Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just how quickly does Bokashi break down? - compost bin

Further to Just how quickly does Bokashi break down? the wormery is looking rather wet and miserable after all the rain we have had recently.


Normally I would have added a good dose of shredded paper to help dry it out (as well as add some much needed carbon), but for the purpose of this experiment I haven't so that I can see what is happening with the added Bokashi. However, the temperature recently has dropped considerably, which has slowed everything down and, in true British fashion, it hasn't stopped raining so the whole thing is looking wet and slimy. Rather than hide the Bokashi with shredded paper I have added a Wiggly Wigglers moisture mat in the hope of drying things out a little and giving the worms some much needed warmth so they can continue their job.

wormbin with moisture mat

I also have a Bokashi bin ready to empty:

Bokashi 16/11/2008

and decided to add it to the compost bin so I can compare how that breaks down against within the wormery. Here's the bin before I added the bokashi:

compost bin before bokashi added

and here it is after:

compost bin with bokashi added

Let's hope the weather doesn't get too cold over the next few weeks so that we can see some progress...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bokashi experiment November update

Further to the original post on 19 October 2008 here are a few pictures of the Bokashi that was added to my worm bin.

Here is what the bin looked like when I added the Bokashi about 2 weeks ago:
Bokashi Experiment

and this is what it looked like today:
WW Bokashithon

As you can see it doesn't look that much different, until you look a bit closer and see that it is riddled with worms.
WW Bokashithon

What you can't see from the picture is that the layer of waste is also thinner because they have been working their way up nicely, keeping away from the very top because of the colder weather, which has slowed the worms down considerably - you would normally expect them to have been eaten more than this but the weather has changed over the last few weeks and it is a lot colder. I might move one of the bins into the greenhouse so that I can see how much quicker the worms work in warmer conditions, but I worry about a strong sunny day getting them too hot.

Another thing I noticed was the number of fruit flies - it was riddled with them and I had to wait a minute before getting too close as the little blighter's seem to delight in flying up my nose! Normally I would wrap the waste in paper so they would have less chance of getting at it, but for this experiment we need to be able to see so I didn't bother. A couple more weeks of the cold weather and they will all die off anyway...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just how quickly does Bokashi break down?

Over on the Wiggly Wigglers Facebook group there is a discussion on Bokashi (Bokashi Qs) and a few of us taking part in an experiment to see how quickly finished Bokashi breaks down under certain conditions, whether on a normal compost heap, in a compost bin, in a wormery, dug into the soil or just left out.

I'm adding a finished bin into a wormery and will be keeping a close eye on how long this layer takes to be broken down into useful vermicompost.

So it's 19 October 2008 and I started off with a Bokashi bin that has been fermenting in my green house for the last 2 weeks. Firstly, I emptied the juice into a measuring container and got just over 3/4 pint which was added to a watering can and used for watering the winter pansies that are being brought on in the greenhouse, ready for planting out in a few weeks (once the summer flowers are done, dug up and composted).

Bokashi Experiment Bokashi Experiment

As you can see from the picture below I had added a load of shredded paper to the wormery yesterday partly as a base and partly to increase the amount of carbon in the bin. It also helps absorb excess moisture (always a problem in the UK with its incessant rain).

Bokashi Experiment

I then added a quarter of the finished bin before placing a large brown envelope over the top to keep things dark.

Bokashi Experiment Bokashi Experiment

I'll be checking this weekly to see how quickly it breaks down. One thing we have to remember though is things are getting cooler and the worms will slow down somewhat. It will be interesting (well I guess that may depend on your understanding of the word "interesting") to see how the same experiment works out in the Spring/Summer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not Quite Gardeners Question Time

On Friday I travelled down to Ledbury, dropped the family off at some friends and then (with an awful lot of help from Digital Doris, TomTom for short) drove on to Preston-on-Wye for "Not Quite Gardeners Question Time", a talk being given by Terry Walton (allotment guru from Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show) and Richard Fishbourne of Wiggly Wigglers

Not Quite Gardeners Question Time

Amazingly I made it in time for a glass of mulled cider and was made very welcome by the team from Wiggly's, all of whom I have dealt with electronically in the past but never actually met. For me it was worth the journey down to actually meet everybody in person as much as to hear the banter between Richard and Terry, and even more so to find that they are all just as pleasant and easy to talk to as you expect from listening to the weekly podcast. Even Michael, technical wizz behind the podcast, catalogue, web site and just about any other form of media used by Wiggly Wigglers, put up with me asking questions behind the Wiggly's web site and how it all works.

The talk itself was fantastic, light hearted and full of audience participation; Terry makes stories of vegetable gardening entertaining, amusing and, above all, extremely informative, while Richard steers the conversation around to various composting techniques (standard, wormeries and Bokashi) and wild life, such as how important bees are in the garden etc. The only downside to the evening was being forced to sing "My. My. My. Dahlia" to the (not quite) tune of Tom Jones' "Delilah"!

Part one of the talk is available as Wiggly Podcast 0153.

And thanks again to Heather for inviting me down, being so welcoming and above all, not mentioning the cat argument from podcast 60!

All in all I had a great time and it was a real shame I had to get back to Ledbury and therefore turn down the offer of a pint afterwards...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Composting Awareness Week 4-10 May 2008

This week is Composting Awareness Week and it runs from 4-10 May 2008.

This site has some great offers on composting systems such as the Can-o-worms for £66 and a pair of Bokashi buckets for only £25, both of which are great prices.

The site is also a mine of information on how to compost both your garden and kitchen waste to stop it going in your bin and filling up landfill sites.

For further information on both Bokashi and the Can-o-worms check out my earlier post about how I compost -

Friday, April 04, 2008

My new (eco friendly) lawn mower

I recently bought a new mower from Wiggly Wigglers and have been so impressed with it that I have written a review for them.

The review can be seen on the Wiggly blog

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My composting setup

I make compost and am fascinated with the various methods of creating it. My reasons for making compost are partly because it truly is black gold when it comes to the garden and partly because it's a grand way of recycling cardboard, shredded paper and all sorts of kitchen waste that would otherwise be thrown in your bin where it would rot and smell until it got carted off to land fill where it would then rot and smell some more, producing greenhouse gases and filling up the rapidly depleting space for all the rubbish that can't be recycled (and the sooner land fill area runs out then the sooner a new incinerator comes to your neighbourhood and none of us want that to happen). And probably a large factor in why I compost is because I am a tight Northern short arse who hates spending money when he doesn't need to!

So, small garden or not I compost in three different ways:

I use a Can-o-worms wormery, bought from Wiggly Wigglers in 1998.


The joy of this is you start with just one layer and once full add the second and then the third and so on. Once you have run out of layers the bottom is generally ready i.e. all your kitchen scraps, weeds, cuttings, toilet rolls and shredded bank statements/bills have been eaten by the worms and turned into vermicompost, an amazingly high nutrient compost (so high in nutrients that it needs mixing with other compost before being used for house plants etc, though it can be chucked on your borders as the best soil improver you will ever come across).

Bottom layer once top one not far off ready:

Wormery - bottom layer

Middle layer once top one not far off ready:

Wormery - middle layer

Top layer - still being added to:

Wormery - top layer

So to empty the bottom layer you take off the top ones, remove and empty the bottom one and that now becomes your empty top one. That way the worms are never disturbed (or at least not too much), and you can get straight to the good stuff without getting overly messy.

Compost bins
I have a three compost bin system i.e. three of the dalek type plastic bins which are rotated.

Compost bins

I have one bin with almost ready compost (the nearest, on the right of the photo), emptied twice a year. Once emptied I empty the second bin and fork everything into the newly empty bin. Then I empty the bin with the newest stuff in it (furthest away in the photo) - this is usually quite smelly as new stuff is still being added to it. The contents of this now goes in my middle bin leaving that third bin empty ready for me to start adding new stuff. Notice there's a fair bit of cardboard in front of these bins. This is a) so I can get to them without getting too muddy and b) so I can add it to the working bin as a layer of carbon between grass cutting and kitchen scraps etc. The act of turning the compost (by moving it from one bin to another) aerates it and kick starts the composting process thereby speeding the job up.

Because of the amount of kitchen waste and Bokashi added these three bins attract a lot of worms and I basically have three massive worm bins on my hands. This speeds up the process even more and compost is ready within about 6 months - I empty a bin twice a year and it's generally good quality stuff.

Of course it helps that the woodier cuttings (hedge cuttings, prunings etc) are shredded by the lawn mower before being added to the bin. I also add cardboard from cereal boxes, Amazon parcels etc as well as shredded paper and the odd Bokashi bin contents and the standard grass cuttings from the lawn. I also add urine (I kid you not) as it is high in nitrogen and also helps speed the composting process up. However, it's well worth taking note of the following a few weeks before you're due to empty the bins...

I'm hoping to start a new vegetable patch this year (see this recent post for details) and intend to start a more traditional compost heap/pile where I will be making use of plenty of fresh horse manure and straw to get it nice and hot. This will be the more traditional form of composting and will get so hot that the worms will keep well away for a few months - they will start their work once it has started to cool down in the centre.


Bokashi bins

I also have a Bokashi system (again bought from Wiggly Wigglers) as it is a real fast way of composting and is used when the worm bin can take no more. Generally I make sure there's only a couple of inches of uneaten food in the top layer of the wormery otherwise it starts to putrefy - a wormery working well smells only of freshly dug earth rather than rotting food.

Working Bokashi bin

Bokashi can also take cooked foods such as meat and food scrapings - all the stuff they advise against in a wormery or compost heap for fear of attracting vermin. The food is added to the Bokashi bin in layers, pressed down to get rid of air pockets and then sprinkled with bran that has been treated with EM (Effective Micro organisms). The lid is then tightly put back until the next batch of tea bags, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings and left over food stuffs is ready to be added.

Once full the bin is left sealed for about a fortnight and the contents, once ready, look like they have been pickled. However, bury it in your borders and it will have rotted down within a few weeks. I often add it to my wormery as it speeds up the worms and gets them munching quicker, turning it into more usable compost quicker. It also speeds up the compost bins as well. But mainly, it is in your kitchen so it saves you traipsing around on a cold winters night in the rain going to the wormery or compost bins!

Both wormeries and Bokashi bins produce liquid that can be watered down and used as plant food both for vegetables and house plants, saving you a fortune on often inorganic fertilizer full of all sorts. I used "worm tea" on my tomatoes last year and had the best crop ever and they tasted great (very sweet). It's great knowing you can produce totally organic food that tastes so good. In fact my son loves the cherry tomatoes we produce so much we bribe him with them to make him finish his main course! :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Where the bloody hell is Winter?

"Winter" 2008 has to be the most prolonged bout of Autumn ever: We've had so much rain here in the UK that you'd swear it was actually Summer, except it's cold and it goes dark earlier.

Yesterday, 28 January 2008, the rain and wind stopped leaving a beautiful 'Spring is just around the corner' type of day backed up by the sounds of the birds in full song - you know it's nearly Spring when the birds start singing naughties to each other.

The grass had grown so much with the recent mild weather that I had to mow it (though I just topped it really). This is by far the earliest I can remember mowing and I also managed a good deal of gardening; clearing up dead stems from last years bedding, tidying up leaves and digging the borders (being careful to avoid the almost in flower Daffodils and very much in flower Crocuses). So now, when everything comes out properly they should look stunning rather than a few dots of colour set amongst an unkempt mess like last year.

Typically though, I arrive home from work this evening, get out of the car while smugly admiring my beautifully kept garden only to hear that Winter is about to descend! Temperatures are going to plummet and we'll likely have snow by the weekend. Let's hope that singing naughties is as far as the little birds got and they put their nest building on hold for a while. I hate the years where everything gets into the full swing of Spring only to be killed off by Winter having one last tantrum.

I also visited a plot of land that my Dad used to use as a vegetable patch: He has said "we" are going to get it sorted this year, and as I need somewhere to grow my beans (a few pots worth last year were lovely but not nearly enough) I have said I'll help him.

Vegetable patch? Vegetable patch? Vegetable patch? Vegetable patch?

As you can see by the pictures there's a fair bit of work to do! I reckon if it wasn't winter and that lot was in full leaf you'd be wondering if there was a sleeping Princess trapped in a castle somewhere amongst it!

So I'm currently reading up on my previously not even glanced at books on allotments and vegetable gardening trying desperately not to think about the brambles under my finger nails and back breaking digging that's required to get the plot something like.

I know I'll love it once I get started though :)