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Worms Vs The Daleks Update 2 weeks later

Otherwise known as Yes! We Have No Bananas.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

Two weeks ago we started with two banana skins of similar age, size and weight with the aim of seeing how two different composting systems compare: The typical garden composting ”Dalek” bin, and the worm bin.

For most of this week the temperature in the Dalek held at 40 degree C, but as you can see this dipped towards the end of the week to 33 degree C:

Termometer showing 33 degree C

Termometer showing 33 degree C

This means for most of the two weeks this experiment has been running, the Dalek held, and was breaking down the banana skin, at a very respectable 40 degree C and is only now starting to cool off a little.

The temperature in the worm bin has held a consistent 14 degree C all week.

So what have we got this week? Well, the banana skin at the top is from the Dalek, the skin at the bottom is from the worm bin.

Tray showing banana skin from the Dalek

Tray showing banana skin from the Dalek

Huh? You can’t see the skin at the bottom? Click on the pic to enlarge. Still can’t see it?

That’s because it’s not there!!!

That’s right, the worms have completely consumed the banana skin. So despite being somewhat distracted earlier on with the unauthorised addition of a juicy apple into the worm bin, they’ve not only eaten all of the apple but went back to finish off the banana! Leaving behind a nice little pile of vermicompost ready for use 🙂

Banana skin with vermicompost

Banana skin with vermicompost

So there we have it.

In the intergalactic war on turning food waste into compost the Daleks are a formidable contender but they’re no match for the humble worm 🙂

Two weeks to go from fresh banana skin to usable top quality vermicompost.

What’s not to like about worms 🙂

The remaining skin will go back into the compost Dalek and will in time break down completely with the help of all those microbes and compost bin critters to form fantastic quality compost which I’ll add to the veg plot.

While you could never call this a ”scientific” experiment, I hope you found it interesting to see how the two systems compared in this instance.

Let me know below if you have any thoughts, questions or comments.

Londonworms
(with pictures by Sorcha)

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Worms Vs The Daleks Update 1 week later

So, as promised here’s the first of the weekly updates in this experiment.
To recap, here’s what we started out with:

Banana skins ready for the bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

The skin on the left as you’re looking at the picture – the one at the top – went into the Dalek compost bin, which was showing a reasonable 40 degree C temperature, and as you can see from below, it has held that temperature all week:

The temperature in the Dalek held a respectable 40 degree C all week

The temperature in the Dalek held a respectable 40 degree C all week

The temperature in the worm bin at the start of the experiment was 15 degree C and it fluctuated slightly between 14 and 18 degree C during the week.

Here’s what the banana skins look like one week later:

Here's the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Here’s the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

Here's the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Here’s the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

There’s been a dramatic reduction in volume in both skins, but the one that went into the Dalek is definately ahead at this stage!

However!!!

There has been an adverse incident which I suspect has affected the outcome at this early stage…. someone put some green leaf leftover and a badly bruised apple into the experimental worm bin during the week by mistake, instead of into the precomposting bucket I keep for these household leftovers.

Well, the worms were all over it like, well, like worms all over an apple!!!

They appear to have all but abandoned the banana skin in favour of the apple – who knew worms had favourite foods and could be as fussy as a three year old with a plate of broccoli???!!!???

Just take a look at this short video to see what I mean!

As you can see, the worms abandoned the middle of the bin where the banana skin was and made their way over to the edge of the bin where the apple was hiding!

So at this stage, the Dalek is in the lead – but we’ll see if that’s still the case a week from now.

My money is still on the worms 🙂

Londonworms
(Photography and video by Sorcha)

Send your worms and plants to work on an egg!

Those of us of a certain age *cough* will remember the Go to work on an Egg ads run by the British Egg Marketing Board.

Eggs are a natural source of protein, vitimins and minerals and can be a useful element of any healthy, balanced diet.

What these ads didn’t tell us though, was what to do with all those egg shells we generated, after we’d eaten our egg and gone to work.

One answer would be to put them to work too.

Egg shells are rich in calcium carbonate but also contain zinc, sodium, potassium, manganese, iron and copper. We all know humans and animals need calcium for healthy growth, but how many stop to think that plants also need calcium?

Plants need calcium for healthy bones and teeth….



…(just checking you were paying attention!).

No, plants use calcium for healthy cell development and growth. The stronger the cell, specifically the cell wall, the better the plant is able to resist disease. But it gets better! Calcium plays many other roles in the life of a healthy plant, including regulating the uptake and movement of nutrients into the root and throughout the cells within the plant. Who knew?

So let’s recap – egg shells are in the region of 95% calcium carbonate and have many other useful elements; plants need calcium – so we have no excuse to ever throw away an egg shell again, where it could end up in an anerobic stench trench in landfill.

What do we do from now on? We compost them or feed them to the worms, that’s what we do. And here’s how:

Feeding your egg shells to worms

Egg shells perform two functions, apart from being a source of calcium, in the worm bin. They help reduce acidity, something worms don’t like, since calcium carbonate is an alkaline, and finely crushed, the worms love them, since they ingest them and use them in their gizzard to crush food.

On a hot sunny day (yeah, right!) spread out your egg shells and let the sun dry them.

Using the sun to dry the egg shells

Using the sun to dry the egg shells

In the absense of any sun you can also just let them air dry on a towel, or bung them in the oven for 20 minutes at 60 degree C, but I’d personally only bother doing that if I was going to use the ground egg shells as a source of calcium for myself.

Crush by hand and drop them into the coffee grinder. Depending on your domestic situation you may have no problem doing this, or you many want to a) do this secretly when nobody’s in the house or b) get a cheap grinder for the purpose if you’re going to be doing this a lot. Freegle and Freecycle are great places to look for secondhand, free items people are giving away and it helps keep perfectly good items out of landfill.

Weird coffee beans??!!

Weird coffee beans??!!

My worms just love well ground egg shells so I tend to grind mine quite fine. If you want yours a bit more coarse just give the grinder a shorter burst.

Egg shells well ground up

Egg shells well ground up

Well ground up like this, sprinkle a ”pinch”, just a small amount to your worm bin, each time you feed or they can be sprinkled around your plants or added to the base of the pots for the roots as you plant out.

These shells were ground quite fine

These shells were ground quite fine

Find a couple of big jars and reuse them to store your excess calcium carbonate.

Jar of egg shell calcium treats for worms and plants

Jar of egg shell calcium treats for worms and plants

If you haven’t a grinder or don’t want to use one, no problem. Just put the shells into a bag and roll a rolling pin over them several times. Or bash them a couple of times with whatever’s to hand!

Feeding your egg shells to the compost pile

  • Wash the egg shells
  • Crush with hand
  • Drop them into your compost pile and mix in well

That’s it!

The egg shells will break down slowly over time. Don’t be surprised then to find some in the compost as you’re using it. This isn’t a problem and will add a valuable source of slow release calcium to your soil.

Londonworms
(photography by Sorcha)

Worms Vs The Daleks!!!

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a council supplied and heavily subsidised Dalek compost bin is an excellent little back yard composter.***

But is it as efficient and effective at composting as a worm bin?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Earlier today, I took two standard sized bananas:

The one on the left is for the Dalek - the one on the right for the worm bin

The one on the left is for the Dalek – the one on the right for the worm bin

And after eating the contents:

...and they were yummy

…and they were yummy

Proceeded to add one of the skins to the Dalek:

The hungry compost Dalek with additional air vent covered with a piece of old nylon

The hungry compost Dalek with additional air vent covered with a piece of old nylon

Which was showing a respectable 40 Degree C:

40 Degree C at the centre of the Dalek

40 Degree C at the centre of the Dalek

This skin was placed at the centre of the bin where it's hottest.

This skin was placed at the centre of the bin where it’s hottest.

And added the other banana skin to one of my home made Two Minute £5 worm bins:

Two minute £5 worm bin

Two minute £5 worm bin

Which was showing a comfortable (for the worms!) temperature of 15 Degree C: It looks like it’s reading 17 degree C but that’s due to the angle the photo was taken at.

Nice and snug for the worms

Nice and snug for the worms

I buried the banana skin about 12cm down in the bin:

Worm bin with banana skin added

Worm bin with banana skin added

And now we watch and wait!

I placed these banana skins in situ on a lovely sunny day on the 6th June 2013.

I’ll take a photograph of each skin every week and publish it here, documenting the progress of each bin – until a clear winner emerges.

Release the Microbes and let the games begin!!!!!!!

Londonworms
(with thank’s once again to the superdooper photographer Sorcha for her patience and skill in taking such great pics)

*** I received a Blackwall 220 litre composter from this company some years ago for the sum of … wait for it …. four, yes that’s four, of your finest British pounds!!! Four quid – can you Adam N’ Eve it!!!!
£4 because they are hooked up with my local council and provide heavily subsidised composters to residents of the borough.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, in any way, shape or form associated with this company nor do I know anybody who is. I am highlighting them here because of my experience with them which is very positive.

If you haven’t got the space, time or inclination to make a compost bin of your own – which I am all in favour of and would prefer – using recycled materials – then at least go to their website and simply enter your postcode and  find out if they’re partnering with your local council and grab yourself a bargin. With a price like that, you really have no excuse not to be doing some back yard composting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!