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Cool worm bin idea  RSS feed

 
warren mccarthy
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I'm planning on redoing my worm bin in the near future. It's the first time I've successfully kept worms in a closed space, and I wanted to start keeping them in a way that I could access their finished castings easier( right now they're all over the place in a bucket.). A couple of years ago I stayed on a farm in Costa Rica and saw a really cool idea. They had they're worms in a bin that was the shape of a rectangular feeding trough. The worms were on the right side of the trough and they fed them cow poo to the left of them. Over time they added more poo to the left as the worms ate through the existing poo. what that left on the right side was all finished worm poop that was easily accessible. Has any one ever heard of this idea and if it works well.

Another quick question, what's the best wast to keep worms cool in the summer and warm in the winter? this is a problem I've had and even though the worms are still living since I started them last summer, they eat pretty slowing when not in optimum conditions.( the place I live gets over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and below freezing in the winter.)
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I have a friend in NZ that uses worm bins that your description sounds a lot like, he raises them both for composting and for sale as fish bait. It must work well since he has been doing it for over ten years and last year he added five more setups.

There is also a friend of  mine in Australia that uses rectangular wood bins (very box like) that have dividers to hold the worms in one half and then he fills the second half and replaces the divider with one that has holes in it so the worms can move to the new space prior to his harvesting the castings.

I think both methods are sound, easy to use and work remarkably well for how simple they are. Both let the "juice" just leak out so there isn't any danger of water logging and thus drowning of the worms.

Redhawk
 
max brotman
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Location: Northern California
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I used a rectangular worm bin like you describe for years in east Oakland, Ca. When it would get hot and dry in the long summers, I would notice the worm population decreasing, they would migrate to the bottom and out of the bin into the surrounding soil. As the temp increases and the moisture dropped, I would start to see these large grubs (maggots) thriving in the upper layers. At first I was worried, but then I found the source, black soldier fly! They had found my bin and set up their nursery. These grubs are compost shredders! they seem to eat up scraps faster than the worms do, are an excellent protein source for the chickens, and make great compost.
  After observation and research, rather than try to micromanage the climate for worms, I thought it better to allow different organisms to do the work according to the seasons. In the summer I would have more black soldier fly, and in the wet season, more worms. The flys, when they mature, are long bodied, slow moving flies. They do not fly in your face or bother the animals, and cause no nuisance. I don't know if they would naturalize in your climate, but I recommend observing and identifying the organisms in your compost, and allowing access to more insects than just worms. I designed my bin to keep out rodents and other mammals and birds, but allowing the worms and other bugs to come and go as they please. Diversity is just as important in compost as it is in the garden or landscape.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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Another quick question, what's the best wast to keep worms cool in the summer and warm in the winter? this is a problem I've had and even though the worms are still living since I started them last summer, they eat pretty slowing when not in optimum conditions.( the place I live gets over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and below freezing in the winter.)


Might try insulating the exterior of your bin(s) It should work fairly well.
 
Sally Munoz
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Location: SW Washington
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Ideally I would love a system like Harvey Ussery has; the bins are underground so stay at a fairly consistent, or at least non-freeezing or over-heating, temperature. They are under the pathway in his greenhouse. It is my dream system. Check it out here:
http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Chickens+and+Worms.html
Alternatively, and what I'm hoping to do here as a temporary system, is turn an old cooler into one. Like this:
http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Worm-A-Rater
I haven't really read from that last link much - I just google imaged "refrigerator worm bin" and that popped up. I saw the freezer/refrigerator ones recently and they sounded like a great idea, especially considering all the refrigerators and freezers that go into the landfill every day. The old cooler one looks more simple though and I happen to have one that was destined for the dump so I just might have to try it. The key is having a divider so you can put new material on one side, the worms migrate over, and you are left with nice castings on the old side. Sounds like the system you mentioned had that going on. I've done the single bin system and it was such a pain in the neck separating worms from castings, I gave up, dumped them next to a hugel-in-progress and put a bunch of leaves on top last fall. I've been dumping coffee grounds there and just recently checked to see how they fared the winter. There are thousands of wigglers in there, being all nicely insulated all winter, so at least I didn't lose my crew.
 
Francis Graf
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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This guy does a nice version of what you describem "horizontal migration".  Very passive and simple.  He also does vertical migration ones.

 
Kyle Neath
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Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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I don't know how much work you're looking to put in, but I would highly suggest looking into a Continuous Flow Through Bin if you want to easily access castings. You can get plans (like "The Beast" or VermBin24) on the internet, or buy something like the Worm Inn. The ease of access factor is easily 100x a horizontal flow-through bin (what you're describing).  Here's an example of someone harvesting their CFT bin for example:



If you're looking for a bit less investment, I would definitely suggest a vertical flow through bin (stacking trays style) over a horizontal flow through bin. It's a LOT easier to get the worms out of the castings (put the finished tray on top in the light and the worms move down), and the vertical style always matched the way my brain works better than a horizontal one.  I've got a vertical stacking bin right now, and it's been working great for me. That being said, I'm hoping to get some materials to build a small CFT bin myself here in the next few weeks.

As per the hot/cold problem — I share your pain in terms of cold. If your hot spells are short, a good hack is to throw a frozen water bottle in the worm bin during those hot days. Otherwise, shade and ventilation can do wonders. For the cold, you can build in insulation (if you're building your worm bin), or move it inside a heated building. I keep mine inside during winter to solve this problem, and luckily I have a willing partner who doesn't mind a few fungus gnats and fruit flies now and then.
 
Francis Graf
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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That flow through bin is great, I sent that exact video to my friend yesterday. 
So many of the DIY flow through bins have troubles, that one is by far the best. 

I am not convinced that either the vertical or the flow through are less work than a horizontal though, but probably faster.

If you wait the 2 months for all of the worms to migrate, there is no lighting tricks needed, and no worm separation. 
When compared to vertical, there are no trays to deal with, and higher volume.

When the designer of that flow through critiques his design, he talks about durability issues, and using pressure treated wood instead. 
The PT wood may be fine for the worms, but what about the microbial life, which is really what we are after here, and that PT wood is designed to kill?
A simple horizontal system like the one in the video I linked, has a liner and the bin will last a long time.

If one had volume and needed it done fast, I think the flow through design is hard to beat, but for passive home use I think horizontal migration is the way to go.

For high turnover, active production, THIS is what ya really want, or some DIY design that has a motorized harvest.



 
Kyle Neath
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Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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The PT wood may be fine for the worms, but what about the microbial life, which is really what we are after here, and that PT wood is designed to kill?


This is something I wonder about a lot too — and something I completely disagree with most builders on. I don't think using PT is necessary at all. We're not building a house's foundation here, we can afford for the wood to rot over the decades it will take to break down. I think people focus way too much that the wood will stay wet (the usual question to ask when going with PT), but neglect to ask what the negative effects are if it does rot. the answer? You might have to build a new one once a decade or so, or most likely, replace a few pieces of wood every 5-10 years.
 
Francis Graf
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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Yeah totally, Ive seen people do it in carboard boxes!

Ive never used wood up to this point, only plastic. Dan [DIY flow through] said he was having problems with the wood after only 6 months, but I think thats because he used plywood.

If he used 1x6 planks it would probably last longer and be easier to repair, plus it would add some passive ventilation to the lower compression zones, to prevent it from going anaerobic.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I wouldn't be surprised at all if you would rot thru a pine 1x6 in less than a year.  The constant moist garbage/food/worm dirt sitting right against the wood along with soil life that eats wood is going to rot it very quickly.  I have used 2x2 pine lumber for temporary posts to hold shade cloth over small new trees and had them rot off at the ground in less than one summer.

A better way than treated wood, although more work, may be to cover the inside of the boxes with sheet metal.  The plans I have call for the bottom pipes to be made from conduit.
 
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