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combining compost with worm farming: first compost then wormfarm  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1361
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I am reading STeve Solomon's book about composting, it is excellent and can be downloaded for free: composting
In the chapter 'making superior compost" he describes a method to cure the compost on a wormfarm-bed, done by a Californian municipally. If I understand that right it is to lower the C/N ratio.
I found that very clever and: why shouln't I do that at home? Is anyone doing it? I probably would build something 1 or 2 metres wide and a meter deep and dump the content of one compost heap at once (that might not be good since it has to be done gradually??) The main difference is that waste compost is done in six weeks so there are continuoulsy new batches coming.
To nayone interested, here's what he writes:

The municipal composting ope
ration at Fallbrook, California makes clever use of this method
to produce a smaller amount of high
-
grade product out of a larger quantity of low
-
grade
ingredients. Mixtures of sewage sludge and municipal solid waste are first composted and after
cooling,
the half
-
done high C/N compost is shallowly spread out over crude worm beds and kept
moist. More crude compost is added as the worms consume the waste, much like a household
worm box. The worm beds gradually rise. The lower portion of these mounds is pure
castings
while the worm activity stays closer to the surface where food is available. When the beds have
grown to about three feet tall, the surface few inches containing worms and undigested food are
scraped off and used to form new vermicomposting beds.
The castings below are considered
finished compost. By laboratory analysis, the castings contain three or four times as much
nitrogen as the crude compost being fed to the worms. 
The marketplace gives an excellent indicator of the difference betwee
n their crude compost
and the worm casts. Even though Fallbrook is surrounded by large acreages devoted to citrus
orchards and row crop vegetables, the municipality has a difficult time disposing of the crude
product. But their vermicompost is in strong de
mand. 

 
Posts: 119
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Whoa. That's a great idea.

I think you won't find this sort of system at the residential level because finished compost offers its own benefits. It's a great idea for lower quality compost, like the stuff that results from sewage sludge, but for me, seems like more effort than its worth for the individual farmer/gardener.

I like having both compost and worm compost/castings for plants. I think they provide complementary benefits to the garden.
 
Posts: 239
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I am thinking of doing this with the end result of my bokashi composting experiment. I wonder if worms will find bokashi enticing? seems like it will be right up their alley considering it is food scraps largely digested by bacteria and fungi. We shall see.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1794
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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One thing to keep in mind is that Black Soldier Fly Larvae thrive on fecal matter. If I were dealing with sewage, my very first step after dewatering would be a black soldier fly composter, with the finished larvae feeding chickens (or being frozen in batches for feeding chickens off-site).

While they don't like to occupy the same space, red worms love what BSFLs leave behind in the soil, another point that makes BSFLs a natural first step to insect-based manure processing.

While I don't have the numbers readily available, the added step would accelerate decompostion.

-CK
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 1361
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I haven't got sewerage sludge. To wormfarm after composting sounds good somehow but I don't really know if there's and advantage. To shovel the whole stuff around once more does not seem good on the back and therefore there has to be a real advantage to it.
 
Posts: 30
Location: Alberta, Great White North zone 4
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I think that this is just a case of reinventing the wheel. This would already happen if i just take that same compost and lay it on the ground. I guess you would need to add worms if you had some real dirt or if you wanted more worm species.

I guess iy would be good for a business selling the worm casting or if uou where doing it in a tiny area on a big enough scale to worry about watertablr contamination.

Its likes taking a great thing that happens naturally and putting it in a aquarium.
 
pollinator
Posts: 407
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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bee chicken homestead
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I've been combining worms & compost for years. I don't specifically try to harvest the castings with this method but I do believe it helps speed up & enrich the compost. I usually keep one small pile of almost complete compost separated from mixing with the rest but close enough so the worms can "free range". Usually throw fresh veggie scraps in between. The chickens know where!!!

 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 1361
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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That sounds interesting. Can you describe you setup in more detail (pics would be nice)? And do you get the worm juice out?
 
Mike Barkley
pollinator
Posts: 407
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Don't believe I have any worm or compost pix. Unfortunately the power company came through 2 weeks ago & chopped all the nearby trees & shrubs down. Big pile of future compost waiting to happen. Including several hundred, probably thousands, of mature wild blackberry plants. They are so lucky I moved those bees a few days before. Probably not much to see even if I could access the compost right now. It's been mostly idle since fall due to the fact that garden must be shut down. Moving. (significant portions will continue growing permanently unless someone else destroys it later) Starting new gardens this year. One is a traditional veggie patch easily recognizable as a garden. Very early in season so at the moment only 3 comfrey transplants & a couple batches of onions are planted. With no compost pile there yet. Just wait till I raid the neighbor's cow pasture.

I've tried several compost techniques over the years. Hot & cold with different "recipes" & usually got reasonable results. Really don't have much time to fuss with that & aim for perfection though. So now I just pile it up & let it decompose on it's own. Every now & then I'll turn it over & mix it up. Give it some water during drought. Toss a few random worms in if I happen to dig some up elsewhere. Sometimes buy some red wigglers & add them. Many moons ago I raised a traditional worm farm. All was great until something laid a zillion eggs which became larva. Didn't have chickens yet so I just threw the whole disgusting mess into the compost pile. That's how it began. That's all there is to it. The worms stay on the bottom in the good stuff. I just slide some almost finished compost to one side (or sometimes dead center) for easy access later. I don't try to harvest the casting or the juice but it's in the final product. It's as much a chicken feeder as a compost pile. It may not be PC or the most efficient way to compost or have worms but I harvest a wide variety of delicious & nutritious veggies every year. Works for me. This new location will have a dedicated wormy chicken compost pile surrounded by plants specifically sown for the chickens. It won't keep them out of the main garden but hopefully it will minimize any serious theft & destruction. They are pure reprobates with no shame or morals.

On a similar note ... I also use a 55 gallon barrel converted into a strawberry planter like creation. Has a large PVC tube with holes drilled in it vertically mounted in the center & a faucet on bottom for collecting juices. I don't even use that function but should. Barrel is filled with quality soil. Remove the tube's top cap to add worms & table scraps, etc. Grow plants in the "strawberry" holes. I use it mostly for basil & bee food flowers. It's basically a mini-keyhole garden with many worms. Works great.

If time permits I definitely intend to move this existing compost pile. The finished portion anyway. Might move the small hugel too. Tried an experimental goji berry in that last year. It's starting to leaf out after winter. Certainly moving that fruit & starting more. Will try to remember to get some pix of worm activity. It could be interesting. Considering starting a traditional vermiculture bed again. Converting a long idle ranch into a food forest of sorts. Also doing some Sasquatch permaculture gardening on a different piece of mountain wilderness. Just call me Johnny Seminole Pumpkinseed. A huge excess of worms would be excellent for those projects.


 
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