Composting In the Comfort of Your Own Home
I am so excited for this post! It's been a long time coming. A few months ago, I decided to team up with the company VermiTek, which produces some really awesome home composting systems. I think it's pretty clear that you guys know I can get really excited about compost! It's something that I am totally new to, though it has been almost a year since I started my first pile. That seems unreal, but come this winter, I'll have become a seasoned composter. Pretty awesome! It's one of those weird things that can gross people out, but it so so good for the environment and your garden! I always make sure to walk friends and family back to my pile and say, "Look at this pile of decaying plant matter I am building!" It's a treat. They love it. The best part?! I get to use it on my garden as a tool for overwintering this autumn as well as on my new plants next year. That makes me so excited! I definitely want to share more about our outdoor pile with you, which I will in this Friday's Homestead Update, but for now... let's talk VermiTek!
Over the past couple of months, we have been using three different composting systems: the outdoor pile, a worm compost bin, and a Bokashi compost bucket. Right? You're probably thinking: wow! that's a lot of compost. And also, what are those things? Well, let me tell ya. I am really pumped to talk about worm and bug poop. Like really excited. It was back in early February that I started our first pile and taught you guys some tips on getting started. Since then, we've had a really successful year with building a compost pile. We've actually had zero issues so far, and I am really proud of that! It was later in the year that I started talking about how much I loved using worm castings as a fertilizer for my plants. It was actually at Country Living Fair in Nashville that I learned what worm casting were. There was a company there talking all about the benefits of using organic worm castings, which is the waste of earth worms as they move through the soil, as your ONLY form of fertilizer. I bought a bag and started sprinkling them around my garden, placing them in with my seedling transplants, and even using them around my tomatoes throughout the season to keep them healthy. I love using them! As someone who represents organic gardening, I am a firm believer that you really don't need much else. Some easy pest control, castings, and a set of earthworms each year to keep up the population will do your plants good... You can never have too many worms!
I was so excited to learn that I would be able to try out their Worm Composting system, the VermiHut, which is a stackable worm house. It's fairly small, and we keep it inside the house in our mudroom. What does it do?
- Houses earthworms that will continue to reproduce, which you can either place into your garden or re-sell if desired
- Creates organic earthworm castings for your garden
- Reduces kitchen waste and other organic plant material waste that would normally go in the trash
Pretty neat, huh? It's extremely easy to use. I enjoyed that it was simple to assemble and works well. I have not had any issues when it comes to product quality for either of our systems, and I appreciate that. I see them working for us for years to come! In a short review, you place some organic material, like dirt or compost from your pile, the coconut coir provided, and some kitchen waste, like eggshells or peels, into the system creating a bed for the worms. You'll want to find a place to order some earthworms, the red wiggler kind. I have ordered mine both times from Amazon! They come straight to your door and I have not had any issues with them dying during shipping.
The worms do the rest! After a few weeks, you'll continue to add little bits of food to the system and watch it be turned into castings. I find the whole process to be fairly clean and also fascinating. I know that having a bucket of dirt, scraps, and worm poo in your house might sound dirty. Just like composting outside, if you take your time and do it right, there won't be any odor. In fact, I sometimes forget it's in the mud room at all. I really don't check on the worms too often! Just about once a week. Ours are still new, so we can't overwhelm them with scraps just yet.
That's probably the biggest con: worm composting takes time, and you can only give them so many food options.
The worms need about three-four weeks of time to adjust to their new home as well as to begin reproducing. If you dump an entire pile of food scraps in their bin the minute they arrive, you might put them into shock, and it will all be for nothing. Slowly adding food scraps to the bin over weeks is the best way to do it. In short, I think this system is really only great if you are wanting to grow your own worms and harvest your own castings, which is why I have it. Worm castings are expensive! A 30 lb bag is over $30, and that doesn't last you long if you are gardening on a similar scale to us, over 1300 square feet. And there are even higher quality brands that are much more expensive.
- Production and use of worm castings for the garden
- Recycle kitchen waste + other organic matter which is normally composted (fresh scraps like produce peels and rinds, eggshells, tea leaves, grains, starches, flowers, coffee grounds and filters, cardboard, newspaper, hair, leaves, sawdust, etc)
- Use of "Worm Tea" which is castings diluted in water
- Reproduction of worms + can be used for garden or for resale
- Can house up to 8,000 worms!
- Clean and easy to assemble + use
- Can smell if not properly taken care of
- It takes a long time for the process to start, and you cannot feed the worms all of your scraps until they are well established. If this is your only way to compost, you won't be able to compost everything from the beginning.
- Cannot be fed certain foods (citrus, plant seeds, grass, pet waste, meat, dairy, cooking oils, dressings, yeast)
We were also gifted a Bokashi Compost Bin to try. Wow! I really love this thing. When we first received our systems, I had a fun time sharing a little walk through on our Instagram Stories of how it works. It's actually even more simple than the worm hut! Bokashi composting is a Japanese form of composting, which involves fermenting and pickling organic waste matter into something that can be used in the garden or fed to your compost pile. Sounds delicious, right? It's actually amazing. Why? Because you can literally compost anything. Yeah, you read that right. Meat, dairy, bones, and dressings? Those are all things that are a big no-no when it comes to starting your first compost pile! They draw in bugs you don't want in the pile, like flies which produce maggots, and various other critters like raccoons or rabbits or mice. Any meat or animal droppings in your pile is just gross, and you'll have a hard time as a beginner using them.
Why is Bokashi different? It's a small bucket where you place all of your food waste (chicken, salad covered in dressing, cheese, cereal, etc), cover it with a bran-based culture of effective microorganisms (don't worry - it's organic), and then press it all down into an airtight layer. Then you just cover the bucket up with the lid so it's not exposed to the air and let it work its magic. That's literally it! As you continue to fill up the bucket, the scraps inside ferment, pickle, and turn into Bokashi Juice, which you can dilute and spray on your plants as fertilizer. I did use this juice on my new seedlings for our autumn garden, and they are totally thriving! I have also noticed a huge decrease in insects since I planted in spring... I am not sure if this is weather related or Bokashi Juice related, but I am excited to experiment again in spring!
And when your bucket is full, you wait two weeks for it to finish pickling, and then remove what's inside. It will be a big bucket full of fermented waste, and it does smell pretty sour. Not even going to lie! However, it doesn't smell at all when the bucket's lid is on, so no worries there. What do you do with the fermented matter? You have a couple of options: you can bury it and plant over the top of it. Or I suppose you could just bury it and leave it there to work itself into the soil if you don't garden. For me, I used my first round of Bokashi in my original compost pile. It was a way for me to get rid of absolutely every form of kitchen waste we created and add it to our pile. And it worked! My pile has actually never looked better since I added a round of Bokashi to it. I figured that the meat and dairy inside would cause my pile to go bad, and all of my hard work would have been wasted, but it actually helped everything decompose even faster. I was shocked!
- You can compost just about anything! (normal organic matter [see above], meat, dairy, fish, eggs, oils, dressings, citrus, etc).
- It's extremely clean and easy to use - easy to clean!
- Bokashi Juice! Plant magic in liquid form. Just dilute and spray.
- It only take 2 weeks to see results.
- Can be fed to your outdoor compost pile and helps jump start the process.
- Can be buried outside in your garden.
- Recycles all food matter and creates less waste for our planet.
- The system is small and can easily fit anywhere in your home, like the pantry!
- You'll probably want two buckets... we only have one, and it fills up fast! Then you have to wait two weeks until you can fill it again. If you have two, once you finish filling the first and it begins fermentation, you can slowly fill the second.
- It's kind of gross handling the fermented matter (but you can get over that!)
- Bokashi Meal (the bran you feed the waste) is expensive, and you use it quickly. BUT you can make your own!
Phew! That was a lot of information on bug poop. But bug poop is amazing! I am fascinated by compost mainly for the small reason that you are creating life's full circle. You grow plants in the garden, eat the plants, add the scraps to a pile of waste, and then use that waste to grow more plants. I mean, that's pretty incredible, right? And why not do that from inside your home if you can? As we build our blog and our garden, I am so extremely humbled to hear from readers, friends, and even family about how they're changing their lifestyles after reading. We're creating a movement over here! One where you can homestead from your backyard, no matter where you live. It's extremely thrill-worthy to witness. So what if you don't have a place where you can keep an open compost pile, or maybe the tumbling compost bins are too expensive? Then you can just compost right in your dang kitchen, girl! Do it. Both of these systems are extremely affordable, and they'll last you a long time. It's going to take a little longer, though, especially with the worms.
In truth, all forms of creating compost take time. There's no magic time limit, unless you count Bokashi. I mean, two weeks is pretty amazing! It's been seven months since we started our outdoor pile, and just now we are seeing the best results. We have enough compost to start containing it in the garage over winter, a feat in itself. What do you think? Do you want to become more sustainable and waste free with your kitchen scraps? VermiTek has some really cool products, ones that I haven't even tried! This is just an overview of both of our systems, the VermiHut and the Bokashi Bin, and I'll be sharing more detailed posts in the next few weeks on how they work, how to operate them, and what your results will look like. Can't wait!
Let's all leave less of a footprint and grow better plants!