Worm Bins

boydcster
By boydcster on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 7:05pm

I'm about to purchase my first worm bin to get started with composting, but the proliferation of choices has me wondering if I'm going to waste money on poor beginner's choices. Does anyone have any recommendations for getting started with a basic worm bin composting setup? I'm looking for something that requires a minimum of work, but provides a healthy environment for my worms.

11 Comments

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
best worm bin set up?

There's a great deal of information to asnswer your question in this one-hour class on vermicomposting.

http://mediasite.online.ncsu.edu/online/Play/ac1df0dc7d7b42169b05747f12d25b5d1d?catalog=1ec0688b-568a-4a47-a8ca-8926e7b4ef1b

boydcster's picture
boydcster
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2013
Posts: 12
Worm Bins

Thanks much for suggesting this link. After watching the session, I agree that it contained very helpful information for managing a worm bin. However, when I saw how much work and art was involved in it, I decided that I would go with a backyard compost bin without the worms. Once I get more advanced in my permaculture skills, I will revisit this so I appreciate the pointer.

PlannedObsolescence's picture
PlannedObsolescence
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 29 2011
Posts: 2
Easy, Low Cost Worm Bins

I have maintained worm bins for the last 4 years and the following relatively easy and low cost system has worked for me:

Pick up a medium size plastic storage bin with lid, an appropriate size bungee cord (to secure the lid) and a small roll of screening (used for re-screening a screen door/window) from your local hardware store. [Rubbermaid bins seem to better withstand cracking in colder temps. and you can  always use scrap pieces of screen or mesh if already available from other another project].

Drill several air/drainage holes in the bin lid and bottom of the bin and glue smaller rectangular pieces of screening over the holes inside the lid and bin bottom to cover the holes to prevent worms from escaping and keep other insects out. Fill the bin with 2-3 inches of dirt and then several good inches of leaf-litter on top as a covering. Order some Red Wiggler worms from one of the online suppliers. I have used Uncle Jims (www.unclejimswormfarm.com) with no complaints. Pull back the leaf-litter covering and place the worms inside. Cover the worms with the leaf-litter and add a little water (just enough to moisten the contents of the bin) just once when introducing the worms.

Collect all your vegetable scraps for weekly feeding of the worms. Just pull back the leaf-litter covering, dump your scraps inside and cover them over with the leaf-litter to help reduce the smell. To collect the worm compost (usually every 2 months or so, depending on the number of worms you have) just remove the lid, mound the soil/compost up in the middle of the bin as high as you can, move the leaf-litter down around the base of the mound and place the bin in late afternoon sun for an hour or two. The worms will naturally move down the mound and into the base toward cooler temps allowing you to remove worm-free compost from the top. I have found the compost is especially good for seed starting, seedlings and transplants (like the Hardy Kiwi vines I bought this year).

I had success last winter in over-wintering the worms outside by adding a generous amount of vegetable scraps to my bins shortly before the ground froze. I dug individual holes in the ground to a depth just beneath the worm bin lid, placed the bins inside and filled the holes around the bins with dirt. I place an old board over the bins for some extra air space and then placed a very large leaf pile on top of the wood and worm bins. In late March I opened the worm bins and found the worms had survived a relatively cold New England winter.  

Hope this helps.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Offline)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 3103
Worm bin: $10 and 15 minutes

boydcster -

In this post, Jason shows how he builds a worm composter for less than $10 in under 15 minutes:

http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/vermiculture-worm-composting-diy/64455

He also explains how to practice vermiculture in way that almost anyone can do with little effort.

maceves's picture
maceves
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
new worm bin

I have all of the systems on Jason's post and a couple I made myself.  I like the Worm Farm 360 the best, with a set of extra  trays.  The system is small and the trays shallow, so eventually you will be running 7 trays on top of each other.  To harvest a tray, put that finished tray on top, shine a light on it, and let the worms move down into a working level.  They will dive down to avoid the light and the tray will be vacated and easier to harvest.  I use a screen too, to avoid clumping and big pieces.  In warm weather that is about every two weeks.

You will still have coccoons in that compost you just took out.  You can worry about them and pick them out, not worry and use it anyway, or set it aside and let those little worms hatch in a "nursery" bin like one of Jason's.

I put new bedding in the tray below my working trays so that any drip goes down into that--so I don't have a mess at the bottom of the system and it is ready to be the new tray when the time is right.

I have the Can O Worms too.  It is large and bulky, the trays are heavy, it takes longer to get the tray ready to harvest, and there is too much leachate in the bottom of the system.  I have to psych myself up before digging into it.  It does work, and is the model these other systems are copying.

I think the homemade bins are harder to handle and take more work.  I use them though.  I have some for baby worms, and I have some to finish off compost from the larger compost bin.  It would be easier to have a die off in one of these too.  

Remember if you have a die off of mature worms, the coccoons are very resilient--they don't all hatch at once, and they will repopulate your system if you give them a chance.

boydcster's picture
boydcster
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2013
Posts: 12
Worm bins

Thanks much, PlannedObsolescence, for this detailed, hands-on description. This is exactly what I was looking for - practical details by someone who has actually done the work. It helps cut through the maze of products and courses and gets right to what needs to get done. I plan to get started as soon as possible, novice though I am in these matters. Thanks for the guidance and I'll be contributing my own experience once I have some.

boydcster's picture
boydcster
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2013
Posts: 12
Worm Bins

Thanks, Adam. The pictures and specifications really helped me to visualize how this would work. The helpfulness of the postings here has really pleased me. I feel like I came to the right place to learn these skills.

boydcster's picture
boydcster
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2013
Posts: 12
Worm Bins

I'll be reporting on my experiences here in the Texas heat with worm bins. It would be great if any fellow Texans know about local conditions to be aware of in this type composting.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
indoor worm bins

boydcster,

Here in the American Deep South (I am in SC) we keep the bins indoors, under a desk or table - or in your garage. It keeps the worms from overheating or drying out during our hot summers. MIght be a good idea in TX. From what I understand, if you do it right they do not smell. . .

worldtrav's picture
worldtrav
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 16 2010
Posts: 10
Tx worms

I'm in Texas and my worms died this spring when it got real hot (80F+ all night).  They were in the garage.  I think the red wigglers were more heat-tolerant than the larger Jumpers.  The jumpers I put in the bin died the first night, but they were in bad shape after a late shipment.  That seemed to make the whole bin go rotten and I lost months worth of red wigglers the next day.

I'd like to go with the more breathable cloth bag option next spring since the rubbermaid just get's too hot.  The worms would be climbing the walls each night and I think that was because they were so hot.

maceves's picture
maceves
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
If they are out of the sun

If they are out of the sun and away from direct heat, an established colony with lots of moisture can go above 90 degrees F.  I cover the bin with a wet towel or bring it in the house if it gets above 95 degrees, but it hasn't this year.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments