Grow Your Own Superfoods! How to Grow Moringa at Home

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Did you know you can grow your own superfoods?

We posted a few weeks ago about how we’re giving away free moringa seeds to anyone interested.

We wanted to share these because we figured it was a good way to empower you in building or strengthening your relationship to nature, which we feel will enable better stewardship through a chain reaction of interaction. As we share our journeys we have the power to inspire others to do the same.

We received a lot of interest and we wanted to share with you HOW to actually start a moringa plant once you have a seed.

So here you go!

Moringa is an incredibly nutrient-rich plant, originating from Africa. It is known as the tree of life.

Some of you live in warmer climates, and you can plant moringa right outside in the ground. Others are in more temperate climates, which will need care and creativity with planting!

Planting in big pots and bringing inside and outside, or in year-round greenhouse settings – with lights and controlled environment.

No matter how you choose to grow your moringa seeds, if you you are successful in your endeavor, you’ll come up with one of the most nutrient dense plant materials on the planet.

You can put it in your smoothies, or you can feed it to your worms or fish to create nutrient dense, incredible fertilizer! Or you can just allow it to grow its life cycle and sequester carbon from the atmosphere and build a healthy environment!

The moringa tree is packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, tons of iron, vitamin C, potassium, protein, vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus, trace minerals, and much more. Just to get an idea – by weight, moringa contains four times more protein than eggs, 75% more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than a carrot, 15 times more potassium than bananas, and 17 times more calcium than milk. 30 times the magnesium in eggs, 30 times more vitamin B3 than peanuts, 50 times more b2 than bananas, not to mention all of the essential amino acids. So it’s basically packed with nutrients and vitamins – like vitamin A, C, B, D, E, minerals like zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, silica, calcium, iron…

Moringa has many uses and benefits:


  • The seeds can be crushed and used to purify tepid water.
    It grows in drought environments AND is salt tolerant.
  • It produces nutrient rich food in the form of leaves, beans, and flowers.
  • It has a 40% oil content (that is one of the most incredible oils). The oil from the flowers is known as ben oil from the flower.
  • It also has oil from the seed that is useful as a biofuel.
  • As a biomass in itself to compost with, it has great potential and produces incredible compost.
  • All parts of plants are edible.
  • The root taste like horseradish. It also has medicinal properties.
  • It is a beautiful, healthy, fast-growing plant – it can be grown as trees or it can be trained to grow as a shrub (intensive planting, even row cropping)

Moringa can be harvested in the form of leaves, air-dried in the shade, blended into a powder, and stored in jars, cardboard containers in the freezer or airtight dried environments. The young seed pods are delicious, so are the flowers.

One of the things we want you to be aware of is moringa is a subtropical/tropical plant. A lot of the people who responded to our moringa offer live in Southern California (around zone 10) so the plant will grow fine as long as it’s taken care of when it’s young. It will go dormant in the winter. All the way to zone 7 the plant can go do dormant in the winter time and then it will spring back to life in the summer.

Large trees with thick bases can handle small amounts of frost. If you have more than small amounts of frost in your winter then you should be starting the seeds indoors so the seedling can get as much strength on the roots as possible in large pots. Then you can put the plant outdoors all through the summer and the fall until your temperatures cool down, bringing the it inside to a heated environment within your house. This also exchanges oxygen and CO2 within your environment and you can harvest leaves and flowers for your salad while keeping it alive indoors through the winter.
It’s worth the extra work no matter what zone you live in. Some of you live in more northern parts of the U.S. Up there it will probably only be able to grow out of the ground in pots in a controlled environments, but can still get some outside time/sun in the summer.

[ Source: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ ]

Take into account that in many places there are various microclimates happening. Sometimes just a few miles difference from the coast or over a hill can make all the difference in the world. Where you just happen to get a little less frost than someone a few miles over, you’re able to pull things off in environments that you don’t figure you are able to. So again, just a little inspiration through observation to bring yourself a closer to your environment.

HOW TO START YOUR MORINGA SEED:


  • Start the seeds indoors if in the winter, or if you live in a cold zone.
  • Keep the soil warm (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit for germination). Consider using a seedling heated mat to start seeds if you’re in a cold environment.
  • Optimum plant growth occurs between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
    If keeping in a pot (because in cold environment or otherwise), start the seed in a 10-15 gallon pot with organic soil for more root space and thermal mass.
  • Plant in a well-draining medium – including 5-10% sand, and at least 5% organic matter (like living organic compost).
  • Feel free to add composting worms and earthworms into your pot.
    Mulch pots (e.g., coconut husk, dry leaves, straw, cardboard…) to retain warmth and moisture.
  • If planting outdoors, start seed in a 2-gallon pot (taller pots are better – moringa has a deep center tap root).
  • Wait until air temperatures have consistently reached 75 degrees F or higher (including nighttime lows in that average) before transferring into the ground outdoors.
  • Keep seedlings moist, but do not overwater.
  • You can give them a light liquid kelp emulsion, compost tea, worm tea and/or living compost addition once every 3 weeks.

We’re really excited to see your moringa growing journey! Please let us know how it goes in the unique area you live in 🙂

Want free moringa seeds?
Grab them here:

Common Mistakes When Setting Up a Composting System (& what to do instead)

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Don’t start off on the wrong foot


There may be a whole slew of questions swirling around your head concerning composting.

“How much time will it take me to build living soil?”

“How much living soil can I make in my backyard?”

“But what if I have hard dirt that’s been abused?”

(We know you’ve been thinking about this! The emails are pouring in!)

When we tell people how quickly we can build living soil, and how we’ve bio-remediated ACRES of land, they seem skeptical.

Who are these people from Hawaii? These techniques can’t possibly work outside of an island paradise! (hint: they do.)

So let’s look at some of our projects.

No bullshit. We think they speak for themselves.

Today we’re going to break down for you how we built 4 inches of living soil in 6 months – utilizing what we grew on site, and what would’ve otherwise been WASTE. That’s right – it was all strategic composting and planting.

Pin away!

WHAT A LOT PEOPLE DO:


Some people start their garden without knowing Nature’s very efficient strategy.

They spend hundreds of dollars on soil amendments and pesticides.

They then till their soil. Whoops! The earthworms (our favorite earth-builders) are now dead. And they’ve exposed the little moisture in their soil (not to mention the mycorrhizal and fungal colonies and myriad of other creatures that support a living system) to the air. Not good.

Then they plant their seeds (only planting seeds of food they want to eat), add their additives, cross their fingers, and walk away.

A big investment. Hours of time, money, energy.

Their fruits and veggies grow.

They harvest, and leave the ground even more bare and depleted than before.

Let’s look at the alternative:


This is exactly what we did – because it works!

• Create a compost bin (or larger system) full of worms, other insects, fungi, and bacteria. We do this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE when starting on a new plot of land. We usually bring buckets of worms and culture from the last place we were working on.

• Cover the entire plot of land with mulch – wood chips, leaves, straw… Protecting the soil from evaporation, holding in water if it’s dry season (or a dry climate), and erosion during heavy rains.

• While the compost bins work as fertility hubs to boost worm and microbial populations, we simultaneously add significant numbers of these little helpers under the mulch to inoculate the land. The populations will continue to proliferate and add more and more life to the soil.

• We plant into the mulch – leguminous plants help fix nitrogen in the soil, plants with deep taproots pull nutrients from deep below up to the surface, some plants we love to eat, plants with specific nutrient ratios that will later be used as nutrient-rich mulch…

• We set up drip irrigation systems (that are water efficient) to maintain moisture for the creatures to survive below the surface. While not necessary in smaller setups, it does make it so you can walk away for a week and things will continue growing and thriving.

• Populations of earthworms, mycelia, beneficial microbes… multiply, and plants grow. When the strategically-planted-for-composting plants grow up to size, it’s time to chop-and-drop. Chop the leaves, blades, or full plant and add it into the compost pile or directly on the ground as mulch. Our little critter helpers will consume the nutrient-rich plant matter and break it down into fully-usable nutrients for the plants.

• Not only are you building soil (pretty passively, at that), you’re growing food that, if handled the right way, is also building up the nutrient content of the soil because you are composting all the excess plant material back into the system.

Think about this: you’re trying to grow your own food, but you’re completely reliant on the farm and garden store (and maybe even fossil fuels, if you’re using non-organic fertilizers and pesticides). You’re spending just as much money (or maybe more) than it costs to purchase organic produce from the grocery store! Having a strategic composting and planting system allows you to be completely self-sufficient.

More examples, please!

So what about soil that’s been deeply abused? How about bio-remediating 27 acres of pineapple fields?


Lou was told by the University and local farm consultants that the soil on the land they purchased was un-fixable. The land used to be pineapple fields (like that massive company that sells all the pineapples at the grocery store).

In case you didn’t know, conventional pineapple growing uses some of the most destructive growing techniques: heptachlor as a pesticide, plastic remnant leftover in the fields, not to mention really deep tilling (up to 8 feet) that’s destroyed all of the earthworm tunnels that allow land to percolate with life.

In the span of a year, we were able to transform Lou’s land into a closed-loop, regenerative agriculture oasis – using strategic composting and planting, and nutrient-rich fish water from nature-based aquaponics.

Here’s the catch: composting and building soil DOES have a lot of moving parts. If you don’t have a solid system to follow, it can get messy.


You might miss a few critical things.

You will definitely feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do when, and how to do it.

That’s why we created Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting. So you don’t have to spend years testing, experimenting, trial and error, and you don’t have to have as many “oh crapppp!!!!” moments as we’ve over the years.

Enrollment will be open for just a short time this year. If you want to be ready for composting in the spring, it’s time to start planning NOW.

We can’t wait to show you everything we have been working on. This course is the culmination of…

  • Decades of living off-grid
  • Building multiple closed-loop regenerative farms
  • Teaching people how to become better earth stewards and care for this planets
  • Building tons of soil that grow nutrient-dense food

It really has been years in the making. And we can barely contain our excitement!

Whether you are just starting to think of “going green” and composting, have already set up your first worm bin, or just want to up your game…


LEARN MORE ABOUT SUPERCHARGED SOIL

Do You Know What’s in your Store-Bought Fertilizer?

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Question for you:

Do you know what’s in your compost?


There are a ton of benefits to making your own compost rather than going to a garden store and buying fertilizer. A major benefit is that you can turn waste into fertilizer to build living soil.

You can grow incredible veggies utilizing what would normally be waste for you! Like green waste from your yard, leftover scraps from your kitchen, cardboard, paper… Keep it out of the dump – turn it into soil.

Keeping your food scraps and green waste out of the dump can be your contribution to ending global warming and we believe this will help you be a better steward to the planet.

Your plants get more nutrients from the compost you make than fertilizer you buy at the store.


Many fertilizers such as seabird guano, bat guano, fish meal… are less than ethically sourced and produced. At the decimation of our land, forests, and the labor of children.

If we want to think sustainable we need to think about what we’re putting into the ground to grow our food, how it’s going to affect the ground in the future, how nutritious it’s going to be, what we have for resources already present without having to pillage other resources and to constantly look for new inputs.

Nature’s pretty perfect if we can just find the balance.


Oh yes you can! Pin away!

What’s actually in the fertilizer that you buy at the store?

Bone meal, blood meal…

When you’re talking about bone meal and blood meal we’re talking about animals that have been grown in less-than-ideal conditions and when they process them for the table they use the leftover blood bones and feathers to create what they call organic fertilizers. We do not believe these things should be considered organic, because of what the animals are being fed, because of the antibiotics, and because of the mistreatment of the animals.

Or your using conventional farming which uses petroleum-based products made by large chemical companies, and possibly recycled bomb material from war.

Grow your food with compost, not bombs.

It’s easy if you have the guidance and proven framework to follow.

Here’s the catch: composting and building soil DOES have a lot of moving parts. If you don’t have a solid system to follow, it can get messy.

You might miss a few critical things.

You will definitely feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do when, and how to do it.

That’s why we created Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting. So you don’t have to spend years testing, experimenting, trial and error, and you don’t have to have as many “uh-oh!” moments as we’ve had over the years.

Enrollment will be open for just a short time this year. If you want to be ready for composting in the spring, it’s time to start planning NOW.


motionmailapp.com
Cart Closes on February 6th 2017 at 10PM Pacific. Don’t miss out!

We can’t wait to show you everything we have been working on. This course is the culmination of…

  • Decades of living off-grid
  • Building over 10 closed-loop regenerative farms
  • Teaching hundreds of people how to become better earth stewards and care for this planets
  • Building cubic tons of soil that grow nutrient-dense food

It really has been years in the making. And we can barely contain our excitement!

Whether you are just starting to think of “going green” and composting, have already set up your first worm bin, or just want to up your game…

LEARN MORE ABOUT SUPERCHARGED SOIL

6 Reasons Why You Need to be Composting Strategically (Supercharged Soil is Here)

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We are so excited to finally introduce our new online course on composting and building soil:

Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting


In the past 10 months, we’ve built 4 inches of topsoil – from composting alone.

Lately, we’ve shown our friends and students how to do what we do with tons of success (we’re talking building soil on top of decomposed granite, in parking lots, and old farm land that’s been deemed “unfixable”).

But LEARNING everything about building Supercharged Soil wasn’t quick n’ easy.

Honestly, this information is not original. It comes from years and years of observing and PLAGIARIZING MOTHER NATURE

This information came first out of a need to survive. Living off-grid on a small Hawaiian island as a teenager (while awesome and magical) is gnarly.

  • Eddy had to figure out the food stuff (Beyond foraging, hunting, and fishing, the Hawaiian islands are actually quite difficult to grow food on – with 40%+ of fruits and vegetables eaten up by the fruit fly, unless you’re using a significant amount of pesticides).
  • He had to figure out how to grow food over and over again on the same piece of land (importing fertilizer onto a small island is expensive AND you very quickly see the serious repercussions of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the land and marine ecosystems surrounding you).
  • Luckily, he had the time-freedom to STOP and OBSERVE how Nature was growing so abundantly, in taro patches, forests, and streams (so he started using Nature’s growing techniques in his own gardens – and it was WORKED).

After years of perfecting this process, we’ve built the perfect resource for you.

Today, Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting, the only step-by-step course that shows you exactly how to grow better food while building large amounts of living topsoil, without having to bring in any external inputs, goes live.

We are so excited about this!

We’re at the critical moment where we can step BACK to Nature, with technology.

We KNOW that strategic composting is going to transform your garden, and re-orient your life.

We truly believe this unique style of building soil is changing our future as a species on this planet, how we can be stewards and truly change the world.

If you’re ready to stop buying sub-par additives for your garden, stop sending your food- and paper-waste to the landfill, grow the most nutrient-dense food and build soil for our future generations:

Grab Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting here

Just a heads up –


The price of Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting will increase on WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25th from $50 to $100. So far, the feedback we’ve gotten on this material is that we need to raise my prices because it is THAT valuable. We will be raising prices in the next few weeks, but for the next few days you can grab it for the special pre-sale price.

Still not sure? How about this.

6 Reasons Why You Need to be Composting Strategically:


  • The conventional fertilizers you’re buying from your local farm store are made from chemicals, petroleum, and even recycled bomb material. And, the majority of store-bought fertilizers with organic labels are mined from half-way across the world (read: taking apart islands for seabird and bat guano), or are sourced from in-humane animal factories.

    If there’s not enough life in the soil to process organic material, “organic” fertilizers still have the potential to be leftover as residual salts, can contaminate groundwater, and can carry pathogens.


  • By growing specific plants on-site to compost, you know exactly what’s building your soil. Plus, these plants help with erosion control, bioremediation, and some are even considered “superfoods!”

  • Adding BIODIVERSITY of species (not just plant species) to your compost and garden makes them more drought-resistent, and resilient from pests.

  • LIVING compost that you make yourself is not only cheaper to make, it is also better able to assist and feed your plants due to symbiotic relationships.

  • In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. Why send this resource to the landfill?? You can be composting this into new living soil that FEEDS your garden.

  • By putting together a closed-loop composting system, you will form a DEEP relationship with your garden, and nature as a whole. (We’re not going to lie, one of our driving forces is to create more stewards of this planet, that can reap the real benefits of having real relationships with the earth).

We can’t wait to show you how to compost your waste and turn it into garden gold (living topsoil).

Reserve your spot right here >>>

We want to invest in you investing in the planet (FREE MORINGA SEEDS FOR YOU)

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We have a gift for you today.


We want to invest into you investing into the planet’s future by giving you seeds to plant trees (a very specific tree). We are going to give away moringa seeds for anybody who wants to plant a moringa tree.

Moringa oleifera is an incredible tree that is nutrient dense beyond belief! if you’re not gonna eat it (you should), you can simply compost with it.

Here’s the full nutrient breakdown of a single cup of moringa leaves.


We harvested thousands of moringa seeds from one of our living systems on Maui a couple months ago and we think the best use of them is to share them freely.

What you put in (your compost) is what you get out (in the form of nutrient-dense food)!


If you compost something that’s high in nutrients, what you grow in the composted plant has access to all of these nutrients. This is strategic composting.

Grab Your Free Moringa Seeds!

GIVEAWAY! Ready to Upgrade Your Garden this Spring? [Giveaway has ended]

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UPGRADE YOUR GARDEN GIVEAWAY! This season, we're giving one lucky winner the education, gear and seeds to upgrade their garden! | http://bit.ly/composting-giveaway/ | Enter to win: Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting Online Course ($100), Compost Wizard Eco Tumbler ($123.99), Baker Creek Heirloom Garden Seed Collection ($49), Acurite Rain Gauge and Thermometer Garden Stick ($17)
UPGRADE YOUR GARDEN GIVEAWAY! This season, we're giving one lucky winner the education, gear and seeds to upgrade their garden! | http://bit.ly/composting-giveaway/ | Enter to win: Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting Online Course ($100), Compost Wizard Eco Tumbler ($123.99), Baker Creek Heirloom Garden Seed Collection ($49), Acurite Rain Gauge and Thermometer Garden Stick ($17)

As the chill of winter sets in, if you’re like us, you’re already planning your garden for spring. Dreaming of what plants to grow, looking up new tactics…

Well we’ve put together a very special bundle to upgrade your garden to grow more nutrient dense food, build soil, and become more self-sufficient.

Visit the Giveaway Page Enter
The Grand Prize (valued at $289) includes:

– Access to our upcoming online course Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting
– The Compost Wizard Eco Tumbler
– Baker Creek’s Heirloom Garden Seed Collection
– A dual rain gauge/thermometer from AcuRite!

Here’s how to enter… (It’s very simple)

  • Connector.

    Step 1:

    Visit the Giveaway Page

  • Connector.

    Step 2:

    Answer the question & Enter your details

  • Connector.

    Step 3:

    After answering the question, you’ll be sent an email with your “lucky link”

  • Connector.

    Step 4:

    Share your Lucky link with as many friends as possible (Email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Text)
    – The more friends that join the giveaway through your LUCKY LINK is the more chances you will be given to win the giveaway.

That simple. 4 easy steps and you could win the Upgrade Your Garden Giveaway!

Visit the Giveaway Page to enter to win!

PS: There’s no catch. Since you’re on our email list we want to introduce you to great tools and also give you the opportunity to get some awesome free stuff.

Learn about Nature-Based Aquaponics in this Free Webinar!

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Over the years we’ve talked to a range of people of varying experience levels in terms of growing organic food, building soil, and being self-sufficient.

For those who are deeply interested in getting into regenerative agriculture and aquaponics there tends to be 2 excuses that hold people back from taking action:


  • Connector.

    I'm still in school (or I live in a small apartment in the city) so...

    …not only do I not have the space to have a garden, but I’m also not sure how long I’ll be here so I don’t want to invest too much time and resources on something I’ll ultimately leave behind!

  • Connector.

    I am totally into permaculture and think aquaponics is neat, but...

    …there is something so sterile about the aquaponics systems I see people setting up that I just don’t see it working with my nature-based designs!


We’ve been invited onto PermaEthos TV to give a presentation on Nature-Based Aquaponics tomorrow.

We will eliminate these two excuses and show you that…

+ Nature-based aquaponics allows you to grow food in small spaces and indoor settings

+ It is quite different from conventional aquaponics in that it uses biodiversity for resiliency and makes your land a hub for fertility!

TOMORROW Tuesday November 29th at 4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT


Ready to learn about nature-based aquaponics?



In this webinar, get ready to:

  • Connector.

    Find out the most common mistakes in building an aquaponics system and how to easily fix it.

  • Connector.

    Learn the components we use for crafting a basic aquaponics system that grows more food with less water.

  • Connector.

    Learn how an aquaponics system can be both a fertility hub in your larger regenerative agriculture system and a way to grow in less ideal growing situations (think: inside and on concrete).

We’ll see you tomorrow – Come with your notebook and get ready to workshop with us.

Make the Most of your Compost! [with video]

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Watch the video

Benefits of Composting


There are a ton of benefits to making your own compost rather than going to a garden store and buying it. A major one is that you can turn waste into living soil.

You can grow incredible veggies utilizing what would normally be waste for you! Like green waste from your yard, leftover scraps from you kitchen, cardboard, paper… Keep it out of the dump – turn it into soil.

Keeping your food scraps and green waste out of the dump can be your contribution to ending global warming and I believe this will help you be a better steward to the planet.

Your plants get more nutrients from the compost you make than fertilizer you buy at the store.

Many fertilizers such as seabird guano, bat guano, fish meal are less than ethically sourced and produced. At the decimation of our land, forests, and the labor of children.

If we want to think sustainable we need to think about what we’re putting into the ground to grow our food, how it’s going to affect the ground in the future, how nutritious we’re feeling it’s going to be, what we have for resources already present without having to rape other resources and constantly look for new inputs. Nature’s pretty perfect if we can just find the balance.


what’s actually in the fertilizer that you buy at the store?


Bone meal, blood meal…

When you’re talking about bone meal and blood meal we’re talking about animals that have been grown in less-than-ideal conditions and when they process them for the table they use the left over blood bones and feathers to create what they call organic fertilizers. I do not believe these things should be considered organic, because of what the animals are being fed, because of the antibiotics, and because of the mistreatment of the animals.

Or your using conventional farming which is petroleum based products, recycled bomb material from World War 2…

Grow your food with compost, not bombs.

THERMOPHILIC COMPOSTING


The most common form of composting is thermophilic composting. This is where you pile up your food scraps and such in a specific Carbon:Nitrogen ratio, and the pile starts breaking down the material and making heat. This is a chemical process which utilizes heat that’s formed in the process to break down organic material into the form of compost. Usually after it has been broken down by this chemical process (which can also grow very healthy food and can grow living soil) it does have more byproducts of gas such as carbon dioxide methane and so forth.

Thermophilic (hot) compost needs to be turned fairly often to stop it from getting too hot. It needs to have moisture added to it because sometimes it will get so hot it will start fires. It releases a lot of gases in this process, and kills any living creatures that live in the pile. It literally fries them. Then you have to reinoculate the pile with living creatures…

COLD COMPOSTING / LIVING EARTH COMPOSTING


Over thirty years of observing nature and the process of trial and error and elimination, I’ve come up with the process of cold composting which utilizes several different types of earthworms as well as a multitude of other creatures – fungi, bacteria, worms, copepods – in more of a passive process.

Through the byproducts and the utilization of living aquaponics systems we are able to grow massive amounts of biomass along with little creatures to create incredibly nutrient-dense compost.

Although there is still a fair amount of chemical decomposition that takes place, when it’s cold outside that’s just enough heat in there to keep the worms and the other creatures alive during the winter.

With cold composting you have a byproduct of worms. It’s much more efficient in composting with a fraction of the work. Let the worms and little creatures be your tractors. Their job is to turn waste into awesome fertilizer.

COMPOSTING IS LIKE COOKING


A lot of people are intimidated by all of the scientific facts and terminology thrown out in the composting world. Things that make it sound so complicated.

What we’re trying to do is make it a little bit more like cooking for you. We want you to be able to utilize touch, taste, and smell, the powers of observation. I believe it will be a little less intimidating then, and a little bit easier for people to connect and understand the basic circle of life that we play a part in.


Watch the video and get the full lesson

Think you can’t compost styrofoam? Mealworms are the answer!

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Within our living systems, we have been raising several types of mealworms in order to compost polystyrene (styrofoam). We recently came across the study by 2015 Standard University that confirms our suspicions that they are indeed turning styrofoam into usable organic matter!

Their notes are not much different than ours, except their equipment (gel permeation chromatography, solid-state 13C cross-polarization/magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and thermogravimetric Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) was a little better than ours. I mean, we do have a microscope and a few 5-gallon buckets…

Here’s the Abstract from the 2015 Stanford study:
Polystyrene (PS) is generally considered to be durable and resistant to biodegradation. Mealworms (the larvae of Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus) from different sources chew and eat Styrofoam, a common PS product. The Styrofoam was efficiently degraded in the larval gut within a retention time of less than 24 h. Fed with Styrofoam as the sole diet, the larvae lived as well as those fed with a normal diet (bran) over a period of 1 month… Within a 16 day test period, 47.7% of the ingested Styrofoam carbon was converted into CO2 and the residue was egested as fecula with a limited fraction incorporated into biomass. Tests confirmed that the polystyrene was mineralized to CO2 and incorporated into lipids.

The mealworms are able to do this due to their gut bacteria (Exiguobacterium sp. strain YT2) that actually breaks down the polystyrene. The Stanford study uses a common mealworm (the larvae of Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus) – we are using this same mealworm, but in addition to that we are also using what’s known as a “superworm” (the larvae of Zophobas morio), a type of darkling beetle, that has a lifespan of 3 to 15 years.

The superworm seems to be more aggressive, larger, more sturdy, and eats a lot more material. It also has the ability to live for up to a year in the larval stage just by keeping them all in constant contact of each other’s bodies. The other mealworm has a very short cycle.

A superworm is the larvae of the beetle, Zophobas morio

Side by side comparisons of a common mealworm, a giant mealworm, and a true superworm.

A superworm emerging from the whole he ate out of a block of styrofoam, and above him is the beetle the worm becomes.

A tank of mealworms eating styrofoam.

Superworms, the larvae of Zophobas morio

Superworms, the larvae of Zophobas morio

These mealworms will remain in their larval stage for up to a year, if kept in constant contact with each other.

They will only pupate once they’re separated from each other. The average time is 7-10 days of separation to initiate the metamorphosis, 10-14 days pupae, and they will then emerge as the darkling beetle. This is their natural cycle in nature – a year in the larval stage, then they pupate to become the beetle which lives for 3 to 15 years.

The pupa stage lasts 10-14 days before the superworm emerges as the beetle to the right.

Mealworm’s gut bacteria break down the styrofoam into usable organic matter!Click to Tweet

According to the Stanford study, a single meal worm can eat 46.36 mg of polystyrene waste a year.* So the small container of mealworms from the pet shop with 100 count is capable of eating 4636 mg of Styrofoam a year.

*100 worms can eat 380mg in 30 days (12.7mg/day). That means each worm can eat 0.127mg per day – 46.36mg per year!

We are in the process of measuring the amount of styrofoam that the superworms eat on a daily and yearly basis. So far, the numbers seem significantly higher than the numbers that the Stanford researchers found for the mealworms that they used.


We also have found that the plants we grow with the mealworms manure show no significant differences from those grown in other compost. This is an ongoing experiment. We are looking to have the plants tested, that are grown with the mealworm manure and try and see if there any detrimental effects.

There was also some information that was mentioned in the Stanford study indicating that the Indian meal moth is able to digest polyethylene plastic! This is very interesting as well…

Are the mealworm droppings actually becoming usable organic material?


The 2015 Stanford tests indicate that the mealworm droppings actually become usable organic material through the fact that they’re calling the process “mineralization.”

Mineralization is the process of nutrients becoming available to plants. If you think about the carbon to nitrogen ratio – when it’s up 30:1 the bacteria need to the use the nitrogen to process the carbon. You often hear the term that the nitrogen is “unavailable,” “locked up,” or “bound.”

When the ratio drops to 25:1 the nitrogen becomes available for the plants.

The fact that these worms are converting about half of the styrofoam they eat into carbon dioxide and the rest into mineralized organic material suggest that it has come full circle.


We don’t know that we would grow all of our carrots and food that we eat in this stuff, but it definitely is food for thought.

We need to start thinking about how we’re going to leave a healthy planet for the generations beyond ourselves, and using mealworms to compost styrofoam is definitely thinking out of the box.

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Now it’s your turn: go to your local pet shop and grab some mealworms – put them in a container with some styrofoam and report back in the comments below!