Monthly Archives: May 2011

Composters Still Need More Browns or Carbon

My composter, the Compact ComposTumbler still needs more browns or carbon to finish the job of composting.  The compost is still very wet from all the kitchen scraps that I have put in.  In other words they need  more shredded leaves because that is what I have saved in bags from the fall. But they need to be shredded to compost quickly and efficiently.

Yesterday was a perfect day to shred up some leaves that I had saved from the fall.  It was sunny with a nice breeze so as I emptied the bags the leaves would dry out.  It was a little hot so it was a hard job.  My leaf blower/shredder worked great!  It is a  EMax EVB200W with a 200 hp motor  that we bought at Wal-Mart.

I ended up with 3 black trash bags stuffed with shredded leaves.  I have already been throwing them into the composters and the compost is looking better already!  I do  have a bag of old peat moss but I am trying not to depend on it because it presents environmental challenges.  Mike McGrath says that you need a 4 to 1 ratio for compost making.  4 of carbon or browns to 1 of greens or nitrogen.  So we need lots of shredded leaves to be successful with compost unless you have some other great carbon source available.  Please post other sources and ideas in the comments below.  In the meantime we are good.  It is amazing how many bags of leaves can fit into 1 bag after you shred them.

UPDATE: 6/1/11  I turned the composter today and looked inside.  It was giving off steam when opened.  The compost is much hotter.  So all those shredded leaves are doing the trick.  I need to get a thermometer to see how hot it is.  Any good advice on compost thermometers??  Please post below.


Worm Factory and Worm Tea

Worm Factory Websites Advertise Worm Tea

Are you thinking of buying a Worm Factory?  Several websites sell the Worm Factory, which is an older model, and the Worm Factory 360 which is the new model. These sites state that the liquid that drains into the bottom tray is worm tea.  This liquid is actually leachate not worm tea. Potential buyers of the Worm Factory should have accurate information.  So I would like to clear up the misunderstanding here:

Here are two examples of the erroneous comments from some of the marketing websites for the Worm Factory:

  1. “In a Worm Factory water will filter through the trays soaking up nutrients from the castings.  The Worm Tea ends up at the base of the Worm Factory, and can be extracted from a handy spigot.”
  2. “Worm tea can be collected at the base of the Worm Factory.  This is the waste liquid processed by the worms and it is rich in plant nutrients.  A spigot at the base allows you to collect the worm tea easily.  The worm tea can be diluted and used as an organic fertilizer or foliar spray.”

One Worm Factory owner emailed the Worm Factory (WF) company and posted this comment:

“After I bought my WF and following the posts here, I have e-mailed WF and commented on their description of “worm tea”. I got a reply and they admitted that the run-off is NOT WORM TEA, rather what is called LEACHATE in the vermicomposting community. The name will be changed with the next printing.” See more on this response from Worm Factory .

The Liquid from the Worm Factory is Leachate not Worm Tea

The website owners selling the  Worm Factory are giving out erroneous information.  The liquid in the bottom of the Worm Factory is what leaches out of the worm compost. The composition of the leachate depends on  how composted the worm compost is, what food scraps are in there and what state of decomposition they are in and if any part of the factory has gone anaerobic from lack of oxygen.  This leachate could actually harm your plants.  See this link: Using Worm Bin Leachate.

Worm tea is made by soaking finished worm compost in water.  There are many aerobic micro-organisms in worm tea.  Some people aerate the tea using an aquarium bubbler and add molasses to increase the growth of the micro-organisms.

Here is an excellent discussion on the value of worm tea with differing opinions.  There are over 50 comments on this thread with valuable information so you will become very educated about worm tea!

I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  Please do all of your shopping through the links on this site, at no charge to you.  Thanks!  Sandie Anne

Be Careful What You Plant in Your Herb Garden

Buying Seedlings for my Herb Garden

A few years ago a neighborhood boy was selling herb seedlings that he had grown.  I very excitedly bought some lemon balm and peppermint to plant in my herb garden.  That same year I bought some flea repellent mint for our dog.  I don’t know the name of it but it was advertised to prevent fleas.  I also planted garlic chives.  These are all perennials, meaning they grow back each year all on their own.

My Herb Garden is Overrun With Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Garlic Chives

Now, many years later, my garden is overrun with lemon balm, peppermint and flea repellent mint.  It turns out that I don’t use these.  I do use garlic chives. Lemon Balm Taking Over But there are many more plants than I need.  I used the lemon balm to make lemon balm baths for relaxation.  But in all honesty I didn’t notice any difference.  And then the bathtub got stained a yucky green!  I don’t enjoy tea and we didn’t use the flea repellent.  Alas, I am always digging these out and they are quite tenacious.  The garlic chives have a particularly strong root system.  You can see from the picture that I have started to clean out this garden bed of lemon balm.  I tried to dig it out and the roots are so massed together that I can’t get the shovel in.  So I am just clearing it and will cover it with thick mulch.  As it grows back hopefully the mulch will make it easier to pull out all the roots.  If that doesn’t work I will cover it with a weed mat or black plastic.

Tomato Grows From Crack Between Sidewalk and Wall

Tomato Growing Out of CrackBut where would we be if plants were not so strong.  We need them to be strong to survive heat, drought and bad growing conditions.  So I will keep battling the ones I don’t want and be thankful for all the green that grows.  I was amazed one day to find this tomato growing out of a crack between the wall and the sidewalk.  It eventually got tomatoes on it!   Remember, be careful what you choose to plant.  Make sure you are really going to want it.