Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums

I've been contemplating an in-ground, doggy-poo vermidigester for a while, now, and finally got it placed and started the other day.  I used an old Rubbermaid trash barrel we've had around for over a decade.  We bought it new to use for aquariums and such.  It's never had anything in it but clean, filtered, fresh or salt water.  It had some large holes drilled in the sides because it was a reservoir for RO water and had a "sight glass" tube attached to the side to show how full it was.  Therefore, it wasn't so useful as a trash can anymore, but would do just fine as my doggy poo reservoir.


The first pic is of an equivalent trash can (I forgot to take "before" pics or "just drilled" pics, so bear with me).  I drilled 1/2" holes all over the lower part of the can (below the large step in the sides) and around the big holes that were already there.  I cut out the bottom except for about 1" of the side to keep it stronger (sorry, again no pic, but not really important, picture a trash can with no bottom).  I dug a hole in the back yard in the most convenient spot (the apparent preferred area for the dogs) that will have a blueberry bush bed nearby in the fall.  I would not use this compost on anything (in fact, I'm hoping never to handle it at all), but see no reason why I can't let the blueberry bushes take advantage of a nearby resource on their own.


I buried the can nearly to the rim - about 2" from the top on the high side and nearly 4" on the low side (yard has a pretty good slope right there).  I filled some of the dirt back in around the can and made a small berm to divert water around the can (hopefully).  The lid is temporarily a chunk of plywood we had from some salvaged shipping crates from the hubby's work.  I am working on a design for a lid that will let me step on a lever to open a hinged lid so I don't even have to bend (we'll see how soon I get around to that).


I have taken about 1/3 of my RM bin contents as a starter culture of worms (Ef's +/- Ea's?) in 1/2 of the bottom.  I kept a couple Alabama Jumpers that I found while digging and tossed them in, too, and will continue to relocate more as I garden.  I figure (I hope) that more will find it by themselves, anyway.  I have added some moldy straw that I had on hand and some of the poo produced in the last few days by my 3 large dogs (I swear the 75 pounder makes nearly elephant sized poo).  I put the poo on the other side from the worms so they could choose to dive in or wait a bit, lol.  I have some shredded leaves in a bin that I'll use as the primary bedding/brown material in future.


I will keep posting as things go along.  I'm hoping to get more worms and more species, so I can get maximum waste reduction as soon as possible.  It will be an experiment in how much browns (as in high carbon bedding) I have to add vs how much "browns" (as in high nitrogen poo) I have to eliminate.  I suspect I may need 2 of these to fully keep up with my dogs, we'll see once the population of worms increases.  I'm sure that someday I will want to move the bin and I may regret the lip I left at the bottom of the can when that day arrives. 

I think I'm going to need more ventilation.  I'm trying to figure out how to do that without releasing too much of the odor of the, ahem, contents of the bin.  I need to keep rain out of the top and keep water from flooding in the sides during a TX "frog-strangler" rain storm.  I've been thinking I could drill some holes around the very edge of the top of the rim (not on the flat part, but just down the inside edge).  I don't really want to get lots of flies, so I was thinking I could do larger holes and glue window screen over them like I did with my indoor bins.  I like the idea of the BSF helping the worms, but not the reality of having lots of big, black flies in the back yard.


So, anyone have other venting suggestions?  Or further thoughts or recommendations?  Should I lift it out now and remove that lip at the bottom before it gets full?  The can has thick ridges as reinforcement right at the edges (which is part of why I left that part, they'll be a bugger to cut through.  Am I doomed to fill this and leave it in place forever more?  What do ya' all think?

Views: 167

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 15, 2011 at 4:02pm

There's a lot of moisture on the sides of the bin and inside the plywood top.  I think I'll feel better venting at least a little.  We've been in this house since '97 and no plans to move at this point.  I think I may be stuck, lol!  I will plop a block on it if we have a windstorm predicted.

I'm planning on using that chunk of plywood, cutting it down some, and attaching it via hinges to a mechanism yet to be built, that will act like a step-on, trash can lid and pop open.  At least, that's the plan.  There are designs rolling around in my head, but that's all so far.  Maybe just the slight gap where the 2 halves of the lid come together will be enough to vent it?  There we go, 2 solutions in one!

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 15, 2011 at 5:59pm
Exactly!  I really don't want to be leaned down there when that lid first pops open!  That's why I didn't put in vent holes initially, thinking that it would just be continually releasing odor, but after seeing all the condensation today, I think I will have to do something.  We'll see how much moisture escapes after I get the lid mechanism done.  I'm sure there will be a small gap where the hinges attach and where the 2 halves of the lid meet.  I'd like to keep the gaps small enough that the pit isn't swarmed with flies (if that's even possible).  I may be dreaming/delusional on my odor and fly control efforts.  I'm hoping that the worms are soooo happy, they do most of the odor control for me, lol.
Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 15, 2011 at 6:30pm

steamyb, I have neighbors!  While they don't ask me questions about the large trash bin in my dining area (I guess they just consider me eccentric), I don't think they'd be too impressed if I had all that fermenting "worm food" hanging out in the bin with no odor control.  I gotta do something!  Just a weeks worth of poo in the open air in the yard is pretty rank (sometimes happens when the schedule's crazy or if there's a lot of rain). You should have smelled it after our big snow storm melted and everything thawed (and was fresh) at once - whew!


I know it'll hit me like a ton of bricks when I open that pit, no matter what I do, but I'd like to contain the odor somewhat when the pit's not open.

Comment by bob Fontenot on March 16, 2011 at 9:20am

Sharon, check out this video on u tube on doogy poo. Bokashi really works great on most odors.

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 16, 2011 at 3:28pm

steamyb, that looks like a good design and nice and simple to construct.  I've been tossing around somewhat more complex ideas trying to come up with something that doesn't leave a lever sticking up for the dogs to ram into.  I've got one dog in particular that's young and rambunctious - we call her "Crazy Girl" most of the time.  I still haven't come up with anything brilliant, so I suspect I'm over thinking it.  I don't mind if it sits open while I'm scooping, as long as it's easy to open and close, preferably with a foot (that whole face in the stench thing, ya know).  For me, it's not so much about not touching the lid (although that would be great) as it is about not passing out from the smell - and trust me, I ain't no sissy!  I've worked at animal clinics for over 20 years, my job is all about the poo!  I know more about poo than anybody should have to, lol.


Thanks for the ideas and drawings.  If you like that sort of thing, feel free to keep working at it, I'm very open to more ideas, for sure.  The plywood we salvaged is 1/2" and the opening only about 24" (estimate, didn't measure), so I was thinking single thickness would be all I need if I get paint on it soon.  I"ll likely replace with slightly thicker marine grade when it needs replacing. 


I've been thinking more along the lines of a frame that will sit around the bin that has spikes we pound into the ground so the bottom of the lid (which is hinged to the frame) meets the top of the can.  That way it can be adjusted no matter how un-level the bin or the frame.  That way when I'm stepping on whatever lever I come up with, force is transferred to the ground, not the plastic bin.  Hey, I'm not particular or anything, right?  Let's see, no protruding levers, minimal pressure on the bin margins, won't blow away, dogs can run over it, stand on it, jump on it, slam into it with no cuts, (remember, Crazy Girl) seals well enough to somewhat limit odor and flies, yet ventilates enough to make the worms happy, etc, etc, etc, I'm sure I could come up with more parameters, just give me a minute!  I'm definitely over thinking this one, LOL!


bob F, I really don't want to do the whole bokashi thing.  I've read about it and am not interested in buying the enzymes, filling, dumping containers, etc.  I decided that worms are likely to be my best bet, I just need to be patient enough to build up my worm capacity.  And, of course, come up with a lid. ;-)  I'd rather strain my brain, my design skills and my hubby's construction skills than mess around with a proven method!  Just call me, umm, "eccentric"?


Keep those ideas flowing, between my hubby and I we can build darn near anything.  He's an excellent welder, I am a decent designer and sort of a draftsman (on graph paper only, not computer - old school, baby!).  We have nearly any tool you can think of including a mill, lathe, saws and drills of any sort, the works.  Think tank it, man!  Thanks to all suggestions, it keeps me thinking and gets me thinking new ways - which is what this is all about.

Comment by Susan B on March 16, 2011 at 4:03pm

I'm going to be interested to hear the results.  Once you have enough worms in, I think if you're putting enough bedding in, you really shouldn't have much smell.  You will need to have a container nearby for easy access to the bedding.  For food waste (which I think by their definition includes protein), the official bedding calculator says we should have 20x more bedding than food.  I don't think it would be much different for dog poo.  I didn't calculate for horse manure since I don't use it, but I know it has a lot of straw etc, so you add a lot less bedding for that than what you'll need.


Anyway, let us know how it is in a couple of months.  I know you plan to do that anyway.

Comment by John Duffy on March 16, 2011 at 7:27pm
I was thinking a 4-sided rain cap with 4" expanded metal along the bottom edge for ventilation. The rain cap would repel water from directly entering the container & the expanded metal would provide enough ventilation to keep things from going anaerobic. You'll probably have some flies but, with enough worms, bedding & airflow I would think they'd be minimal
Comment by Pat James on March 17, 2011 at 6:52am

What amazes me is you were able to dig a hole that big to bury that can i the first place. I hit clay pretty quick here and I know you have some hard stuff over in DFW area.

I would not worry too much about ratios for bedding/poo. I'd just throw a few handfuls of something every now and then like you might with a camp latrine. In a short time you are going to get BSFL  appearing. They will consume alot of that stuff (far more than the worms) so save  your worms for the garden. A little water on occasion once that thing really gets going will be a good thing to percolate the finished stuff into the ground.

I am using a couple plastic garbage cans that sit on top of the ground. I put in all my cat litter. I now use a pine shaving based litter so it will decompose. Plus I have 2 small dogs that insist on crapping in the house. I have also composted squirrels. (The 2 barrels are almost 2/3 full after the winter of just sitting. I'm waiting for the BSFL to really start up to see how far they reduce the stuff.)

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 17, 2011 at 10:27am

Sorry, steamyb, didn't mean to bring back bad memories!  Don't give up on me, I'm just one of those people that likes to turn it around in my head and give things time to percolate around a while. I'm sure I"m over thinking and I suspect I'll end up with a design very similar to what you've offered.


John D, how wide would this rain cap be?  I'm not familiar with what you're talking about - like a chimney rain cap?


Pat, I'm planning (and have so far been doing) the couple handfuls of dry, shredded leaves/grass on top after I pitch in the poo.  It seems to be going well so far, but it's early in the process plus not that warm yet. I know since the worms have easy access to escape the bin that protein poisoning is pretty much a non-issue. 


As far as the digging, this is located on a pretty good slope somewhat near the low spot in the yard (about 15' away from the lowest spot) and was surprisingly moist in the deeper layers.  I expected to need to run a sprinkler on it every few inches and wait hours to days in between layers of soil, but it was pretty easy digging and I got it done in about 2 hours. We had to dig out a sewer line in the front yard once and had to use an air chisel to break up the clay.


Do you notice lots of flies in the yard from the cat cans?  I had a BSF come buzzing out of the indoor bin about a week after I got those worms from you (obviously a stowaway larva).  A bit startling to say the least, but I just released him/her outside.  I don't mind them helping out, just don't want a huge storm of them. No biblical plagues, thank you anyway, lol!

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 17, 2011 at 10:30am
Oh, and Susan, I do have a bin with the bedding only a few feet away.  I've been layering, but don't expect to need nearly as much bedding as an enclosed bin with that much poo would need, since the worms have easy access to earth and can easily escape an "overdose" of poo.


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