A simple composting program is easy to do at home whether you live in a house, apartment or condo. A composting program geared for the workplace can be a little more challenging but it can be done. All it takes is some like-minded people and an understanding of how to correctly compost.
Before starting on any type of garden or composting project, make sure the management of the business has approved it. Once this is done, the type of composting program that you would like to start needs to be decided upon.
The first type of composting program is one that utilizes a commercially built compost bin. The closed type of structure will prevent odors and keep pests away. Before choosing this type of composting program, make sure there is room for the bin and it is located in a convenient area.
The second type of composting is worm composting or vermicomposting. This type of composting produces worm castings that are used for fertilizer. While the container for this type of composting is normally smaller, it still creates large amount of castings that can be harvested quite often.
Before deciding on a composting program, ask yourself a few questions. How many people will be adding to the compost? Where can the program be located and is this location near where it can be used? Once these questions have been answered, the next step consists of teaching co-workers how to compost.
If the decision has been made to use a commercially built composting bin, then follow the how to directions in Green Living-Start a Composting Program Anywhere Part I.
If you choose to worm compost, then a few supplies will need to be gathered. The first thing you will need to get is a container to start the process. Outdora sells a wonderful composter called the worm factory 360 that is specially designed for vermicomposting.
Once your worm composter has arrived, the next step is to prepare the bedding. Worm bedding can consist of newspaper, cardboard, paper egg cartons and dried leaves. The key to creating this bedding material is to shred it into one-inch pieces and then soak it in non-chlorinated water. If you do not have a filter system at home, you can make your own non-chlorinated water by leaving a pitcher of water out overnight. As the water evaporates, the chlorine will be removed.
After the bedding has been shredded and soaked, pick it up by the handfuls and squeeze out any excess moisture. Place three to eight inches of bedding material in the bottom of the composter.
The next step in this process is to purchase your worms. Garden worms will not work for this process instead you will need red worms (Eisenia foetida) or European night crawlers (Eisenia hortensis). One may inquire why common garden worms will not work for vermicomposting and the answer is simple. Garden worms tunnel down through the soil, aerating it as they go. Red worms and the European night crawlers are from temperate rain forest where they live on the surface of the soil. While on the surface they digest the leaf litter and create the humus layer. They are also more adaptable to the same conditions that humans enjoy.
To completely appreciate the red worm or the European night crawler, one must understand their anatomy. Both these worms eat continuously and live up to 16 years. They have five hearts, no teeth or bones and can reproduce as soon as they are three months old. There is no need for male and female worms since they are hermaphrodites.
While worms can be ordered from the Internet, it is just as easy to go to the local bait shop and purchase a pound of red worms or European night crawlers. Once they have been purchased, bring them to work and place them in the worm composter. Make sure the lid is securely placed on the composter.
The next step is to feed them. These worms can eat any kitchen scraps except peels from citrus fruits. Also to aid the worms, the kitchen scraps need to be chopped finely or frozen. Either one of these approaches will allow the worms to consume the scraps faster.
Once the scraps have been prepared, it is time to add them to the worm composter. Do not simply place them on top of the bedding instead bury the scraps in the bedding. Burying the scraps not only prevents fruit fly problems but also mimics the natural environment of these worms. When scraps are added to the composter mark the location with a stick, small flag or colored craft stick. Alternate the location of the kitchen scraps from one end of the composter to the other. Worms will migrate to the food and alternating the location helps spread out the worms.
Worms not only need kitchen scraps but they also need some additional treatment once a week. Calcium is an important element that these worms need for egg production but do not just place shells in the composter. Dry the eggshells out and pulverized them into a powder before adding to the composter. If this is not possible, add calcium carbonate (lime) to the composter as a substitute.
The other additional treatment that the worms may need is the addition of water. Periodically check the bedding and make sure that it is moist but not dripping wet. If the bedding is dry, simply mist the contents of the composter until evenly moist.
To make composting easier and caring for the worms easier, consider using a handy composting bucket or caddy to hold the day’s kitchen scraps. At the end of the day, the scraps can be processed and added to the worm composter or placed in the freezer for later use.
To harvest the worm castings, simply remove the top of the composter and shine a bright light on one end. The worms will move away from the light allowing one to harvest the worm castings without worms. This type of compost can be used around houseplants without the fear of any type of odor and in any garden space.
Once the worm castings have been harvested, add additional bedding and start the process over again. This process can be repeated every three to six months.
Some things to keep in mind when worm composting. First, do not be alarmed if you see some other creatures in the composter. A well ran worm composter is a micro-ecosystem, which includes soil bacteria, fungi, protozoa, sowbugs and other helpful aerobic decomposers. These organisms will cause no problem in the indoor environment. Second, monitor the environment very carefully. Direct sunlight is a killer of red worms and they thrive in an environment that is kept between 55 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
A composting program can be started anywhere with a little planning. Before jumping into a program, make sure that those who want to participate understand how and that it is approved by the business. Once that is done, a green living lifestyle cannot only be realized at home but also at work. Both these approaches will make anyone’s corner of the world a better and more harmonious place.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.