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Compost Essentials

Redworm compost is our specialty and if you want to start a redworm compost this is the place. Before you start let's make sure you're ready and here's why. I have helped thousands of customers over the years that we have been open, unfortunately some traveled some distance to get here only to find out that redworms is not what they need. Or they order redworms online because their compost is not doing anything, later to find out that the redworms did not help. Now to the basics. 

In the next sections my goal is to guide you to incorporating the right materials into the right compost for the best results

Types of waste material - there are many groups of organic debris and it's good to know what force breaks it down best.

Types of compost - Here is a brief outline of the most common types of compost and what they are used for with links to more in depth explanations. 



Types of waste material

The diversity of organic waste is far and wide, but most can fit into a few categories. Such as food waste, lawn debris, manure, wood, grains and so on. Lets look at what they are made of see what will break them down. 

Food waste;

fruits and vegetables - Most  are great in a vermicompost (redworm) and limited use in an aerobic compost (due to the moisture content). Citrus waste would do best in an aerobic compost since the PH levels do inhibit the bacteria from attacking the waste. 

coffee/tea- Limited use in a worm compost (can lower PH to much), great in an aerobic compost especially in the winter, the bacteria thrive on it and fungi enjoy the carbon content. 

Meats and dairy are not good for compost. This is likely to attract pests and pathogens that you would not want. 

grains, breads and cereals are great in an aerobic compost since it's sugar content is so high and water content low it will feed the bacteria that cause your compost to heat up. You can use very limited amounts in a worm compost for long term feeding if you are going to be away for a week or more.

cooked/processed foods- cooked foods with oils added are great in a larvae compost, but no so much in other compost. Larvae can feed on this and grow creating a high protein by-product for feeding animals. 

Lawn Debris;

Grass/hay - this is high in nitrates and is an essential ingredient to aerobic composting. This is the part that feeds the bacteria that makes the compost hot. Hay is also good for its carbon content ratio for aerobic composting. Do not use fresh grass in a worm compost. 

Leaf debris/straw/small shrub clippings is a great carbon amendment for aerobic compost and worm compost. The percentage of fiber (carbon) present is great for aeration in a worm compost and aerobic compost. I prefer to aerobically compost this first before I use it for a bedding in a worm compost.  


Types of Compost:


Vermicompost: This is the most beneficial process for composting food waste. Along with redworms, this includes composting with bacteria, fungi, insects, and other bugs. Some of these guests break down the organic materials for the others to eat. Redworms eat the bacteria, fungi, and the soft food waste, and then deposit their castings. Oxygen, moisture and bedding are required to keep this compost healthy. You feed this compost in layers of food waste and bedding (you do not turn this compost, but occasional peeking is OK). 

This is a medium maintenance compost since you need to feed your redworms and monitor the conditions. If you don't keep up with the feeding they will leave. Redworms are good for producing nutrient dense vermi-compost (mulch with castings). The longer you wait the more your compost will eventually become pure castings.

aerobic compost.jpg

Aerobic Compost: Is compost with air breathing microorganisms that break down the waste material. Aerobic composts are usually made of leaf debris and grass clippings. The high nitrogen waste (grass clippings or other green material) will grow bacteria so rapidly that it will create high temperatures up to 170 degrees (you can see the steam in the picture). The leaf material provides the space for airflow that bacteria need to live. As the compost breaks down and settles the air is cut off and the heat dissipates. This type of composting is high maintenance, since it will need to be turned often to keep air and moisture in the system to keep the microorganisms alive and your temperatures up.  When done correctly the  organic waste will break down quickly and is not prone to smell.

This type of compost is good for all volumes of compost. Once it is done heating up it also becomes food for redworms and other soil organisms.



Larvae compost: 

Anaerobic Compost: Often confused with aerobic composting (in name only) this is the compost you do not want. Anaerobic compost is the one that creates the awful smell most people associate with composting. This happens when your compost goes wrong and gets too dense or wet. Your aerobic bacteria suffocate and are replaced with anaerobic bacteria that live without air. They create ammonia's and methane that are released into the air and create some unforgettable putrid smells. Common reasons for this to happen is when a person piles up just grass clippings or food waste without mixing in the proper amount of carbons (leaf debris, wood chips, sawdust or other carbon rich material). 

Rot - Low maintenance, throw it in a pile and wait a couple years or decades. This is the attempt at aerobic composting; you just stack your debris in a pile and do nothing. It will generally just sit and dry out, in the center of the pile the mold spores and few bacteria will sit and wait for the rain/moisture to come. When the occasional bits of humidity works its way in there is some activity, but very little, so the process is slow. Success is assumed since there is no smell, but when you finally peek in the middle to see what is going on you find the same leaf preserved like it was pressed in between the sheets of a book. Solution: see aerobic composting.