Back in January I made a brief post about my compost tumbler being full of worms…and by worms I don’t mean red wigglers, but earthworms.
Well, I’ve decided it’s time to pay tribute to earthworms again, because they’re often confused with red wigglers and their purposes get mixed up.
Red wigglers are super resilient (e.g. temperature changes, crowding), live in organic material and have a serious appetite…they make the most sense in a full-on vermicomposting setup- anything from a super cheap/simple worm bin to the popular Worm Factory or Worm Inn options. If you put them in with a freshly active compost pile, chances are good they’ll be dead right away or leave altogether.
Earthworms, however, may arrive much later in the composting process:
My tumbler has been sitting “idle” for a couple months now and each time I take a peek, I find earthworms in there. They came up through the bottom of my tumbler and have been burrowing their way through the material, speeding up the end process. Earthworms are soil dwelling worms that will assist in further breaking down of compost into neutral, balanced soil. To have soil dwelling worms in my compost seems like a good indicator of the material at this stage.
So if you’re looking in your compost pile one day and see some worms in there, it’s almost certain they’re earthworms- not suitable for efficient vermicomposting, but perfectly normal for improving your near-finished compost.
What composting system is right for you? There’s 4 main methods for composting: dig a hole, compost bin, worms, compost tumbler. They all have their pros and cons, so here we go:
Dig a hole – $0
-Risk of animals/pests digging it up
-Hard to obtain any compost
-Might annoy neighbors
Compost Bin – $25+
+Cheap, easy to do it yourself for free
+Can handle large volumes
+Can thoroughly process any and all organic materials
-Unsightly? (It’s worth it though, trust me)
Worms – $30/lb, $100+
+Works year round
+Worm castings are a great soil amendment
+Fun for educational purposes
-They need attention to ensure they’re happy
-Somewhat expensive to start
Compost Tumbler – $175+
+Secure from pests/animals
+Turning the compost is easy (although not necessary)
+Neat in appearance
-Attention to moisture/oxygen levels
-Lots of crappy models on the market
When it comes to compost tumblers, I’ve found that there’s several important considerations to choose the right one for you. Keep in mind that not everyone’s situation is best for a tumbler, and that you can compost without spending a single penny.
If you’re interested in a compost tumbler, keep these key factors in mind as there’s plenty of sub-par compost designs out there:
If you have any questions, please get in touch. Thanks for watching!
Do I need more than one compost tumbler? No! You don’t even need one. You don’t even need a dollar to compost at home. It’s all a matter of choice.
Notice anything different in this picture?
Yep, I drilled holes in the Envirocycle Original model. I asked about it a while ago, and their advice was not to drill holes, but I begged to differ. Then when the Mini version came out (the tan one), it had an awesome air vent on both sides of the drum. Ah-ha!
What’s wrong with more airflow? Beats me. Yes, it’s nice to keep the heat in and let things cook, but it can’t cook without gas (air). So there you have it, sink or swim. I just filled both drums with brand new materials, as I just cleaned out my refrigerator and found all kinds of old artifacts just begging to be composted…stuff that expired years ago! Whoops.
I’ve received a lot of emails asking me if I need two compost tumblers to make composting work. The answer:
I totally understand that the cost of a compost tumbler can be prohibitive for some, and I agree that they’re not cheap. It really depends on the situation to know what works best. In some instances, tumblers are perfect, in others they’re not practical at all. Factors such as space, aesthetics, and amount of material all weigh heavily.
If you do decide to go with a tumbler, you can always fill it 3/4s of the way, then all further waste for the next 12 weeks or so divide up into other composting efforts. For example, I put portions of my waste in my worm composting system, and the rest I bury in the ground next to the compost tumbler.
If you happen to glance over my videos, some of them show a second, smaller tumbler next to my usual one. Envirocycle liked my videos so much that they sent me that one as a thank you! Pretty awesome. I pretty much don’t have to bury material anymore since I can use the Mini as well. I have some really lush compost that I just pulled from it recently…I totally forgot about it and now it’s pretty nice.
Anyway, to reiterate, you do not need two compost tumblers at all…you can pull off one or none just as easily.
In the wintertime, I take my composting efforts indoors to pay attention to the worms. We had yet another uncharacteristically warm day here (if just one more person says “omg i love global warming lol”…ugh ), so I checked out the composter…full of worms!
It had just rained, and the inside was a bit damp…so my guess is that the earthworms were just looking for warm, moist ground and they found it in there. They also found a lot of stuff they probably weren’t used to, like a Sun Chips bag trying to degrade, and some paper packaging material that I lazily threw in without ripping it up, just for fun.
I seem to get a fair number of emails talking about worms in the composter…these worms are almost certainly just earthworms (sorry earthworms) and not red wigglers, or composting worms.
Another thing worth noting, is that red wigglers are not the best solution for adding to your compost tumbler. If your compost is in the early stages of degradation and is quite warm, this may harm the worms. They’re also kind of picky about airflow, and most likely won’t come in the tumbler to start with. Lastly, they don’t want their habitat being flipped upside down all the time, and if you’re using the tumbler how it should be used, wigglers won’t stick around for long.
My freezer was packed to the brim with rotten food I forgot about…finally decided to throw it in the composter! A little late in the season, but it should be fine.
You may remember back in the Fall that I reviewed the Envirocycle compost tumbler, which of course remains an important part of my composting projects.
As the months got colder, my material was degrading at a slower rate and I continued to add to it as normal. The instructions mention not filling it beyond 3/4ths of the way, and they weren’t kidding. When January rolled around, it was about full and my material was rather frozen when I decided to try tumbling it. The result: The latch bent out of shape. Whoops!
That was my lone complaint about the product: lack of non-plastic parts. A metal door hinge and a metal latch would both make the product even better. I wrote Envirocycle with these suggestions, and they happened to mention that future development will consider these upgrades.
Anyway, I mentioned to them that the tumbler door wouldn’t stay closed for more than one full rotation, and I think it was due to being too full. They responded to the email rather quickly, and mailed me these little guys:
Not just one, but two. Hopefully, I won’t need the second one. I am most likely going to try and fashion a replacement out of a piece of scrap metal and rivet it in place. I was pretty pleased with how quickly they responded to my concern, so I give a thumbs up to Envirocycle. My dumb ass will chill out on overloading the thing, too.
Now that I have two worm systems going I shouldn’t have this problem going forward, anyway…
So I’m sitting around listening to records and finding stuff to read about composting, when I came across the Gaiam Compost-Off. I’m on the late train as this event happened back in 2009, but it’s pretty funny to watch the multi-video series on Youtube. The battle is between two questionable backyard composters, and neither of which are all that friendly for cramped living spaces.
The Earthmaker seems like it could be an okay choice, but the thing is 4′ tall and nearly 3′ in diameter…jesus! Well, if you have a big family I guess it’s pretty appealing. It’s a multi-chambered design with lots of airholes and the ability to handle a lot of waste.
One of my favorite things to do is go on Amazon and read the product reviews…you always get that one hater that writes a gigantic essay on why the product sucks. The one for the Earthmaker is a must-read…so click HERE to check it out. I would say that based on his review, he’s probably kept a lot of people away from the thing. In this contest however, I think it outshines the opponent quite easily.
With the Bio-Orb, I can see the complaints rolling in right away. With such an oblong shape, it must be really awkward moving this thing around. The best part has to be when you get slime all over your hands via the giant airholes throughout. Plus, it definitely has a yard size minimum, as it needs space to roll around.
Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend either of them. Based on price and functionality, I am still a proud user of the Envirocycle compost tumbler.
So that’s it. The Compost-Off is pretty entertaining to watch, but I think it would be funnier if they ended the video by not recommending either.