Composting is an environmentally friendly process to divert food waste from the landfill and recycle it into natural fertilizers and soil amendments. It mimics the natural decomposition process to cut the signficiant greenhouse gas emissions released by rotting food in landfills.
What Exactly is Composting?
Composting is a technique of controlled decomposition of biodegradeable material into compost. Compost essentially is dirt that is especially good as a growing medium for plants. Hot composting, or what we like to call “traditional composting”, is a decomposition process that works by combining “Browns” and “Greens” to feed microorganisms who break down the "Green" and "Brown" biodegradeable material. "Browns" are materials that have a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (C:N) above 30:1 and include such materials as wood products including wood chips, paper, and cardboard, as well as most natural materials that look brown such as dried leaves. Greens are materials that have a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (C:N) below 30:1 and include such materials as food scraps, manure, and fresh grass. Each material has a slightly different C:N ratio so composters aim to balance their inputs so that their compost has a C:N ratio of about 30:1. This is the C:N ratio that these microbes find ideal and allows for the right kind of microbes to decompose the material in a safe and efficient way
What is Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting is another controlled decomposition process that works by using worms to help break down biodegradable material. In this process, worms eat both decomposing material and the microbes that are breaking that material down. After eating and digesting this, these worms then excrete waste, known as worm castings, which is an ultra-high-quality growing medium for plants. Vermicomposting, therefore, is similar to raising livestock, except with worms instead of cows or sheep. Vermicomposters first and foremost, must ensure that their worms live healthy lives. This means that vermicomposters must provide their worms with the right environment (moisture level, temperature, bedding material, pH level, light level etc…) and must feed their worms with the right kind of food as well as the right amount of food, as too little means the worms wont reproduce very much, while too much may compromise the carefully balanced environment in which the worms live as it decomposes.
How Do We Compost at Worm Works?
At Worm Works, we combine the best aspects of both vermicomposting and traditional composting. We start with your food waste (Greens) and combine and mix it with wood chips (Browns) that we source from local arborists. Once per week we “turn” the compost meaning that we give everything a good mix which provides the beneficial microbes that are breaking down the waste with oxygen and access to new material to decompose. This process is repeated for a few weeks. The heat given off as a by-product of the microbes breaking down the food kills all seeds and dangerous pathogens present in the initial material. After being composted for a few weeks, we separate out some of the partially composted material to feed to our worm population while the rest of our traditional compost continues to be composted for a few more weeks.
Once the traditional compost stops producing any heat (indicating that it is no longer breaking down), we let it rest and “mature” for up to a month which converts the compost from potentially toxic to plants (due to many of the bi-products of decomposition) into incredibly rich, healthy, and beneficial finished compost.
We continuously feed our worm population partially-finished compost once per week. Over the course of the week, they break down and turn this partially composted material into worm-castings, a.k.a. vermicompost. When our worm bins are completely full with these worm castings, and there is no more room to add more food for the worms, we then sift out the worms, worm eggs, and any un-decomposed material out of the worm bin and they are placed into a fresh worm bin where we can start the process all over again.
These two processes leave us with rich traditional compost as well as premium worm castings (called black gold in the farming community) that can go into your garden or a local farm to provide not only a ton of important nutrients but also an incredible ecosystem of microbes that support plant growth. Our compost is alive and that's part of what makes plants love it so much!