East Sac Edible


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Worm Bin Composting: Setting up a New Tray

DSC_2637Since I harvested the bottom tray of my worm bin, it was the perfect time to set up a new tray for my worms.

For my worm bedding, I have been using coconut coir fiber. The coir comes in a compressed block about the size of a brick and is made from coconut husks. It has a high water holding capacity and can hold up to 10 times its weight. I buy mine at my local nursery, Talini’s, for $2.99.  The compressed brick expands when you add water so you really only need one.  Just put it in a bucket, fill with a generous amount of water and enjoy the endless entertainment of watching something absorb water (I wish coconut coir would follow my daughter around whenever she drinks anything). Wait until the center of the brick has absorbed water. You can always wring out excess water if need be.

I also like using shredded newspaper to add on top of the coir. The worms seem to really love the newspaper. Since I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, I save my Inside East Sacramento newspaper to shred for my bin.

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Worm Bin Composting: Harvesting the Worm Bin

I have a Worm Factory worm bin inside my house. Actually it is in my dining room right next to our dining room table so if you have even eaten at my house you are sharing a meal with hundreds of worms too. I keep my worm bin inside because my garage gets really hot in the Sacramento summer and I am afraid it will hurt the worms. It actually has done great inside and hasn’t been a problem at all. I still can’t believe my husband allowed the worms to come inside but once they were in he hasn’t mentioned them.

I have been meaning to harvest the bottom tray of my worm bin for awhile now. This is what the bottom tray looked like before I harvested. DSC_2641

I dumped the contents out onto a tarp outside. You can see the worms at the bottom.
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I spent time picking through all of the worms and found lots of eggs too. There was a great variety of worms at different stages but I was disappointed that there were not more worms in the bin. This is what the pile looked like once I had picked through all the worms:DSC_2644

In the Worm Factory worm bin there is a bottom tray that catches any water run off and there is a spigot where you can collect your worm tea. However, this is where I found the richest worm castings. Just look at this stuff… it is truly rich soil! DSC_2645

Here is a close up of the black gold:DSC_2646

Here is an up close shot of the worms:DSC_2652

After sorting through the worm bin, I added some of the castings to the base of some of my plants. I know I didn’t get all of the worms or the eggs but they will be happy in my garden bed. The worms I did collect were put in their new home, the top tray of the worm bin. DSC_2655For the most part I am happy with my Worm Factory bin. I got it several years ago at discount through the RecycleWorks program from San Mateo County when I lived there. Many cities have composters or worm bins  through their waste management programs so if you want one you can always check what your local area offers. The Worm Factory has multiple trays and a collection tray with spigot for the liquid worm tea your system will produce. My model is older so I am sure the new models have addressed it but the thing I hate about my worm bin is that the legs do not stay attached. They “snap” into place with these clips but it is just awfully designed. It has nothing to do with the worms but it is really annoying to move because this happens:DSC_2657

All the legs fall off and you end up dropping your worm bin… worms and all! Sorry worms… its bad design, not an earthquake that did that to you. I think I am going to ditch these legs and find another solution. Or maybe it is time for another bin?!?

 

 


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Composting Eggshells

Eggshells are always a great addition to your compost because they provide essential grit for worm’s digestive systems and the calcium in eggshells can help neutralize acidic conditions in your compost pile. I have always just thrown in my eggshells along with everything else but they always take so long to decompose. This is nine month old compost and you can see that there is still a large remnant of eggshell in the compost. DSC_2628I have always wondered how the worms actually get the benefit of the eggshells if they are often still in the exact same shape as when I threw them into the compost months ago. I know the worms are not taking huge bites out of these shells (haha, worms don’t have teeth). Some gardeners don’t like the look of eggshells in their compost and wont include them but I don’t really mind the look. However, I was thinking that ground up eggshells would be easier for the worms, especially the worms in my worm bin, to process. I started separating eggshells from my kitchen compost bin, slightly rinsing them, letting them dry and putting them in a separate container. When I had enough I lined them on a cookie sheet.

DSC_2610 DSC_2612The next time I had the oven on for tomato sauce I threw in the pan of eggshells too. I wasn’t so concerned about the temperature but just wanted to give them a while in an oven. So the eggshells sat in a 350° oven for about an hour. Then they went into my food processor for a quick whirl.

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Eggshell smoke puffed out. DSC_2623 DSC_2624

 

I was much happier with the consistency of the eggshells using this technique. Previously, I had tried blitzing some eggshells in a blender but without putting them in the oven and I wasn’t able to get as fine of a powder as I was by baking them first.

I don’t think I will use this technique all time but will definitely use it from time to time to add to my worm bin. I have noticed that halved eggshells in the compost provides perfect pockets for pill bugs, worms, and other little insects to set up camp in the compost pile mainly because eggshells don’t tend to break even with the weight of the compost material on top of them. Come to think of it, when I am in the kitchen using eggs I always think of how fragile the eggs are but those same shells are surprisingly strong in the compost! I have always noticed when I turn my compost lots of little insects coming out of the safe pockets of the eggshells. There are definitely benefits to the lazy-woman’s approach to adding eggshells to the compost!

I think I will also use the oven-baked eggshells next year to put in the bottom of my tomato holes (usually I just throw in a few whole shells) but maybe the plant will be able to utilize the calcium faster if it is crushed up. Something new to try!

I do hope the oven-baked eggshells will keep my worms happy!