veggie scraps, worm composting, part 6

continuing the stories... :)
previous problems of fungus gnats did get taken care of by using a fine cloth mesh for cover material. they still needed an extra snug seal around the edge, the rubber rings from the lids work well for that. i haven't seen a fungus gnat since last summer.
i'm maxed out for space use with 14 bins of worms and extra bins of dry stuff set aside for winter processing.
i had pulled a few quarts of worm castings out of a few bins to make more room and then decided to use those to innoculate a few extra bins of soybean shells so they can start breaking down. they do not have covers or worms so this is a pre-processing step and i'm hoping this will get them ready in time for spring planting. by putting them in the bin and getting them wet and then sprinkling them in layers with worm castings starts the fungi and bacteria. as they get moistened and gravity compresses them they make extra room for a few more layers. i have a bin and a half left to start up this way and i'll be all caught up from the fall dry bean processing.
no shortage of worms. they continue to work as model employees, very industrious in breaking down materials. by spring i should have 10-12 bins of processed materials and will then start up the whole cycle again by removing a few shovelsful of garden soil for each bin (i use a mix of worm species including those that live down deeper in the soil -- these like some grit in their diet).
the latest experiment in comparing the speed of decomposition was of beet tops and other root trimmings from beets we processed last fall for canning. the drying process is still showing it's great improvement. by drying the beet pieces they rapidly are broken down once added to a bin (they rehydrate and then get eaten fairly quickly). in comparison to the non-dried beet pieces, well there are still solid chunks of beets in the bins sprouting greens and still very firm and not being broken down much at all.
the items that do not benefit much from drying are melon peels, tomato pieces or any other soft fruit or cooked vegetable (these are eaten fairly quickly when added to a bin). otherwise any fresh vegetable or stem from a veggie like a broccoli or lettuce benefits from being dried first before being added to the bins. potato peels, carrots, other root crops, chopped and dried first are also broken down much more quickly.
and it is easier to store the dried scraps until when i want to layer them in the bins. it also saves a lot of extra moisture from pooling at the bottom of the bins (veggies are mostly water). i use a closed system of buckets without holes in the bottom. i don't want all those nutrients draining away, i want them to go back to the gardens.
another short report from the trenches... errrr... bins. :)
peace,
songbird
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songbird wrote:

it has been a while hasn't it?
what has changed this year:
i now limit my squash, melon, pepper, cucumber, etc. seeds to the same bucket (number 1). after having too many squash seeds sprout under the beet rows that they were pushing all the beet seedlings out of the ground... this way i can use that bucket in particular when i want to start a more random garden. the rest of the containers will gradually get cleared of their seeds or at least many fewer will be left to contend with.
added another bucket (for natives found during renovations or other gardening tasks) to the lineup (making it 15 containers).
changed my soil renovation routine. previously i would bring in a few buckets of garden soil to incorporate into the worm bins as needed during the winter months. that means that the later bins would not have that much going on because they were started so late. this year, in the spring, when i put the worms/worm castings out in the gardens i immediately restarted all of them with a few scoops of soil from the garden along with plenty of worms. a much more active use of the whole system. when Ma decided to make fruit salad for four families twice a week a bit ago i had no trouble keeping up with all those melon peels.
at present i'm drying chopped alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil (and whatever other weeds) for storing to use during the winter. we have sunny and dry weather, so it is a good time to get that done. they do so much for me i don't mind spending a little time putting by some good winter chow for them in return.
we now call the worms members of Union 396.
had a bunch of nice ladies over the other day, all most interested in seeing the worms at work. very funny. someone always asks me if i sell them and i respond that they wouldn't sell their children would they? Ma likes to say that she tried but we kept coming back.
peace,
songbird
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