welshie
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New to this....Should I be Vermicomposting or Composting??

Hi Everyone,

I have recently bought a new house and would like to start composting. I bought a "tumbler" composter like the one below - it's approx 55 gallons. However, now I am not sure if I need one of these or a wormery???? It is just my wife and I but we do cook with veggies quite a lot. Also, my wife has recently started showing a big interest in growing veggies, flowers etc etc from seed. We have a small lawn out front that of course needs cutting every couple of weeks and currently the backyard is Work-In-Progress. So, my question is: What are my options? I have read that a wormery gives me really potent liquid that should be mixed 10% worm poop - 90% water and this is great for your garden. Apparently this is not composting but Vermicomposting. If that's my best option, can I add dried grass clippings to the wormery? Also, can I use the composter I recently bought as a wormery?

Basically, I just need some advice/guidance from you experts (I'm so jealous of how much knowledge some people on here have) on how I can effectively use our household waste and grass clippings while at the same time avoid sending it unnecessarily to landfill. Any recommendations and some "recommended ingredients" would be greatly appreciated.

-Welshie

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lyra1977
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I'm new here, too, but am having similar thoughts. My husband and I were 2 minutes away from buying the type of composter you mentioned but then I read online (somewhere else) that the best brown for a composter is dead leaves and, unfortunately, we bagged all of our leaves in the fall and sent them off to the dump :roll: So I'm thinking of vermicomposting until the fall and then starting real composting once we have leaves to use. I'll be interested to see what other responses you get.
Karen, stay-at-home mama to Evie and wannabe gardener. My blog: https://cliobaby.blogspot.com

rot
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experts scmexperts

..

No expert advice here.

First, forget about any ideas that if you just start composting or get worms to digest your organic discards that people are going to start riding bicycles in your neighborhood singing la-la-la and butterflies will suddenly move in.

As long as you are considering it, please take just a little time to peruse the following link which is really just a straight forward look at what is involved and it's really an easy read. The basics are laid bare for you right there.

https://www.compostinfo.com/

After that, think about how you live and want to live. Whatever you may choose or not choose - composting, vermiculture, effective microbes or whatever, just do yourself a favor and make it work for you. Building a compost bin and turning it on weekends may not sound like much but it could be. Keeping a bunch of worms alive in a bin in a garage might not sound like much but factor in the ick factor and the fact that you may not be able to just hire a house sitter from the westside while you're on vacation means it may just not fit for you.

May I recommend that you just keep it simple and assemble a bin for your kitchen scraps (keep it vegetarian) and yard waste (leave out the poop for now please) not too far from the house (but not next to the house) and still close to the water supply so you can easily dispose of that stuff from the kitchen and still add water as necessary (LA is dry so you will need to add some water on a regular basis). That way, if you do nothing else, it will all compost. It may take a while but it will compost.

I haven't worked a tumbler nor have I used worms so I won't advise on the logistics there.

Please check out the link above and go from there. The link is good basic easy to read, easy to follow information. It shouldn't be hard and you shouldn't need to alter your lifestyle. Please don't make it hard and certainly don't alter your lifestyle.

to sense

..

Toil
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You could always have a worm bin, compost pile or bin, and bokashi buckets.

They are all fun and work together to keep all your organic material out of landfills and in your soil.
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rainbowgardener
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Congratulations on entering the wonderful world of composting! Too bad about all those leaves, but now you know that never again will you send rich organic material full of garden nutrients via truck to the landfill!

I'm a keep it simple kind of gardener. To me it seems pretty obvious, you already bought a compost tumbler and it is sitting there waiting, use it!

The advantages of worm composting over regular (tumbler or pile) composting are:

1) you can do it indoors and year round. That's a help for us cold winter folks, but for you in LA, really doesn't matter.

2) it does produce a very rich, concentrated soil amendment. This is nice but if you do regular composting, you can turn some of your compost into compost tea (browse around in the monstrous long ACT [activated compost tea] thread we have going on) and get some concentration/ enrichment of your compost and turn it in to liquid.

3) you can put kitchen scraps in the worm bin directly, without anything (except some bedding for the worms) to balance it out. In your compost pile/ tumbler the kitchen scraps need to be balanced with some more carbon-heavy "brown" materials, like those leaves.

But while you can use some dried grass clippings as bedding in a worm bin, the worms won't really eat the grass.

So your problem if you did ignore the tumbler you bought and move on to worm composting, is that you still would need to do something with all the grass clippings. If you have a mulching mower that chops them up fine (most new mowers are) you can just leave the clippings on the grass. Otherwise you can use the grass clippings for mulch on flower/ veggie beds.

Your problem if you want to use the tumbler is that you have kitchen scraps and grass clippings that are both "greens" (if you aren't familiar with this read the sticky about greens and browns https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9089). For them to compost well, they need to be balanced with some browns. Since you don't have the leaves any more, other browns might be shredded newspaper or other shredded paper (like from an office shredder), torn up brown paper grocery bags, cardboard scraps (never throw out those pizza boxes! :) ), etc. The greens and browns sticky will give you lots more ideas about browns.

The other thing about your tumbler is that it is for batch composting. That is you collect your green and brown ingredients then you load up the tumbler (not too full, you want things to be able to tumble around in there freely) and then you tumble it every day or so and wait for a few weeks. While you are tumbling and waiting any new compostables that come along have to be stored somewhere else. You can't keep adding to the batch in the tumbler, or else you will never be able to sort out your nice finished compost from all the newer nasty icky stuff you just added. So you have to have a way to store compostables for a few weeks, while one batch is working and you are collecting the next batch.

Hope this helps you think your choices through... As people have been saying do what works for you, so that it is manageable and you can stick with it. Don't over-complicate!

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soil
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composting = more work but less care

vermicomposting = less work but more care
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

skordoula
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I have the same question. I am thinking that our yard is so tiny that we will not have a constant supply of yard waste, so I am leaning towards vermicomposting. But if I had a composter sitting in my yard, I would consider the decision made!

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rainbowgardener
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well, skord, it all balances out. With a tiny yard you won't be able to produce as much compost. That is, unless you bring a lot of stuff in to compost-- some people do get truckloads of manure from the nearest stable/dairy, or bring buckets full of coffee grounds home from Starbucks, or (like me) pick up bags and bags of other people's fall leaves they put out as yard waste. But if you don't want to do that, you won't have as much compost, but then again, with a tiny yard, you don't NEED as much compost, so it evens out.

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But while you can use some dried grass clippings as bedding in a worm bin, the worms won't really eat the grass.
FYI rainbow, I'm told worms eat microbes. they are predators. the microbes do the decomposition and humus formation. They grind up material, but they don't eat it. To help them grind, some grit helps, like sand.

If I put dried grass clippings in the top of my worm bin bag, worm castings come out the bottom. If you ferment the grass clippings they like it even more.
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welshie
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Hi All,

Me again...the starter of this thread. I am happy to see so many people trying to help me. So, a few further questions following on from all the advice so far:
1. If I decide to do strictly worms can I use the grass clippings along with the kitchen scraps?
2. If I decide to do strictly worms, can I use the tumbler that I have for worms?
3. If I decide to do composting I (now) understand that I need to ensure my mix of browns to greens is correct. I followed the link that somebody posted above and saw the list of what's Brown and what's Green. My question: Is there a ratio that I need to observe?

I think a few people who posted got me mixed up with a different poster. It was a different poster who threw out all their leaves. That wasn't me. And therein lies 1 of my problems. Currently my back yard is basically a sand hill. It's a new house we've just bought and the back yard hasn't been touched yet. Therefore, I have very little access to browns to compost and LA doesn't really get the kind of leaf fall that you might get in somewhere like New England etc. And where our house is, we basically have access to virtually zero dead leaves. Which is why I started thinking that I should consider worms instead of full composting.

Any help....definitely much appreciated.

-Welshie
Still learning...

cynthia_h
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welshie wrote:Hi All,

Me again...the starter of this thread. I am happy to see so many people trying to help me. So, a few further questions following on from all the advice so far:
1. If I decide to do strictly worms can I use the grass clippings along with the kitchen scraps?
2. If I decide to do strictly worms, can I use the tumbler that I have for worms?
3. If I decide to do composting I (now) understand that I need to ensure my mix of browns to greens is correct. I followed the link that somebody posted above and saw the list of what's Brown and what's Green. My question: Is there a ratio that I need to observe?

... I have very little access to browns to compost ... we basically have access to virtually zero dead leaves.
1. I have no true idea. Just as you have no leaves, I have no grass. My worms have done very well without grass, as has my more standard compost.

2. The worms will not appreciate being tumbled about. They'll probably survive, but one of the benefits of vermicomposting is the accumulation of the castings themselves. Another is the development of a breeding population. Tumbling will destroy the stratification of the castings; it might also crush or otherwise harm the cocoons.

3. You could drive yourself crazy with ratios of Greens to Browns and then, one day, wake up and realize that you had been working with volume rather than elemental ratios. :shock: I know that I've written a post *somewhere around here* about that, and so have others...maybe a "Search the Forum" will find those threads? There are also links in many threads to .edu and other sites with excellent graphic representations of ratios for compost.

And about those leaves: I have a redwood tree in my back yard. Well, really, the redwood *is* my back yard. For many years, I simply tore up newspaper, cardboard, discarded office paper, etc. for my browns, and it worked just fine. Then, on Thanksgiving weekend 2008, I persuaded DH to help me collect public right-of-way leaves. We put yard/leaf bags, rakes, etc. in the back of the car and went driving around. There were a few productive areas, and we hustled the leaves out of the street curb or verge into our bags.

I can't believe the difference! I'm so spoiled now. :lol: But I was working more than full-time this Thanksgiving *and* got sick as well. No new leaves. I have part of one bag left, and then it'll be back to newspapers, etc.

Well, it worked for a long time, so it can work again.

Leaves are *not* essential to making compost.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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rainbowgardener
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1. If I decide to do strictly worms can I use the grass clippings along with the kitchen scraps?
2. If I decide to do strictly worms, can I use the tumbler that I have for worms?
3. If I decide to do composting I (now) understand that I need to ensure my mix of browns to greens is correct. I followed the link that somebody posted above and saw the list of what's Brown and what's Green. My question: Is there a ratio that I need to observe?

1. That seemed to be the point of Toil's post above: "If I put dried grass clippings in the top of my worm bin bag, worm castings come out the bottom. If you ferment the grass clippings they like it even more." So yes if you dry them or ferment them first. Or as I said above, you can use the grass clippings to mulch either your lawn or your flower/veggie bed.

2. Maybe, but not well. As cynthia said, don't tumble it. But even stationary it isn't real well designed for the purpose. You need a way to collect the leachate that will drip out the bottom.

3. As cynthia said the ratio idea turns out to be complex. But more or less 50-50 works fine. It's not rocket science. But like you I didn't have many leaves to compost until I started driving around picking up other people's bags of leaves that they put out at the curb. That meant my compost pile was pretty high in greens, with little brown. It still worked to produce compost, but never heated up very well. When I started making a better balanced pile (and being sure it was kept dampened) it started cooking hotter.

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runfox
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Read the thread and have question too!

I am new to all this also, read the compost link, have read about how to make and run the worm farm. I live on 5 acres and have a compost pile but after reading and learing here I see I have some adjustmenst to make. I was thinking I will make a Vermicompost setup and keep my outdoor compost pile. I can put my green stuff that would go in the garbage in for worm food. And some for the outdoor compost pile too. I don't see why I cant use both methods at the same time , right?

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rainbowgardener
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Sure people do both. It is something I've wondered about a little though... The kitchen scraps are an important part of the greens/ variety that goes in my compost pile. If I were feeding them to worms, it feels like I'd be starving my pile. Don't really have so many kitchen scraps to go around...

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stanhorst
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So much helpful advice. My problem has always been that the compostable materials become available over a long period of time. It seems that ideally, you would have all the materials you need for one pile, and start it all at one time.

Thanks, rot, for the link to the compostinfo website. Lots of helpful info gave me hope to start composting again.
Stan Horst
Blue Ridge Mtns of Virginia

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rainbowgardener
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For batch composting like the tumbler, you have to be collecting compostables for a batch. Empty the tumbler of finished compost, then load it up with a new batch. I just have a pile and I add to it continuously as things become available, all year round. The new stuff is added on the top of the pile and the finished compost is at the bottom. When I need to use compost, I turn the pile over, so that the unfinished stuff becomes the bottom of a new pile and the finished stuff is exposed. Some compost bins
( https://www.compostbins.com/compost-bins/compost-bins/wibo147cubicftcompostbin.cfm ) are made with a door at the top and bottom, so you can just pull finished compost out from the bottom.

So no batches, no collecting, just dump stuff in whenever you have it.

welshie
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Hi Guys,

Thanks for all the helpful posts. So, I have decided that I am going to start out with vermicomposting. Can I use my tumbler (see the picture at the beginning of this thread) for that? I can easily fit a tap into 1 of the panels and not tumble it any more. Would this work? If not...who can recommend a good vermicomposter that I can buy??

Also, where should I be looking to get my worms from?

-Welshie
Still learning...

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Hey welshie,

The tumbler isn't really a worm box; we don't want to tumble the worms as they feed in specific layers. As you feed then cover the food, they excrete to the surface (ever seen the little piles of wormcastings on the suface after a rain?) to make sure they do not contaminate the food level. Should you tumble, all that work on their part is undone. Building a vermicompost unit is inexpensive and easily done; we have some great examples [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=48818&highlight=vermicomposting+bins#48818]here[/url] and here [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=22280&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=worm+bins&start=0]toils bag system[/url] desereves a good look for cost, ease, and function...

Start with the right tools and the job is easy...

In the meantime as you have a pretty nice tumbler, no reason to let that sit. You get mail and have paper scraps I assume? You have coffee grounds (or can get some at a local coffee shop), I'm guessing? Then you have the makings of compost. A little bit of soil or some of that vermicompost will add the organisms you need to get started, and the tumbler makes turning a snap. Any yard waste adds to the total. Why choose?

HG
Scott Reil

Toil
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Hg, FYI my observation of e. fetida is that they leav casting everywhere, unlike nightcrawlers (lumbricus terrestris I think, but I'm on my phone)
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True toil, I was thinking of the nightcrawler in my example, but wigglers leave most of the excreta below them instead, moving up into the food layer. We do not so much want them tumbled in either case, or that was what I was taught anyway.

HG
Scott Reil

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