There are many ways of making a worm bin composter. Or you can buy one especially for that purpose. I have tried three approaches and I use red wigglers or red worms. The first approach was years ago. We built a wooden worm bin but it was not successful. We put too many food scraps in it and the worms couldn’t handle all of it. We got a ton of fruit flies and the food rotted so we got rid of it. We didn’t have any source of advice to save it. Of course the internet was not available like it is now!
A few years ago, I made a worm bin in a Worm Friendly Habitat. I used shredded newspaper for bedding which works very well. I like this worm bin because it is easy to go look at and check out the worms and see how they are doing. About once a week I will go look through the bin and mix up the paper, food scraps and the worms. This also gives me an opportunity to make sure the worms are doing fine and it aerates their environment. It is important that there is enough oxygen so that the process stays aerobic. Once there isn’t enough oxygen it becomes anaerobic and it will start to smell. If your worm bin smells bad then you know that something is not going right.
After looking online I see that the Worm Friendly Habitat worm bin used to be sold only to municipalities, educational facilities and other bulk buyers. Now they are available to the public. I see on one website they have added holes to the bottom for drainage and a tray to catch the leachate (drainage from the worm bin) but they are out of stock. Some websites are selling the older model. I have the older model and though the bottom does get a bit wet, it hasn’t been a problem so far. It is a bit expensive when you add in shipping but it is ready to go with the holes already drilled for air circulation. I am still experimenting to see if the holes in the bottom of the worm bin are really necessary. I just wouldn’t want to deal with the worms crawling out of the holes. More on this in the next post!
How to separate the worms in worm composting is a big question. Vermicomposting, another name for worm composting presents its biggest challenge after the compost is finished. The red worms, also known as red wigglers have done their job and now the time had come to move them from the finished vermicompost into their next batch.
I have always struggled with this process. Some people just take the finished compost and put it into the garden worms and all. But these red wigglers will not do well in a regular garden. They are really compost worms and they like compost not just dirt. I guess these people just buy new worms to start their next batch.
I have tried several methods that have been recommended on the internet or in books without too much success. It depends on what kind of worm compost bin that you have. I will give one example of what I have tried in the past.
How to Separate the Worms
This was in a rectangular plastic bin, nothing fancy or special. One piece of advice is to move the finished compost to one side of the bin and fill the other side with fresh bedding with some food in it. The worms will just automatically move over to the fresh bedding. My worms never wanted to cooperate with this process. Some red wigglers moved over but plenty stayed in the finished compost. They have always been very happy to stay in finished compost!! I have spent a lot of time picking them out of the finished compost.
The Worm Factory Additional Composting Bin Trays which have lots of holes in the bottom are perfect for separating worms from vermicompost. I no longer use the Worm Factory but more on that in another post. I filled one with new bedding, some pulverized rabbit manure and some watermelon rinds. The other tray was on top of this with the finished compost in it. And I used a grow light shining on the compost to encourage the worms to move to the level underneath.
After 2 days, they were almost completely in the new bedding all happily clumped together under the watermelon rinds. I have never seen them move over so fast! My red worms really like rabbit manure and they also really like watermelon rinds. So maybe the new bedding was just too enticing and they migrated right away. The difference was remarkable. There were only a few worms that I had to pick out of the finished compost. I think next time I will use just watermelon rinds to see if that was it. You know just a little experiment.
In my next post I will go over the beginning steps of how to make a worm bin composter.