Composting – A Fantastic Solution
Are you thinking about composting to turn your organic material into rich fertilizer? This is great for gardeners and growers who want to give their plants a head start.
Composted material is rich in nutrients, and you can sell it, but there’s also vermicomposting.
You might be wondering which is better, composting or vermicomposting? Composting looks simpler: toss your yard waste in a pile, and you’re done.
But there’s more here at play than dumping your grass clippings when you’ve finished cutting the grass. Check it out.
What is composting?
Composting is the process of throwing all your yard greens and browns and kitchen fruit and vegetable leftovers in a pile where you don’t mind it breaking down in the yard.
It’s also known as hot composting, as temperatures can get up to 160 degrees in the pile.
Any hotter than 160 degrees, and it’ll kill off the good bacteria that kill pathogens and break down the organic material. So, you have to introduce air into the pile or bin. This means you’re going to be turning it with a shovel or pitchfork.
Some people have gotten around turning their compost with yard tools because that can wear you out. They use a tumbler-type composter that rotates, so they turn the bin to add oxygen to their compost.
What is vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting uses worms to break down vegetative waste. This uses a bin that’s 8 – 12 inches deep. You use smaller amounts of kitchen scraps, at least at first, and you can buy trays or make your own.
You put the moistened bedding in the bottom: shredded paper, peat moss, or coconut coir.
Next, you add the worms, which are not the normal worms from your yard. They are dependent on soil. Red worms, or red wigglers, are used in vermicomposting.
They eat the scraps you add, and their leavings are called worm castings. Castings are excellent fertilizer for your plants.
Is vermicomposting convenient?
You vermicompost in trays with smaller amounts of scraps; it’s not a heavy pile in the yard, so it has a significant advantage. You don’t need a yard.
People in apartments and condos can compost with this method. Just find a convenient space under the sink or in a utility closet.
Of course, you can keep your trays outside too, but you need to make sure they don’t dry out or get above 95 degrees in the summer or get below 55 degrees in the fall or winter. An outside compost heap would be slowing down around this time too.
How much can you put on a vermicompost bin?
It would help if you were cautious about how much you feed your worms, especially at first. Too much, and the tray will stink. If you’re feeding too little, the worms could starve and die.
You can provide more once you establish your bin; just adhere to the guidelines in the beginning.
The worms live in the top nine to twelve inches of the tray. They burrow through the compost, so you never have to turn it.
If you have more scraps that you want to vermicompost, you can always buy a tray system like this one, and you won’t be as limited.
You can put as much as you want on a compost pile, though. That’s good if you have a lot of grass clippings and yard waste.
You can put all the scraps you have on the heap – you just have to be able to turn it all. Otherwise, the temperatures rise too high, and it stops working.
Which takes longer, composting, or vermicomposting?
No matter which method you use, any composting method is going to take a matter of months. Regular composting will take six to nine months because the compost has to cure. The compost won’t be any good for your plants if it hasn’t cured.
But vermicomposting only takes two to three months. It doesn’t have to take time to cure. Vermicomposting can happen inside your house or apartment during the winter when the bacteria outside have cooled and slowed down.
Does vermicomposting make more nutrients for plants?
It does, yes. Actually, worm castings are more nutrient-rich. They are high in plant needs like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Vermicompost also contains certain plant growth hormones, which will make your plants grow fuller and more robust.
It holds nutrients longer, too, and has a fine structure. Unfortunately, regular compost’s structure is less fine and doesn’t keep nutrients as long.
It also isn’t as nutrient-dense as vermicompost. It’s still excellent fertilizer, but not quite as good as the vermicompost.
What does regular composting do better than vermicomposting?
Regular or hot composting does a couple of things better than vermicomposting or cold composting. The bacteria that process the organic material in hot compost cause it to heat up. The bacteria always need air. It’s why you have to turn the compost.
They continue to get hot. The temperature the compost rises to, which can be 165 degrees and above, kills microbes. If there are any dangerous pathogens in your compost, anything that might harm you or your plants, the heat destroys it.
Cold composting does not destroy pathogens. However, if you stick to proper vermicomposting guidelines, there shouldn’t be many harmful microbes in your compost.
Which costs less, composting, or vermicomposting?
Regular composting costs are less. Since you’re just throwing your clippings in a pile, all you have to pay for is the shovel or pitchfork to turn them, and you probably have that on hand already.
With vermicomposting, there is a cost to set up. But one cubic yard can net you $300 to $2200+, compared to the $6 to $30 a cubic yard for regular compost.
Why not compost and vermicompost?
Both methods are valid and have their good points. If you live in a house or on land, why not do both? Compost your clippings and green waste while vermicomposting your kitchen scraps. You only need to compost your green waste during the spring, fall, and summer.
But you eat all year, and vermicomposting can handle that.
It’s a win-win for you and your plants!