In 2008, Little St. Simons Island’s garden received organic certification from the USDA. Since then, the island’s vermicomposting and 3-bin composting systems have worked overtime to generate the rich “black gold”/compost that has resulted in a fertile garden delivering fresh vegetables and herbs served to the island’s guests. Amy Shuster, Little St. Simons Island’s gardener, and the island’s team of naturalists invite guests into the garden to learn how easy (and stench-free!) it truly is to incorporate composting into the everyday home.
The cool temperatures, particularly the milder late fall, winter and early spring temperatures in the American south, pave the way to perfect conditions for active composting systems. Calcium deposits from Red wiggler worms contribute to the rich soil produced through vermicomposting and are deposited at optimum pace during the cooler months. The cooler temperatures result in increased rates of reproduction; therefore, food is broken down more quickly and efficiently with additional worms who are responsible for eating the microorganisms that break down the food. Food waste is a major component in landfills and releases detrimental methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The EPA reports that Americans throw away 98 billion pounds of food waste each year which equals more than 25% of the food we prepare! For example, a family of four generates on average one pound of kitchen scraps each day.
These simple steps to creating an at-home vermicomposting system will turn kitchen scraps into rich “black gold,” not only giving the disposal a break, but also reducing greenhouse gases all while creating fertile soil, the foundation for a successful garden!
1. Select a worm bin. A popular plastic vermicomposting unit is Can O’Worms which can be found at several online retailers. Benefits of this system include the enclosed tiered system (which greatly helps to reduce odors) and a tray at the bottom of the unit designed to trap the highly sought after “vermicompost tea.” This unit features three trays in which the worms work through the trays processing waste and depositing their castings on the lower level. If you’d like to make a system at home with materials in hand, a ventilated plastic bin (such as a recycling bin) works well. Guard ventilation holes with netting to prevent worms from escaping.
2. Purchase red wigglers or red worms which are packed in peat and can be ordered from various online sites.
3. Gather your bedding materials. Cardboard, torn into small pieces, and shredded newspaper are ideal materials. Avoid glossy paper from newspaper inserts, magazines, coated cardboard and shredded office paper as these may contain toxins harmful to the worms.
4. Moisten bedding materials with dechlorinated water (to dechlorinate: allow jugs of water from the faucet to sit out in the open for 1-2 days). Slowly add water to bedding materials until materials become damp, simulating the feel of a wrung-out sponge. If possible, add garden soil to your bedding materials at this stage. The worms will benefit from the gritty texture and the microorganisms introduced by the soil will expedite the breaking down of scraps.
5. Place bedding in bin and add worms. Allow bin to be exposed to light during the first hour to encourage worms to burrow into soil as they escape the light. Cover bin and set aside for 2-3 days before adding scraps, allowing the worms to nestle into their new home. When kept happy, worms can turn kitchen waste to rich compost in 1-2 months.
6. Store bin in a cool and convenient location, ideally between 55-80 degrees F.
7. Spread scraps around bottom tray, cover with bedding materials and allow the worms to work! Ideal scraps include raw vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit, and cereal.
Little St. Simons Island Background
Virtually untouched for centuries, Little St. Simons Island is a barrier island off Georgia’s coast that features seven miles of pristine beaches, cottages for just 32 overnight guests, ancient maritime forests, tidal creeks and shimmering marshes. The island offers a rare combination of complete privacy in an unspoiled wilderness with the genuine Southern hospitality of the island’s attentive and knowledgeable staff. Accessible only by boat, Little St. Simons Island retains that charm and unhurried pace of coastal living where time is measured only by the rise and fall of the tides. – http://www.littlestsimonsisland.com