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55 Gallon Flow Through Bin Project

This will be my second flow through bin made from a 55 gallon plastic barrel. 


The first bin I made has been going for close to 3 years now and can process in excess of 10-15lbs of food and bedding weekly.  It was constructed from a 55 gallon plastic barrel with the bottom grate made from steel electric fencing posts. On top of the posts I placed a old cooking rack which was attached to 2 cables which I had planned to used to shred the vermicompost off of the bottom of the bin.  I found that this did not work and the weight of the vermicompost made it very hard to use.  Through the middle was a perforated 1 1/2 diameter ABS pipe which was also vented through the top.  A hole cut in the bottom to collect finished vermicompost and a lid in the top for feeding ect.  Here is a couple of picture of the current bin in action:

New Bin:

The new bin will be quite similar, a few changes to hopefully help with some of the issues I have had.  Firstly there is a second horizontal pipe added lower in bin to hopefully increase air flow and ventilation deeper in the bin.  This time the grate at the bottom will be made of plastic water line - After completing construction of the grate I do not feel that this was the best choice of material for the grate, it is quite flexible and I am not sure how strong it will be... time will tell i hope that it does not collapse under the weight of the vermicompost. I also did not put any sort of grate to "shred" the vermicompost off the bottom, I found that the one on my old bin was very hard to use and was not worth worrying about.  Other than that it is essentially the same bin.  Some pictures of the completed bin:

Initial Setup:

So to start this bin I added 5-6 layers of newspaper on the bottom, followed by a layer of dry cardboard that I ripped up.  On top of that I layered a couple inches of cardboard pieces which were soaked in water.  After that I placed close to 7lbs of vermicompost which was harvested from the other bin,  this amounted to maybe 1 1/2 inches throughout.  When adding the bed run to the bin I quickly sifted through and counted the worms and there was approximately 150 which I counted, so there was likely 200 or more plus an abundance of cocoons.  When I initially started 4 years ago I bought 1/2 lb of worms in a RM bin and moved them into the 55 gallon drum after a couple months.  It took a very long time to have a noticeable increase in population.  I hope this approach increases the population faster even though I maybe starting with less worms initially.  On top of the bed run I scattered 1/2lb of food which was mostly watermelon pieces and cucumber pieces.  I finished with a couple inches of soaked cardboard then covered with some whole newspaper.  Sorry forgot to click some pics throughout the process, but here is the finished product:

Future Plans: 

I do not plan on adding any significant amount of worms other than ones which come from the finished castings in the mature bin. 

I may add a small solar powered computer sized fan, which I am in the process of building, to the end of the pipes through the bin for increased ventilation. 

Updates to follow.

Views: 5114

Comment by Andrew from California on August 10, 2012 at 10:32pm

Bill, thanks for posting the details of your bin. I've added it to the DIY list:

A few questions:

• Since you probably have more than 10 lbs. of worms in the 1st bin, why not move 1-2 lbs. into the new bin?

• How have you been harvesting the 1st bin and how do you plan to harvest the 2nd one?

• What's the purpose of the mesh fabric around the top of the new bin?

I can't recall who did this, but someone reinforced PVC with metal rods inside. It will depend on the inner diameter of your plastic pipes whether this would be an option for you.

Comment by Bill S on August 11, 2012 at 7:28am

The reason that I am not going to add more worms initially is just so I can see How fast I can bring a bin like this into full production, also I wanted to compare that to the length of time it took me to bring my first bin up to speed.  As I mentioned I will be adding "some" worms from time to time and I do believe that with the amount of VC I initially added the amount of cocoons will hopefully have a significant impact on the worm population.

The first bin is harvested with a steel grate I placed on top of the fixed grate.  This steel grate has plastic coated steel cables fixed to the edges which then go to the outside of the bin.  The simple act of pulling it back and forth shreds the VC from the bottom into the catch chamber.  The problem I have had with this method is that the grate is very very hard to pull back and forth given the weight of the approx 15-20 gallons of VC on top of it.  I did not make a system like that for the new bin and will try the old fashioned method of scraping it off the bottom.

The mesh around the top of the new bin is only to appease my wife, I plan to bring the bin into my basement in the winter and this is to keep the bugs in.  It will likely be only for "looks" and will not keep anything in or

Thanks for the intrest



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