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Jay North
Mr. North has been featured in People Magazine, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, and thousands of other publications. Moreover Jay has appeared on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, World News, Sunday Magazine, and hundreds of other TV and radio talk shows voicing informed opinions on edible flowers and organic farming.
 
 
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Under the Kitchen Sink Composting
By Jay North

Composting can make you a ready supply of lovely organic planting medium, and has the added benefit of reducing the garbage one normally has to take out. You can buy kits to make your own compost under the kitchen sink, but they are very easy to make yourself.

I highly recommend using worms to make your planting medium. I can hear you! No it is not icky! Stick with me for a moment, without the aid of worms, vegetable matter is just too slow breaking down to be useful for inside the house. Red worms are best, but I have used night crawlers, even though they are not recommended. Yep, if you know the rules you can break them as you please, same as I do in just about everything I do; just ask any of my friends. I also had red worms at the same time as the crawlers. I fed the crawlers less, because I was growing the worms, not the soil and they were fewer. If you have a person in the family who loves to fish they will be delighted with these. You can buy worms from your local fishing tackle house or order them by mail or over the Internet. Look on my site for a list of suppliers: www.GoingOrganic.com

To make your(compost) worm bin you need a good quality plastic or Styrofoam box, a plastic sheet for the bottom (or use plastic wrap), some organic soil, coffee grounds, newspaper, vegetable waste and worms. If you use a plastic box you might want to put a smaller Styrofoam liner inside to keep it cool. If it doesn't freeze in your area you can put this outside during cool weather on a porch or balcony. Just remember that worms need to stay above freezing to be active and if it is too warm the scraps will rot before the worms can eat them.

To prepare the box, poke some drainage holes in the bottom with a very slender needle or tiny drill or whatever you have to make small drainage holes. Line the inside of the box bottom with plastic to keep the dirt in and poke smaller holes in it to allow water to leak through. Place the box in a tray to catch the drainage. Poke more (small) holes in the sides, for air. Make larger air holes in the top. Yes worms need to breathe, and they will drown if you don't let the water drain.

Next, make up your bedding, about nine or more inches of it. I start with shredded newspaper, and then add some organic soil (just a little) and coffee grounds and egg shells (worms love these). I keep making more layers until I have about nine inches or so. Water your medium lightly as you build it. It should be about like a wrung out sponge. On top put your shredded vegetable scraps and cover them with a little compost. Then add your worms. You can start with a mere dozen or so, but red worms usually sell by the pint with about 60 or so to the pint and they are very cheap to buy, usually less then $3.00 US) a pint. These little critters will multiply and if you wind up with more than you need you can always put them out in a nearby garden or start another bin for a friend. Some people even eat fried worms or make worm cookies, but I have only tried them at food fairs. They are loaded with pure protein, but…….

The best materials to add to a worm bin are raw washed fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags (remove the staples-they harm the worms' stomachs!), egg shells, paper napkins and towels, and dead plants and flowers. Remember to feed worms a varied diet and don't overload the bin with fruit, or you will attract fruit flies. Shred your scraps a bit to the size of coleslaw strips or potato peelings to make them decompose better. Do not feed your worm's meat, fish, or dairy products. These items will produce odors and attract flies as they decompose. It is generally not a good idea to feed your worms leftovers, even if they do not include fish or meat, since they also tend to produce odors and attract fruit flies. In general, try experimenting with what works in your bin and what doesn't-but be advised that once your bin has a fruit fly problem, it is hard to get rid of! Fruit flies are just too darned prolific! If this happens, you will have to pull out your worms, throw out the bedding, wash the box and start over.

You will be amazed at how quickly these little critters will turn all these scraps into wonderful black compost, rich in everything your plants need. When you can see that the soil is black, fine, and slightly crumbly, it is time to harvest it. Start putting all the scraps on one side of the bin for a week, the worms will go to that side and you can them scoop out your new compost. Put new bedding here, using just a little of the new compost and add scraps only to that side for a week. The worms will migrate again and you can scoop out the other side and make new bedding there.

If your bin begins to smell bad, then you need to change the bedding. Save out the worms and wash the bin. Start over with fresh bedding. If it smells really bad, get a new box and gently rinse off your little guys too by dipping them quickly by hand in a bowl or bucket of room temperature water. After a while, you will figure out what your worms like and how much they will eat. Remember to keep the bedding moist. A dried out bin will only have dead worms. I use a mister and spray the bedding daily. They also need to be in the dark, so under the sink is good. If you keep them on the balcony or patio, they should be inside a cupboard. If you want to keep them there all the time, you might consider getting a small used refrigerator. Set on it warmest temperature it will keep your worms perfectly and keep drinks cold too. Don't worry. Your little helpers will not leave their little box. That is paradise to them and they are not about to go anywhere else.

There are many commercial products on the market now for composting. If you really want to get fancy then look on my site for a list of suppliers, www.GoingOrganic.com

If you have problems, you cannot seem to solve, call the compost help line number at the Botanical Garden nearest you for help with these and other problems.

When your compost is rich and looks like fine soil, it is ready to add it to your house plants containers and anything else you grow in doors or out. The material is very high in trace minerals and nutrients your soil and plants are just going to love and thrive on.

Peace in all that you grow Jay North
Jay North is a internationally recognized expert and pioneer in organic gardening and farming industry's, his books are available on his website. Please Help Support an Organic Planet see Jay's books page at www.GoingOrganic.com today
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