Friday, January 16, 2009

Making the Worm Bin Part 1

Part of my worm bin composter is finished.  This really is a very simple project that anyone can do at home.  To complete this part of the composter it only took about 30 minutes which also included the time to gather the materials and to put them away.  Since the weather outside this week is terribly cold this makes a good indoor project to help ease that gardening itch.


I found the basic idea at the Washington State University Extension service.  Their site demonstrates a two tray compost bin but if you look the commercially available worm compostering systems have 3-5 expandable sections.  I decided to start small and I prepared three plastic containers. The total cost of these was around $15-$18.  Your cost may vary due to your local taxes, our sales tax in TN is higher than most.

I followed the instructions and used a 1/4 inch bit to drill about 20 holes in the bottom of the three containers.  This was easy work but tedious when you consider that I drilled somewhere around 60 holes between the three boxes.









The next step was to take a 1/16 inch bit and drill in air holes around the tops of the containers.  Just like us the worms have to breathe!  I drilled two rows of air holes along the top.  I wasn't sure how many to holes to make.  In the end I probably drilled 30 or more air holes on each side of the containers.





The last step in this part of the process was ventilating the top lid.  I used the 1/16 inch size bit and drill a bunch of holes.  Bunch is a technical term that really means "I have no clue since I didn't count but it seemed like a lot."



Here's how they will fit together.  One bin on top of the other.  These particular containers will hold up to 10 gallons of compost and worms.  Once the worms finish with the yummy compost in the bottom bin they will work their way up to the next bin by traveling through the 1/4 inch holes.  Then I can remove the bottom container and allow the second bin to take its place.  Each week to week and a half our family produces enough green compostable kitchen scraps to fill a 3 gallon nursery pot.  I'll give the worms what we can then put the rest in our backyard compost bin. 

I need to rig up a way to catch the liquid runoff from the worm bin.  That will be my next project with the worm bin but it will have to wait until warmer weather.  The garage is just too cold to work in right now!

Of course you could always try the store bought worm bins but the homemade kind will definitely save you money and should be just as effective!

23 comments :

  1. Very cool bin project. I'm looking forward to reading about the results.

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  2. I am fascinated by your system and the fact you are doing it! Can't wait to see how it all turns out. Especially the finished stuff. This will be fun for Grace too.

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  3. One idea for catching the liquid runoff is to drill a few small holes (probably 1/16 of an inch) in the bottom of the bottom bin, and set your entire system on one of the lids from the containers (you got lids with all three containers, right?) Put the lid upside-down, and any liquid that leaks out of your bin will be caught in the overturned lid. You can pour it into a bucket or watering can, and you're all set.

    It's not a very high-tech or pretty solution, but it does work :-)

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  4. Alan,

    It may be some time before I get much out of it. At least 3 months or longer once I put the worms in. My goal is to have usable material by fall.

    Tina,

    She definitely likes worms, caterpillars, and all sorts of little critters!

    Colleen,

    That's a good idea. I'm planning on a variation of that with a little twist for convenience. I'm just hoping it works!

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  5. This is looking more exciting as I see the bins taking shape! Cant wait to see the wigglers. I see the system is in the house now Jenny. But no worms yet. tee hee...

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  6. Dave, What is the optimum and acceptable temperature range for these? I know (I think I know) that worms like it a bit on the cool side.

    I have a plant room that I heat enough to over Winter containers in, but in the heat of the summer I don't have an air conditioned place to do this.

    I wonder if I could get enough increase between mid fall and late spring to be worthwhile? If so I could just dump the little hermaphrodites out in the garden and start over every Autumn.

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  7. Professor Dave,

    This is a wonderful tutorial!

    Thanks,
    Cameron

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  8. I enjoyed reading your article, and it has planted a seed in my mind that just may take root, and cause me to want to see if I can find a spot to try a worm composter. I have a big one in my veggie garden, with 3 sections that I am too wimpy to take things out to in the winter.

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  9. it's just great! i was thinking in build one, but so far it was just an idea, and my compost it's done in buckets... not very good couse i don't have access to the botom without removing the top layers. and it's smelly ;p
    this idea it's perfect, just need 2 or 3 to start and then make more according to personal needs! i'll start looking for this kinf of lego building boxes, thanks for this great idea!!!

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  10. David,

    I read where worms like the 55-70 degree temperature range. You can make an outdoor bin using bales of straw or a wood frame with a lid then transfer a pound or two of worms between the two. Basically a summer bin and a winter bin. I'll probably be looking into that as well.

    Thanks Cameron!

    They say these work very well indoors with no odor. Although my wife won't let me try that. Something about worms in the house that she isn't very keen on. ;)

    Buedamau,

    Go for it! Your veranda garden would benefit.

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  11. I've seen so many confusing worm bins - this is very easy to do! One question; after the worms move up into the second bin and you empty the bottom one, do you then take that bottom one and put it on the top?

    I too thought that one of the lids would make the perfect tray to catch liquid.

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  12. Anonymous,

    I'm glad you liked this post! You're right, just put the empty bin on top and let the worms start all over. It's kind of like a worm treadmill if you could imagine something like that!

    I may end up taking the lid and direct the liquid into another conatiner of some sort.

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  13. I have a worm bin too. But mine is only one bin so I find this real interesting.

    I started out nearly two years ago when I had about 10 red worm left over from fishing. I kept them in their little cup in the fridge and fed them corn meal to keep them alive. Several times I started to turn them loose but I didn't. They stayed healthy, fat but did not reproduce. So, I got a turkey pan and moved them in their larger house with potting soil. Still no reproducing. So I bought my 10 worm a rubbermaid container much like what you have. I put nearly 20 pounds of potting soil in it and let them frolic. That was about 8 months ago. I have about 500 worm now and they are fixing to get a condo treatment like yours. I want them to transfer naturally to the top soil. And then I will have to wait a month or so to make sure the babies that hatch move upward too.....

    It is the most interesting thing to do.

    I live in Missouri so we have very very cold winters. I put their container under the kitchen table. For people worried about odor, worm farming has no odor if you don't overfeed.

    It's a fun project. Thank you for the wonderful idea's on transfering them to a new container.

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  14. You could get another container, without holes in the bottom, to use as a worm tea collection bin. Drill one hole in the side and install a tap for easy access, like the store-bought ones.

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  15. hi
    if you get another bin and just drill a small hole in tne corner and place a irrigation tap and move the other bins around leaving the bottom bin alone. place a jar under the tap.

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  16. I have tried worms a few times but I think they got too hot, I live in Daytona Beach Fl. But I am ready to try again and the dollar gen. store has those tubs real cheap my question is how full do you make them? do you fill the lower ones so that the compost touches the bottom of the next one up or what? Thank you for any help

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  17. Hi Frank!

    You want the bottom of the second bin to rest on top of the bottom bin's compost to allow the worms to move freely upward. Fill the bottom bin first then when it is mostly full fill the next one and continue. When your top bin is full empty the bottom one into your garden and move it to the top!

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  18. Thanks, I just made this project this weekend. However, I bought a fourth bin to be on bottom and catch the tea (left intact, no holes drilled). Looking forward to this fun (and ongoing) project. I couldn't find bins like yours that stack "less tight", so my bins fit a little too snuggly...I added untreated wood blocks to opposite corners to elevate a bit... the trick is not too tight, and not too much space where the worms can crawl up the sides. Thanks!

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  19. I wish I had seen this post a few years ago before I bought a worm bin. Although they advertise that the worms travel up the trays as they finish composting the lower layers, the worms all seem to eat and return to the bottom layers. Congregating in the finished compost. They do a great job of eating scraps though.

    Your idea is 5 times cheaper than the ones in the store and, I would guess, just as effective.

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  20. I am just starting this project and am wondering if you have any more updates/ideas or new posts I should look at before I start, in case you have done any improvements :) thanks for Sharing this! Do you have any gnat/fruit flu problems?

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    1. Meagan, Right now the worm bin is in the garage and doesn't have any gnat issues at all. I had it outside once and had flies infiltrate the bins so I don't plan on doing that again! I haven't made any additions to this since I made it. I've stacked it on top of several old yogurt containers and have one of the lids as a moisture catching tray. Really though not much moisture comes through.

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  21. Thanks for sharing this! Question - can you put plant scraps in the bin - do the worms like to eat bits I've pruned off of houseplants, for example? Also - I'm thinking to try it with just two bins on top that I'll rotate as the top one gets filled, and then one shallower one on bottom to catch the "tea" - any problems you can foresee with that?

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Dave

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