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Vermicomposting project at Wheaton Laboratory  RSS feed

 
Philip Durso
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Location: Missoula, Montana (zone 4)
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Me & the kitchen commander (aka Oliver) decided to team up & work on a vermicomposting system. I bought these bins based on Oliver's advice and previous experience with vermicomposting. I'm told they are a good size and depth should be just about right for the quantity of food scraps we have coming off the table each night. We are starting with three & will probably be adding a couple more as the system matures. I'll post more pictures as we get the system up & running.
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Vermicomposting bins
 
Cj Sloane
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They don't look like food grade plastic.
 
Sam Barber
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It looks to me like these bins are High density polyethylene 2. Which isn't going to leach a whole lot of plastic. Plus the plastic is four steps in the food chain away from the food so I don't think you should be to worried about. Also HDPE 2 is one of the best plastics for storage because it is inert and only leaches if it left in the sun for days on end. It is also a non porous surface. Also from my understanding HDPE 2 is food grade.
 
joseph wittenberg
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Location: aguanga, california
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That pretty much the ones we use and all the research I did shows that the hdpe 2 ones were food grade, I take it with a grain of salt but as stated before it's multiple steps away from food so I doubt leeching would be a problem.
 
Julia Winter
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Looks good! I look forward to seeing how this goes for you. Vermicomposting seems like a good plan for dealing with food scraps when you don't have pigs or chickens.
 
Becky Keith
Posts: 20
Location: Kelly , NC
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I want some worms. They are next on my list of wants. My soil is so bad I am planning to attack it with multiple sources of nutrients. Grass doesn't even want to grow here. I feel like I am in a sand pit. I have built some raised beds yo start my seeds. I added some good top soil and lots of composted cow manure . So keep your finger crossed that I will be able to get something to grow. I am hoping to have my baby chicks this week if the rain will ever stop so I can finish the chick shed. I decided not to even plant in the garden fields this year so I have been raking leaves out of the woods and covering them. I also added pine straw to hold the leaves in place and then threw some topsoil from the woods on it. I am hopping that the chicken poop and worm compost will speed things along. I also plan to get some goats and pigs. The woods are over grown and jungle like. I plan to fence an area of them at a time and turn the critters loose to do what they do. I will just keep moving the fences. So I will be very interested with how your worms do. I have several of those plastic tubs scattered around the house.
 
Weston Ginther
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Location: NW South Dakota - Zone 4b
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Sam Barber wrote:It looks to me like these bins are High density polyethylene 2. Which isn't going to leach a whole lot of plastic. Plus the plastic is four steps in the food chain away from the food so I don't think you should be to worried about. Also HDPE 2 is one of the best plastics for storage because it is inert and only leaches if it left in the sun for days on end. It is also a non porous surface. Also from my understanding HDPE 2 is food grade.


How does Paul feel about using plastic for this setup? I love the stance he takes on trying to minimize toxins as much as possible and I believe he has very good reasons for doing so. With a sawmill on-site and lots and lots of trees, is there a reason why a wooden box wasn't chosen instead? Obviously it wouldn't last as long but when it starts to fall apart it could simply be added to a new hugel mound (after the screws or nails were removed) and a new one could be built.

I know there are only so many hours in a day and you guys are extremely busy with lots of other stuff but it only took me around 30-60 minutes to construct my wooden worm bin. I just built mine this winter but several people have reported wooden bins lasting a minimum of 2-3 years. I understand there is a certain point where you need to just get projects started and quit worrying so much about toxins that probably aren't even a concern. However, with something as easy to build as a worm bin, I just assumed there at wheaton labs that plastics would be avoided simply out of principle, whenever possible and practical. I'm not trying to nitpick, it's just my opinion but I would like to know what Paul's thoughts were (if he has any?). With all that said, it's awesome to see all the projects starting to take shape there and hopefully sometime in the future I can help in some way to increase the forward velocity of Paul's plans on world domination
 
Cj Sloane
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Weston, could you post a pic of your worm bin?
 
Carolyn Elliott
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Location: western Washington
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Weston Ginther wrote: is there a reason why a wooden box wasn't chosen instead?

Portability might have been a factor?

Instead of screws or nails, could dowels be used to hold a wooden bin together? That way when it deteriorates, there wouldn't be any metal to remove before composting it. Would dowel construction be practical?
 
Walter Ouzel
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Location: Southern California
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I started in plastic but then moved to wood. In plastic keeping the moisture right can be hard, and mine got too wet and the lots of worms died, even with drain holes, not to mention the plastic ick. In my experience wood breathes better and is more forgiving. But I live in a climate where it doesn't freeze and keep them outdoors. Indoors plastic may make more sense. I am a big fan of worms. I've made about ten of these wood boxes and give them as gifts. I use 6'x6"x1" cedar fence boards, which are about $2 to $3. I use 5 boards a box with a redwood 6' 2x2. I make two cuts on each fence board (measure it so each board provides two long sides and one short side) and use the redwood 2x2 to secure the sides and put one piece to brace the bottom. It takes about 30 minutes to knock one out and comes to about $15-20 in wood. My oldest has lasted about 7 years and is still in good shape. You have to raise it up on bricks so it doesn't touch the soil. I imagine you could use dowels, but would take much more time. I use wood screws, and pre-drill all the holes because cedar will split.

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Cj Sloane
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I think I'll try one of these! There's a mill right up the road where I can get 1"x6"x8' for less then $2 for very freshly cut red rot boards, pine I guess. So wet liquid comes out when you screw into it sometimes.

I really like that you didn't use plywood.

Are their any holes drilled or do you manage it so it doesn't stay that wet?
 
Walter Ouzel
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I drill about 8 "1/4 holes spaced out in the bottom as well as leave a little crack between the boards for drainage Also, I measured the dimensions. I use 15" on the short side and 28.5" on the long side for 6" wide boards. This means no wasted wood. For 8 foot board, keep the short side 15"(width of 3 boards across, less 2 boards thickness), but you could increase the length to 40.5" for a bigger box. I started with shredded newspaper as bedding, but don't like that too much, gets water logged and probably adds some toxic stuff. Then I did peat moss which is not very eco, but is super forgiving on draining excess water and as well as staying moist. Now I use coconut coir, which is probably not much more eco than peatmoss. I'm shifting to sifted compost that I make myself and will see if that will work. Good bedding (water holding and shedding excess) for me means I can neglect them and they are still happy.
 
Weston Ginther
Posts: 63
Location: NW South Dakota - Zone 4b
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Cj Verde wrote:Weston, could you post a pic of your worm bin?


Sure thing

I mainly used scavenged 2x6s for the body of the bin. It adds a little more weight to the bin but hopefully it'll make it last a lot longer. The inside dimensions are 29"x13"x10.5" (HxWxD) and were mainly dictated by the size of the space underneath my sink. I wanted to have the bin in a convenient place while providing them a stable temperature throughout the year. Ideally, I would have the bin at least 12" deep but since red wiggler worms usually live in the top few inches of leaf litter on the forest floor, I think 10.5" will be okay. Starting out small will also help me build on little successes and expand into more bins in the future.

I drilled around six 1/2" holes along the top of one side and on the bottom of the other to provide adequate aeration and drainage. I may drill a 3/4-1" hole at the very bottom on one end and set the bin at a slight angle to allow for better drainage and easier catchment of the "vermicompost tea".

Like I said it took me around 30-60 minutes (probably closer to 60) to complete it. Usually projects take me a long time because I'm kind of a perfectionist (definitely not always a good thing, haha), so I made it a point while building this worm bin to get it done quick and not worry about what it looked like. If there were a couple gaps between the wood or one board that was a little longer than the other I just tried to ignore it and tell myself "it's just a worm bin". As long as it functions as a place to house your worms, just go for it and I'm sure everything will turn out great. Then the projects next on the list can be started on

If anyone has more questions, just let me know.
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Myron Weber
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Location: Orange County, CA, USA
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10 gallon plastic totes for worms? What a horrible idea...
Wait. Never mind.

I use the same thing. For my family of 4, stacking and rotating 3 works great. The second picture isn't very clear - trying to show the cutout that let's worms move from one bin to another. There's a hole all the way at the bottom covered with screen that let's excess liquid leach out.
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Myron Weber
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Walter Ouzel wrote:I started with shredded newspaper as bedding, but don't like that too much, gets water logged and probably adds some toxic stuff. Then I did peat moss which is not very eco, but is super forgiving on draining excess water and as well as staying moist. Now I use coconut coir, which is probably not much more eco than peatmoss. I'm shifting to sifted compost that I make myself and will see if that will work. Good bedding (water holding and shedding excess) for me means I can neglect them and they are still happy.


I like your style, Walter. Most of the time, I just use green waste and kitchen scraps, but I keep some coconut coir on hand for when I need it. (You can see the bin of coir in the photo in my post above.) Nothing I've found works better for absorbing the excess moisture and keeping the vermicompost loose. I was just using it this morning right before I took the picture because I put watermelon rinds in the bin and buried them in a thin layer of coir to absorb the moisture and to keep fruit flies away.
 
Bill Puckett
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Location: the meadows, hawk's prairie, Oly, wa
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Wormies!
 
Johnny Niamert
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Plastic bins are/were too hard to get the moisture balance correct on, IME.

I just use large fabric pots (Smart Pots), stuffed with wood chips, manure, leaves, compost, etc . . . Keep them watered with the other houseplants. After a few months, you got a handy little bucket full of worms, cocoons, and vermicompost. Worms can move through the material, so you could 'stack' them.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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I've been doing vermicomposting on and off for over 25 years. Plastic bins work fine as long as there is drainage and you balance feedstock. I have had good success with 18g rubbermaid type bins. However, my greatest success is with outdoor heaps, windrows and lately an outdoor bin. The bin pictured is 2x10x8 with the earth dug out 12-18" and lined with 1/4" hardware cloth to keep burrowing critters out.

Historically I have raised redworms. This year I'm culturing European Night Crawlers as they process organic matter as well as reds, but also survive well in the soil. My plan is to culture through the season, then seed the well mulched vegetable garden in the fall.
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Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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I have a design I use for medieval style wooden boxes. No metal fasteners, and holds a lot of weight. Dowels are used as the sole fastener, inserted at an angle to keep them from being pried apart. A good size box can be made from 1 1x12 -12 feet long (from a design contest).

You can find it here, including a link to a sketchup version (complete with cutting sheet). I hadn't thought of using them for a worm bin, but I find I like that better than the plastic buckets. From the experience of composting toilet buckets, I am not sure that plastic will last longer (in a desirable condition) than wood. Those are starting to get stinky, and break apart after 12 years of use.

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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Michael Vormwald do you have some sort of cover to keep critters from digging in the top of your worm bin? I have been wanting to make a large outdoor worm bin a lot like what you have but am concerned that racoons and other critters here enjoy digging up things in my garden so much, I will need to make a cover.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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I originally had a plywood cover hinged on that bed (two 4'x4' lids). In time, I took them off. Since the compost is mere veggie waste (and mostly decaying leaves and grass/weeds) I don't seem to have any problems with the open style. I put the high hoop on this season just to ensure against too much rain soaking the bed...although so far, this means I have to water occasionally even with a good layer of dry (mulch) material on top.
You might try just covering with a tarp or putting a small fence around it as there isn't 'real food' to attract critters.

Footnote: I was always more concerned about moles and voles that burrow and will eat worms, which is the reason for the hardware cloth that lines the bottom.

Olivia Helmer wrote:Michael Vormwald do you have some sort of cover to keep critters from digging in the top of your worm bin? I have been wanting to make a large outdoor worm bin a lot like what you have but am concerned that racoons and other critters here enjoy digging up things in my garden so much, I will need to make a cover.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Flow through worm bins are easier to harvest and manage: http://velacreations.com/blog/238-worm-bin.html

 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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Totes and flow through systems are fine for indoor small scale vermicomposting. With a 1/4 acre vegetable garden, I prefer the much larger outdoor heap/windrow/bin to make a greater amount of vermicompost. One fall I made a huge heap of grass clippings and fallen leaves. I had heat cable on the ground and because it was grass and leaves, it got very warm and stayed warm well into winter so the worms remained very active. In the spring, I harvested a truckload of vermicompost for the garden.
Moving forward with no till, my entire well mulched garden will be my pseudo worm bin!

As far as harvesting a bin. As everyone is aware, most worms live in the upper layers. To harvest, prepare another bin with bedding and simply scoop off the top 6" or so of the old bin and put in the new bin. You'll still need to pull out some stragglers from the old bin, but it will be few. Now, if you're looking to increase your herd. Set the old bin asside but keep moist and provide some feedstock so cocoons will hatch and baby worms will survive. After some time you can harvest again to extract the new worms.

Abe Connally wrote:Flow through worm bins are easier to harvest and manage: http://velacreations.com/blog/238-worm-bin.html

 
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