Thursday, May 26, 2011

Got K-Cups?

[sorry for the formatting—I'm having blogger issues again. Image from espressoplanet, no connection though I lost some time browsing their offerings.]

Single-serve = more packaging. I know. And K-cups are ridiculously easy to throw away, all neatly packed even after use, while being nearly impossible to dispose of responsibly.

If only they didn't make such good coffee! -G-

So the workplace now has a Keurig. It also has two Solofill reusable filter-cups, but I'm the only one who'll use those; everyone else uses the packaged cups. Before I started agitating for folks to toss their K's into the compost collector [“my worms are hungry! Please feed them your tea bags, fruit peels, etc.”], I figured I'd better make sure the foil-topped plastic cups with coffee and filter inside were, in fact, bucketable.

Turns out...they're not suitable for a standard bokashi bucket. (As a general note to myself for future experiments: Impermeable additions mess with bucket health. Treat separately if at all.) Nor all that desirable for my bucket-alternatives. Even leaving the chemical concerns out of it, plastic in a slow compost pile is never recommended; it will break down into smaller pieces, but not truly degrade. The worms don't appreciate foil, though it isn't enough to make them flee from an otherwise suitable planter, but it takes a surprisingly long while for any worm to get brave enough to wriggle into a cup, and in the meantime, other critters may decide to colonize. Bad enough having to remove slightly degraded plastic cups from your vermicompost, but a cup full of centipedes? Eek! Repulsive doesn't mind them if the foil's torn a bit, and cohabitation's far less of a concern there, but small cups can hold waer, which could stagnate, and then there's the mucky mostly-intact plastic to fish out of the grubbery. Ick. And Ugh.

If you take the foil off the top, the worms are happier, though the other concerns still apply. Sigh. I scrounged a covered tray that would fit half a dozen or so unlidded used K-cups; spritzed EM/AEM/AIM on the UCG and let it ferment for BSF bait or “breath freshener” or compost boosters—nice fermentation, but in order to use the stuff, you still have to separate the organics from the plastic. Let me just say, it's a pain: the filter's glued into place. I resorted to kitchen shears.

And gave up on trying to salvage the organics from them in any organized sense. Hey, I divert my own UCG, isn't that good enough?

...which argument would sit less uneasily on my tongue if not for the fact that the workplace Keurig is actually my personal property, installed there for office use because I could.


Monday, May 2, 2011

...and the results are in!

Sorry for the lack of posting lately—oddly for me, I haven't had much to say! -G- Since I was low on pot-fillers and plant-foods, I went back to the processes I knew would work and shelved (most of) the experiments awhile, and “Day fourteen: bucket ready for stage two” doesn't make for interesting posts.

But it occurred to me as I was picking lavender for a fruit salad that I had written something about that plant's rooting medium soon after its potting, with no followup. So...

This is one of the plantings where I used bokashi and shredded office paper, with no additional microbial source and an extra-long curing period during cooler weather. I tossed some exhausted dirt in the bottom of the container, filled it most of the way with the paper-bokashi mix, then dug a small nest into the paper and filled that with decent potting soil, into which I planted a typical four-inch nursery start. About an inch of soil to top. No olla pot in this planter, mostly because I didn't have one ready but also because I wasn't sure the paper would hold one stable. (A later test confirmed that assumption, though it is possible to use the side of the planter as a partial support.)

Call this a very slightly qualified success I cannot currently replicate. It's a little messier than I prefer my container gardening, especially without crockery in the bottom of the planter—a step I gave up on for good when I realized that it might prevent worms from colonizing my plantings. But the muddy deposits around the base of the planter are attractive to wandering worms, many of whom then find their way into the planter, and a larger-than-normal drip tray will retain that nutrient-rich material until it can be tossed back on top or harvested for another planting.

As well as the mess, this method looks like it might require a mid-season addition of potting mix. This isn't an insurmountable problem, but I prefer to avoid mucking about with roots between repottings. The bokashi and paper seem to be decomposing both faster and more completely than I'd anticipated, and there isn't enough soil in the planter to support the plant alone. Next time, I'll add a bit of sand or some other non-nutritive material. Natural fabrics, maybe; they decompose more slowly than paper, and plants root well in them.

Now for the good parts:

No root-burn! Most of the bokashi mixes have to be cured after mixing with potting media, which is fine for more organized gardeners but a trial for me; this material was close enough to neutral pH to be safe for immediate use, and while there was likely a bit of heating, it wasn't enough to register on my low-tech tests, no more an issue than Texas sunlight if the planter was watered adequately for the plant. (A second test suggests that you really don't want to let it dry out even halfway within the first week, though I found no troubles thereafter. I'd try it again, but I'm out of “hoarded” bokashi. For now.)

No long-term odor. There was a faint but present unpleasantness upon emptying the hoarded bokashi, as there often is when emptying a bokashi bucket left to sit awhile—which is why I always do that outside—but it wasn't noticeable an hour after the planting was finished. A soil cover or some other barrier is definitely necessary lest the material attract pests, but with that one small remediation, this seems like it could be used in any outdoor setting.

No additional fertilizer needed. Bokashi's a nice sub-surface slow-release plant food; 'nuff said.

No trash. Convert kitchen waste and junk mail into produce? Sounds great to me. And this method used only “trash” and an EM source, plus a small quantity of soil for the potting, most of that re-used. Cheap and responsible, my favorite kind of technique.

The lavender was one of two plants I potted in this mix, the other being a blood-veined sorrel that's quite stunted in appearance just now. A casual observer might decide it was was overnourished and therefore feels no need to grow—look closely and you'd see signs of my too-frequent harvesting. What can I say? I grow things so I can eat them.

The garden plan having been scuttled by last fall's too-dramatic events, I joined a CSA this year to augment my produce production. Vegetables are packed in shredded paper for transport, so I thought I'd try the same slow-cure method...but it turns out that doesn't work in warmer weather here. No bokashi hoarding in Texas heat!

Maybe in an air-conditioned office?

Definitely worth further trials.

--Until the next,


[image source:]