Saturday, April 09, 2011

Outdoor "Container" Vermicomposting Adventures

You would often read that composting worms thrive best in a contained environment, away from the elements.  Since my back porch is really small, I am limited in terms of the number of containers I can use.  So today, I'll show you a couple of outdoor experiments (outside my mom's house without her knowledge...hehe).  Well more accurately, I'll show you the containers I've been using.  I checked each one earlier so I'm sure worms are alive and working in all of those "containers".
A couple of months ago, I was repotting a plant and I inadvertently cracked the pot.  To keep using the pot, I buried it under the soil and tried growing a couple of herbs there.  Unfortunately, I think the spot was too shaded and whatever I planted kept dying.  So I just used it as a vermicomposting pot.   If you look at the picture, you can even see the crack.  The pot has no real cover.  I just use some pieces of plastic and a smaller pot as paperweight.  I've put most of my nastier waste there (from a vermicomposting standpoint), including onions and garlic.    As of last check, the 6-8 worms I put in have survived.  A few new ones have even hatched although I must say population has not exploded.

Since I've had some success with my first pot, I have now tried a bigger pot.  From the picture, you'd see that it's covered with a sack and a broken inverted pot on top as "paperweight".   It's also located under a tree.  In terms of vermicomposting taboo, this is where all the action is.  In this pot, I've put in chicken bones, meat, fat and most of my citrus peels.  I just put paper after each layer of nasty stuff.  Since it's outdoors and covered, there are no odors.  And since it's covered by a heavy pot on top, so far no rodents or cats have been able to penetrate.  Today was the first time I tried digging into the contents since I was afraid the nasty stuff would smell.  I found worms and some vermicompost.  I'd say it's been over a month since I had this pot.  The worms are surviving and working and there are no smells. I didn't bother to see the progress in terms of decomposition.  I just know that the worms are alive and will eventually get to all the contents.   However, being on the ground, I did see a small roach and some ants but it didn't seem like they were colonizing the pot.  As a bonus, I saw a sprout of some kind.  I pulled it out (no digging) and found that it was ginger.  It wasn't yellow ginger like the ones in my past blog posts; this was the commercial full size ginger.  It grew from discarded cut ups.  So I planted it elsewhere.  Hopefully, it grows.
Then there's what I call a vermicomposting pit.  It's not really a pit.  There was once a banana tree in the spot.  After the banana tree died, it left a gaping hole on the ground.  So I plugged it with nasty stuff too and lots of used toilet paper.  The cover is just another pot with a plastic lid at the bottom.  I just covered it so no one would see and unearth the riches below.  It's also not a shaded area so the pot on top helps absorb the heat and sunlight. A bonus is that when I water my plants, the excess water moistens the contents of the pit.   I checked the hole earlier: there are worms and some vermicompost.  That tells me, it's working.

Finally, I wanted you all to see the bottom of my mango tree pot.  Check my reverse mulching experiments to understand why there are worms there.  I put a couple of worms there a few months back too.  They like hanging out under the pot on a drenched plastic bag.  Get a load of how big they are.  I think one has to be eight inches or more.   I think they're even biggen than the worms under my habanero pot (the same habanero that has not stopped blooming since I "wormed" it.  And by the way, I put these same worms on top of the top yesterday afternoon, along with some vermicompost.  They managed to crawl down.  That means there are enough air spaces inside the pot for them to crawl.  That should be good for my plants.   I do have to keep adding mulch though since the "soil" level keeps going down, mostly I think because the worms are processing the contents.
And that's it!  I have another trench too but it's too new to blog about.  Maybe in a few weeks.  Until then, here's my thought.  Why are the worms so much bigger under my flower pots compared to my indoor, well kept bins?   It's almost like they grow faster if you don't fiddle with them.


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