Easing the Earth — WORMS, COMPOSTING, DIGESTING & YOU 

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This past week I had the extreme honor of meeting WORM QUEEN, Rhonda Sherman. It was one of those exciting moments when my skin crawled, well actually sparked, with excitement about the passion this WORM QUEEN RHONDA has about composting and vermicomposting.

Rhonda really is the Queen of Composting. As an Extension Specialist in North Carolina State University’s Horticultural Science Department, as well as a Wake County Master Gardener, she has the credentials to support her title.

She led a group of us new Master Gardener Trainees to her test patch of composters. From rollers to bins to cans, in plastics and wires and woods, they stood in the open environment of the NCSU educational farm. Some had fallen apart unable to bear the climate, some had attracted rodents, some were hard to manage, others were expensive. There were two composters that stood out as winners: FreeGardenTM Earth and The Earth MachineTM  See Wake County’s special offer below —  ONLY $50.00 through October 31st.

Want to compost but your life limits it right now? You can call CompostNow a local home service that for a small fee will collect your compostable materials and then return compost to you! For every 2 pounds of material you send in you get 1 pound of compost back when you need it.“If it grows it goes,” they say. So even bones, meat, dairy, pizza boxes. www.compostnow.org. Call them at  919.526.0403.

Composting in your own backyard is for organic materials but NOT meat, bones, and some other materials that CompostNow will reclaim.

HOWEVER ONE UNIT for homeowners at Rhonda’s test site, COULD ACCEPT ANYTHING FROM YOUR KITCHEN and even pet feces – the Green Cone http://www.greenconeusa.com. It is just like its name —  a green cone. It has a basket that is buried beneath the ground. It can take anything organic. I spoke with Karl Varkomski, one of the owners of Green Cone, a local NC company, and he said it is a “digester.” All YOU do is dig a big hole for the catchment basket which stays underground; throw your wastes in at the top, lock it and leave it. It requires a sunny well-drained location. Solar energy and microbes break down the contents. Green Cone is available through www.tarrivertradingpost.com.

Throughout October, Wake County residents can pre-order a backyard compost bin at 50% below retail cost–just $50! Each purchaser will receive notification to pick up their bin in November. The bin is The Earth Machine, which has a twist-locking, pest resistant lid. It is 33-inches high and 33-inches wide, and has a capacity of 80-gallons. It comes with a 20-page Home Composting Handbook. To order a bin, go to http://www.wakegov.com/recycling/recycle/Pages/Online-Compost-Bin-Sales.aspx If you have questions, contact Sara Davarbakhsh at 919-856-7412 or sara.davarbakhsh@wakegov.com

Queen Rhonda took us to her Worm Barn, a big garage with plastic bins. In the center is a motorized continuous flow worm bin for commercial vermicomposting. There was no smell. People from around the world – thousands of them, come to learn from Rhonda.

“Watch out for spiders,” she guided. Spiders? I thought about that song, “The worms crawl in. The worms crawl…” You know, that song.

Moving to a classroom, she taught us more. Composting relies on microorganisms to convert organic materials to a soil amendment and vermicomposting adds worms to the equation. The resulting crumbly dark matter (compost) benefits our gardens and our planet Earth.

Queen Rhonda’s website www.worms.ncsu.edu is fact full and fascinating. “Up to 75 percent of what is discarded by North Carolina’s communities and businesses are organic materials. Instead of disposing of food scraps, yard wastes, and other organics, the materials can be vermicomposted.  This method of recycling converts organic materials that have traditionally been viewed as waste into a valuable soil amendment for plants and crops. When vermicompost is added to soil, it boosts the nutrients available to plants and enhances soil structure and drainage. Vermicompost has also been shown to increase plant growth and suppress plant disease and insect pest attacks.”

FOOD WASTE IS THE NUMBER ONE PRODUCER OF METHANE IN LANDFILLS.

Forty percent of food in the United States is never eaten, amounting to $165 billion a year in waste, taking a toll on the country’s water resources and significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Food waste in particular generates a significant amount of the greenhouse gas methane when it’s buried in landfills, but not so when composted. U.S. cities and counties that offer composting prevent otherwise trash-bound food scraps from decomposing in landfills and generating methane — and they get a significant carbon credit as a result.

http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/12/16/composting-food-waste-remains-your-best-option-says-uw-study/

Recycling has come a long way. Most major cities offer curbside or convenient recycling of glass, plastics, papers. Sorting and recycling are usually suggestions that are not strictly enforced. However, SOME CITIES REQUIRE COMPOSTING.

Seattle Municipal Code sections 21.36.082 and 21.36.083 require that residents and businesses do not put food scraps, compostable paper, yard waste, and recyclables in their garbage.

EASY for you to make a difference.

Now, that I have your attention with EASY, let’s continue with Why Compost or Vermicompost or Digest? If you’re a gardener, compost reduces soil compaction; increases infiltration, increases water holding capacity, reduces erosion, holds nutrients, reduces chemicals needed, reduces diseases. For Earth, composting reduces organic materials that usually end up in the landfill, are buried under the earth in anaerobic conditions and create methane. The Green Cone, solar digester, is brainless, meant for me! You can throw your scraps in it just as easily as down your water-system disaster garbage disposer or into your garbage can.

Worms? Well all they need is a dark bin, moisture, oxygen, bedding, food, and a little love. The type of worms to use are Eisenia fetida, which is VERY important because they like living in a bin, are tolerant of 32-95 degrees Fahrenheit, and they are non invasive to the natural environment. A few interesting worm droppings – they are hermaphroditic but require two worms to make love. They will die if in light for more than an hour; they must remain moist; they are cold blooded and breathe through their skin; they eat 25-35% of their body weight each day.

Queen Rhonda wrapped up her lecture with a picture of a beautiful Lily P style laundry room with a little curtained doorway. There was a lime green bin on wheels with an artsy worm fork, a tool to gently aerate the creatures. A lover of worms had made a private nook just for her worms.

There’s nothing secret about Queen Rhonda’ s love of worms. Check out her site at http://composting.ces.ncsu.edu/

She shared a few other resources:

Worms Can Recycle Your Garbage (factsheet on how to set up and maintain a worm bin): https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/worms-can-recycle-your-garbage

Backyard Composting of Yard, Garden, and Food Discards: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/backyard-composting-of-yard-garden-and-food-discards

Even MORE info at: 

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/2-composting 

&

http://www.ncstategardening.org/extension_master_gardener/index.php

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