, it’s ok to be lazy. When those gallons of compost tea come out the spigot below and it’s too cold to go outside, simply dump that tea right back in the top of the composter. Great, you can stay in your slippers now.
  • Next, onions and stinky stuff go to the outside bin. Or cover them in castings as you put them in. Then you are odor free. Yes!
  • You probably know that citrus never goes in a worm composter. But I’ll mention it again…keep that ph in balance.
  • Keep the top covered with shredded paper. It degrades over time so do keep adding it to the top.
  • Bury those banana peels. I have never had it happen but a couple customers recommend this to avoid those little flies. Again, we eat a lot of bananas and don’t have this problem. I wonder if it is because ours are organic??
  • Basement cold, turn the castings and food a bit. That will warm up the pile. Normally you would not do this because you do not want to heat up your worms, but in cold winter basements, a little extra heat can be a good thing!
  • Wormery getting full and you really just don’t want to empty it til spring, no worries! Pour a bucket of water over the top and let it filter thru to the bottom. That will sink everything a bit. And use the compost tea right back over the pile a few more times in a week and you will see the pile go down. Whew…another trip outside avoided!
  • Winter is a great time to get your kids into the worms. And to encourage them to show their friends. Again, an inside activity. Can you tell it’s really cold here!

Anyone else with winter composting tips? We want to hear…

RELATED POST :: Worm Composters: Spring Tips, Troubleshooting, and FAQ’s , Really Happy Worms! My Easy Winter Worm-Composting

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Peoplepoweredmachines is a family owned business, 11 years old, always selling environmentally sound products such as reel mowers, electric mowers, composters, rainbarrels, solar products and more.

Urban rooftop gardeners use kitchen scraps to make fertilizer

City dwellers  are using rooftops to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs using home-grown, rich organic fertilzer made from kitchen scraps. Smaller model composters, such as the Soil Saver are easy to fill, mix and harvest even in the coldest of climates.

Learn about rooftop gardens from The Rooftop Garden Project, where you can read all about urban rooftop gardens and how new ways to interact in the urban environment and with the food cycle are explored. Urban rooftop gardens produce fruits and vegetables ecologically, encourage physical activity and make use of organic waste.

The Soil Saver Composter is great for urban rooftop gardens

 

Video + Reviews : Nature Mill Indoor Electric Composter

Naturemill Indoor Composter

Nature Mill’s new redesigned XE series award winning indoor electric composters have the following improvements.

  • stronger motor
  • more powerful filters (5-7 years now)
  • energy saving mode (vacations etc)
  • improved ergonomics for the foot pedal
  • waterproofing upgrade

The Naturemill operates on about 50 cents of electricity per month, is absolutely beautiful, and has a cabinet kit to sit inside standard kitchen cabinets. The Wall Street Journal product review declared  “The NatureMill Pro XE gets the highest marks...”

NATUREMILL VIDEO FROM HISTORY CHANNEL :

HELPFUL NATUREMILL REVIEWS:

My little home composter has been chugging away for nearly a year now. It has made dozens of batches of compost. I still can’t believe how fast it turns our organic waste items into hot, black, fragrant compost. I was always under the impression that compost takes years and is very messy, but this system is different because it has a small motor and an air filter. There is basically no smell. It takes a few weeks to get the cultures activated, and during that time the instructions say to keep the machine closed. It all makes sense if you follow the instructions.

In summary, this is an expensive machine but worth every penny. The convenience alone, of not having to take out wet smelly trash or make trips to the compost pile is worth it. As a bonus you get tons of your own compost whenever you want it. – Daniel

I’ve had a NatureMill composter for several months now and it really is changing the way we think about trash. What a great invention, to turn trash into something useful that you can add to your garden and watch as your vegetables grow and come back to your plate.

The little machine takes pretty much anything we trow away in the kitchen (except big bones). It can handle meat and fish and egg shells which our regular backyard composter can not. We had some learning to do at first, getting the cultures started, which is explained pretty well in their instruction manual. Definitely worth it if you consider all the trips you save going outside to the compost bin. And now our regular trash (what’s left of it) has basically no smell at all since there is no food in it.

We have made several batches already, and we have learned that some things compost better than others. Coffee grounds, egg shells, and lettuce all go down fast and smell nice. Flowers for some reason do not – the stems on ours are probably too hard, so it takes a long time to break down. We tried paper, they do not recommend that, and a little seems to be ok but really not like a whole bin of shredded paper. Guess the junk mail will have to go elsewhere.

Overall, a great little machine, definitely worth the investment. We are saving up for another to put outside for our pet waste (yes, they have a model for that too). – RICH

naturemill indoor electric composter

naturemill- electric composter

Initially I was very hesitant about this machine. I saw it on Oprah but it just seemed too good to be true. They’ve obviously been in business for a while and have made the refinements over time. It’s a little quieter than my fridge, and smells kind of like vegetable soup when you lift the lid – certainly an improvement overy my kitchen trash bin, which is no basically odor free because these days it has only a few plastic wrappers in it and I hardly even have to take it out. To me, the NatureMill is almost like just another recycling bin, but for food waste only. It doesn’t take corn cobbs or steak bones, which is understandable. But it does quick work on coffee grounds, spoiled fruits and vegetables, table scraps, etc. It gets very hot inside there so the company says you can safely compost cheese, egg shells, and meat scraps, which I have just started to do and so far so good.

My compost is amazingly dark and rich. You can’t buy stuff like that. All you get in a store is dry, dusty, dirt-looking material which probably is mostly dirt with hardly any compost at all. When I make my own compost, I know it’s real, and boy is it good stuff. – Steve

A Composter Which Can Handle 5 Gallons Per Day

Composting history: We have been selling compost makers for many years. First there were composters made for one family. These were tumbling machines, turning machines, gravitational machines, and batch machines. All handled the amount of waste which one family produced.

2nd Generation: The next phase of compost makers seemed to focus on industrial needs such as schools, businesses, hospitals, etc. These composting machines were very large and very expensive. Small units cost in the $20,000 range and large ones in the $80,000 range.

3rd Generation: Now we see a new focus. This effort targets an in between group, let’s say a 10 family to 15 family output. Or you could say it would service the output of four or five classrooms. We have just made an agreement with a company which is marketing the Biolan 220 and the Biolan 550. Produced in Finland these composting units are new to the US. We will have the 220 and 550 on our site in the next few days. We are excited to add these composting machines as they allow us to enter a new market. The Biolan 550 easily handles 5 gallons of waste per day. It takes 6 weeks to begin producing compost. These composters are excellent in cold climates.

Worm Composters: Spring Tips, Troubleshooting, and FAQ’s

Now that it’s time to bring worm composters out from the basement and to the outside, we are getting quite a bit of email with questions, comments, and even pictures that we thought we’d share.

Q. What temperature can we bring  the worm bin outside?
A. Once temperatures reach above freezing reliably, you are good to go. Worms like temperatures are between 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Red worms generally prefer temperatures in the 55 to 77 degree range.

Q. We are seeing little red round mites in our bin now that it’s outside. Do we need to start our bin over? Are they hurting the worms?
A. No and Maybe. So, don’t start over, at least yet. Mites can be a worm composter friend. But in big populations they can bother your worms and send them down below the surface. How can you tell if your worms are bothered? Are they hiding in clumps below….time to think about mite reducing strategies.

mites gathering on melon

mites gathering on melon

Q. OK, so what are mite reduction strategies?
A. First mites are not necessarily bad. Red (or reddish brown) mites find the conditions in a worm composting bin an ideal habitat. They are part of the composting cycle, helping to break down any tough fibrous materials. Increased mite populations happen when a bin is too wet, or the pH becomes too low. How did the pH become too low…probably you put a bit too much food in the bin, it got nice and fermented and then the pH dove down. Then the mites threw a reproduction party! So now that you know the reasons, here are a few solutions ::

  • You can raise the pH with lime, egg shells, or even wood ash.
  • open the lid and let the sun UV light kill off some mites.
  • trap them on melon skins or bread soaked in milk. Lay these on the surface of the bin, and when they are covered in mites, lift them out and dispose of them. Repeat the procedure till numbers are reduced.
  • scrape the top layers of worm castings off each day and the mites go with it. It took me about 4 days doing this on the 3 layers of my own can-o-worms worm composter and the mites were back to levels where I didn’t notice them anymore.
  • lastly, I offer it up but do not recommend it…some people use a propane torch on the top layer of the bin to kill the mites. My son offered to help me with this one! ;)

Q. Are you sure these red worms will not escape into my yard, killing all my native earthworms and take over?
A. Nope…some will escape. But they can’t live in a typical garden setting so they are not going to compete or even fight with your native earthworms. Know there is actually no way to get all those little worm egg sacks out of the worm castings you harvest. However, the red worms that we recommend don’t live in gardens well because they can’t burrow or take dry conditions. They can live in piles of stuff, compost piles, and bins where the moisture level is high and even.

Eisenia fetida, known under various common names, including redworms, brandling worms, “tiger worms” and red wiggler worms, is a species of earthworm adapted to the environment of decaying organic material. It thrives in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure, i.e. it is an epigeic worm. It is rarely found in soil, and instead, like Lumbricus rubellus, prefers conditions where other worms cannot survive.

Q. Yikes, my bin is smelling all of a sudden. What’s up? Is it because it is moved outside?
A. Nope. It’s because the pile is too wet or there is food decaying before the worms can get to it.

And that brings up something very important…worms don’t actually eat the food scraps…they eat the microorganisms and bacteria that are breaking down the food.

That said, if the problem is rotting food, you may be feeding too much or need more worms. If it is stinky food on top of the pile, I have found if you bury anything stinky, the odor goes right away. And in general, I leave onions out of my bin because I hate that smell.  If the problem is a wet pile, air it out, add some dry bedding, and mix it up. If you are using a home-made bin, consider drilling more air holes.

Q. Why are my worms laying together on the top of my can-o-worms side-by-side?
A. They are having a party of sorts. Shut the lid and come back later!

Q2. OK, I shut the lid. Now my worm numbers have quadrupled in size. How did this happen?
A. Time for a worm “birds and bees” talk::

Worms are hermaphrodites — each worm has both male and female reproductive parts. When a worm has the urge and finds a suitable partner, they lay side-by-side with their heads pointed in opposite directions, glue themselves together with mucus bands and deposit sperm in pores on their partner’s body. After each “mating event,” which can last up to an hour, both worms go to work making a number of little cocoons with their partner’s sperm and their own eggs. The eggs meet the sperm inside the cocoons, fertilization takes place, and a few worms emerge from the cocoon several weeks later.

You may ask: Why not just stay home on Saturday night and fertilize ones own eggs? That’s an option, but not a popular one due to the desire to diversify the genetic pool for worms. Generally, worms are self-fertile only when they can’t find a mate.

Q. I am harvesting my castings and trying to save all those lovely egg cocoons. Help my motivation, please tell me how many worms am I saving each time I do this?
A. Sure! You are saving the lives of approximately 5-20 worms for each little sack you find. I can pick roughly 10 cocoons a minute out of my castings so at the rate of between $20 and $50 per 500 worms, I think that worth the time and truthfully, I just love to keep every single worm in my bins!

Each cocoon can hatch up to 20 worms within about two to three weeks depending on temperature and moisture. Cocoons can also lie dormant in the soil for over two years until temperature and moisture conditions become tolerable for survival.

Q. Mold is growing on the top of my worm bin pile. Is this bad?
A. Mold actually helps break down the food so worms can digest it. However, molds and fungi also serve as an indicator, telling you if the feeding rate is adequate. Mold grows most prolifically in still, quiet environments, so large amounts of mold and fungi indicate there is more food than the system can quickly manage. So that means get more worms or reduce the feeding rate.

Q. Is it true that if you cut an earthworm in half, it will grow into two individuals?
A. No! No! Absolutely No!

Q. What are the foods I should never feed my worms?
A. Well, obviously meats, cheese, oily things. But in the vegetable family, the 3 no-no’s are citrus, onions, and rhubarb which send the worm bin ph acidic quickly.

Q. What are these blind weird crawling maggot-like things in my wormery?

picture-271

critters 1

critters 2

critters 2

A. They are both actually the same bug. They are the larvae from soldier fly. I hate them, as I often see them chase the earthworms out of my outside composter in mid-summer. However there is a whole world of soldier-fly composters and fans out there and they are very effective aggressive digesters. They are just not as lovely to me as earthworms. So I snip them in half when I see them and my worms eat them up! A bit persnickety…I know. Unless your worms are hiding from these critters tho, there is really no need to get rid of them as they hatch and fly off. This is truthfully, a personal vendetta and dislike so you should pay no attention to my advice here! :)

Q. I’m off to a Tropical Island for a week. Do I need to hire someone to watch my worms?
A. Nope. A well established wormery can be left for up to a month before the worm numbers start to fall. If you are going away give your worms a good feed just before leaving. IMPORTANT: Leave the tap open while you are away to ensure the wormery does not get waterlogged and your worm drown. I personally have forgotten to do this and after just one week I came back to a nasty smelling pool of dead worms in fermenting liquid at the bottom of my can-o-worms.

That’s it for today. Next up we are gathering the tips for the spring maintenance for your sun-mar continuous composter and getting it’s pile off to a great hot start.

RELATED POST :: Really Happy Worms! My Easy Winter Worm-Composting