Kwolz's Adventures in Saving the World

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Worm Poop

Posted by kevinwolz on July 27, 2010

What’s a waste product made from a waste product and is often touted as the best fertilizer in the world? Yes, worm poop. Back in May, I bought a bucket full of worms after observing the wonders of the Growing Power urban agriculture system. Since then, they have been eating my compost and pooping black gold. They’ve recently slowed down quite a bit, and I finally realized this was because they had broken down almost everything in their container. SO, I harvested about 19 pounds of castings (the not-so-fun name for poop)7 and fed them some new compost!

We originally mad the sifter for getting rocks out of the beach, but it worked PERFECTLY for worm poop too!

What to do with this poop? Well, I first put several pounds on my nitrogen-loving cucumber and winter squash mounds. Yum. Next, I ran an experiment…

Remember the self-watering Global Bucket from the Bucket Brigade? Well, my neighbor recently gave me three of the commercial version of that concept: Earth Boxes. They do the same exact thing but are made of expensive plastic instead of cheap 5-gallon buckets. With the help of my friend Kevin, I decided to fill the boxes with potting soil and plant them with a mix of Romanesco broccoli, Swiss chard, beans, and a sunflower (the same arrangement in each box). The potential plan is to bring these to my college apartment and get a nice fall crop growing on our balcony.

Back to the worm poop: Rather than just planting all three boxes identically, I decided to add a varying amount of poop to each box. The first box got no poop. The second got two layers, and the third got four layers, each evenly spaced. This isn’t a laboratory, but every other variable should be kept more or less constant across the board, leaving any variation in growth to be attributed to the poop…theoretically.

I try to do side-by-side experiments with whatever I can as I learn this summer. It’s a great way to get a quick understanding of a certain variable (i.e. seed variety, planting method, weeding level, fermentation time, etc.). I am training to be a scientist after all. Earth Box updates will follow soon.

Germination happened SO quick...within a few days! Much better than my dorm room...

The ultimate source of all this goodness – my compost bin – deserves the final update. Since we built it, my kitchen scraps and garden waste have been slowly filling the bin…too slowly for my goal of at least filling one bin before the end of summer. My scraps are also very nitrogen dense, and I don’t have much of a carbon source available at home. This doesn’t bode well for a good pile composition and optimal decomposition. Luckily, however, I picked up a few bails of straw (basically pure carbon) from my friend Lance (thanks!!) and paired this with freshly cut grass (basically pure nitrogen) to make a great mixture that filled the bin about 75% full. Yeah that’s right…I harvested my grass. Within days after this addition, the pile was already cracking 150 degrees. Those little guys are lovin it. So am I, since I finally got to use my new compost thermometer!

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4 Responses to “Worm Poop”

  1. onestraw said

    Great progress!

    Don’t be too disparaging about using the “real world” as you lab. far too many experiments fail to work the other way (transferring from lab to reality). Outside is where we live after all! Weather, bacterial drift, rampaging varmits are all variables that *must* be factored in. Side by Sides are the bomb. Greg has spent 20 years doing everything he does with a little variation – pondering the results helps fill the mind’s idle times rather a bit better than watching TV. We have Slow Food, perhaps we need some more Slow Science…

    Very excited to see what your future holds, good sir.

  2. sheril said

    You are going to be one heck of a scientist!!!! Well you already are! As a fellow scientist (but not nearly as patient as you are as organized) I have to say that using what you learn in your ‘hobbies’ is going to go a long way in your retaining the information you learn in school!! So I’m giving you a huge pat on the back. Also letting you know I miss you. When are you back in WI? Give me a jingle when you get back.

  3. sheril said

    Well….you must be back or you wouldn’t have harvested the poop!!!!!! I’m a little slow this morning!

  4. Victoria Johnson said

    Kevin, I hope you will publish a book with all your daily blogs!! What encoragement you could give to some who are on the fence about such an endeavor — Just think of all the information, patience and hope you could pass on to those just starting out!!

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