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Old 11-21-2018, 10:29 PM #11
Hookahhead
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Update

UPDATE: I have switched to a 96 gallon flow through design, this design is much better than the bin method I was using. Please check it out here:https://www.shroomery.org/forums/sho...umber/17494473 (01/03/13)


I have been worm composting a little over a year now, and made a previous post about my worm farm.

However after doing further reading I am lead to believe that a flow through design worm bin provides a few benefits over the bin method. I received a free 96 gallon tote to turn into a worm bin. The rods going across the bottom are pvc and have deck screws drilled into them. The idea is to be able to turn the rods and spin the castings into the bottom of the bin where they should be easy to collect. I have a hinged cover with landscaping cloth covering it to allow airflow. I plan to add magnets to keep the cover shut tightly. The worms will travel to the top of the bin after a few months and the bottom will be nothing but finished castings. This design is said to allow better airflow to help avoid the sogginess that is common with the plastic bins.
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Old 11-21-2018, 10:30 PM #12
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I harvested all three bins this week using the method described in my previous post. I yielded about 15 gallon of worm castings total. The unfinished material is great starting material and was loaded with worms for the new tote. I covered the bottom with several layers of news paper and then added the contents of the first bin into the larger tote.
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Old 11-21-2018, 10:31 PM #13
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Added the second.



Added the third bin. Unfortunately, the picture of the tote with just the bin contents didn't turn out. I had to use my crappy camera phone because I couldn't find my real one. I then added a significant amount of shredded cardboard to the top.


I am not even able to take a guess at the amount of worms I added. It would be similar to guessing jelly beans in a jar. However I have picked worms out for trade before and know that I can typically get a pound of worms from 5 gallon of material. I probably moved 35-45 gallon worth of material into the large tote. Which gives me approximately 7-8 pounds of worms which seems about right. Each handful was loaded with tons of worms. This setup will hopefully eliminate some of the work involved harvesting the castings.


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Old 11-22-2018, 03:00 AM #14
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That's frigging amazing work Hookahhead!!

Many thanks!
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Old 11-22-2018, 04:30 AM #15
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Nice diy skills and worm farm. Thanks for sharing. I might have to try your design. Let me know how it works out.

Cheers!
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Old 11-22-2018, 04:40 AM #16
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Thanks for sharing! I just started my own vermicompost bins - 1 with 2lbs of red wigglers and another with 500 jumpers. I’m going to try your trommel design when I get ready.

Question for you (or others) about the mite issue.... Do all worm bins really have mitessand are they predatory mites or the kind of leaf suckers that attack our cannabis plants? If they are the kind that cause us so much grief, why not buy some predatory insects like green lacewings that will feed on (and possibly eliminate) the mites?
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Old 11-22-2018, 06:32 AM #17
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In my experience the little dot type mites are very common. There are many many type of mites in the world. Some live in the sea, some on land, and some like Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis actually live on your face! The ones in the pictures I posted (little red or white bumps) are not problematic for plants. They are decomposers and enjoy the wet, rotting conditions. Once you age the finished vermicompst, they won't have the same favorable environment. After you mix vermicompost into the soil, it's very rare to see the mites. The only time I've seen them is when there is a larger chunk of not fully composted material.

There are many organisms that are decomposers, they all contribute in their own way to your end product. They eat, poop, and die in your compost. This is what makes vermicompost so biologically active, it's not just worms passing through the material but an entire recycling crew. I never encountered black soldier flies (BSFL) in my bin back home, but they are a big part of the ecosystem here in Central America. I don't currently have a worm bin here, but I have run a few BSFL bins since I've been here. There is lots of information on the net about this species, maybe I can do a write up on my experience with them next. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermetia_illucens

2 critters you do want to keep out of your bin are centipedes and planeria worms. Centipedes are carnivorous and will eat other insects and worms. Millipedes are decomposers and not detrimental at all to your bin. You can tell the difference between the two since centipedes only have one leg on each side of a body segment, where millipedes have two.

Centipedes have 1 leg on each side of body segment. They tend to have flatter bodies and are much faster than a millipede.


Millipedes on the other hand have 2 legs on each side of a body segment. They also tend to have a rounder body and move much slower.

Planeria are freaky worm like creatures that eat worms. They are a type of flatworm and therefore can be cut into a bunch of pieces and grow a bunch of new ones (this is not possible with the worms we raise). I found one once, I fed it a worm just to watch.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planarian

Last edited by Hookahhead; 11-22-2018 at 10:31 PM.. Reason: added pictures
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Old 11-22-2018, 05:28 PM #18
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Worm Tips

Ok so those original posts were made in 2012 and 2013. I do not have either worm setup currently. I had the large bin until 2016 when I gave it to a friend because I was moving. I have helped at least a dozen people get started with their own setups. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have.

I've compiled some random tips from my experience. I'll update this post as I think of other things.

- Don't over think it!
Just like with cannabis, the worms don't need to be babied and watched over 24/7. When you start to over engineer, you create problems for yourself. This is a simple process... worms, container, food, moisture, harvest.

- What do worms eat?
So we all know we feed the worms our food scraps, they eat them and turn them into wonderful castings right? Well this isn't exactly what happens. Our worms are actually after the bacteria and fungi that are breaking down our scraps. The advantage over traditional composting is that worms have a much bigger mouth than the bacteria and fungi. So the worms take a big gulp of soft mushy apple that was being fermented by some yeast. Worms have a gizzard much like birds, which grinds the food up before passing it to the stomach. The worm extracts the nutrients that it can and passes the material out the other end. The grinding and mixing action of the worms, provides even more surface area for new microorganisms to flourish. Then another worm comes along and passes through the same material, and this process runs over and over and over again until there is nothing left but beautiful rich castings.

- Pre-compost!
If you want to have a pleasant experience with your worm bin, I highly suggest you pre-compost the material before feeding it to the worms. Fresh food scraps have a very high water content, and a wet bin is the biggest issue for beginners. A lot of resources on the internet seem to ignore this very important fact. An overly wet worm bin has a much stronger odor, and a greater "yuck" factor to the material. Pre-composting also takes the guess work out of feeding, you don't have to worry about whether worms will like it or not. In my opinion with a properly run bin, you can feed worms any sort of pre-decaying plant matter. Cooked food such as steamed vegetables or plain rice is fine, as long as the food doesn't have salt or oils. If they don't eat it right away, they will come back to it in a week or 2 after it has had a chance to break down more. Furthermore, worms don't have teeth! They eat by opening their mouth and pushing their body through the material. So they are only able to eat scraps once they have softened considerably.

- Worm Bedding
Truth is worms don't actually need any bedding material. It's probably beneficial for the health of the bin to have some, but worms don't really seem to mind that much. After the bin is established they make their own bedding. It does help regulate moisture, which is very important. It also provides a carbon rich environment for bacteria and fungi to grow on, which is the worm's food source.

You will read that some people like to use brown box cardboard or newspaper for bedding. I don't like to feed these items to worms, because the paper pulp can be recycled and reused. Therefore, feeding it to worms isn't sustainable in my opinion. Likewise, some people like to use peat. Peat is also not a very sustainable resource. Although it is natural and renewable, it takes a lot of time for a peat bog to build up. This is then mined using heavy equipment, packaged and shipped all around the world. There are only a few industrial peat bogs in the world. Coco coir is a much more eco-friendly option in my opinion. Coir is a waste stream from the coconut industry. I'm fairly certain coconuts grow on every continent, and are regenerated rapidly. Although most commercial coir in the U.S. is imported, at least it's a step in the right direction.

Really bedding can be any dry carbon rich material. In Autumn, you can collect bags of raked leaves. Pick up a few bags from neighbors. They're dry and store very well. You just need to crush/cut them into smaller pieces. Dry, brown grass clippings, cannabis leaves, stalks and roots. All of these can be roughly broken down and used as bedding. If you feed your worms horse manure, it already has some bedding mixed in. If you're just starting a bin old potting soil will work too.

- Flow through for the win!
The flow through design is much better than the plastic bin setup. The design allows airflow from the top and bottom, allowing more oxygen into the material. The increased airflow helps stabilize moisture as well. The vertical design also takes advantage of the worms tendency to move upwards when fed from the top. It's a nice continuous process fresh food goes in the top, and finished castings come out the bottom. No need to move around heavy plastic bins and run the material through a trommel. The worms are left undisturbed, and you can harvest whenever is convenient for you. In my large 96 gallon tote, I once fed them for like 6 months without removing any material. The level inside only raised a few inches. I think the ratio is something like 10 gallon of food = 1 gallon of castings. If you're looking for something smaller 30 gallon trash cans, or 55 gallon drums will work. The internet has a lot of different designs, but they're all similar in functionality.

- Issues
If you see a lot of worms on the sides of the bin instead of in the material, they are not happy. Sometimes the will try to flee the bin all together. Something in your environment is off, first check the temperature and make sure it's favorable to your species. Then check the moisture content in the bin. The plastic totes tend to have very wet and mucky bottoms if you're not careful. This can quickly go anaerobic and is not an inviting place for your worms. If you've recently added a lot of bedding material the bin may be too dry. You can add water or food scraps with a lot of moisture. Only add a little water at a time, its more common for conditions to be too wet than too dry. Especially when you're first figuring the whole thing out.

- Trommels
Trommels are great machines for sifting materials quickly. If you're going to use the plastic bins, do yourself a favor and build one before your first harvest. I think I hand sorted 2-3 of the plastic bins before I built the trommel, it gets tedious fast. There are various plans out there on the internet. You can even motorize it if you'd like. Personally, I think this detracts from the idea of staying as sustainable as possible. For me it's better to get a buddy over, get baked and spin some worms around. Little kids (mostly boys) make good helpers too, and you have the opportunity to teach them about recycling, food webs, and a respect for nature. Honestly though, your time and energy is better spent on building a flow through system. Sifting the bins before moving to the 96 gallon tote was the last time I ever used that trommel again.

- Sprouts
If you're feeding your worms veggie scraps, you're bound to get a few sprouts. Melons, peppers, and tomatoes are probably the most common. Sometimes I move these volunteers to a pot or the garden. Mostly however, I just kill the sprout and toss it back in the bin to be broken down.

Last edited by Hookahhead; 11-22-2018 at 09:51 PM.. Reason: added info about trommels
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