Opinion please - Worm Factory Indoor Composter

I'm wanting to get into vermicomposting here and am looking at options for the worm bins. I've seen the videos on making my own from 30-gal plastic bins and am also looking at commercially available ones as well. Since it's too cold here during the winter to be actively composting outdoors, I'm considering one that can be moved indoors to continue production during the winter. Has anyone used/purchased the Indoor Composter from the Worm Factory?
I'm looking for opinions of the best system for using both indoors and outdoors (during warmer months).

Arlington, MA(Zone 6a)

i just set mine up last night. i have another worm composter, made from rubbermaid containers. (http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/FilesHtml/Organics/OscrJunior.pdf)

the rubbermaid works just fine but we don't have the time to build another one right now so i bought a worm factory. i can let you know in a few months.

I considered one made from RM containers but figured by the time I bought bits and pieces for drainage recovery, etc that I'd spend just as much $$. The small footprint of the WF models appeals to me as well since I don't have a basement space to put it in and my garage - well, let's just say I have just enough room in it for the car. I did read comments on Amazon (mixed reviews) and, while there are some minor issues, there weren't severe negative comments that might deter me. Thanks so much for your input. Come summer, I may opt to also try the RM tubs as well.

Helena, MT

Cindy, you might go back a couple of years to when the vermiculture forum was first started. There was considerable discussion about these commercial units for the first couple of years. For the last year or so there has been very little said about these units. Many of use use the simple 30-gallon plastic tubs and some do drill holes for 'worm tea' recovery.

Thanks for that suggestion. I do have a Worm Factory enroute. I thought it might be the ticket for a total novice, starting this with winter rushing in. I'm hoping that I can master this first and then hopefully expanding to plastic tubs outdoors during nicer weather.

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

i agree with morgan.. i took in thoughts from many here..and for me..
using on sale rubbermaid tubs (i use 37gal ones) has worked great for me..
i think its all how much do you want to pay for certain conviences of the commercial made
worm bins.. mostly harvesting the castings.. i think as far as what works best.. if you give the
worms what they need.. they dont care what they live in..
good luck to ya !!!!

I did receive my worm bin and have it all set up, waiting for the worms to arrive. Heck - it's like getting new pets! :)

Helena, MT

I don't mean to throw a damper on things here, but we don't seem to hear much from the people who have purchased these commercial bins. It seemed to be the rave a couple of years ago and now no one mentions them here. That makes me wonder if indeed they are simpler than the inexpensive tub method which I have used for a number of years. Harvesting castings or spent media as I like to call them is so simple, I can't really imagine anything simpler. I don't have experience with these commercial units so I don't really have no right to criticize. I would just like to see some feedback from anyone who has used both methods. There is another online club which is devoted to vermiculturing, so I have been told. Possibly they would have some answers....

My "pets" arrived Friday afternoon. The box was already in the house before UPS even pulled away. The bin was ready and waiting for them, food had been microwaved and left to develop some activity. Sadly, about 2/3 of the worms haven't budged in 20+ hours. I don't think they survived the cold trip even though "Uncle Jim"says they ship year-round. I've kept them exposed to light (to encourage burrowing) and room temps (to warm them up) and spayed them with water upon arrival (to rehydrate them) but it doesn't seem like most of them are going to pull through. I'll have to give "Uncle Jim" a call on Monday. Bummer. Good news is that some of the worms have found the food.

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

bummer cindy..:( im sure u will get worked out..and more worms...
i have a couple friends with the tiered tray worm factorys ..they like them.. but
i just dont see how they get that much castings from it..
it seems really convient and all..but for me..the big rubbermaid tubs works great...
i probably should make the harvesting easier..as morgan does..just havest some all the time
instead of what i do..clean out most of the tubs and start again..
my worms dont seem to mind..i think i just make more work for me.. LOL
typical.. :)

I'm guessing that all of the different bins/systems have pros and cons. I just picked one that I thought would be space-saving, easy to harvest the "goodies" and simple upkeep - something easy for an impatient beginner like me. I am hoping to expand next spring (if I can get the "hang" of it) and it would be a good time for me to try the RM tubs. For indoor composting over the winter, I don't have a lot of space - no basement, a garage crammed with stuff plus car, etc. I'll let you all know how it works.

I called "Uncle Jim" yesterday about the mortality rate in my worm shipment last week. No questions asked, they're sending out another shipment today since they guarantee live worms. DH was ready to look elsewhere for replacements but I wanted to give the shipper the opportunity to "make it right" and I'm happy I did. The survivors from the first shipment are very active and I can already see that some of the "food" has been consumed.

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

excellent cindy!! uncle jims sounds like a good service oriented business..
ya have to be in this economy.. glad youre getting replacement worms..
dont think u will have to buy more worms..when you get more bins started up..
i did.. wasnt a yr after started my 1st bin and i had plenty of worms to put into next bins
im at 5 now..would like more..i can use the castings..but ..LOL..im lazy.. :)
ive even given away worms to 3 friends now too.. they have their bins going strong !!!
as for convience..i think i make it harder for myself than i need to.. every time i read one of
morgans posts..i think.. why am i harvesting castings the way i do??? LOL
in my book hes the MAN !!!
snowing here.. sigh..winters here for real.. sigh..

noonamah, Australia

It's good they replaced the worms. But it is always a risk when things are posted. You never know how they are handled, whether they've been left out in the sun too long, or cold too long. To the handlers they're just piles of boxes or parcels.

I know some of the worm suppliers will ship in the winter with heat packs but who would think it would be cold enough yet to need one? We did have a freaky cold spell last week and it was below freezing the afternoon they were delivered (and today it's in the 50's). And I don't think UPS heats the back part of the delivery truck either so my first guess is that the cold was just too prolonged with nowhere for the worms to go to get warmer. I am hoping that this is the only time I'll need to actually buy worms. They are totally pigging out on the vegetable scraps in the bin.
Speaking of food - I have a question. The instructions had me putting shredded newspaper over the top of the food, worms, coir, etc, covered with a wet newspaper. Should I wait for some of the shredded newspaper to be consumed before adding more food scraps? Or mix it all together?

Helena, MT

I would think the purpose intended by the supplier is to simply maintain media moisture content. It would take some time to consume the wet newspaper, so I would not rely on that as a food source. Ultimately as it breaks down you can incorporate it with the rest of your media and replace it with more wet newspaper if that method works for you.

Thanks so much for the advice. In the video accompanying the worm bin, the newspaper just seems to miraculously "disappear" into the worm compost.
Didn't get my replacement worms as promised which means another phone call on Monday. :( I was almost prompted to give "Uncle Jim" a gold star for resolving the issue. Now, not so sure.

Helena, MT

Cindy, I don't think you’re the first to have this problem. I have heard this story before. When I ship worms I use the post office and priority mail. I haven't had a problem yet. I start with four bait worm cups full of media and worms. Then I place masking tape around the lids so they don't come off. These cups are placed inside another Styrofoam worm box full of shredded newspaper. Then the larger Styrofoam box is placed inside a cardboard box. It costs me about $25 to ship worms this way, but I have never had a problem.

"Uncle Jim's" uses 2-day UPS shipping from PA (I think). And I don't think UPS cares much if the worms are exposed to prolonged cold even though there are "live" labels on the box. Sounds like you do a great job with the shipping. I'd look elsewhere for more worms but figure "Uncle Jim" needs to make good on his product first.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Cindy, how's your worm factory doing? I got one too and it's going great. I didn't get a video though.
It is like you said 'having pets'. LOL

I got a DVD along with the factory so it was somewhat informative but have found there's much more advice on the 'net than what was on the video. I don't think you missed out on much without it. And I did get my replacement worms but they came via the USPS this trip and seemed pretty lively upon arrival. So I have to give Uncle Jim a thumbs-up on sticking to his guarantee.
While the OCD in me wants to fuss over the worms, I find it better to just leave them alone to do their thing. I check in on them every couple of days for food and water requirements and rescue any that have gotten through the wet newspaper in the bottom of the tray into the base. Now my problem is trying to be patient while they crank out the castings. :)

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Haha....same problem I've got. They will never make as much as I need. At least not for now. But I'm still very glad to have them. I plan to make some outdoor bins also.

This message was edited Jan 18, 2012 7:00 PM

Me too on all counts! I went with the worm bin since it was winter and I could keep it indoors but I'd really like to try some of the RM bins in warmer weather.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

What are "RM bins"? I must be having a brain cramp at the moment.

edit: rubbermaid? any particular plans you are going to follow? Link?

This message was edited Jan 19, 2012 12:21 PM

Arlington, MA(Zone 6a)

kildawabbit, yes, RM is rubbermaid. they could be any type of plastic container, of course--or even wood, for outside. i used http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/FilesHtml/Organics/OscrJunior.pdf
(linked up near the top, too.)

i found that plan very solid. i have been using mine for almost 2 years, and it keeps flying critters at a minimum. no flying critters is critical for me, since my worm compost is in my dining room, year-round!

I hadn't decided on any RM bed in particular yet. Even though we're now half way through winter, spring still seems like a long way away.
6 - Thanks for posting that link. It looks like a great plan! Speaking of flying critters - and perhaps you wouldn't know since your bin is indoors year-round - are outdoor worm bins attractive to yellow jackets/picnic bees? Late summer here, they're always attracted to food and the sweeter, the better.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Thanks for the link, seeder.

Arlington, MA(Zone 6a)

so far, i like my rubbermaid tub system better. no flying critters, and i don't have the stupid worms wiggling out the bottom. (evolution at work? but i pick them up & throw them back in, telling them to get back to work.)

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Can you share your wormbox plans? Instruction on how you constructed your outdoor worm bin? I definitely plan to start an outdoor this spring.

I do admit that I'm rescuing more worms that have crawled out of the bottom of the tray. The original wet newspaper that went in first over the holes has pretty much disintegrated, allowing more worms to escape. I just rescue escapees every time I feed them which is only about every 5 days or so. Until such time as I put together an outdoor bin, I'm thinking of just moving the worms to a different bin with a heavier bottom layer.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Where are your worms escaping from Cindy? The only place I see my worms going is into the next upper tray. Before they finished with the bottom tray. But there are still a bunch in the lower tray finishing off the rest of the food.

All of my worms are still in the original tray which has the holes in the bottom like all of the trays. The instructions called for putting a layer of newspaper down first before adding the bedding and the worms. Over the past couple of months, this initial layer is composting away, exposing the holes in the bottom of the tray. Then I put shredded newspaper on top of the worms and then a layer of wet newspaper. I push the shredded paper out of the way to add food and then recover the food with the shredded paper. It was my understanding not to feed more than a handful at a time and to wait until that was gone before adding more food. So, there's still a couple of inches of room (taken up by the shredded paper on top) before the worms would reach the next tray. The worms don't move much into the shredded paper, staying further down with the food and the coir bedding. I wonder if I could be feeding more often as most of the worms are concentrated around the food (which I put in opposite corners of the tray). I don't have a second tray on top - just the cover - since the bottom tray isn't full. Please - if I'm not doing this correctly, I'd love for anyone to give me some tips.

Helena, MT

Well Cindy, if I was ever tempted to try one of those tray systems, your problems have convinced me otherwise. I have visited other vermicomposting sites and have seen all kinds of contraptions for composting indoors with red wigglers. I am sticking with my inexpensive 30 gallon plastic tubs, with no holes or lids on them. I switched to these when they came on the market years ago, and nothing has convinced me there is a more effective, easier, or less expensive way for indoor vermicomposting. Don't mean to blow your bubble Cindy, but this system of yours would drive me nuts trying to figure it out.

For the small space that I have in the heated garage, it works ok. It was easy to set up and I did watch the accompanying video. It seems to be working fine except for the escapees but that's not a deal-breaker at the moment. Not like they're crawling all over the garage floor. It does seem to be working slower than I anticipated but maybe I'm being too conservative on the feeding side of things. But, then again, I tend to be somewhat impatient.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

mraider, I would like to know your construction plans for that worm bin. Sounds good. I got my Worm Factory just to get my feet wet as soon as I could. I do like it. But I'm open to other ways especially since I want to farm worms outdoors this year.
Cindy, I've been putting a lot of food and practically no newspaper since the worms started working. I have my second tray started like I understood the instructions to say. My worms are going at it and are everywhere but outside the bin. I'm happy with it. I'd say add more scraps, leaves, whatever and less newspaper. Hope I'm not steering you wrong.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Oh yea, my brother put a bunch of old green grapes in mine. The next day or two the fruit fly population exploded. I took most of the grapes out and everything is coming back into balance. So you can overdo it if you're not careful. But it didn't hurt the worms at all as far as I can tell.
I'm still a total noob when it comes to worms so take any advice I give with a big grain of salt, I guess. :-)

This message was edited Feb 11, 2012 12:15 PM

Some of the worm composting podcasts I've seen have a heck of a lot more food in them than in mine but they were outdoors in warm weather. Don't know if that makes a difference but I do know that the worms congregate like mad around the two small piles I put in there so I'm thinking I could add more food. I did add some brown leaves a couple of weeks ago for a little more balance in the bedding. I haven't put any fruit in the bin because of the fruit flies but I do have a few anyway. I do appreciate all of the suggestions and plan on doing a few modifications to the routine.

Helena, MT

killdawabbit...nothing to it. The tubs in the pic are at least 30 gallons in size. No hole, no lid, and two bulb light on top, which stays on 24/7. I have always used peat moss as my media choice indoors. When I feed I dig a trench on one side and add the blended worm food along with some new media and coffee grounds. I remove about 1/2 inch of dried material from the surface before digging the food trench and save it in five gallon buckets for my germination and potting mixes.

Outdoor bins are a different matter. One is a 4' x 8' x 5'd raised bed which has been dug down about four feet. It is filled with some well aged cow manure. I gets fed periodically with garden refuse such squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc., which didn't survive the final fall killing frost. Next to the house and under the back deck is another 4' x 8' x 3.5"d above ground compost bin which contains a variety of materials including horse manure, recycled potting material, ground corn cobs, ground used peat pots, and lots more. Both bins are covered during the winter months, and the one next to the house gets watered with hot water from an adjacent outdoor faucet to keep it from freezing.

Thumbnail by mraider3
Arlington, MA(Zone 6a)

mraider3, your pictured bins: indoors, i surmise? where? basement, garage? what are ambient temps? why the mesh top? (cats ?)


killd -I am an idiot! I thought the bins sat higher within each other (without having done a "dry run"). Took a clean bin, put brown paper bags in the bottom and transferred most of the contents of my bin to the new "ground floor" bin. Went to put another bin on top and it pretty much compressed the contents of the ground floor bin. I'm going to remove more of the bedding from the ground floor, add it to the next bin and then start feeding in the second bin next week. Added my first banana peels and they're being consumed pretty quickly and no additional fruit flies/fungus gnats. At least there aren't any escapees now through the paper bags on the bottom. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of this.

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