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aeration in indoor vermicompost tubs

Helena, MT

For those of us who have been vermicomposting for some time we have discovered the importance of moisture content as well as how much food to feed, and possibly pH. But there is one more important consideration for those of us who vermicompost in plastic or Rubbermaid tubs, and that is air or oxygen. If you are using one of those flow through tiered systems this is probably not of as much concern to you.

I do not punch holes in the sides of my tubs for air circulation or excess moisture release. Far too messy for me. Therefore, I need to compensate for air transfer in my bins.

I have four indoor bins or plastic tubs which sit in a row. I use a two bulb florescent light fixture which rests on boards on the two outside bins which are two inches taller than the two inside bins. Although the surface area of these four bins is roughly similar, the depth of the media in the two outside bins was eight inches, while the two inside bins was only six inches. I operated this way for some time before noticing the inside bins held far more worms than the outside bins.

With moisture, feed and pH being roughly the same I was at a loss as to why the two inside bins held far more worms of different sizes than the outside bins which had fewer worms and very few of them were of the smaller sizes. Then it struck me.

The reason I began vermicomposting in the first place was to feed my native fish collection. With more than 20 aquariums I had to find a cheaper means to feed my fish than those huge packages of frozen brine shrimp.

But something I learned in my fish collecting was while transporting my collected fish in those Styrofoam tropical fish shipping boxes. I discovered that I could transport more fish in the Styrofoam boxes if I kept the water depth slightly above the body depth of the largest fish than by filling these boxes full of water. Reason being was the conclusion was the deeper the media, the lesser the amount of oxygen that was being absorbed in the lower depths of the media.

My method of feeding the worms also has a great deal to do with oxygen transfer as well. I blend my food before feeding it in a trench dug along one of the long sides of the bin. The trench is typically dug about three inches down into the media, however, I work in coffee grounds and newly soaked and drained peat most to replace the dried spent media removed from the surface of the bin. Using a hand garden fork I work the new media and coffee grounds into the bottom three inches below the trench, which helps to aerate the bottom media and work castings upward as well. By rotating the two trenches by a few days the worms have time to move into the trench most recently fed, thereby reducing the amount of disturbance to the worms.

My rule of thumb is no more than six inches of media in the indoor tubs. The same is true of outdoor composting which is nor more than two to three feet of media in the various forms I use for outdoor composting.

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

hey morgan.. merry christmas !!!!
i too use on sale rubbermaid tubs..
i cut out small holes on the sides of mine.. and i line the sides
with cardboard.. so i dont have spillage..but i do get some better
areation in the bins..
cant wait for spring ..LOL probably going to start cold frame for
lettuce and spinach after new yr..
stay warm my friend.....

Helena, MT

Merry Christmas Dave. Seems like this posting isn't going anywhere. I can't bring myself to poking holes in my tubs because of an unfortunate incident where I ruined a hardwood floor in a rented house during my college years. They didn't have any plastic tubs back then, but I will never forget that incident.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Folks are off doing Christmas stuff today. They'll be back directly!



Helena, MT

Understood Linda, This is always a dry period for most forums. Merry Christmas to you and I hope all goes well.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Merry Christmas, Duane!

I released the worms late last night. One tub seem a bit lifeless, but I think it was due to a lack of oxygen. After a check this morning, looks like the majority have funneled down into the bedding. I probably need to feed them. I set the slushy slurry out last night, since it was pretty cold. I can scoop it with a spoon cause it has gelled like a soft pudding.

I'll call later for feeding instructions, maybe around 1:00-1:30, if that's ok.


Saluda, SC(Zone 8a)

Interesting info. My worms were put to bed 12/20 and so far things seem to be going well. Will be interesting to see. Getting a real education on the squirmmies as I search for info.

This message was edited Jan 2, 2013 9:03 AM

Helena, MT

It's interesting to see the evolution of this forum since its conception several years ago. The fad at the beginning was the commercial tiered system and others which promised black gold for an initial investment of just a hundred or more. Believers in these systems were producing this valuable commodity we call worm castings. Then like EarthBoxes, people began coming up with their own genuinely unique versions of these systems which stimulated some great conversations among members here.

I was told about another website which also had a vermicomposting forum and spent some time going through several years of postings there as well. This web site too had its own unique evolution with members inventing their own unique systems as well.

I have been using the plastic tub method since the days these tubs became available, and although tempted to try some of these new designs, I chose to stick with what worked for me. However, the more I read, the more ideas of new things to try came to me, and experimenting with new vermicomposting ideas has certainly been interesting.

I picture the next evolution to indoor vermicomposting will be in the development of outdoor vermicomposting. My four bin indoor system produces about 60 or gallons (12-5 gallon buckets) of what I prefer to call spent media, Outdoor vermicomposting can produce many more times this valuable commodity than our indoor systems. Fir several years now I have used several methods of outdoor vermicomposting to produce this valuable commodity on a much greater scale. My six, 4’ x 8’ ‘sunken’ raised beds using French Intensive Garden methods are also another means of vermicomposting outdoors.

Making windrow piles for outdoor vermicomposting is something I have posted about several times in other threads here. Ultimately this can become a way for serious gardeners to produce hundreds of pounds of vermiculture for their gardens, trees and other yard uses. Seeding your outdoor compost piles turns your compost to vermicompost, which increases the fertilizer value of your compost by 4 to 5 times. It also adds more life to your garden as well. Even though compost worms are not burrowing worms, I have found their addition to my formerly wormless garden a real asset through the growing season, and have even found evidence of these worms in my garden and raised beds after our harsh winters.

My hope is there will be a company like Brown Bear which will develop a piece of equipment that will allow the home gardener to easily and affordably turn these vermicompost windrows quickly, reducing the time needed to complete the process. As it stands now, it takes a year to fully process my available resources (horse and cow manure, wood chip fines, coffee grounds, shredded leaves, and rotted alfalfa hay or straw).


Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

as I read your statement, "My hope is there will be a company like Brown Bear which will develop a piece of equipment that will allow the home gardener to easily and affordably turn these vermicompost windrows quickly," I could envision an auger centered or below center in the box which could be turned as needed. I have no idea where to get a auger of about 8" dia. and 18:"long. Just a lightbulb moment.


Helena, MT

Paul, the windrows can be as much as three feet high and possibly four feet wide. Obviously a tool big enough to walk behind couldn't handle rows that large. Rows two feet high and three feet wide would be well suited for a walk behind piece of equipment, and very possibly more efficient for the home gardener. I can see a co-op operation with multiple partners going for the smallest, currently available piece of equipment in a more populated area, however not here. I don't know of any gardeners gardening out door on the scale the size of my operation. Hoop houses and green houses are quite common here if someone wanted to co-op on this type of adventure.


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