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Green Barbarians–Ellen Sandbeck


A Buddha A Day–Ellen Sandbeck





    

Dear Ellen,

When I harvested one of my worm boxes there was alot of water in the bottom and the compost had a sewer like smell. I know I can't use this on my vegetable garden but can I safely use in my flower garden. Will drying it in the sun first kill any unsafe bacteria?

Susan, Pittsburgh, PA

Dear Susan,

The sewer-like smell means that the bottom of your bin was anaerobic. It doesn't mean that there are dangerous bacteria in your bin. Unless you were actually putting feces in your bin, it is extremely unlikely that you have dangerous bacteria in your bin.

There is no reason that vermicompost that was made with kitchen scraps should be unsafe in a vegetable garden.

There are a few reasons that a worm bin might be too wet.

  1. There is no drainage. If you are composting in a bin without a drainhole, drill one hole at least 1/2 inch in one edge of the bottom. More than one drainage hole is unnecessary, and will admit too much air into the system. If there is too much air in the system, your bin is more likely to breed fruit flies.

  2. You are not adding enough bedding. Bedding should soak up excess moisture. Here is a list of suitable bedding:
    1. -Dry autumn leaves from deciduous trees that are grown in a chemical-free area that is free of animal droppings.
    2. -Unbleached, rough paper towels like the ones used in many schools. These towels cannot be recycled after they are used anyway.
    3. -Peat moss or sphagnum moss.
    4. -Shredded plain brown, uncoated, unprinted cardboard.
  3. Newspaper is completely unsuitable for use in a worm bin. Newspaper will definitely make your bin too wet and soggy, and will tend to make your bin grow fruit flies. There is clay in the paper itself, and as the organic component of the newspaper breaks down, the clay content of the bin builds up, and the compost will become, wet, soggy, and light gray in color rather than the nearly black of vermicompost that is made with leaves.

Happy Gardening! And please let me know how it goes!

Environmentally yours,

Ellen

 

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