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Live Composting

Experience, tips, observations

· Live Composting

Composting with Compost guru Johanna

Week for week ( week 1-26)

In this blog we show you how we operate the WormUp HOME. We want to give you some impressions of what the process can look like. Pictures before and after the weekly feeding give an impression of how quickly different foods are decomposed. The quantities are approximate. Each composter behaves differently depending on the location and worm food.

Day 1: Preparation (1st week / 19th May 2017

I set up the composter according to our instructions. The worms are in the composter, the first 300gr. worm food, I wait with the grid. For the location, I chose a shady spot in the office. For once, please do not feed voluntarily, because I want to observe the process carefully and describe it to you. Since there are many more composters in the office, my office companions are not very disappointed


Day 4: First inspection (May 23, 2017)

I poke my finger in and find it needs some water. I spray about 2dl of water. - When I lift the lid, everything just moves under the surface, it looks good.


Day 7: The first week is over (May 26, 2017)

After a week, the easily biodegradable waste is transformed, it remains cardboard and, for example, some parsley stems. The Worms have made the surface nice and flat. The second feeding is pending. We take 350g bio-waste: coffee grounds, old parsley, watermelon shells, etc., and three soaked TPK rolls. Of course, everything is cut down to size. The whole thing gets another 2dl water shower with the spray bottle. The lid comes back on. PS: I only took the top rings off to take better pictures. After watering, the composter now weighs 7540gr.

Day 12 (2nd week / 31st May 2017)
From the 7.54 kg of day 7 remain 5 days later still 7.1 kg. The weight loss is proud 440g. For the most part, this is water that has evaporated. I take the spray bottle and spray 2dl. New weight 7.3kg.

Day 14 (2nd week / 2nd June 2017)
In the last two days, the composter has again lost 140g in weight. Now feed again 390g waste and 190g soaked egg carton. New weight 7.74 kg.

Day 21 (3rd week / 09th June 2017)
460 g decrease in the last 7 days, so the composter evaporates around 70g of water per day, which is about ½ liter a week. I'm currently on vacation, Nikolai feeds 300g, the new stand is 7.58kg.

Day 31 (5th week / 19th June 2017)
From now on, I will feed each Monday. In the last 10 days I added 3dl water once. Not much happened during my vacation. What is to be seen now, especially on closer inspection; the easily degradable materials are already gone. Heavier material to be processed, such as cardboard, avocado peels or leaf ribs (here the sepals of the tomatoes :-) are still there.

Inserting first grid:
Meanwhile, the surface of the fresh compost is about 2cm above the support, so it's time to use the first grid. For this, the top two, still empty rings are removed, and the grid is simply placed on the waste.
Now the new food comes on the grid, this time 450g bio-waste, 3dl water and 90g wet cardboard, et voila, looks beautiful too.

Day 38 (6th week / 26th June)
Before the hot weekend I checked briefly. It was a bit too dry. That's why I sprayed 2dl of water. In this season, in the heat of the day, it can quickly get too wet. This is because the waste rapidly breaks down and thus releases all the water from the cells (from bio-waste) in no time. At air temperatures above 30 ° C, caution is advised. I then fill the lid with water for cooling.
Anyway, I did not waste much waste a week ago on the new grid; 450g. If I now open the lid, some worms are already on this grid, as it should be. The seedlings are from the melons, they do not bother and will soon be composted as well.
The little brown things are mites. They belong to the process. In the first months (up to about 6 months after the start) you sometimes find them in larger numbers. It is a bit strange that little animals like to "hang around" on the outside or the lid of the composter. We do not know exactly why, its interesting to watch anyway. They disappear over time.
Because the worms are already so voracious, I throw in 500g this week. From the vegetable grocer I get old parsley, as well as leftovers of beans, parts of a cucumber frozen in the fridge, corncob etc., and plenty of coffee grounds as always. And as described above, more caution is required at high temperatures. For me that means; The composting process should not be too fast. "Fiber" must come from. Cardboard is well suited. That's why 250g wet cardboard is added. Mix and then sprinkle with 1.5 dl of water.
The bottom work floor is now almost full up. Now I'm looking forward to next week, if they really blow it all away. I fill the lid with water again, because of the heat.

Day 45 (7th week / 03rd July 2017)
Now I did nothing for a week. The evaporation of water has now also decreased by almost half to 0.3 dl / day. But I'm still fascinated by the rapid degradation of easily degradable matter as can be seen on this lemon leaf; after 7 days only, the skeleton remains:

I stay on a diet of 500g organic waste and 200g soaked egg carton, and fill the lid with water, as the next heat wave is on.

Day 52 (8th week / 10th July)
Not much new for this week. The decomposing worked well, almost only the cardboard is left and it has room for new food. I increase a bit to 590g of mixed feed. - It seems a bit damp to me. Therefore, I give 50g of dry cardboard, but still give 1.5 dl of water. Moisture helps, in warm temperatures

Day 59 (9th week / 17th of July)
Of course, as always, I cut everything down last week. Nevertheless, somehow fascinating to see that only a small piece of shell of the old tomato remains, of the banana, I see nothing at all. The sunflower will take a little longer.

Very modest, but in some places I see a little white mold. The worms are not botherd by the gray mold, even if there should be a little then more now. It doesn’t bother me at all, but everyone has to decide for themselves. The mold will disappear quickly. If the whole thing is mixed or covered.

Food this week: 650g, slightly less cardboard 30g (dry) and 1.5 dl of water sprayed.

Background cardboard:
The close-up shows how the cardboard is successively reduced in size and dismantled. Often the question arises, why the regular addition of cardboard is necessary. Cardboard was originally wood, so lignin and cellulose. These two "compounds" are very hard to break down for microorganisms (that's a trick of the trees, so their wood is not always eaten away). Nevertheless, the microorganisms diligently set to work to break down these compounds. But this will cost you energy. Long story short: Cardboard looks like fiber in humans. Since the degradation is more strenuous, the whole process stabilizes better. This creates a balance (in technical language is called the C / N ratio). In addition, cardboard offers structural advantages in terms of water balance.

Day 66 (10th week / 24th of July)
There is not much to report this week; 700 g of waste (cucumber and watermelon shells, coffee grounds, carrot slices), together with 30 g of dry cardboard (corresponds to the lower part of a 10-pack of eggs),in the end I spray it with 0.5 dl of water!

Day 80 (12th week / 7th of August)
After 2 weeks of vacation, the worms are on the surface waiting impatiently for their new food. Hard to degrade waste (apricot stone, corncob, cardboard, woody vegetable remains) can still be seen. Because the worms have been fasting, they now get a generous portion: 800 g of bio-waste and 30 g of dry cardboard. Then I spray another 0.5 dl of water.

As a dessert, there are also eggshells today, which we have collected at the office. Dried, they can be finely crumbled. In the composter, the lime of the egg shells is slowly dissolved chemically and compensates the acidity of the organic waste. The bigger the pieces of lime, the smaller the surface with which the acid can react. As always, shredding speeds up the composting process.

Day 87 (13th week / 14th of August)
I am amazed that the worms have almost completely wiped out the 800 grams. I even see worm excrement on the 2nd element, which shows me that the worms were up there. Maybe they were hungry again? The egg shells from last week have not yet broken down but are mixed in by the activity of the worms and therefore less visible.
As a result, there is now exactly the same amount as last week: 800 g organic waste, 30 g dry cardboard, 50 g water from the spray bottle.

Day 94 (14th week / 21st August)
The last waste was very wet and thus the decomposed material is quite moist and dense. Although the worms do not seem to be bothered, I still loosened the top layers mid-week. The loosening brings in air, as we want to promote the microorganisms and they need oxygen (as do the worms).
Feeding (as last week): 800 g of bio-waste, 30 g of dry cardboard, 50 g of water from the spray bottle.

Day 101 (15th week / 29th of August)
From the sugar melons only the outermost skin remains, while the carrots from last week are still there. Feeding: 600 g bio-waste, 200 g coffee grounds, 50 g dry cardboard, no additional water, because the compost mass is still quite moist.
The waste from our office is no longer enough to feed all our current composters. Therefore, we now collect coffee grounds and waste in our area.

Day 108 (week 16/4 September)
Today's portion of fruits should be quickly digested by the worms, the material is shredded very small, and consists mainly of fibers, a feast!
Feeding: 800 g organic waste (of which 200 g coffee grounds), 30 g dry cardboard, 40 g water from the spray bottle.

Overview of the food for weeks 13, 16, 17 and 18: The diet of worms should be varied. It happens automatically at home, here in the office I have to choose the waste a bit. Coffee grounds is always included from this week on.

Background to the coffee grounds:
From now on, I always feed ¼ of the weight (200 g) of coffee grounds. 1. The worms love coffee grounds and 2. Coffee grounds already has a good structure and is rather dry, which means their will be more of it left & thus more humus. However, coffee grounds should not be fed in huge quantities. it has a rather acidic pH. Always keep the diet of the worms balanced.

Day 115 (week 17 / 11th of September)
The moisture in the composter has stabilized again. The fruit remains are gone, only a few zucchini ends are still untouched. The worms get a sizable portion of celery and sweet potato peels. I think this waste may be a bit hard to bite. Since the shells contain rather little water, this time I feed them cardboard again.
Feeding: 600 g of bio-waste, 200 g of coffee grounds, 70 g of wet cardboard and 40 g of water from the spray bottle.

Day 122 (Week 18 / 18th September)
For the moment, the celery sprouts show no trace of degradation. The sweet potatoes are partially decomposed.

The wastes last week were rather dry, the worms may not feel so comfortable in the lining. But below is nice worm humus. I feed far less, so that the worms have time to digest the celery from last week.

Feeding: 300 g of organic waste, 100 g of coffee grounds, 40 eggshells, 40 g of moist cardboard and 30 g of water from the spray bottle. For the first time the waste reaches over the edge of the first working element.

This week, in addition to the watery cucumber shells, there is a flower bouquet for the first time (see picture above for the feed overview). The stems are similar to cardboard shreds in that they are woody and have a lower water content. Thus, the bouquet will degrade slowly and contributes to the humus structure.


Day 129 (week 19 / 25th of September)
The leaves of the bouquet are mostly gone. Cucumbers and tomatoes are completely gone, as well as celery after 2 weeks.
The food of this week has already dried up a bit. Especially the bunch of roses. Therefore, 800 grams are quite a lot of "substance" and little water. Thus, I add more water (1 dl) and only a little cardboard (50 g, damp). Because the stems take over its function.

Background humus production:
From the point of view of the composter community food consists of water, nutrients (especially nitrogen) and carbon. Different types of waste are composed differently.
The carbon is energy supplier for the micro-organisms (and also for us humans!) And can either be well degraded (eg sugar in fruits, starch in grain) or badly (cellulose, lignin in woody parts, eg avocado peels, cardboard, stalks of flower bouquets), In addition, it takes for the removal of nitrogen (keyword C / N ratio) and water.
If the carbon is completely degraded, so used up, then it escapes as CO2 and there is no humus left. It therefore needs to have a good balance of various foods, because we want our waste to "disappear", but not quite, because we want to harvest worm humus!

Day 136 (week 20/2 October)
I feel like it's moving forward, but unfortunately, it's too early for the second grid!
This time, light fare is available: cucumbers, tomatoes and hot peppers.

 Food: 30 g dry cardboard and 800 g, of which 200 g coffee grounds. At the end I spray about 1 dl of water over the whole, although it is rather damp.

Root ball:
As a special treat there is today a dried root ball of a sage. I crumble this on the surface in the end, because it is quite moist in the composter. The worms love to crawl around in old root balls! The dead roots are very fine and can therefore be degraded well. The earth is tired and needs a new boost. If it is co-composted, it is optimally recharged with nutrients and living things.

Day 150 (21st week / 9th October)
The worms have properly taken root in the root ball and turned the remaining waste up to a few celery leaves and avocado peels in to crumbly humus, which I can see on the surface. Therefore, I assume that the worms are already hungry again and this time there are therefore 1 kg of waste (including 200 g of coffee grounds). Because pumpkin peels feel rather woody this time I only give a little moist cardboard (85 g) and 30 g of water.
After two days, I feel that the pumpkins are giving off a bit of heat, the temperature has risen from the normally about 20 ° C to about 25 ° C.

Day 157 (22nd week / 16th October)
The pumpkin pieces are not quite gone yet, so I'll mix up the waste a bit before feeding.
Feeding: 1kg waste & 300g coffee grounds. I mean well (a bit too well) because I'm on vacation next week. Add 70 g dry cardboard and 20 g water.
The day after feeding, I feel that the waste in the top layer is getting warm again. I dig once in the composter. Then I make a hole in the middle, creating a little space where the compost can cool down. I keep watching over the next few days, after 3 days the temperature has returned to normal, it smells a bit more like compost than usual, but the worms do not seem to care!

Experimenting with the WormUp HOME:
In order to get to know your own ecosystem, it is important that you experiment yourself. Over time, you develop a sense of when the system and worms are well and where the limits are and should take action. You can experiment not only with the amount of waste and water but also with the type of waste (especially with the "expert food").
It is important when trying out that you are watching well: unpleasant odor, heat and fleeing worms indicate that you have exaggerated the experimentation or have reached the limits of the system. Then it is best to remove some of the waste (see below in the blog).
It is also important that you are at least in the second working element. The worms have enough retreat towards the bottom if they feel uncomfortable in the top compost layer. Then they can dodge if e.g. a decline to sour (citrus), too dry (e.g., sawdust, dried-on waste) or too high in energy (e.g., lentils, pasta) and will come back when it suits them (a smell may temporarily develop).

Day 171 (24th week / 30th October)

The many pumpkin seeds have now germinated 2 weeks after the last feeding. Its a real forest. Most seedlings just die off if you continue to feed because the pure worm humus is too strong for them. Pumpkins, however, are very fond of compost and grow up quickly to become vigorous little plants. The seedlings should therefore be kinked or torn out. After that, they compost just like other bio-wastes.

Insert grid 2
It's finally time for the second grid! The second work item is already half full, but from experience I know now that its better to use the grid to early. I flatten the pumpkin seedlings under the grid so that it has good contact with the compost surface, and the worms can come up well. In addition, I transfer a handful of worms from below to the grid. When feeding, I first sprinkle the coffee grounds on the grid, so he still fills the remaining cavities.
Feeding: 1 kg of waste (including 250 g of coffee grounds), 80 g of moist cardboard, 20 g of water from the spray bottle.

Day 178 (25th week / 6th November)
Problems inserting the grid

A typical problem has arisen: Under the lattice, it is bustling in the beautiful crumbly worm humus. But the waste on the grid is quite slimy and there are only a few worms in it. Apparently not all worms have realized that there is something to eat up there.

Conclusion: Carefully feed after inserting the grid, meaning. less, more chopped and selected. Help the worms by lifting up a handful of worms.
It will now show that I have not taken my own advice to heart very much (just look at the pictures, is obviously a lot of food !!)

Alarm: Wurm flight in full operation
The next day I find about 15 dried worms on the ground. This is an alarm sign (except when restarting, as that may happen)! The reason I find when I look into the composter: it is not hot, but it smells and the waste is slimy. I have to assume that the worms did not like it in there and that's why they fled. Unfortunately, they will not find their way back into the composter and dry up afterwards. (If you run out of worms in full operation and you do not know what to do, call us!)

Measures: I take about half of the waste (420 g) out and mix in dry cardboard. I overestimated the capacity of our composter. Although the worms were now able to cope with 1kg for three weeks, that was too much this time. This shows how the system does not always work the same way.


Day 185 (26th week / 13th November)
Now everything is fine again, but as a precaution I feed a little less this time. Cucumbers, which are easy to digest (as they are almost entirely made of water) and pumpkin which gives the worms something to bite that holds a bit longer.

Feeding: 900 g waste, of which 200 g coffee grounds, 40 g dry carton, 40 g water.

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