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? http://unclejimswormfarm.com/index.php/Indoor-Composters/The-Worm-Factory/flypage.tpl.html
I'm looking for opinions of the best system for using both indoors and outdoors (during warmer 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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..
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?
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :-)
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.
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.
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.
Very good Donna. I get asked that question frequently about the quarter inch screen on the surface of the indoor vermicompost bins. PK, the cat would rather use the worm compost bins than her liter box, Bins are located in an attached, unheated garage. Ambient air temperatures in the winter usually range from 40 fo 50 F. Setting the tubs on a cold concrete floor would result in near freezing temperatures of the media, so I use a thick rug underneath the bins and a six foot heat pad (Grower's Supply) in between. The heat pad is hooked up to a fifteen minute toggle timer which helps hold the temperature of the media around 65 to 75F. Using a heat pad however is a tricky process and must be carefully monitored with a thermometer to adjust the toggles as necessary. I really don't recommend this unless you are committed to keeping a close eye on the temperature of the media in the bins.
I harvest about four dozen medium size worms daily for chopped up fish food, and during the growing season for gardening purposes. Using controlled temperature and harvesting of the worms in the winter months helps to keep the worms in a constant growth and reproductive state. My four bins have a constant hatch rate of new worms and the adults produce an abundance of egg capsules through out the year. In the spring I thin the population by half or more to place in the garden in lieu of native worms. Although not much is said about harvesting of the worms, I think this greatly benefits the indoor systems. I think it is evident by how well these red wigglers do in outdoor compost systems, that they will do just as well in areas where a manure and leaf composts are used. Only a few survive our harsh winters in those garden holes dug for tomatoes, peppers, squash, mellons, cucumbers and pumpkins. The will change back to the smaller dark red color of the red wigglers generally found in leaf piles, which is were my culture came from fifty years ago.
Wow - quite the setup you have.
I'm going to experiment today with my worm bin after reading over the weekend that surface area is a critical consideration for the rate of composting. Since I have 5 trays for my bin and won't use all of them for storing the worm compost, I'm going to try a second level of worms with an empty bin in between to keep air flow decent. Also going to harvest some of the compost to start top-dressing of indoor potted plants and accumulating some for the upcoming spring.
Thanks for the picture. My 10-gal rm bins look like miniatures of yours, although I did drill the holes in mine. I leave the cover off most of the time, and I do not think the cat has been in there -- I don't think the worms would like that! I am going to try your method of pulling out some spent medium when I add food and new medium, since that sounds like a great solution to the harvesting problem. I am using the coir, plus a little shredded cardboard. Thanks for all your help on this forum.
Setting up the second tray seemed so obvious that I'm wondering if it's a bad thing since I haven't read about it. I did reconfigure things yesterday and moved some of the worms to the new second tray. I'll keep a close eye on things though to make sure the worms are happy with the arrangement. I also harvested some castings yesterday and found a great way to "clean" it. I have a soil sieve that I use to sift yard waste compost and it worked great for the worm castings. The castings were damp but not too wet so the sifting went smoothly. Anything left in the sieve went right back into the bin - large bedding and newspaper pieces, unconsumed food, larger pieces of pumice (came with the kit), small worms - and I'm left with some nice compost. I'll be using most of it for top-dressing plants in pots for now and even put some in water yesterday with a bubbler to make compost tea.
dirt_digger...just an idea here, but worm bins are a lot like aquariums in the since that it is much easier to maintain a larger aquarium than a smaller one. My ten gallon aquarium is twice the work of the 55 gallon aquarium. Thirty gallon tubs are about the easiest size for me. I know some people have problems with the expense of purchasing media for their indoor bins, but I find peat moss works great for my four bins. I typically purchase three large bales each year and use more than half for vermicomposting in my four indoor bins. I'm sure choir works just as well as peat moss. I have tried shredded paper, cardboard, and other materials as well, but they more difficult for me to operate with, so I use these materials in my raised beds instead.
I checked the prices of the plastic tubs similar to what I use and prices are generally under ten dollars. I even saw some at Walmart on sale for less than five dollars. Although the large peat moss bales are more than ten dollars now, I think it's a lot like buying fishing line. I buy the best line I can find and change it often which means fewer problems and less chance of a break off when fighting a large trout. Same holds true for peat moss in my opinion, fewer problems, and when changed frequently, provides me with a valuable resource.
I never worried about worms escaping since my Rubbermaid bin was on the ground outside but I just happened to think of the "fabric" I bought to put down around crape myrtles to keep weeds from growing. It lets water through but have very fine mesh - I doubt worms would be able to escape. It would work better than rotting newspaper, I'm sure.