Christophe's Compost Corner: Weekly Update June 23
• This week we added discarded fruit to the outdoor and indoor worm beds. The outdoor beds are used for compost production. The indoor beds are used for compost production and breeding.
• The discarded fruit was first shredded and kept in the sun for 4 days in the presence of added water before being applied to the beds. The idea is to start the decomposition of the organic material so that the microbes inside the gut of the worms and outside in the casts can work “faster” or more efficiently. As discussed in last week’s blog, decomposition of organic materials in a vermicompost bed is an interaction between the worm’s (Eisenia fetida) enzymes and mucus secreted by the digestive system, enzymes secreted by the gut microbes and enzymes secreted by the surrounding microbes in the compost (and soil). We call this process pre-composting. In addition, we make sure that the pre-compost is at ambient temperatures in order not to harm the worms.
• More fruit residue will be added to the two new beds as needed. The indoor and outdoor beds are monitored daily to see how fast the added material disappears and how fast the horse bedding turns into a humus-like material. Under ideal conditions, worms can process material at 30-40% of their weight in 2-4 days.
• We hope to apply in the next few days the vermicompost that has already been “trommelized” (sifted to remove the worms from the castings or vermicompost) to a few “problematic” peach trees in a orchard block that was planted two years ago.
• Early in the spring, new plum trees were placed into planting holes that were “pre-conditioned” with worms and vermicompost. We described this experiment in an earlier blog but the results of this experiment will only be evaluated later this year or next year at the earliest
• Last spring sour clover (Melilotus indica) was planted in a test area at Frog Hollow Farm. Melilotus is a cover crop that fixes nitrogen and is considered as a green manure. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it might deter gophers. One of the “older” plants has produced a lot of seeds and they have been harvested. These seeds will be planted and we will see if we can increase the yield of this cover crop. A lot of the “younger” plants are flowering which is a good sign. Melilotus was used as a cover crop extensively in Southern California until the 1950’s, until it was replaced with bare chemical fallow.
• Climate change is no laughing matter-but maybe it should be. “Stand-up economist” Yoram Bauman have produced a cartoon book on climate change that is informative and entertaining for adults and kids. Based on this book, we will learn next week why a compost pile behaves like climate change. Speaking of climate change, there are a lot of microbes locked up in permafrost, peats and bogs. Scientists theorize that if temperatures rise to fast, the permafrost, peats and bogs might be so destabilized that billions of tons of green house gases and runaway heat will be released all of a sudden in the atmosphere. This will create a compost bomb on a global scale. Two years ago peatland fires near Moscow may have originated in this fashion.
Author: Christophe Kreis MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada. Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.