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So, I guess I'm pretty hooked on vermicomposting already.  I've gone from the garden worm tubes started in early fall, to a RM bin, to the new FT bin.  The bins are both indoors.  I seeded the worm tubes with Ef's, the RM bin is Ef's and the FT is EF's so far, but I'm working on sources of Eh's, Ee's (thanks, again, to Pat James) and looking for any other species that can co-habit in a FT.  I'm hoping to add some Alabama jumpers as I work the garden come warmer weather.

 

Pat didn't know it, but he had a major hand in the design of my FT bin since I'm using harvester rods like his.  I've used fiberglass window screen attached to the top edge with a loose flap folded over to the inside as an escape barrier.  I have 3, 1" vent holes near the top on each side that have screen glued down over the holes (part of the escape barrier screen).  I'm using larger than usual vent holes to let in some light to help discourage worm travel.  The door has wire window screen over the hole to limit fly, and even more important, cat access to the underside of the bin.  I used scrap plastic from the center of the door to reinforce the margins of the door hole.

 

The harvester rods are 1/2" ID PVC pipe on 4" centers.  The screws are 3" drywall screws spaced about 2" apart and I tried to alternate them as best I could (without being completely anal about spacing).  Sorry, they're not super easily visible on the "inside the bin" view.  The screws are inserted all the way through one wall of the PVC, and just barely pushing on the inside of the opposite wall of the pipe, to brace them a bit and help prevent loosening.  The bottom of the rods are 12" from the bottom of the bin so the screws can clear the "wheel well" area at the back of the bin.  There are caps on the rods on the back of the bin and "T's" on the front as handles to turn the harvesting rods.  The caps are a very snug, slip fit, the "T's" are glued on since there will be more force applied to them.

 

I first laid down multiple layers (at least 7-8, I used extra since I didn't have the nearly finished VC for the bottom) of moistened newspaper, then layered some very finished cow manure compost, then about 1/3 of the RM bin bedding and worms on top.  Then I topped that with very moist, shredded cardboard and shredded, mixed leaves and about 3 tablespoons of finely ground egg shells.  The cardboard/leaf bedding was soaked for 3 days ahead of time, then wrung out well before being added to the bin.  I've added just a very light layer of past prime green, leafy veg to start off the feeding cycle.  I topped this all with dry strips of assorted shredded paper and paper towels to help take up excess moisture, discourage fruit flies, and inhibit worms traveling up, while still giving "shade" to the worms as long as they're down where they belong.  All together, about 12" including the very fluffy top layer.

 

I am open to any suggestions or tips anyone has for me.

 

Please forgive the bad cell phone pics.Pics before attaching door.  You can tell it's a used bin!  Thoroughly cleaned, but now "upcycled" for worms.

This pic shows the large, screen covered vent holes and the floppy, fiberglass screen to stop worm travelers.

Another view of the "worm fencing".  Once I get some Pe's and Ee's, we'll see how well it works.

And finally the harvesting rods.  It's surprisingly difficult to get the screws all angled the same direction, so they look a bit erratic.  This also somewhat shows the reinforcing strips I made from the center cut-out plastic from the door.  I don't have screws close to the front on the 2 outside bars because of the bump-in the bin has on the front.  I used aluminum rivets to attach the reinforcing strips and when I finally put the hinges on the door.  Total cost to me was around $10.00 for the PVC pipe, fittings and hinges.  We already had all the window screen scraps, the staples and glue for the screen, drywall screws, hook and eye for the latch (not shown, everybody knows what they look like), pvc cleaner and glue, rivets and the tool to apply the rivets.  The bin was a freebie abandoned at my hubby's work by a company that moved out (he's a building engineer at a commercial building group). 

 

I hope this will be a great VC producer and easy to harvest, as well as contain any worms prone to wandering (Pe's and Ee's when I finally get them).  I now have some moist paper shreds in the very bottom of the bin for any worms that may drop down below the bars.  So, suggestions, anyone?

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Comment by Paula Allen on February 6, 2011 at 4:39am

Jay Im always getting worms in the bottom of my worm factory.  They are mostly making out when I find them.  Would an old cotton Tshirt work in place of a screen?  I have yet to get any liquid in the bottom part.  Just amorous worms and castings? Maybe since I added the 2nd tray they will all move up and stop fooling around in the basement of the WF.  :-)

Comment by Pat James on February 6, 2011 at 6:45am

Jay, I put my screws in the  same way- through one side and slightly into the far pipe wall. None of mine have broken.

Sharon, yeah I imagine it was quite a balancing act trying to lean into a bin that far. My small FT's (kitty litter buckets) were not near as high.  With my big FT, I turned it on one end and then crawled inside.

Comment by Sharon Hollars on February 7, 2011 at 8:19am

Hmm, I haven't had a single worm travel to the bottom bin, I wonder what the difference is?  My RM has lots of 1/4" holes drilled in the bottom of the worm bin, a single layer of fiberglass window screen laid across the bottom and slightly (maybe 1.5") up all 4 sides.  When I placed the bedding, I tried to push it into the corners of the screen to mash it against the sides better.  My bedding is ~75% shredded cardboard and ~25% finely shredded leaves - all well soaked, then drained, about 2 tablespoons of sand and maybe 1 tablespoon of dried, finely crushed egg shells.  There are 3, 1" holes, with screen glued over them, on each long side of the bin, no other holes in the bin or lid.  The entire bin is sitting on top of a couple concrete bricks I had that are inside another identical bin with only a drain spigot in it.  I have nothing between the sides of the 2 bins but air. 

 

When I bought worms, it was from a local source (BigTexWorms - very nice to deal with and VERY helpful).  I bought worms in bedding and I placed all of it in the middle of the bin - after more reading, I should have placed this at one end.  I had zero drainage from the worm bin initially, until after a week of so, I felt that it had gotten a bit too dry and I sprayed it down heavily.  I then had a small amount of leachate, but there still were no wanderers.  I have since sprayed it down a couple more times since the top was fairly dry and got a tiny bit of leachate - not even close to enough to be able to drain it.  I have only had a couple of worm castings on the sides of the bin even after 2 full months (yeah, I know, worlds of experience, right? lol), and they happened right after the most recent spray down, but the bedding is loaded with castings and the worms are reproducing and growing like mad.  Perhaps it's because the big ventilation holes keep the bin sides dryer?  That actually was part of my plan, but I really didn't expect it to work that well.  It was purely an

Comment by Sharon Hollars on February 7, 2011 at 9:02am
Hmm, ran out of space?  Purely an experiment on my part, I had no idea how much difference it would make.  Maybe it's partially that the worms really like the cardboard/leaf mix.  I don't have any better explanation for why I haven't had a single wanderer.
Comment by Sharon Hollars on February 18, 2011 at 8:36pm

So, I just got my "cocoons" from Pat James and let me tell you, that dude ROCKS!  He sent wormy Taj Mahal's with loads of worms!  I received 2 vented, plastic "micro-bins" with bedding and tons of tiny babies, lots of juveniles and a few bigger kids, too (at least half grown).  I was expecting to wait around 3 months to get babies to breeding age and he's just jump-started my time line - I should have plenty at breeding age in about half that!  Woot!  Woot!  I estimate at least 50 Eh babies were up around the top rim of the micro-bin when I opened it and that's just a fraction of the total worms in that container.  There were plenty more down in the bedding, most of the ones I could see in the bedding were even bigger (tinies just weren't visible in the bedding).  And there were at least that many tinies clinging to the container after I dumped the bedding out.

 

The Ee's, surprisingly, were all down in the bedding, so I just couldn't see the tinies without risking squishing them, but there were plenty of kids in there, for sure.  I can't wait until they get some size on them and I can't wait to get some volume to my VC production.

 

Thank you so much, Pat!  I truly appreciate it!

Comment by Sharon Hollars on March 31, 2011 at 8:19am

My FT is starting to shows signs of a break through.  There are castings leaking out through a few holes in the newspaper.  I didn't fiddle with it because I'm hoping to get VC that's as finished as possible right off the bat.  I still suspect that I'll have to feed plenty back through the bin at first.  I'm hoping I can start turning rods about the end of April.  I'm struggling to load the picture for some reason, I don't know why it won't load just like the others, but I'll try again.  I added it as a photo in my photos and I'll link it here.

 

http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/img00114jpg-1?context=user

Comment by Wayne on May 14, 2012 at 10:40am

I was thinking about making something very similar to this, but instead of screws, I would drill holes entirely through the PVC tubes and insert stiff plastic dowels that would protrude out each side. I would glue them in place and then fill the PVC tubes with some type of epoxy. That would help keep the plastic pins in and make the PVC tubes stronger and stiffer.

As far as the PEs escaping when it is humid, and if you keep your FT indoors, I would recommend getting a dehumidifier and run it when the humidity is high. That should help keep them from leaving the humid FT bin. Also use a smaller nylon mesh over your screens.

Comment by Wayne on May 14, 2012 at 11:10am

Sharon,

How is your FT bin working with the screws? The last update was March of last year when you just had a break through but had not harvested your first batch of VC.

Comment by Sharon Hollars on May 14, 2012 at 11:57am

Producing VC well, now.  If I had to do over, I would put the PVC pipes a little closer together and forgo any type of screws.  I cannot turn the "scrapers" anyway,the VC tends to rest on the pipes and is too dense and heavy to let them turn with the screws in place.  The bin just self-harvests when it's ready and I scrape up the VC from the bottom of the harvest chamber. I can somewhat regulate the rate of self-harvest by adding more moisture to speed it up or less to slow it down.   It appears to be very "finished" when it comes through.  There will be the occassional scrap of something identifiable, but mostly it is very fine, "fudgy" black material with fairly minimal worms.  If things are too moist, I get a lot more worms in the VC and I feel compelled to sort most of them out and put them back in the bin.

 

I have removed the screen entirely since it was coming loose anyway (Gorrila Glue is apparently not a long-term adhesive where the worms can get their little "noses" under the edges).  I've had to fight fruit fly issues a bit, but if I keep a layer of shredded paper on top of the bin and feed underneath that, it is minimal.  As the paper gets yucky, the shredder is usually full, so I just add another layer on top and feed underneath that layer.  I feed quite a bit of the discards of pelleted bird food (rice based) along w/the usual veggie discards and what not, so I have had to watch heat build-up from the "hot" food.  Usually I can just open the lid on the bin for a few days if it gets too warm.  I have a compost thermometer that stays in the bin 99% of the time.  It's as good a place to store it as any.  I take it out to use it elsewhere, then it goes back in for storage/monitoring.

 

Thanks for your interest, I figured this was blog was long dead and buried.

Comment by Wayne on May 14, 2012 at 12:49pm

Thanks for the quick reply! It was interesting to hear about your results. I was thinking that if there was any deflection of your PVC tubes from the pressure of the compost above, those tubes would be hard to turn.

I heard that a small dish of apple cider vinegar is effective at catching fruit flies.

I have an idea for a FT bin that I am going to try out and post sometime in the future. I am so glad I found this site. Its full of great ideas.

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