It’s International Compost Awareness Week and here at Tom’s of Maine we thought we would celebrate by tapping some of our more experienced composting staff members for tips. Heather is a member of our Health & Specialty Sales team working out of Colorado, and Bethany works the same position in the Los Angeles area. Both team members use vermiculture, or composting with the help of worms, at their homes. Here’s what they had to say!
Why do you compost?
Heather: My husband and I compost because it greatly reduces the amount of waste in our trash bin. Plus it is free and homegrown nutrients! We had the space to give it a try just less than a year ago. Now we have so much that we give it away to friends, neighbors and coworkers in my husband’s office. One lady told us her newly planted potatoes shot up in like 4 days. Needless to say she is coming back for some more.!
Bethany: I compost to reduce the waste I put into the landfill and as a huge bonus it provides us with nutrient-rich worm castings for the garden.
Where does your compost bin live? What kind of compost bin do you use?
Heather: We have a small (very cute/attractive) silver metal trash can on our kitchen counter. The small portable can that we carry out to the bigger bin out back also has a filter in the lid which reduces any odor. The main bin we keep in the back area where we park. It is about 3 cubic feet. It sits where the sun hits it to create condensation. It stays pretty cool in the bin but from time to time we need to add some water or open the lid when it snows or rains.
Bethany: My worm composting bin lives in a nice and quiet shaded area under my lime tree. It never gets too hot or bright for my worms and so they stick around. I also tend to be pretty impatient and well-tended worms are very efficient! The worms live in a pretty basic starter worm bin you can pick up at a local nursery. My traditional compost pit is next to the worm bin for additional items we compost and those that are not worm-friendly.
What things do you compost?
Heather: We compost anything and everything! In addition to dryer lint we add (my) hair. When I wash or comb out my hair, I take it from the brush & the drain & put it in the back bin. Admittedly, it is a pretty short walk.
Bethany: Our garden and vegetarian lifestyles means lots of veggie scraps. We also will toss in uneaten grains, paper waste (non waxed), tea bags and in the non-worm bin we put dog hair from sweeping and brushings.
How do worms help the composting process?
Heather: I used to actually buy “worm castings” and now they naturally occur in our compost! The worms came in (up) from the ground on their own and anytime we find worms when planting or digging we put them in the compost bin. There are lots of worms in the bin so we know they are happy.
Bethany: The worms eat up all this waste material leaving the most amazing castings for gardening behind. Pretty simple… worms eat, leave castings behind, then move on to a new layer of the bin to start all over.
Do you have usable compost yet?
Heather: Yes! In less than a year we have really good quality black silky dirt. People love it and so do we. This spring I sprinkled compost in the garden, worked into the dirt by turning it into existing soil, and even put some in the bottom of holes where I was planting new items. That way the new items and seeds got compost as well as the existing roses and perennials.!
Bethany: I have been composting for many years and the castings and compost from our various composting adventures are utilized in our garden. It provides an amazing boost to the soil and plants overall. Putting back in nutrients and creating rich productive top soil!
For tips on how to build your own compost bin, check out our DIY post here.