Are you ready? It's time for our 14th annual photo contest! Enter your best pictures of the year, for a chance to win a calendar and annual subscription here. Hurry! Deadline for entries is October 21.
I started composting last summer and went to a thrift store and got a 18 g. rectangular plastic storage container, drilled the heck out of it and it works fine. Have about 9" of material, layering shredded paper, dirt and the worms thrived beautifully. I decided to dump it after about 2 months, and it was a real pain to turn it upside down and separate the worms from the castings. I divided the worms and now have 2 containers, side by side. Here's my question: What are some home made bins that you can stack and then hopefully not be so labor intensive? I was thinking of putting another bin on top of the existing one, drilling large holes in the bottom and then using whiffle balls as the base. Looks like the worms could wiggle through and it would be a good separation between the two bins for aeration and drainage. Before I try that, would like to hear some of your creative ideas. Thanks!
p.s., they go cuckoo for pizza crust
I know the problem you are talking about. It is really inherant in enclosed bin systems. The little plastic tray-type bins that are on the market are designed well but are too small to hold much. I used to work for a company that produced them so I have three bins made from scrap parts. That is still not enough for my family. Ive got a book on Amazon titled Compost Tea Making. There is a tray-type design in the vermiculture chapter thats easy to make. If you can make square cuts on a 2X6 [or have the lumber store do so] you can make these easily. They are simply 24" 2X6 frames with 1/4" galvanized hardware cloth screen attached to the bottom with horseshoe nails. The trays will hold 4.2 cubic ft. of material. You can set them on some concrete blocks with a bucket underneath to catch the liquid. Honestly I am not that game on the worm leachate because even though its nutrient-rich its too often anaerobic. If you are worried about worms escaping from this system you can place piece of landscape cloth in the bottom of the bottom tray. Usually only the dumb ones do anyway. I hope this helps.
hi steve.. i was going to buy one of those commercial stacked worm farms..but after reading here of others that raise
worms..and for a fair amout of castings..i went with a home made version..
i use 37 gal rubbermaid bins..i got mine at homedepot... i use the lid as the liquid catch.. i have the bin elevated above the lid
using small clay pots..
i cut out small holes in the binfor areation.. also the bottom..i line the bin with cardboard...bottom too..
bedding it depends on how much you want to spend.. for me..im cheap.. so i use shredded up cardboard, some
coco coir.. and then just add food..
its really low maintaince.. i get a ton of castings from my 4 bins i have..
most time consuming is the separating out the castings from the worms.. but on a really sunny day.. makes easy work..
oh.. and i use a cut to fit piece of cardboard for the cover over the bin.. worms dont like light..
great to see someone else get into this!!!
all the best steve
steve, I'm pretty much the loner of the group here. I never drill holes in my tubs. Like tropicalnut I use the large plastic tubs, however I use peat moss as my choice for media. I have learned how to control the moisture levels without much difficulty and I extract my germination mix material (castings if you prefer) from the surface of my bins each time I feed the worms. I remove up to an inch of dried, worm free, spent media using one of those kitty litter scoops. I also replace the removed media with new peat moss which has been soaked and the excess water removed with an aquarium net. This new media acts as a sponge to absorb any excess moisture. I use a blender with about 50% aquarium water to blend the veggie scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds before feeding to the worms. I actually add extra water to the bins in order to maintain the proper moisture level. If it gets too wet, just add some more peat moss.
As for aeration, my bins get sufficient aeration when I feed. I use a hand fork and work the area I am feeding well, down to about four inches from the bottom which I only disturb about every two months. Red wigglers are more forgiving about being disturbed that others I have worked with.
I didn't get around to making worm tea this year, but I definitely plan to next season. Hopefully Marc can give us some more feedback on this subject...
thanks for your input Mark7, tropicalnut777, mraider3. Guess I'll have to modify the flip method and try to make it as easy as possible. Your ideas give me the thought of flipping a bin onto wire mesh, then setting that pile on top of a freshly bedded and food rich bin, and have the worms migrate down into the new material, then just scoop the old stuff off the top periodically. I was really surprised how heavy 2 cu. feet of vermicompost can be...very dense.
If one does this about every 3 months, I guess it won't be that bad.
Don't know where this idea popped into my head, but...has anybody used those hand held shopping baskets like you see at all the stores? They seem the perfect size and perforated on all sides. Seems like they would make nice little condos. Guess the problem is getting ahold of them. I may experiment with that and will report the results. Seems like they would stack well.
i dont know steve.. to me it would be difficult to keep your bedding in there?? i put a fair amount of cut out holes in my bins..(ruins them) sigh..but..
but even from those holes the worms "kick" out alot of the bedding/castings..
morgan is a great source on bins that work..hes done this alot longer than i have..and is really handy and is a wealth of knowledge of what has
worked for him..
i use 37 gal rubbermaid bins..(on sale when i can get them) i cut out holes all over including the bottom..
i dont think theres a right way..or even wrong way..what works for you..and you will find what does work for ya..
good luck to ya steve...
I have been making and using manure based finished compost and earth worm casts in combination to make aerobic tea for a lot of years. I know the combination is far better than either base and always will be. As normal every day good ole red neckers we tend to latch onto one method or another and promote the heck out of it without to much thought. This is more true of those who are in business to sell their productions.
I would be happy to join in with whomever else may exist on this subject. I am closely aligned to the leaders in this subjective arena. I will not argue the differences in aerobic and anaerobic teas. I will speak only on aerobic tea making.
Either can be pure and simple. Both methods make good teas. Yet some tend to get way out of line professing one or the other which makes no sense to me what so ever. Both systems are dirt cheap and improve any soil they are applied to.
Here is a picture of my five gallon set up. It is just as easy to make forty gallons from almost the same amount of base materials. The suggested rate of application of properly made aerobic compost worm casting teas is in the neighborhood of one gallon per acre. Aerobic teas can not be over applied. If they are they starve and the bodies of the creation simply become food for the living. I made everything you are looking at except the compressor and the tank heater. The brews with this equipment can be matured in eighteen hours at seventy seven degrees. With the larger forty gallon brew I needed to start heating the water a day earlier so I could start at seventy seven degrees. Doing this the production time is about the same.
The forty gallon brew was applied using a low cost Lowe's sump pump and a fifty foot hose. I used a very scientific thumb over hose end to create the spray onto and off of all my plants.
I am retired. The equipment has been sold to an organic sixty acre farm where half the acreage is growing many garden items for a co-op arrangement. They are using my tried and simple production and application.
OKay theres that picture again. Doc please tell me where you purchased your mechanical aerator. I have tried to locate one since the first time you published that pic in another forum. I have all sorts of aquarium aerators but I don't think they are nearly as effective for compost tea as the one you have attached to that 5-gallon bucket. You also stated the problems associated with clogging of air stones in that thread if I remember correctly. Worth repeating in this forum. Glad you brought your sage advice to vermicultre.
Also one other question. I have just downloaded information on using alfalfa in compost tea. I haven't reviewed my old notes, but I believe you were using this in one of your forumlas. Correct?
I purchased the compressor from North Country Organics. I have not talked to them in years. They or someone removed the information from the compressor. It was a good one from China. If I remember correctly I spent about $225.00 for it. That's a start to a question answer that I do in fact have difficulty with.
I am aware of one creative gardener who rigged up his thirty gallon tank compressor down to the point that it produced a large bubble rolling boil not dissimilar from a pot full of boiling potatoes. It has been said that the fine bubbles from fish tank stones are raspy and may hurt the critters. I am not sure of this but report what I believed and followed.
To avoid clogging no matter what system you use simply start up the air output before you place it in the water and keep it blowing air until you remove it from the brew. To do otherwise is inviting clog up problems. The stones from fish tank supplies are by their making rough and provide excellent difficult to near impossible cleaning surfaces. They will build up and become less effective no matter how careful you handle them.
Yes I nearly always used alfalfa in my forty gallon brews. I bought a bale a year using about half a sheaf per forty gallon brew. When it ran out that was it for the alfalfa. Sometimes I would use green right out of the field when I could get it.
Any good Japanese engineer can make the brewer. Use the least expensive solid flexible sewer and drain pipe and a piece of synthetic screen wire. The wire clamp is a piece of that pipe cut out by bolting it to the inside tube first so the window cuts match. Use stainless steel nuts and bolts. The inside air tube is three quarter inch PVC. The cap at the very bottom is drilled with the smallest fractional bit in any set. The holes in the four inch end cap are quarter inch holes. What make it circulate better than any other brewer is the rising bubbles creating a suction at the bottom of the tower. All brewing materials are inside the brewer rolling and turning gently very much unlike the tea bag approach. When seventy five or seventy six degrees are maintained the brue will finish in eighteen hours. Non of the parts a cemented together. This helps in the fifteen minute careful clean up using 10% by volume Clorox and water.
The neatest thing about this brewer is that with the exception of the compressor the cost for me was under ten dollars. The brew only requires three cups of compost and one cup of earth worm casts for a forty gallon brew. There are additives by choice with each person brewing but their cost is small. The production of tea works out to be fifteen to twenty cents per gallon. You can treat your whole property with one brew easily. Twice a month was my first year application. Once a month the second and following two years. Finally just three times a growing season to maintain an extremely healthy biological content in my soil. That was the plan. I worked it reasonably well alowing for human error by using the inexpensive good measure squirt here and squit their method. There is hardly anything one could do wrong when maintaining good mass temperatures and a healthy rolling bubble air movement through the brewer. Almost anyone can easily see or figure out the simplicity of this whole set up. To me absolutely no other system makes sense for we back yard to small truck farm folks. The folks that bought my system are treating sixty acres with forty gallons roughly within the schedule I suggested.
I was trying to think of a cheap lazy woman's way to compost, and my EXTRA LARGE, TALL pop-up net laundry basket came to mind (the kind you find in bins at the flea mkts) . If I were to purchase four, double them up to make 2 stronger baskets, and and then slide one upside down over the other, that might work to hold my table scraps, leaves, paper and grass. I could just roll it around on the ground to mix. They two ends can be separated when adding items to the mix and then put back together. The netting makes it aerated. What do you think? Worth a try?
Here's an update as to the original 18 gal. Sterlite bins. I "found" a shopping basket as illustrated above and did the shredded paper, horse manure and sand layering, and just laid it on top of the existing material. From then on, put the food in that. In a few days, the worms migrated up, and it works great. Did it again with a basket that was available at Big Lots, and the worms just suck up into the higher bin. As long as they keep getting food material in the inner bin, they will abandon the lower one, I scoop out the castings, and start anew. No more back breaking separation of worms from the material. Basically this doubles the worm capacity without increasing the bin space. This is the inner basket from Big Lots ($1.00).