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I looked in the bottom tray of my flow through worm bin a couple days ago and noticed there was a log of semi-solid material in the bottom tray and tons of worms. It seemed like they were living fine in that soup, but yesterday I decided to try to clean it up and get the worms back into the main tray.

This is what the bottom tray looked like while I was cleaning it out:


After scooping as many worms and solid material back into the main tray (and mixing it with newspaper to absorb moisture) I poured what was left into this bucket:


Every couple hours I've been pouring the liquid off the top so that it looks like this bucket of brown mud now.. the newspaper is in there to try to absorb / wick away / evaporate moisture. Has anyone else had this much sludge in their collector tray? This is the first time I've really investigated the collector tray but I thought there was only supposed to be liquid there.. that you can drain using the spigot?

I think my bin was probably way way too wet after I added several watermelon's worth of rinds in there so that may have contributed to this situation. One other interesting thing is that even though the sludge is extremely wet it seems like the worms are happy in it... there are still some worms in the sludge bucket that I wasn't able to scoop out so I was half thinking maybe I'll just start putting food scraps in there as a second worm bin the odd thing about it is that since it is basically semi-submerged in liquid already seems like I don't need drainage? Anyone else try to maintain a "wet bin" like this?

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Comment by Michael on October 22, 2008 at 6:51am
never seen this before....interesting to know that the worms like or live in the stuff. I do think you did get it on the button though regarding the watermelon rinds. They contain lots of water and are most likely the culprits.
Comment by Steven Chow on October 22, 2008 at 7:55am
It was really the first time I'd checked the bottom tray in a while.. so it is really odd that the ones that ended up down there were been able to survive that way for so long.

I'd noticed that they like to come up to the surface and huddle there so I took that to mean that they didn't like the conditions so I have started scooping them out.. besides that slop smells kinda foul sometimes so I think I want to get rid of it.. I think it also maybe anaerobic.
Comment by chen on October 22, 2008 at 9:19pm
I cleaned out my bin this weekend. it looks just like yours. i also returned the worms back into the bin. but i didn't put in any watermellons. I think the holes at the bottom of our worm bin model is quite large. I had it lined with newspaper before i put on the coconut coirs. the newspaper has completely disappeared so i thought it was the castings falling thru the holes to create this mud. I ended up dumping out all the contents of my bin into another bin lined with cardboard paper at the bottom. i was hoping the card board papers will hold the castings in longer while still be able to let the water/juice drain.
Comment by Steven Chow on October 22, 2008 at 11:42pm
I was thinking of putting something under the bottom tray as well to try to keep the worms and vermicompost in.
Comment by RJ_Hythloday on October 23, 2008 at 2:19am
I have a flow through rubber maid. The bottom was lined w/ fiberglass window screen. It wasn't in there very good and I'd find worms in their once in a while. I lined it w/ paper to give them a place to live. After a while it seemed like they quit going down their. I removed the paper. After that I kept finding bsf shells that had hatched in there, and always some liquid, never sludge like that.

I have since taken another and lined it w/ screen, then burlap on top of that. It's much more secure this time w/ hotglue vice the silicone that never held. I just dump the leachate back in the bin. I bought 1 yard of burlap, lined the bottom w/ 1/4 of it and the remaning 3/4 is folded 3 times for a liner on the top.
Comment by Steven Chow on October 23, 2008 at 10:28am
I'm wondering if even something solid would work on the bottom of each tray for example if I put a piece of plexi glass or something that covered most of the floor but still left room for migration upwards when new trays are added. For example if the piece of plexi-glass only covered the middle 80% then when I put a new layer on I could feed in the ends initially to entice them to migrate up through the areas that are not covered by plexiglass.
Comment by Louis on October 23, 2008 at 1:13pm
I have had the same situation in my home made flow thru system. I had office paper shreddings over my 4mm holes in the bottom of my bins to stop my bedding from falling thru. My bin above the sump was 6 months old at the time. I thought that because my bin was so old and had so much worm castings that it was being washed thru. My bins are NOT very wet. Anyway, I found approximately the same amount of worms in my old bin as in the new one (1 month) I had started. So the "flow thru" just did not work for me.
We have flat strip plastic woven bags in South Africa & I have now cut these up and put it on the bottom of both my bins covering the 4mm bottom holes. So now I have seperate bin stacked system. The leachate still goes thru to my sump at the bottom.
Comment by RJ_Hythloday on October 24, 2008 at 1:58am
Louis, that sounds similar to what I'm doing. I have drainage holes but the burlap keeps everything in and lets the leachate out. Do you actually need the sump? That sounds like a lot of leachate.

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