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Today I disassembled one of my flow-thru bins. I wanted to take pictures to show how I had constructed it and in the process, harvest all the vermicompost I could.
  1. These are the harvesting rods that make the whole thing work... 1/2 in PVC with drywall screws staggered

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Comment by Andrew from California on October 9, 2010 at 3:28pm
Looks good, Pat. Would you say that's about a 3 gal. container? I'll add it to the DIY Flow Through list. Congrats on a successful first blog post.
Comment by Pat James on October 9, 2010 at 3:36pm
Each of those litter bins are a little over 4 gallons. so with the lost volume from the overlap and the collection chamber, I'm guessing at about 7 gallons. That is not a whole lot of volume but with frequent harvesting, I net alot of vermicompost. For a while i was sifting the vc to collect more pure castings and then returning the compost to the bin. But since I am trying to get a fall/winter garden going I am collecting anything that can get thru my 1/4 in mesh in my trommel.
Comment by Andrew from California on October 9, 2010 at 3:41pm
BTW, I think this is maybe only the 2nd FT on the list to have a harvesting mechanism.
Comment by Susan B on October 9, 2010 at 11:19pm
Very cool FT! I wonder if the harvesting idea would work with a bigger set up? I'm not sure if the weight of the VC would prevent you from turning the PVC pipes.

When I first saw it, I thought that those containers would a make great DIY stacking system. Kind of like a really tall COW.
Comment by Pat James on October 10, 2010 at 6:50am
I first saw similar rods used in a very big bin on a youtube video. The poster was 'gourmetstrawberries' He used metal conduit for his bars and had a removable crank handle that he would turn each rod then go to the next.

I find that once I turn the rods and drop what vc is sitting on the rod, there is a space above (the vc holds itself up). It takes a little while for the vc to move down. So I do not think weight is a real issue. You can't just empty your bin by continually turning the rods.

I do find myself harvesting small amounts fairly often- like a couple times a week. Generally I get about 30% VC from what I remove. By VC I mean what will pass thru the 1/4 inch mesh of my trommel.
Comment by Robert McSherry on October 10, 2010 at 2:21pm
Thank you for the pictures and the explanation. I'm still trying to understand the concept of the flow-through - How does it work in comparison to regular worm bins? But then, I'm new to this and working to understand everything about it. Is there a place on the website that gives details on how to set things up, care for the worms, and do the harvesting? It would be a great help for the newbies. Or is everything blogs and people sharing ideas? Thanks again, Pat.
Comment by Andrew from California on October 10, 2010 at 2:33pm
Robert, here's one place to start.
Comment by Pat James on October 10, 2010 at 3:37pm
WOW Andrew... Now that is one good list of links you have going.

Robert...My idea of a flow-thru management slightly differs from others. The general idea is you throw rough food into the top and pull digested castings from the bottom. In reality you generally get a mix of castings and compost (vermicompost) out the bottom. I tend to keep my FT bins full, whether the worms are consuming everything or not.

I make room for more food/bedding by turning my harvest rods and pulling stuff out of the bottom. I then take that material and run it through a sifter to separate the big stuff which gets returned to the bin. I add more material to the bin to top it off..

Others start out with a certain amount of bedding and then gradually add food as they have it available. The bin may not have much in it. They feed as they have food available. As the bedding and food is digested it falls out the bottom as castings. Where they might get 75% castings, I am happy with 25 to 30%.

I tend to harvest a small amount often. That might change during the winter where I will be storing the castings.
Comment by Pat James on October 13, 2010 at 5:22am
Yesterday, I disassembled my other FT. I wanted to adjust my harvesting screws a little, a couple tend to rub. I also wanted to see how many worms I have in there. Only got the project half done as it got dark on me. So now I have an empty bin, a 5 gal bucket of bedding, a gallon ice cream container with worms and a little bedding and almost 2 gallons of castings.
I noticed I am still getting about 30% usable VC when I do a harvest.

I hope to be able to finish up the project today.I don't want to risk leaving the worms out another day. It'll depend on how I feel. I'm having a little surgical procedure done on my neck this morning.
Comment by Andrew from California on October 13, 2010 at 12:57pm
Pat, I hope your procedure was successful. Is there really such a thing as a "little" surgery?

Just to be clear, the complete emptying of these FTs happens rarely, right? Your normal routine is to harvest a little bit of VC by turning the harvesting rods. Can you give some details for someone who might want to use this system? What weight of worms (approximately)? How much do you feed and how often? Do E. hortensis stay in this bin or do they head down to the collection area?

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