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Newspaper litter and vermicomposting

 
pollinator
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Location: Ontario - zone 5b
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Please convince me this is a bad idea - or don't :)

I just got a new puppy, and she is litter trained. I've been using newspaper litter pellets - one bag seems to have lasted 3 weeks. I am struggling to throw the litter in the garbage - it's peed on, but she doesn't poop in the litter, and there is little to no smell at a distance, and 30 lbs is a lot of brown matter to throw out every 3 weeks. I may switch her to horse bedding pellets, but there's no feed store nearby.

I've been vermicomposting for 6 or 7 years now, currently using pails. I live in an apartment, and don't have space for a compost pile outside.  I have a near  unlimited supply of coffee grounds from the office, and I also have a near unlimited supply of free pails with lids at work, but i've not really taken advantage of that due to a lack of browns for the compost. My instinct is definitely to vermicompost it!

If I don't use the litter on edible plants - what's the harm in composting it? I understand toxiplasmosis in cats - is there something similar for dogs? If I used it somewhere there are no edibles this year, but might next year, is there an issue? Is there an issue if I used it for,say, squash or beans?
 
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Newspaper litter pellets are best disposed of in a compost heap, there is a lot of good urea and proteins left by your puppy so don't waste those resources by giving them to a land fill.

If you have some garden spaces or fruit trees you can use the spent litter as a thin mulch layer or an addition to your current mulch layer. That way the nitrogen and other nutrients can be reused by your plants.

Small amounts of this spent litter can even be incorporated in vermicomposting either in a bin system or an in ground system.

Don't worry about a lack of browns for a compost heap, the pellets are browns and if your "greens" dry out before they get into the heap, those became browns too.

Most of the issues with using pet waste directly on gardens is in reference to poop, not urine.

Redhawk
 
Catie George
pollinator
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Location: Ontario - zone 5b
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Thank you! I am very glad to hear you don't think this is a crazy idea after all. I agree - if I had access to outdoor space, they would definitely make a good mulch. Unfortunately, I don't think I will even have a community garden this year.

Last night I cleaned the litter and put the used pellets and some starter worms in a bucket, with the idea that at worst, I could throw the resulting soil on the lawn or in a patch of forest. Today I rescued a few containers of coffee grounds from work and will add them in. I think I will need to bring coffee grounds home pretty much every day to match the amount of browns from the litter. In a few months, I suspect I'll be adding the resulting soil to my mother's flower beds - she plants squash for the flowers, and runner beans, so I won't worry about those either.

Thanks for the reassurance about pet urine vs solid waste - I really wasn't sure, as all the references I could find are rather proscriptive/alarmist. I'll let you know if it ends up working well, even with the large volume of pellets... worms have surprised me before with what they will consume.
 
Catie George
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As an update on my ongoing experiment - I just started my second litter worm bin. The name brand yesterday's news (purina made) newspaper litter that was on sale is not as good as the store brand stuff I bought last time - there are little flecks of plastic and metal in it, it was less absorbent, and it didn't handle smell as well as the original stuff I bought, even though the puppy is using the outdoors more and the litter pan less.

I can't really tell so far how well the original bin is doing - I was an idiot, and put the worms at the bottom of the pail. Hopefully I didn't squash them. I added worms and a bit of loose newspaper to the top of both bins just in case. The original, now 2 week old bin is getting somewhat warm, so not ideal for vermicompost.  Perhaps I put in too many coffee grounds - just 3 days worth from an office of 100 people The litter has broken down into little grey flecks. I'm worried there won't be enough air and it will go anaerobic. I added a half rotten cucumber to the top of both pails an buried it down an inch or so for supplemental worm food, and will start adding coffee grounds to the new bin this week. I may just bring one day's worth home, and not mix it in so thoroughly to try and avoid the compost heating up.
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A candid shot of the chief paper shredder and general composting material provider on a break from her duties...
 
Catie George
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Location: Ontario - zone 5b
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Another update - I ended up only with three buckets of newspaper litter before the puppy was outdoor trained.

After I guess 7 months, I looked in the buckets again last week. To my surprise, they were teaming with worms and had produced the nicest-textured vermicompost I have produced to date. There were no large lumps of uncomposted material, and the resulting material was lighter, looser, and less-clayey than usual.Initially, I was quite worried I'd killed the bins with the coffee grounds, as the bins heated up a lot. Either the worms recovered from eggs or are more temperature tolerant than I thought. Absolutely no urine or other off-smell at any point in the process, and the buckets didn't become anaerobic like my bins usually do.

In the future, if someone was to do this, I'd recommend NOT ignoring the bins for 7 months, as the resulting compost isn't as dark and rich as I am accustomed to - I think stirring in some wet coffee grounds every 1-2 months would have helped. But this was a very low effort endeavor in a very busy time in my life, so i am satisfied! It really proved the "make it and leave it" theory of vermicompost. I gave two buckets home with my mom to be used to top-dress her garden in the spring, I've kept another bucket and am adding additional veggie scraps to it to see what happens.
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Terrible photo of my worms and my camera cord.
 
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