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Planning and building a high volume flow through vermicompost bin.

I have to get serious in building compost. I need a lot of it. I also need a lot of mulch. I could use 300 cu ft between now (10/12/2013) and the first of the year. I cannot afford to buy it. I must make it.

My county quit their yard waste recycling service. I had been getting 6 pickup loads per year of their mulch to lay on my gardens. I hybridize daylilies as my retirement hobby in the hopes of it more than paying its way. I have breeder plants that stay in place 3 or 4 years. I have beds to line out plants to sell. Then there are seedlings. I am growing about 1000 plants per year from seed. They take up about 1/4 of an acre.

Daylily growing work produces a lot of its own plant matter to compost. I had not done much with it since free mulch was so easy to manage. About a year ago I began vermicomposting and now have 3 plastic bins. I have harvested twice and have sprayed a lot of tea. I build a bed on the ground where the worms took up my hot composted leaf/grass mix, along with coffee grounds. Some of this has been harvested. All my new plantings this fall got vermicompost that had been collecting in three 30 gallon trash cans.

Now I recognize that my 3 plastic bins are more work and fraught with greater difficulty than flow through bins. I have a plan to convert 2 of these bins to flow through for use in the basement to handle kitchen waste. If I had a video camera I would make films, because I have not seen one on converting a bin with the worms in it. maybe some of you would know of one.

The other project I want help with is the design of a large flow through bin. The space it goes in limits it to 6' in length. So 4x6 roughly is the size. The inside dimension will be near that.

My goal is to produce volumes of good qualilty compost that will be added to the soil every time a plant is planted. This goes on continually from April 1 to Oct 15 every year. Compost also in included in potting soil for starting seed.

Here are my high values in designing and building:

  1. High volume flow through of pre-hot composted plant matter with coffee to yield highly usable garden compost.
  2. Design for ease of operation and repair.
  3. Design for year round outside in the shade effectiveness, so they are cool enough in the summer and warm enough in the winter.
  4. Design for it to be moveable so changes in operation and management of space and buildings is possible. It will sit on a concrete slab.
  5. Use found and recycled items as much as possible.
  6. Consider eye appeal. A lot of people will see my plants and my composting.

Here are some materials I have on hand:

  1. A 24' swimming pool surround, steel, 52 inches in height, smooth durable surface. (for interior?)
  2. A variety of necessary wood (from dumpster diving at construction sites!)
  3. Heavy duty machinery casters
  4. hinges for door/lid
  5. roof vent for door so lid can be closed and air flow safely.
  6. Scrap vinyl siding (dumpster!) to dress up the outside.
  7. plenty of chip board-- yes, I went diving for it!
  8. 1/2 inch insulation board (dumpster!)
  9. Plenty of trimmer string if it is used. Will make removable frame for string repair if we build for string.
  10. Vinyl sheet flooring for lining the collection shelf for durability,ease of cleaning, etc.
  11. Lots of necessary tools and skills

The main technical challenge I see is a way to bend the sheet metal to fit tightly in the inside corners. I wonder if the easiest thing is to make it first and build the wood frame to mate with it.

Now that I have laid this out, I would appreciate any input about my goals, values, operation, plans, etc.

I am new on this site, and hope there is a way to keep my future posts connected to this one. Can anyone help me with this? Thank you all in advance.

Views: 701

Comment by Daniel J Kline on October 12, 2013 at 2:02pm

thank you, guru!

I have watched many of your videos. There is a page on this site with most of yours, something like 400? I havn't seen them all. The boat frame has cable support I think and a wench to pull another cable above them to sheer off the goodies. I heard your huffing and puffing after wenching. LOL That would be me! I am 66 and 150 lbs!

Something up your line... I got to wondering this morning if appliance carcases could be re-tooled for worms, especially washers. Another thought was to use a dryer motor, drive belt and guide wheels to use on a rotary harvester system. There are so many ways to do stuff!

Comment by Daniel J Kline on October 13, 2013 at 3:46am

I have been thinking about 52 inches, and whether this is too high for my ease of operation. I stand at 5 ft 7 inches, or 67 inches. The lazy part of me resists cutting the steel lengthwise, but I will have to.

This question directly impacts the ease of harvest. I have seen videos where the harvest area is at ground level and the person has to have an ear on the ground to see the harvest action. This is not ease of operation for an older body. Thank God I am still healthy and agile at 67, but the ugly fact is this is diminishing.

So I hope to have my harvest tray at a level so I can sit on my haunches and reach in. It seems easier for me to lift materials higher into the bin than to get down on the ground to take them out. I know my human nature well enough that if the system causes too much physical discomfort, it will not get used.

I still need someone to suggest a way to bend my steel. I have some ideas, but they are untried. I plan to do this in the coming week.

Comment by Keith Reber on October 22, 2013 at 9:17pm

I personally think you are trying to make the bin to deep. try looking at the photos I have posted of the one I built.

Its 8' L x 3' W x 3' deep. Cutting blade motor in an old garage door opener.

Comment by Daniel J Kline on October 24, 2013 at 9:38am

What I have built has 30 inches from the very top to the strings. Most of the flow-through guys say this is about the right amount to have finished castings at the bottom, with product taking about 6 months to a year to go that 30 inches, depending on many factors. The height of 52 allows for me to have a harvest area that is not at ground level.

Comment by Daniel J Kline on October 24, 2013 at 9:40am

Actually my front edge height is 48 inches off ground; with the back 5.5 inches higher to have slope on the roof door system.

Comment by Daniel J Kline on June 25, 2014 at 3:15pm

This system is working fine! I got the worms going before the coldest weather came. I started with the bedding about 14 inched thick. I did get a foil backed 3/4 inch foam board on all the exterior. The unit sits in the sun, and black plastic helped keep it warm in the winter. Any time bedding was below 50 degrees F I turned on a heating pad. This worked very well, though one stretch of 7 days on without move dried out everything around and below for about 2 inches.

As weather warmed the feeding has increased. I mostly feed plant matter that has been hot composted using coffee grounds to heat it up. grass clippings and a variety of other browns and greens heated up nicely in a pile 4' x 6' by 3 feet deep. This shrunk to 3x4x3  in the process, but attained temps higher than 130 for about 10 days through three laborious turnings. This yielded a very black slimy substance that the worms take to immediately. It has not been rained on or watered to wash through any amount of goodness.

I feed about 10 gallons of this product to one half of the bin about every 5 days. This gives a 2.5 to 3 inch feeding on that half. this gets watered and always by next morning the worms are doing their job.

It looks like by fall when I am ready to build or renew some growing beds I will have a lot of good stuff to put i them. I am most encouraged by results I am seeing in my plant growing beds.

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