Sunday, October 31, 2010

After the bucket: Good bug, bag bug?

Even on Hallowe'en, I'm not inclined to frighten anyone too badly, so no appropriate insect photo today. Besides, I like Dr. Seuss!

This fall season, I’ve been busy with non-gardening things—hence the dearth of posts—but the garden’s been ticking along with minimal care, as it’s designed to do. Bokashi is still the right solution for my situation, in large part because it, too, needs only occasional attention: If you’re not adding new organics, the household bucket can stay closed up and ignored for a couple of weeks (always assuming a deep enough reservoir or sufficient absorbent material). And as an added benefit, forgetting to take out the trash before you leave on a business trip no longer results in a stinky welcome home. -G-

Likewise, my post-bucket techniques are fairly hands-off, except for the small-batch hot compost, and that will simply convert to a slower process if you forget the hands-on part. But this week, I had a ton of garden work to do, to get ready for the advent of relatively cold weather. So I checked on some of my post-bucket setups--

--and wasn’t really surprised, though I was disappointed, to discover that only the one with the critters in it was ready. My tolerance for outdoor macro-digesters just isn’t all that high, though it’s far greater than for the indoor [zero] level. Some things, I cannot abide at all. Others I can reluctantly allow to live so long as they don’t directly bother me. Still others have me crying for the Flit!

Verne the composting worm is always welcome. (Hey, I shelled out good money for him. Several generations ago.) His cousin Clem, better known as the Indian Blue worm, is also welcome whenever he chooses to appear, though if he wanders off again, that’s okay, too; I know he’ll be back when there’s food to tempt him. George the earthworm is ever a surprise, but hardly an unwelcome one; I’ve read that earthworms don’t do well in compost bins, but apparently he’s as illiterate the rest, happily breeding in the mismatched yard waste compost cans and hatching out wherever that compost is applied.

It’s the other detritus-clearers that I have issues with. Sowbugs and so on may eat seeds and sometimes sprouts, so if they’re in the compost, I have to solarize or dry it before use. [This may not be as much of a concern for non-container gardeners, but that does me no good!] BSFL eat large quantities of the organic matter, which results in lesser volumes of finished compost for me to use. And piles of woody matter, even contained piles, attract insects the typical urban dweller really doesn’t want to see:


Also ants, mites, springtails, etc. But, really, compared to those skittering things, do the rest seem so bad? Even Repulsive might be less disturbing than roaches…


My untowered vermidirt experiment worked just about like I’d expected it to: though I added no worms to my material, worms were present, as were BSFL, sowbugs, woodlice, and geckos with their spots stretched out from weight gain -G-. The very top layer beneath the weight was still visibly uncomposted; beneath that, an upper layer finished enough to use as mulch, and some eggshells and twigs remaining even in the lower, completed layer. Also a couple of snails clinging to the side next to the weight (not a waterproof cover, just something to keep the possums and coons out), two or three earwigs, and as many of those nasty six-legged things it pains me even to think about or type.

Oddly, one of the outdoor roach species doesn’t disturb me at all--I’ve only ever seen it outdoors, it doesn’t look much like the disgusting indoor ones, it’s extremely photophobic, and it’s common where old wood’s undisturbed, so I see it mostly running away from me when I’m cleaning up future garden space. By far the preferred view, but not welcome in a planter! Particularly considering that "away" means either deeper into the material or into another planter nearby (space constraints mean that many of my planters touch).

The other one is worse, so undeniably a cockroach that I’m likely to run screaming, or at least go find something else to do.

But the ten gallon planter with all that disgustingly thriving life held eight gallons of finished compost plus a bit of nutritive mulch, at a time when my plants need compost and mulching. This method can be used in any container and takes advantage of whatever species may be present. All it needs is a layer of soil and a weight on top, a container with solid sides and bottom drainage, and a place to rest out of the way. It can be stacked, but need not be. Placement is equally flexible: sun or shade, on soil or grass or even concrete so long as it’s within a foot or so of life. It’s a slow-compost process with hot-compost speeds, thanks to bokashi. Not as fast as managed hot compost with bokashi, but comparable to the usual figures for hot compost. Less than three months for this split harvest.

Imagine the ad pitch: Any size, any volume, any container, anywhere (outside). Slow-compost ease, hot-compost speed. Sounds great! But the fine print on this one might be too great a barrier for me. Roaches and grubs and earwigs, oh my!?

If it makes the plants happy...maybe. But I think I’m happier with my towers, even if they do take more infrastructure.


No comments: