Most composting systems are fairly passive. Neither yourself nor the system does any work, except for maybe a small army of worms. Some modern composters help Mother Nature along a bit.

For the home user:

Nature Mill kitchen composter

This first unit is literally a kitchen composter. You hide it in a kitchn cupboard and connect it to mains electricity, of which it uses very little. There are three sizes of Nature Mill from an 8 litre per week capacity upto 15 litres. Food waste is put into a hopper along with an equal volume of compressed sawdust pellets. This is the same mixture of green and brown that standard garden compost bins should work to. After some days the waste is turned into compost. All the work is done by the Nature Mill gently moving the waste around to speed up the composting process.

For more information Nature Mill website opens in a new window

 

For commercial use:

Wiggly Ridan

 

The Wiggly Ridan works in a similiar manner but is designed for outside use and is powered by turning a handle. The ridan will handle 200 litres of organic waste each week. This again is an equal mix of food waste and brown materials such as paper, wood chips, leaves or cardboard. After a short while it will create ready to go compost for your garden. This solution is ideal for restaurants with kitchen gardens or for schools. It is estimated that about 80% of the volume is lost in the composting process. This equates in the long term to an average of 40 litres of compost production each week. This may not sound much but think of close to 160 large bags of garden centre compost (125 litre) per year at full capacity.

For more information the Wiggly Wigglers website opens in a new window

 

 

Bokashi bins

 

These splendid devices are bokashi bins, a form of kitchen waste processor. The picture above was taken during the first snowfall of 2012. Bokashi bins can be used as the catch all of kitchen composting. Whilst we cannot put meat, fish, dairy or citrus fruits into a wormery, they will work well in a bokashi bin.

Bokashi is a mixture of effective mico-organisms (EM) or helpful bugs to you and me. These are mixed with molasses, water and a few other ingredients to ferment. This mixture is then combined with bran to produce an almost sawdust type substance. The idea is that the bran would react anaerobically with food waste to kick off a fermenting reaction. Contents of the bin are going to be pickled over a period which then makes them suitable for breaking down elsewhere.

To start with bokashi all you need is the bin, some bokashi bran and an old potato masher. Add your food in about an inch layer, press down with potato masher to remove air and scatter with a handful of bran. If the food has a higher level of protein, eg fish, add a little more bran. Keep going like this when you have more waste to feed the bin. From time to time check the tap at the bottom. This contains a liquid run off which can be used to combat drain smells or is diluted to become a fertilizer. Once the bin is full, leave for two weeks to ferment. After this the contents can be either dug into trenches in the garden or added to the regular compost. Wormeries like small quantities, but the risk of wiggly genocide is on balance, so maybe best to add to the bigger compost bin.

You can pretty much add any food but bones, liquids and packaging should be avoided. Even though bokashi bins have a unique odour they are much preferable to the stench of kitchen bins and wheelie bins full of old food.

 

To use an empty bin all you need is some

 

 

Wormery

Worms are one of the most efficient ways of converting kitchen waste into something you can use in the garden. Worm compost is a very rich source of nutriment for young plants and in it’s liquid form for top dressing the garden in general. The wormery above was bought from our good friend Heather at Wiggly Wigglers and of course Farmer Phil. Basically you start with three trays, a base which holds the liquid sump, a lid, worms and a bedding mix. The worms supplied are chosen as the most suitable for composting rather than others which can be bought for earth working.

The wormery can handle a variety of food waste but is best to go for vegetables, fruit and peelings. Contrary to popular demand, worms do not eat meat, that’s a maggot diet. They are not too keen on dairy produce either, but you can add bread and rice. Citrus fruits should be avoided at all cost as the oils are poisonous to the wormery. In fact you can change the balance of the colony with putting in too much of anything which is acidic or caustic. Too much onion can turn the wormery sloppy and acidic, much like the effect it can have on the human stomach.

To keep this in check, lime can be added to change the acid balance and handfuls of shredded paper. Wormeries are also excellent places to get rid of old egg shells. Simply dry them in the oven and then break them up in a pestle and mortar. Add a handful from time to time.

Harvesting the compost is done from the lowest tray first. Swap this to the top and leave the lid off and the worms should descend into the tray below. The compost collected is perfect for potting and for nourishing containers. One final tip, the worms are not to be encourgaed as a fishing bait by your father in law !!!

 

 

Kitchen composting

 

Every year the UK wastes over 7 million tons of food. What can we do about it? The maxim is “Reduce – Recyle – Reuse”. We can reduce the amount of food we buy by keeping an eye on sell by dates, planning meals and freezing. Some items can be reused as leftovers or as pet food. Reduction was rumoured to be one of the origins of charcuterie and was charged to the garde manger to make what he could of scraps or waste. Once all these options are covered there is either the land fill or recycling left. The good news is that nearly all food can be recycled or broken down naturally in the garden.

The tradition view of composting is the bin or heap in the garden. These are great for receiving garden waste and veg cuttings but after that your other food waste can be used elsewhere. If the compost heap can be thought of as two types of waste, green and brown then it becomes easier to get to grips with making best use. Green waste is quick decomposing and often becomes mushy. Brown waste is slow to rot and retains a lot of structure. Both of these together, almost in a lasagne type build of thin layers of each, form the optimum mix. The green encourages the brown to break down and the brown prevents it going gooey. Typically this would be fresh grass trimmings and leaves / stems. Much of your kitchen waste would be classed as green. What is left over should be crumbly fresh compost.

Other options are available and pretty much specific to food composting. First is the wormery. Basically a layered set of trays with small holes in the bottom of each. The waste eventually turns to worm compost which is great for potting and a liquid which, when diluted down, works as a top feed for plants. Second there is the bokashi bin. Food is put into the bin in one inch layers and then covered in a thin layer of treated bran. The food is pickled for want of a better word. Once full and then fermented, the contents can be dug into the general garden or added to your main compost heap. A liquid is produced at all times which can be used as a diluted feed or poured down drains to neutralise odour producing bacteria.

There are other options out there and these will be covered in the next few days as well as a more in depth look at wormeries and bokashi.

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