This post was inspired by the work of Mark Paine at Vernmenting or EVE Growing. Mark used an interesting concept in his vernmenting containers to process food scraps through the use of compost rolls.
Mark Paine over at EVE Growing composts just about everything with his red wigglers. From roadkill to number twos, there really isn’t much Mark won’t put into his vernmenting systems. I really admire Mark’s use of materials from reusing buckets and putting soda cans and bottles to reuse. His methods show that with a bit of DIY, worm composting and gardening can be cheap and environmentally friendly. There are a few concepts that he uses to great effect in his vernmenting systems, but the one I want to explore is Compost Rolls.
What are Compost Rolls?
Compost Rolls are basically food scraps wrapped into newspaper. Really that’s it. OK it’s a bit more involved but that is the basic premise. One of the major benefits of compost rolls is that it eliminates virtually all the scent that comes from decomposing scraps. In most systems this isn’t an issue, but certain scraps like broccoli or any cruciferous vegetable produces a sulfur scent when decomposing. The compost roll filters out this scent.
Mark’s method is quite involved. He uses a garbage disposal to grind up food scraps into a slurry. Then he drains off the liquid and uses the remaining solids for the compost rolls. He does reuse the liquid for hot composting. This method takes quite a bit of time and more effort than I prefer, but it works.
My alternative method
I find that compost rolls are better for use in a plastic tote system than a continuous flow through (CFT) such as an Urban Worm Bag. In a CFT, the newspaper tends to create a clog in the system and it doesn’t get fully processed. Also, a CFT is better suited for top feeding. Compost rolls need to be buried to be effective.
Instead of blending or putting scraps through a garbage disposal, I chop up my scraps with a scraper.
I should also note that I freeze all my scraps and let them thaw a bit before chopping.
Next, I set up a a small container with two layers of newspaper. I prefer to use two layers in the event that one tears or rips while rolling.
Next, I roll up the newspaper around the scraps like a burrito. Then I place the rolls/burritos off to the side.
Then I dig out a section in the bin in order to bury the rolls. I don’t add any additional bedding when doing this. Instead I use the current contents of the system to cover the rolls.
Finally, I cover the rolls completely.
As the scraps begin to decompose, the newspaper will soak up the moisture. The worms will start to work over the paper and eventually get inside the roll. The worms do process the rolls fairly quick but that will depend on the quantity of worms the system has, how much other food scraps exist, and general health of the system. I typically add two rolls every week to my systems and alternate the location of the rolls.
Some other notes
I should point out that Mark uses a different style of vermicomposting than I do. He utilizes a “batch” system where all the components are added at once. So all the scraps, worms, and bedding are added in the initial set up and left alone until harvesting. This is a great method especially if you have a lot of scraps at one time such as around the holidays or special occasions. My systems tend to be more continuously used and harvested periodically. I also tend to harvest sections of the bin and not the whole thing at once. Both methods work and you should do whatever works best for you.