Worm Inn

equinoxequinoxAugust 11, 2013

Having read that Worm Inns are the greatest thing since sliced bread and how they are the perfect bin for vermicomposting I bought one. I had to have one. It was my way, way, way early birthday gift to myself. After reading about it for months and months I could not possibly wait until my birthday so ordered it early. Possibly in March. Not wanting to contaminate my new system with my old worms of uncertain pedigree and only having room for one bin I unceremoniously dumped my original bin back into the compost heap I got them from. Such was the gleam in my eye for my new bin and my new, younger and prettier worms. But could they cook?

Off to Home Depot I went to get the plastic pipe. They cut them right there for me. The fittings came with the bin. The instructions are for a system that lifts the bin off of the ground so a 5 gallon bucket can be handily placed underneath it to catch drips and for easy harvesting. I did not place the straps of the system the way they show but instead put it diamond wise with one strap on each horizontal. I did not use the zip ties but instead threaded the horizontals through the bin straps. My preference. I find it difficult to follow any instructions. I have my reservations about the design and strength of the support system. In some ways I feel the support is a smart key part of the system. The exact specifications might be modified by connoisseurs of vermicomposting systems. The height appears designed correctly at first look but in practical use I would need it higher than that because like milking a cow it would be way handier if the working parts were waist height rather than get on one�s knees for milking or harvesting. It�s an elderly thing. Maybe like the upside down tomato planters this vermicomposting system is best hanging from the rafters. The weight of wet vermicompost should NEVER be underestimated in a flow through system or any system. Never mind harvesting, even adding material to the bin gives one the wobbles. This could perhaps be solved by using larger pipe than called for. Or maybe by having five or six sides rather than just four where it is always wiggling this a way or that a way. Perhaps it also needs additional horizontals half way up. This in itself is not a reason to not get the system. Think of it as Version 3 or 4. Possibly new versions will include these as it is a young product and possibly still evolving.

I live in America and purchased the system and worms from RedWormComposting.com . The worms, red wigglers, Eisenia fetida are not from him but from a company in America he must be happy with. The system came way fast. The worms soon after. One does need time to assemble the system and add bedding materials. The worms quickly arrived. They were all worms with two days� worth of poop on them. With the box I think the two pounds of worms weighted two and a quarter or two and a half pounds. I probably wrote it on the mailing box along with the postal stamp of the date mailed. So I more than got two pounds of just naked, healthy worms. They looked pretty much like the picture at the top of his website. If there was any peat it was maybe just a couple tablespoons worth as I recall. The worms were in a bag in a box with shredded packing. I weighed using a home postal scale knowing you would all want to know. I choose my bin seller because I had read so many of his blog posts and learned so much from them.

I had prepared extensive bedding for them. I tied shut the base. Cardboard formed the bottom. I filled it right up with one inch egg carton and coffee tray material. As I recall, I gave it a good feeding. When the worms came put them in and gave it more good feedings. I also poured gallons of fish tank water over them. Enough to have gallons come out the bottom and then repour it back in trying to put back the bucket quick enough to catch it running through a second time. I was stress testing the system to the max. I tossed in enough food to fill it to the brim and when that went down a little I crammed it full again. I put in loaves and loaves of bread. Was this a good idea? No but I wanted to really to test the system. For you guys.  The world wants to know. Is this Worm Inn system as great as I imagine it is in my dreams of the perfect system or is it just another can o worms or worm factory? A wee bit of worm humor there. So into the bin went on these poor worms� heads. Then gallons of water, loaves of bread and more kitchen scraps than one really ever should. I did also keep adding bedding. Bedding, I believe is good and can make up for any evil that may befall a vermicomposting system. That is the theory anyway. Practice may be different. My results from on purpose massively poor bin management and can the system deal with it have been inconclusive. I would really like other people to post their experiences with overfeeding the system. It seems less than one percent of Americans compost of them less than one percent vermicompost of them less than one percent have Worm Inns. Even on this website few have posted about them.

My worms seemed to have survived. I do not know if they have thrived. At one point I tore apart the system. Did I have as many worms as I started with? Less? Possibly. Unsure. I did not separate out the worms but just inspected them as I moved material out of the system and back on top of it. I have seen many cocoons in the system. I have not seen baby worms. With the large food additions and purchasing peat moss for the garden I put a large quantity of peat moss into the bin as bedding. It is hard to tell if the harvest is peat moss or vermicastings. I put it all right back in on top. The best thing to do for a heavily fed vermicompost system I think is to cover with a layer of harvested vermicompost or even the stuff that is still too big to be harvested. So far I have no harvest taken out of this system. A lot of stuff food and bedding has disappeared.

I think the most interesting result of my testing has been that I still have the same old, same old major problem. It does not matter how big of an opening is given to that vermicompost, it still does NOT flow through and certainly nothing all evenly. Like Defying Gravity, it is Wicked. After a few months the vermicompost does not even need any bottom at all. It just keeps flying like a crazy monkey. I harvested what I could with a tri claw scraping at the bottom of the mass. It was not easy or fun. One has to untie the now moldy and slimy from months of water dripping tie. Then somehow reach down and over and back up trying to scrape around the inside of the bag for scraps to fall into the bucket which needs to be right there thus limiting ones hand movability. Even after a bunch of this and weeks going by the material does not fall all by itself, thus self harvesting. The bin is also too heavy and too close to the floor to convince from the outside the material to fall. Think trying to lift up a cow by the belly. After a long while and letting stuff dry out for months I was able to finally squish the still heavy lower outside of the bag to release the black gold. And then like an avalanche it ALL falls down. The whole center of the bin sinks out the bottom of the bag. The stuff stuck to the sides may still stay there.

Despite this rather negative report I am still convinced this system is the best thing since sliced bread. The system certainly can deal with massive whole unchopped food inputs. The large surface area and how it just melts food additions makes it easy to over feed times ten. The netting does keep in the fruit flies. It may be good just for that. If fruit flies are visible just do not feed and they will all stay inside the zippered area. If fruit flies are there it is probably not time to feed yet anyways. Expect some nice friendly spiders to make homes right nearby. They too are working for you. Recently I have fed way less and actually stopped feeding the system. I am letting time work. I hope it is not drying out.

I way enjoyed doing this experiment and writing it up for you all. I hope you enjoyed "trying a worm inn" with me as if you were right there. I tried to do what you all would with it.

It would be great if there were sister or brother posts to this one. There are things I still want to know and understand about the system. Some things seem to be problems with all flow through such as harvests not falling through and then falling through all at once right down the center. Maybe like a chicken laying an egg this is just the way things are and the idea of constant harvesting of perfect vermicompost a quarter inch at a time falling like dust only happens in factory vermicomposting.

I am still trying to become friends with my Worm Inn.

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equinoxequinox, you can follow and like me on facebook if you want.

Worm Inn

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 9:06AM
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Nice write! Kinda' like consumer reports. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 10:30AM
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I enjoyed reading your post as well. I had to go and look that system up so I could follow all your points. I remembered it then, when I was first shopping for a system. The legs were a turn off for me. Flow through type systems as rule didn't seem to work for me either. Not that they are bad, just didnt seem to ring my bell. Great write up.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 12:52PM
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sounds like you are going anaerobic.... maybe too much water?
I am still learning about vermiculture, but one thing I did see time and again is that muck on the Bin is linked to a lack of airflow

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 4:47PM
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boreal_wormer(Alta Canada)

Great write-up. I always thought this design would be great in terms of ventilation, drainage and containing flying things (gnats and the like). It was a little bit of a surprise that it suffers with the problem of material hanging up like other flow through designs.

I like DIY bins but if I were to ever buy a bin it would probably be a Worm Inn.

Thanks again this post and your others. They're always thoughtful with a bit of humor too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Inverting Bins

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 11:48AM
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Thanks for the great write-up. Now that you've put the 'Worm Inn' through it's paces, perhaps it's time to drive it like it was made to be driven; because like their inhabitants, Worm Inns & Bins don't like to be stressed. Now, even though Worm Inns have more airflow than any other bin, box or container on the market (due to their Nylon mesh construction), yet I can see how the stuffing and compacting of food waste, together with all the liquid being poured through there might lead to the castings building up on the walls. Still, how that all balances out against the fact that the Worm Inn has a tendency to dry out a lot faster (due to that same attribute that it has additional airflow), I haven't yet figured out. Might be interesting to see how fast they process Bokashi in a Worm Inn. This doesn't mean that I won't be ordering a Worm Inn at first opportunity, rather just like everything else, the system will need to be tweaked.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 10:03AM
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The bin was difficult to get to for a while due to items in front of it from a water heater leak. So the bin went from way over watered on purpose to left to its own devices for a long time. When I was able to get to it again there were a few worms still alive. I have fed again and again dumping in gallons of water. When it was dry I was able to punch up at the belly of the beast to loosen the material. It rained dry little bits of vermicompost. It was nice. The five gallon bucket I used. I would suggest an 18 gallon bin. Once it rains it pours. The entire bottom falls out. Still the top stayed put. I tried to close up the bottom a bit and punched the top edges of the outside of the bag. It then collapsed and wanted to leave out the bottom. I can deal with this for harvesting. It meets my goals. This is about what I was trying to attain with my other various set ups. The secret or thing about this bin is the flexible sides. The material is able to get moved around by punching at the bag a tiny bit. This avalanches the material and mixes it. Although I have removed material from this bin I have not harvested. The removed material has been used to cover food additions.

Perhaps bins should have seasons? Or maybe there is a seasonal way to work with them. Maybe harvesting in February when gardeners want to get their hands in living soil. Then the harvested material can sit a couple of months for eggs to hatch. Maybe there is a time a bin should be overloaded with food. There are some times of the year my bin is overloaded and others when the cupboard is bare. There also seems to be times I am bedding rich or bedding sparse. Maybe I need two Worm Inns :-) :-) :-) The material once harvested can be put into the second system to refine.

The tie system at the bottom of the bin could use some redesign. Possibly just a bungie cord on the outside would be all that is needed. I do not want to touch the present closure.

I like how with the vermicomposting hobby it can be ignored for long periods of time and at other times I can spend all day working with the bin and contents and finding perfect bedding.

~ Having more fun with a Worm Inn than should be legal.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I enjoyed reading your adventures with this and could feel your excitement with it. I have seen the worm inn online and it looks like it may have some advantages but I do wonder about it going anaerobic, anyway I dont have the space to attempt such a maneuver yet still it is interesting.

I have viewed a time lapse of a person using squash and how long it would take to finish and I have never even thought of squash as I for one have never eaten it. But anyway I bought two winter squash[summer squash would have been better , wrong time of season] sliced them in half , removed all seed and placed belly down on top of cardboard and mulched leaves. Now no matter what time of day or night I look in the bin not a single worm shows its face, so they are busy busy busy busy. It will take them a long time to devour this squash as it has a firm outer skin. But I just had to disturb them and take this photo. It appears to me they are happier , healthier, and larger than Ive ever seen them. Is squash a high fat material? Hmmm.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 1:16PM
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hummersteve: I'm not sure worms have fat, they're mostly water. I think it is the water in squash that made them fat.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 2:07PM
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Also looks like a bit of castings among them in the photo.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 2:26PM
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im not expert by any means and i just did it last week but i made a kinda worm inn with no drawstring at the bottom from harvesting cause i had read articles where they dont work, but if u can use a drill then u can build the kind i did, they cost i think 11 dollars for wood (home depot 2x3s or some variation, it doesnt matter, anythings better an that thin pvc) and and 20 on 2 yards of "speaker material", because before i went i didnt do my research i asked the lady at the fabric counter for a "breatheable non organic fabric" and after taking forever, she gives me black speaker fabric (apperently its polyeser and its 5 dollars a yarrd if its special polyester...and those fabric ladies can be mean) but anyway just a simple box of wood with a few supports mine was 1 ft wide by 2 ftlong by 1.5high with 1 foot supports at the top and bottom, i double layered 1 yard and it fit perfcet,the "bin" sags about 1 ft in the middle and is very solid, i sit on it and the material isnt going anywhere if u use screws with washers and maybe shingle nails but i love my new bin its keepin things drier(always had a plastic tote so not having to wrry about moisture is great) and its breatheable, the mites will be leaving soon, more air for the worms, and itll only cost 20 40 tops if u get the special speaker polyester (which is black which is good but i would juts ask for black polyester)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 3:22AM
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equinox x2 nice report! Having fun with this hobby is what it is about. The nice thing about a decline or disappearance of worms in a system is that they breed like crazy before they die. Then, when you get the conditions right again, all those cocoons left behind hatch and the system is reborn........ Amazing

hummersteve, worm inn is about as aerobic a wormery that you can get without forcing air with a blower. Air enters from all directions through the cloth material.

Way to go coreyandtrevor! Home built wormeries are the best. I thought that landscape fabric would hold-up and make a great sock. You will have to cut in a harvesting hole near the bottom, or you will have to dump-and-sort at harvest time.

Good luck everyone!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 12:49PM
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My Worm Inn is working well. It is right beside a tub bin. They have comparable bedding and feeding. The Worm Inn is drier.
So I put some water soaked heavy black denim on top. It dried out too fast. So I put it (folded to be 4 layers) inside. One week later it has newly hatched worms on it. I feed the worms once a week with a mix of kitchen scraps and rotten apples (picked up off the street) & pureed in a processor. All my experiments show live and reproducing worms. The huge "foundoutdoors" worms don't seem to eat the pureed food.
They must be surviving on the horse pucky.

How have you all concluded that the worms don't like to be disturbed ? Sure they avoid light. Sure they go to ground @ vibration (think Robin) but it is possible that worms could be conditioned to regard stirring the bed with anticipation of new food. All animals are food smart. Just a (far out) thought.

The sand bag which is the woven white plastic like black landscape fabric seems to be working as the Worm Inn does:
containing while "breathing".

I haven't tried to harvest from a Worm Inn yet.
Depending on how much time I have when it is time to plant stuff, I may just save as many worms as I easily can and put
it all in with dirt (garden soil).

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 12:17PM
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A Big Negative

Finding a quarter size hole in the fine netting over the top of the bin. That bit of netting is missing. A mouse?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 5:37PM
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The entire top of my Worm Inn is now covered with mouse sticky traps. Just putting one over the chewed hole in the top netting was not working. He would push it aside. He is after the pumpkin seeds as evidenced by the shells he leaves in a neat pile on the top of the net.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 11:32AM
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animals are smart about food.
too bad the mouse found your bin.
Other options: a lid with holes.
My good-for-everything landscape cloth might work.
Certainly a piece of hardware cloth would keep out a mouse.

I have rodents in the garage from time to time.
So far they haven't chewed through either bin.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 2:26PM
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There is a long thread on this site titled My Flow Through Bins.
I wonder if we could improve the harvesting aspect of the Worm Inn
with a screen near the bottom closure -- not too near -- that would let castings through. If the Inn was too dry, the worms would be at the bottom, so moisture management would be more subtle. In my limited experience, castings don't go through a screen without shaking. Hmm.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 12:21PM
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The worm in is still doing good despite the trials I give it of drought and flood, add ton of food and add ton of bedding. Starve and ignore it for months. I'm partial to shredded paper towel rolls right now. I do not know that the vermicompost actually harvests. It gets compacted and the sides of the bag need to be encouraged to let vermicompost out. Then it is an avalanche of the entire center all the way to the top. I usually then shake the vermicompost in a wire basket dumping the large solids back into the bin. I top that off with a everything I can find that needs composting and cover with shreds. Then I try to zip it closed as it is very full. The harvested material is then aged in a 5 gallon bucket until I want to play with it some more when the snow is pilling up. Then I dump any worms back into the worm inn. I think I get just about all of the worms saved. But the cellar is soil temperature which is not worm temperature. I should do more this winter adding a bit of bakery goods to warm things up. I will probably add too much and get a free necklace. When I have fish tank water once every 6 or 8 months I pour a gallon or two into the bin. A 5 gallon bucket collects the extra which I then periodically re pour. Then if I have tons of shreds I add them to this bucket to start their march towards vermicastings. These shreds of course at some point I dump back on top of the bin. The castings look nice. I do not know what the color is. I think letting a few worms touch up the aging castings is good. If I had two worm inns I would put the material through both in series for some reason. Not sure why. I guess just for the nice mixing that happens when the material is harvested and redeposited. There is a larger system available now. I would go larger with the support and have it taller with mid section support. If I use wood charcoal for outdoor cooking I put any dust and generous with the small pieces into the bin. If I spot them in the harvested material I will put them back into the bin as they are similar to coral reefs as homes aka surface area of the biochar. Just like Thomas' a brand of English muffins in North America it advertises as having "nooks and crannies."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXQCJhw_quY 12 seconds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otm4RusESNU 5 seconds

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 7:59PM
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coreyandtrevor: We do so appreciate you taking one for the team, an arrow to the knee so to speak from those way mean fabric ladies.

Like mendopete said: "when you get the conditions right again, all those cocoons left behind hatch and the system is reborn........ Amazing"

You might just be right mendopete. I once again harvested using the black hole method of removing the top 4 to 6 inches of recent bin additions of food and bedding to 5 gallon buckets. Then I put a skewer down the mouth of the Worm Inn and wiggled it. Down into the collection bucket rained the vermicompost. Quickly I had a 6 inch wide whole right through to the bottom while the sides stood steadfast. I had to punch them a bit to get them too to fall into the vermicompost collection bucket. I added 20 sheets of tissue paper as a false bottom. The I added a bit of cardboard shred and then the pumpkin bokashi topped off with the large as yet un composted material separated from the vermicompost. To top this I added the pound of worms harvested from the vermicompost. This vermicompost will sit and age so that the many cocoons can hatch. Also I am glad to report that I had at least a pound of worms in the harvest from the Worm Inn. So at least I have what I started with. The worms were all adult. And they seemed to have purchased a vowel and got a clue lately.

Of course I am once again stressing the system by pouring tons of water onto it. Etc. Presently searching for new sources of nice bedding.

Link to Worms in Black Hole post:

    Bookmark   January 31, 2015 at 2:50AM
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had an idea for harvesting the worm inn......before opening the bottom, could a cord be tied tightly around the bag (say halfway down) so when the bottom is opened only the material below the cord will fall out for harvesting. Have no experience with the worm inn, have only seen them somewhere on this site so my idea may be totally impractical. Just thought I'd put it out there.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2015 at 1:58PM
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I have toyed around with that thought too. The amount the worm inn holds would be considerably reduced due to the hour glass shape tying in the middle would create. But yes, I agree something like that might help. Open the tie and yell fore or timber or thar she blows.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shameless Plug For Off Topic Whale Movie

    Bookmark   January 31, 2015 at 5:43PM
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equinoxequinox - I have tried sliced bread and I like it. I have a worm factory and I like it. I have a worm station in my raised garden and I like it. Should I try a worm inn and risk my wife making me eat the worms? (She is not a worm lover.)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2015 at 6:31AM
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