Have you ever wondered about putting sticks in the compost pile? And I also mean dead flower stalks which are often similar to sticks. I have had this question for a while about putting sticks in the compost pile. Because what are you supposed to do with all the sticks and dead flower stalks that come from a garden and a yard (if you have any trees…) every season.
Experimenting with Sticks in the Compost Pile
So last year I decided to put sticks in the compost pile. And dead flower and vegetable stalks. I figured what the heck–I didn’t want to put them in the trash. I also thought that they would provide air pockets in the compost because everything can’t squish together with sticks and stalks criss crossing in the compost pile.
Now a Year Later…
You live and you learn or should I say I live and I learn. My compost is ready but the sticks and stalks have not composted. They are really a pain in the neck as I dig out my compost. They are so annoying. I always have to pick them out. Here is a picture of some sticks and sunflower stalks that did not compost in my pile.
It is a matter of opinion about how annoying these non -composted sticks and stalks are. It could be that it wouldn’t bother you at all. In the meantime, I have decided that I am not including sticks in my compost pile anymore. And that also includes dead flower and vegetable stalks. Some dead flower stalks are just like sticks. For example, sunflower stalks are large and rigid. Pepper stalks are also quite rigid and hard. So now I have a new dilemma. What am I going to do with the sticks that fall from my trees and all the dead flower and vegetable stalks at the end of the season. I do not want to send them to the landfill–that is for sure! I am thinking about modified Hügelkultur. I have already started working on this idea and will share more about it in my next blog post.
Have you been looking through your worm bin and found composting worms stuck together? Did you wonder what was going on? This is how red wiggler worms mate. Now that your curiosity is satisfied about this strange phenomenon you’ll want to understand more about what is going on.
Composting Worms Stuck Together and the Clitellum
The clitellum is the enlarged band around the worm’s body that is close to the head of the worm; maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of the way back from the head. Sexually immature worms do not have clitellum. This is they way to tell if a worm is ready to mate. Composting worms are hermaphrodites. This means that each worm has male and female parts. But they cannot mate with only themselves. They need another worm to line up with, in order to exchange sperm. Worms attach to each other first with their setae which are defined as:
Each segment or section of the worm has muscles and bristles called setae. The bristles or setae help anchor and control the worm when moving through soil. This information came from the website of the University of Pennsylvania which has lots of good explanatory pictures.
The worms align themselves in opposite directions. A good drawing and explanation can be seen at this composting website. After attaching and holding onto each other with their setae (bristles) they create a slime tube which enables the transfer of sperm from worm to worm. The slime tube also becomes the cocoon. Please check out these links because pictures are worth thousands of words! Below you will see a YouTube movie that I put together which also demonstrates what happens when worms mate.
Mating Process Can Take Up to 3 Hours
Even though each worm has male and female parts, the seminal fluid must be exchanged between worms for fertilization to take place. There are grooves on the underside of the worm that enable the exchange of sperm. The exchange of sperm doesn’t necessarily happen at the same time. The process can take place for up to 3 hours. This is a very good website to explain this process: the city of Euless, Texas. Charles Darwin has some things to say about worms at this link, an excerpt from a book called The Earth Moved. Read pages 69 and 70. He is talking about nightcrawlers so it is not clear to me if this applies to red wigglers. It is very interesting anyway.
Composting Worms Mating Video
I found some composting worms stuck together in one of my worm bins, so I decided to take a video of them. I don’t know if they are still mating in the video or if they are trying to separate. They want to escape from the light. As they are trying to separate or mate, whatever they are up to, the worm at the back seems to have its head in the slime tube. The video gives an excellent view of 2 composting worms mating.
Burying Bokashi compost completes the composting cycle. As a matter of fact, you aren’t burying Bokashi compost because it hasn’t composted yet. Putting food scraps in the bucket with the Bokashi bran is only the first step of the process. The food scraps are fermented not composted! In fact, the Bokashi process in the bucket pickles the food! Burying the fermented food scraps completes the composting process. It actually turns into compost in this step whether you put it into your compost bin or you bury it.
Burying Bokashi Compost in the Winter is Problematic
You can’t dig the hole necessary to bury the bokashi food scraps if the ground is frozen. At this point I decided I didn’t want to spend the time or energy digging holes. So I looked for an alternative. I decided to simulate burying by creating a Bokashi composting bin!
When the fermented food scraps filled my Bokashi bucket, I took a Rubbermaid Roughneck tote. I layered the fermented food waste with potting soil layers trying to create a mock burying Bokashi situation! The layers were created until the Rubbermaid tote was filled almost to the top. I left the bin in the basement stairwell with the top partially on. This allows oxygen to get in to create an aerobic environment. Aerobic just means with oxygen. Then the bin sat for a few days for the acidity to wear off. I thought it would be slightly warmer in the basement stairwell because it is under the ground and it was winter. As the weather grew warmer I added composting worms to the bin to accelerate the process.
The Composting Worms Loved This Mixture
The red wigglers grew fat and plentiful. It was so gratifying to rake through the mixture with gloves on my hands and see all the worms and all the mating that was going on! The worms loved this mixture! Check out this post and youtube video on: Bokashi and Red Composting Worms!
My Experiment Didn’t Work Out As Planned
This wasn’t an optimum process for me. Even though Bokashi compost doesn’t stink like regular rotten kitchen waste, it was not a pleasant experience layering the fermented food scraps with the potting soil. After the Rubbermaid bin was full it was very heavy and awkward to move.
Burying Bokashi Compost is Easier
I am back to digging holes for burying Bokashi compost. It isn’t worth it to go through the process of making a simulated environment in a Rubbermaid bin. For me, it is quicker and easier to dig holes, bury the fermented food scraps and be done with it. Two words of advice:
Dig holes in your garden before it freezes and cover them so no-one falls into them.
Don’t bury the waste near active roots because the acidity will harm them.
Good Luck With Bokashi fermentation and composting!