The Worm Corral
A New System for Local Personal and Family Composting
and Solid Waste Reduction
Rural System has developed a low-cost, efficient system for producing a wonderful natural soil booster. This is a system for moving organic materials into dark, pleasant earthy-smelling, friable matter that helps create world-class garden soil. The system builds soil and changes organic wastes into a useful, valuable product to enhance your garden and landscaping plants.
The system includes instructions, a wire frame and posts, starting mull, and an inoculation of a rich, diverse group of organisms to get the decomposition process started efficiently. The system also includes an unusual, attractive color-burst "Clumper" to aid in autumn leaf pickups. The Clumper expedites yard left pickup and provides healthful outdoor activity and exercise.
The guidelines for superior composting for a single yard of family-of-four system (expanded systems for larger areas and more families are available) include:
- Place the Corral "midway" in your yard or at the corner of the garden.
- Collect leaves from 1-2 large trees. Use the Rural System Clumper, a pretty tie-dyed piece of cloth with handles.
- Try to get a variety of leaves (of several species).
- Mix a bag of Rural System "Deep Woods Mull" innoculum here and there well scattered throughout the pile of leaves (between layers and "bundles").
- Spread one bag of Rural System "Basic Structure" in a layer over the pile at about the halfway height. Spread another bag on the top surface of the pile.
- Place all "extras" from the kitchen such as vegetables, liquid fats, seeds, egg shells, bread, fruit, apple and pear peels, cereals … almost everything, into a bowl on the kitchen sink and put it into the pile daily (at least when the bowl is full). This can be a pleasant walk into the garden, a chance to see how the herd of worms is doing, and a sure way to get to the bird feeders and to get a "breath of fresh air."
- Stir the mix or use the fork to turn a small amount so that the newly added worm foods are absorbed and mixed throughout the top layers of the pile. Turning the pile should not be a chore (or you will stop doing it); do it when convenient; just a little at a time, but enough to cover the newly added bowl of offerings to the worms.
- Stirring helps break and mix the particles and leaves. Freezing and thawing as well as drying and wetting also help in the breakdown to get the particles small for the worms to eat.
- Never add bones or meat. These may attract rats and other animals.
- Never add salt, orange or grapefruit peels, and things that you or the family pets would not eat. Toss them into the other means of waste disposal. Of course never add insecticides, drain cleaners, soaps, or detergents. Don't add extremely acidic things like pickle juice or vinegar. Save and add all sugars (some people rinse out the last few drops in plastic soft-drink bottles into the bowl before putting them into the recycle bin.)
- Dampen the pile. Use about a gallon of water in a plastic milk bottle. Depending on rain and snow, keep the pile damp, but not wet. This will take some experience but the leaves should never appear shiny. If they are, you have over-watered the pile. Let it dry for a few days. (Cover with plastic to keep it from getting too wet in some long rainy periods.
- The smaller the pieces of leaves, bark, stems, and wastes, the larger the surface area of the pieces and particles. The surface of particles throughout the pile is grazed and manipulated by the microorganisms. Stir the waste particles that you add. Large particles can have temporary bad odors than can be buried in the remainder of the pile.
- Brown-fluted cardboard can be processed, but tear or cut it into small pieces and mix it well. Do not add the plastic tape on boxes and the ink in some large lettering may be harmful. (No need to risk poisoning worms in the area of it as it breaks down.)
- Only add small amounts of paper. The risks of the ink poisoning your worms and other organisms are too great. We suggest recycling such materials elsewhere.)
- Don't challenge your herd of worms with spices, "hot" foods, or soapy items from the sink.
- Spread wood ashes elsewhere, not on the pile. There are too many uncertainties in the ashes; one might kill the life communities that are forming.
- Spread the lawn-mower clippings over the pile for drying, then stirring into the mix. If the lawn is treated with herbicide or weed control substances, wait several mowings before adding the clippings to the compost corral.
- Spread Rural System "Spring Feast" and "Autumn Feast" on the pile at the start of each of these seasons every year. The compost pile runs forever when well managed.
- Spread the final rich, dark brown soil amendment product in October over your garden, at least near your prize plants (but not on your azaleas or rhododendrons or other acid-loving-condition plants.) You will be surprised (and probably a little disappointed) at how little soil material that you have. The working worms destroy the great leaf volume.
|You can never seem to have enough mulch
Prof. Carl Holcomb
- Save about a bushel of the final soil for inoculating the pile of new leaves for the next year. Scatter it on the pile after placing each new bundle of leaves.
- With the digital thermometer supplied and the forms, plot the temperature changes, comparing the inside of the pile with that outside. If it gets hotter than 35-degrees Centigrade ( degrees Fahrenheit) spread out the pile. Too much heat will kill some of the valuable decomposer organisms and slow down the process of new soil formation.
- The methane from a full corral may be about the equivalent to 4400 Btu per day and we shall be studying how that may be collected for practical uses.
- Contact Rural Systemfor additions and new products and services.
- Consulting and specific advice for your compost needs is available.
- Rural System is developing a full range of analytical, management, and financial opportunities related to decomposition within the forest and pasture ecosystems and you are invited to contact us about latest developments, concepts to share, and potential affiliations.
The compost pile is a wonderful place. It improves the garden soil and nutrients, reduces plant moisture stresses, improves soil texture, reduces public solid waste disposal costs, saves energy, … and provides bait for fishing.
Tending the herd of worms is interesting, provides a little exercise, gets you out doors once a day for some air, and increases garden productivity --- of food or beautiful flowers. Children delight in the worms, and they, as well at the corral itself, can make a valuable educational resource.
Rural System can provide special advice and services for modest fees. The components of The Corral are:
- Wire and 3 posts
- Spring and Autumn Feasts (NPK and lime mix)
- Starter mulch
- Earthworm group (a starter "herd")
- Digital thermometer
- Forms for recording temperatures
- Instruction leaflet
- A reduction in cost for a subscription to Organic Gardner.
- Membership in Nature Folks
- Purchase of a superior set of books on earthworms and composting
- A subscription to The Corral (experiences and membership for a group of people excited about earthworms, their production, research, protection) an Internet magazine.
- Unique earthworm photographs
- Installation of composting area
- Monthly inspections, analyses, reports and management
- Mulch spreading, brush and limb grinding, and delivery and placement of hardwood bark mulch
- Neighborhood composting center projects
- Research projects (with tax advantages and name-recognition for supporting individuals, corporations, and groups conducted through the Conservation Management Institute of Virginia Tech.)
- Rapid access to the many other related enterprises of Rural System at www.RuralSystem.com.
See the excellent Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication (November, 2003) by Dr. Lori Marsh.
oligocheates - from Greek, oligos, little, few.
See CRC book, Clive A. Edwards, editor 2004. Earthworm Ecology, CRC Press , Boca Raton, FL 33431-9868, 456p $99.95
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005