Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's worse than vacation pictures?

How about bad compost-ana shots? No, I don't mean failed compost--just bad photos. Since it seems I can't keep even a really good camera alive for more than two years, nor take a single good photo in that time, I went with the cheapest little keyfob camera I could find.

Hey, if I can't see Repulsive through the tiny little coke-glass viewfinder, maybe I won't wince. As much.

This is what my tower-made vermicompost typically looks like. Unfiltered, not wet, solid enough to cake but not heavy. No worms, as they've moved up to the next planter, but though I never see any cocoons, they must be there, since baby worms hatch in the bags if I package this stuff up.

This is vermi-mud. Those folks who water their wormeries are probably familiar with this; in my case, it's the result of heavy fall rains backing up a reservoir and then some. It's been drained and drying for nearly a week now...

This is what the BSFL folks have started to call "grub pudding." I tried to get a picture that shows the little craters and all the tiny grubs still sluggishly moving, but if I didn't succeed, I don't think I'll mourn long. That blur in the lower left corner is a grub squirming toward me! Yecch. (-G-)

Grub pudding may look a lot like soggy vermicompost, but they are not the same.

The pictured pudding is finished--the grubs still present will die if I don't do anything, as there isn't sufficient nourishment remaining for them to mature, and it's too warm and too wet in that container for them to go dormant. The grubs can't process this material any further. But that isn't to say this is a finished compost.

A general-purpose dictionary might; but in a gardener's lexicon, compost is safe to use in nearly all situations and beneficial ditto. Oh, there are exceptions, plants that need to be starved and so on, but say compost to the average gardener and the matching concept is of a homogeneous, stable, variably textured but typically humus-like material rich in plant-accessible nutrients, that can be applied as top- or side-dressing, used as mulch or mixed into the soil, with no safety concerns and few contraindications.

Grub pudding is not stable; adding it to plantings will usually result in nutrient sequestration, seldom (if ever!) a desired outcome. Nor is it likely to improve soil tilth, another of compost's benefits. Grub poo is too fine to hold air, though water it can do. Then there's the nourishment concern; ignoring the sequestration issue, there are some plant-accessible nutrients, but how many and of what sort can be difficult to determine. In large part, it depends on what you fed the grubs; also, on what non-food techniques you employ. And as if that's not discouraging enough, there may be undesirable bacteria in finished grub pudding, also depending on what you fed the grubs, and how large the colony*.

Speaking of feeding. This is worm-food waiting to be fed. UCG from a coffeeshop, dried leaves from a chem-free neighbor, and AIM. Poor photo even in context, I know, but the leaves are pale thanks to mycelial bloom, beginning to break down.

This is a bokashi bag that should have been planted about a month ago. Don't know how much you can tell from this picture, but the bag is still identifiably a bag, while the materials within are well on their way to homogeneous etc. And, unlike grub pudding, nutrient sequestration doesn't seem to be an issue--I'm guessing the bokashi juice supplies nourishment to the plant for that first span.

And finally, a recipe I'm going to have to try again: one part each bokashi, dried leaves, and coco coir, fed to worms. This isn't a finished vermicast product, but a lightweight potting mix with a lively microbial profile and incredible results in my just-barely-started seedling mix tests. Not quite ready to use, as there are still identifiable bits, but that's my determining factor. Takes about a month, comparable to hot-composting, but with at least some of the benefits of vermicompost, and not so rich it can't be used straight (which finished vermicompost cannot be, as a seeding medium). This batch looks about a week away from harvest-time.

And I just couldn't resist the image with one Verne-bit too stubborn to leave. Sun had largely set, anyway, so not much light to bother him, and I don't think worms are photo-phobic in the other sense.

There really was a reason for this post, but I forget. Maybe I need a vacation...


*I don't worry about undesirable microbes, since Repulsive receives generous doses of EM. Nor is that additional processing a problem. These days, my grubbery is the top of a tower, with a wormery planter just beneath; all I have to do is harvest now and then. It's not perfect--fewer adult BSF find the unit than are necessary for a really vigorous population. if the goal is just to dispose of food, it works, but I have an experiment I've been planning for winter, and I may resort to bait bags once before the weather turns, to ensure a large enough colony.

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