top of page

Questions Submitted in


See for year:   2024 2023 2022  2021  2020  2019  2018  2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012

Composting in a Barrel Tumbler

January 4, 2014

I have attached my CAD drawing for a compost barrel I am building. I have heard from many sources that New Mexicans over aerate their compost and dry it out. There will be (12) 1″ holes around the whole barrel. I was wondering if I have too many aeration holes?

The Worms in My Compost Died and My Compost Smells Bad

January 17, 2014

I have successfully composted kitchen and yard waste in my backyard here on the west side of Albuquerque for at least 12 years. Summer before last, all the worms in my compost died and I began having problems I never had before. I purchased earth worms last year to add to my compost, and they had died by the next time I turned my compost (about a week to 10 days). Since that time, it is not composting (smells, rots, my cucumber got fungus (?) and died). Can you give me any ideas? Thank you!

Getting Started with Composting, Choosing a Method

January 19, 2014

I live in El Paso and am looking to begin composting. We generate a lot of kitchen scraps (vegetable trimmings) and would like recommendations on how to get started with composting. I am leaning toward a plastic compost tumbler. Do you have recommendations for what tumblers work best in this region?

Plastic Turn Bins

January 28, 2014

Question from Master Composter WR: I’ve never used one of those plastic turn bins and don’t plan to get one. But I often have friends ask me about them. Since I don’t have experience with one, it’s a hard question to answer. I’ve gotten a vague impression that expert composters don’t like them, but I’m not sure. I was wondering what you guys think about them and what I should tell friends when they ask about getting one.

Adding Worms to the Garden

February 24, 2014

Is it ok to put red wigglers in a regular garden or are they just for composting. What is the best worm for a garden in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque?

Creating a Worm Bin

March 20, 2014

I have access to leaves, alpaca manure, and coffee grounds. I want to create an outdoor worm bed. What would be the best mix of materials (and layering) to get the most worms and compost?

Modifying a Compost Bin for the Desert

March 28, 2014

I attended John Zarola’s wonderful Composting Basics class last month and gained lots of valuable information. The most important thing I realized is that my homemade compost bin was too open and evaporation was high. I plan to fix the problem by nailing plywood to the outside to retain moisture but would like to know if plywood is appropriate (versus treated wood) and if so, what thickness would you recommend? Unlike the bin in the attached photo, my bin is not against a wall but sits in the open.

Coffee Grounds Straight to the Garden?

April 17, 2014

Question from a Master Composter WR: Hi guys, I could do some web searching but am interested in what you might say about this. Of course, I compost our coffee grounds (huge amount!). Someone commented on the following article that coffee grounds promote good fungi in the garden if you put them straight into the garden instead of composting them, while the author said not to put straight into garden.  Any thoughts?

Where to Get Earthworms

April 21, 2014

Where would I find earthworms to buy in order to introduce them into the soil of my raised garden beds? I do not want red wigglers for composting but earthworms to help with aeration and soil health in my garden beds. I live in Pecos, NM and the soil here is very rocky (I live at 8,000 feet) so we bought organic topsoil mix to put into the 4′ x 8′ raised beds (2 of these). We would like to put some earthworms in the soil before planting and don’t know where to find them in bulk quantities.

Are Coffee Grounds Good for my Garden?

May 3, 2014

We own a coffee shop and produce lots of grounds. Are they good for gardens or not? And if so, in what proportion? Thanks.

City Compost

May 28, 2014

I am in a new house, so no finished compost yet. I have heard that the. City makes compost available to residents that we can pick up. Is that still available this year? Love compost!

Worm Chow

June 9, 2014

Do you know of any Albuquerque dealers handling Purina Worm Chow?

Where to Direct Questions About Gardening

June 16, 2014

I am new to NM and raising a few basil, tomato, green chili, oregano, peppermint and flowers. I have seen a little cream colored moth on the plants and also white butterflies. Something chomped my cosmos too. (A grasshopper by the looks of it.) Will a spray made from garlic shells work to deter them? Or an earth friendly dish soap solution?

Bokashi Smell

July 3, 2014

I’ve recently started Bokashi composting to supplement my vermicomposting. I know that I need to reduce the amount of water / moisture. I need your help to eliminate/reduce the nasty smell of the liquid that drains from the bottom of my bucket. Any ideas? Will reducing the water help? Or do I need to use more Bokashi mix? Or??

Flying Insects Attracted to Worm Bin

July 7, 2014

I attended both of your spring classes on composting and vermicomposting. I have started my vermicomposting as I learned in my classes – however I am having one problem. Everything seems to be going fine except that I am attracting an unusually LARGE amount of gnats, fruit flies, small flying insects. In both classes they said you could do this indoors which I am doing – but I must be doing something wrong because of all these insects outside my compost bin. Hope you have some suggestions as to what my problem might be.

What Kind of Worms Am I Using?

July 7, 2014

I got really excited about starting a compost bin so my food scraps don’t go into the landfill. I went to the bait shop and the clerk didn’t exactly know which varieties of the worms on sale were “red wigglers,” if any. I bought some called Big Reds from a company called Evergreen Night Crawlers. I’ve had the worm bucket going for three weeks. We added a lot of scraps in the first week, and then noticed there was some mold, so decided to stop adding food until we noticed whether the worms were turning that food into dirt. Two weeks after that, I am finding that the food is breaking down, but I don’t know if that is due to regular old rot, or if the worms are working. The smell has a rich, earthy scent, with a whiff of alcoholic decay. Strong when you stick your face in the bucket and inhale, but not offensive. When I poke around, my worms look active and definitely alive. Do I have the right worms? Does this process sound like it’s off to a good start?

Making Compost from Alpaca Poo

July 27, 2014

I have a small herd of Alpacas and would like to make a compost product out of their POO. I would like to talk to someone about: (1) The feasibility of marketing and selling composted Alpaca POO (what is the economic value of the compost). (2) Whether a 6 cu-yd dumpster would be a suitable container for making compost, if earthworms are used to break down the POO and if other ingredients like soil and leaves, etc. should be added to the compost mix to support the breakdown of the organic matter in the poo. We would welcome a visit to see if we are going about this in the right way.

Building a Worm Farm at an Elementary School

September 25, 2014

I went to a Master Composter’s meeting at the Open Space Visitor Center one Saturday last spring and found it very informative regarding worm composting.  The Master Composter showed us how to keep bins in our home for raising worms and compost for the garden.

I’m a landscape architect working on a Kindergarten playground for and APS school – ___ Elementary located on the west side of Albuquerque.  In the playground, we have designated a raised planter (approx. 344 sqft) to be used for a worm farm / composting area, shown highlighted in green in photo (30) and (4).  However, the space also has an area basin inlet with a “beehive” drain cover.  We would like to segregate the areas for the worms so that they don’t get washed down the drain, but also allow the kindergarten classes to use the planter as a teaching tool.  The planter wall is 12” tall. See photo (14).

Do you have any recommendations on depth of soil for the planter?  From what I learned from the Master Composter, the worms need very little to start with – wet shredded newspaper and maybe some wet leaves.  Can this just be added on top of the dirt in the planter?  Or should we add some nice soil to 4” or 6” first?

Any advice you have will be greatly appreciated.

Roaches in My Compost

September 26, 2014

How do I prevent and get rid of roaches in my compost pile?

Composting Without a Bin

September 28, 2014

My family and I recently moved to NM and want to start a new compost pile. WR, after seeing a photo of your pile on the site, I'm wondering whether we even need a bin. Do you just dump kitchen scraps and bulking material on your pile and turn occasionally? Any problems with critters and/or neighbors? We had a compost bin at our former home in CA so have some knowledge of composting, but again wondering whether a bin is necessary and any insights about composting in the NM climate (including winter) would be most appreciated.

Roaches and Mice in My Compost

October 15, 2014

I have heard from those considering to make a compost pile decide against it because of it becoming food source for the mice & cockroaches.I do see this problem in my own compost pile & I would appreciate learning how to deal with this while trying to keep the compost uncontaminated by insecticides.

Roaches in My Compost

October 16, 2014

I am an Albuquerque City resident.  I bought a barrel composter a few months ago and have been adding waste the way I should.  I noticed a few days ago that the barrel is infested with small cockroaches.  I have two questions.

1.  Is there a natural substance that I can add that will kill them?

2.  Will that harm the ultimate compost?

Alternately I will have to use some sort of spray and that will mean cleaning the composter and starting again.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Can I Compost My Pine Needles?

October 27, 2014

I have a huge Deodar cedar tree in my back yard. I'm using the pine cones from that tree for bulking material in my two compost bins (the above ground cylinder shaped compost bins, which are a pain, by the way).  Is it a good idea to use the needles from that tree as well. I have lots and lots of them.

bottom of page