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Cathy's Crawly Composters - Vermicomposting

Cathy's Crawly Composters

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Toronto Seed Library
The Seedy Zine

February 2015

Feed the soil, Feed the plant.
Composting Completes the growing cycle.

So you have your seeds, now what? Has your soil become deplete of nutrients? Do you have patchy spots where nothing will grow? These dead zones may be the result of chemical fertilizers. Most commercial fertilizers feed the plant but damage the soil. Plants require living soil to thrive year after year. No need to add toxic chemical s to kill what you don't want. Return the biology back into the soil and plants will prosper naturally. Compost naturally restores life in the soil.

Composting is a wonderful way to reduce your ecological footprint and produce a natural soil amendment for lawns and gardens. It is estimated that the average Canadian household produces one tonne of organic waste per year. Imagine if every family started to compost, the volume of material going to landfill would be greatly reduced.

A natural process, composting converts organic matter into a soil enhancer called humus. Kitchen scraps, leaves and yard waste are excellent compostable materials that will transform your garden into a healthy, sustainable environment.

The recipe for composting is simple; a good carbon:nitrogen mix, a little soil, water and air. Successful composting is as easy as combining layers. Add a layer of carbon (brown materials - dried leaves, brown grass or even shredded paper), then add a layer of nitrogen (green materials - fruit/vegetable scraps, plant cuttings). Composting is an aerobic process, meaning with oxygen, therefore the pile should be aerated or turned at least once a week to allow air to circulate. Water may be required to ensure that the pile remains moist. If the compost pile dries out, all activity stops. If possible, place composter in a sunny location to encourage the thermophilic or heating up process to begin.

Composting has many benefits:

· Rebuilds soil structure
· Reduce chemical fertilizer/pesticide use – saves money · Returns essential nutrients back to the soil
· Reduces the volume of material going to landfill
· Enhances food security by closing the food loop
· Estimated 1/3 of the total waste stream can be composted

To increase the rate of composting, consider adding composting worms such as Red Wigglers to the pile. These wonders of nature not only speed up the process, they aerate the pile naturally, and add valuable nutrients to the finished compost. Red Wigglers eat half their weight daily in organic matter. Therefore, one pound of worms can consume 3 - 4 pounds of organic matter weekly.

Worm composting or vermicomposting is an excellent alternative for those that do not have the space to do backyard composting or access to an organic collection program. As vermicomposting is done indoor, composting continues throughout the year. Worms turn organic material into nutrient rich worm manure or “worm castings”.

Worm castings are recognized world-wide by organic farmers and gardeners as one of the best ways to increase biodiversity in our soil. Worm castings act like time-released capsules that spread nutrients slowly over a period of time. You would be hard pressed to find anything that will add more essential nutrients to your soil than worm compost.

There are three main components to successful worm composting: temperature, air circulation and moisture content. The optimum temperature is between 16 - 26C (60 - 80F). Worm composting is an aerobic (with oxygen) process, so air holes in the worm bin are essential. Worms are about 90% moisture therefore they require a fairly moist environment. The bedding that the worms live in should be the consistency of a wrung out sponge. Moist, but not soggy no liquid should drip out.

A worm bin in the classroom offers a tremendous cross-curricular learning opportunity and is an excellent way to get children interested in the environment. Worms can help children learn what happens to organic ‘garbage’. They watch the worms magically convert their food scraps and paper into soil. They learn that worm compost can be used to grow food and make plants grow better.

Post secondary students discover the global role worms will play as well as hear about life as an entrepreneur in a sustainable industry.

Any container will do for worm composting. It is creating the right environment for the worms to thrive. With a basic container, the worms and worm compost are separated manually. This is done 2 - 3 times per year. The easiest way to harvest a basic kit is the "dump and sort" method. The contents are emptied onto a plastic sheet and placed in small round piles under a bright light. The worms go down into the pile to escape from the light. The castings are removed. Once the worms and castings have been separated, the worms are added ba ck into the bin with fresh bedding to continue the process. The castings are used to nourish plants and add life back into the soil.

The worm chalet is a deluxe, layered vermicomposting system made in Ontario. The chalet removes the need to harvest manually and easily manages excess moisture. When one tray fills up, a second tray is added on top, the worms migrate up to the next level. It is about 6 - 8 months for the first full cycle. Then every couple of months, another tray of "black gold" aka worm castings is ready. Moisture is easily managed with the chalet as there is a spigot at the bottom to drain off excess fluid.

Worms are going to play an ever-increasing role in waste management, soil production and therefore food security. Vermicomposting is a hopeful solution that can be done by anyone, anywhere and can help mitigate some of the effects that our rotting waste has on climate change. Learn all about worms and vermicomposting - a viable solution for on - site management of food scraps and paper. For more information on how to get worms for your home, school or business, visit www.cathyscomposters.com or call 1-888-775-9495. Follow us on Twitter @Squirm. Be sure to watch Cathy’s TEDx Talk – The Wonderful World of Worms, the unsung heroes on YouTube: http://youtu.be/M3cLoAwnaOU.

 

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Cathy's Crawly Composters

Bradford, Ontario
Local: (905) 775-9495
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email: cathy@cathyscomposters.com