Master gardener gives tips on composting and vermicomposting

Prepping compost bin in Beijing. Courtesy photograph from @kafka4prez

Prepping compost bin in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of @kafka4prez)

Turn your spoil into soil.

The department of environmental studies at Saddleback College held a week of events centered around recycling, sustainability, conservation and more for Earth Week. UCI Master Gardener, Brian Hale, taught a lecture about composting and vermicomposting on Tuesday.

Master gardeners’ top priority is to provide residents of Orange County with current, practical and sound gardening advice that they can use. They accomplish this by having booths at various venues, website, brochures, presentations and seminar among other means.

Hale has been a master gardener for 20 years. He shared two worksheets during the lecture. The first of which talks about composting. Compost is the biologically active material resulting from decomposition of organic matter under controlled circumstances.

Composting requires a three-inch by three-inch bin filled with two parts brown waste and one part green waste.

Brown waste includes dried leaves, woody plant materials, chopped or ground branches and twigs, straw, hay, shredded newspaper and sawdust. This waste type contains carbon that increases the surface area and makes decomposition easier.

Green waste includes grass clippings, yard trimmings, green leaves, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and cow or chicken manure. Green wastes contain nitrogen that increases the rapid breakdown of organic material.

Add water to create a favorable environment for the microorganisms that break down organic material. Make sure the bin gets enough air so the microorganisms can live and multiply.

With composting there are two methods. The first is the University of California Rapid Hot Method. This method requires extra physical effort on the part of the composter, but if you want large amounts of compost in a relatively short period of time, this is the method for you.


The second method, Traditional Cold Method, the slower one because it takes up to a year to decompose. People who live in areas where the weather changes seasonally use this method a lot. The labor becomes less intense and still makes a batch of compost once a year.


After you have the bin situated you need to make a worm bed. The worms do not like to live in their own casting. You can use shredded cardboard, paper, newspaper or shredded coconut husk to make the bed. Always regularly check the bed to ensure it is deep enough and slightly moist. Add a handful of sterile soil, sand, coffee grounds or well-crushed eggshells to provide grit for the worms’ digestion. When you are done preparing the bed you can add the worms.

There are four important reasons why you should compost. First, it reduces green waste and landfill use. Second, reuses valuable green waste like grass clippings, yard trimmings and green leaves. Third, recycles waste into a useful garden asset. Lastly, restores soil health.


With worm composting you get more benefits. Although it takes up a little space and requires some physical activity, you will only need to feed a half-pound of food every day for about one pound of worms.This method allows the compostable material to be added at any time without slowing the decomposing process and also reduces the amount of household waste which improves the environment.

Landfills everywhere are running out of room for garbage. Roughly 25 percent of the garbage, is made up of yard trimmings and food scraps. Composting and vermicomposting methods can be beneficial to your garden because it loosens clay soil and helps sandy soils retain water. Not only does compost contain no petroleum-based compounds, but it can suppress plant diseases and pests.