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My Flow Through Bins

Posted by splitsec002 z9 CA (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 10, 08 at 20:40

Hi all, I'd like to thank you for this forum. I barely found it and
because of this forum I was able to make myself some flow thru bins.
I've been worming for about a year now and visited worm digest and
gardenweb forums but haven't heard about the flow thru's till
recently. Finally got some god pics by wellsworms and decided to make
my own. He asked me to post pics so here they are! They're in the
photo section. I'm going to tell you how I made the bins because they
really are great and cheap to make.

Step 1: First of all you need your actual bin. My first one was made
from a 44 gallon trash can bought at home depot. It was around 35.00.
The 55 gallon drum I got from a friend that just gave to me. I used a
utility knife to cut the opening of the trashcan. It was pretty easy
and only required a few strokes. The 55 gallon drum however needed a
jigsaw with metal/plastic blade to cut the opening.

Step 2: I used threaded rods that were 3/8" thick and were zinc coated
to prevent rust. I don't think rust is a problem but my mom says she
heard that it was toxic in the garden so this is just precautionary. 6
foot rods are 5.00 each and you need 3 to 4 of them depending on what
size bin and how far apart you put the rods. I used a jigsaw with
metal blades to cut the rods to length. Drilled holes in the bin with
3/8" drill bit. Again used the drill to spin the rods through the
holes in the bin because it is a pretty tight fit.

Step 3: Put 6 layers of newspaper on top on rods inside of your bin to
hold castings, worms, and starter bedding. The paper will compost and
you can use a garden rake to scrap off castings when you need it.
Others have suggested 18" of castings from the rods to the top before
you start harvesting. I haven't harvested anything yet because I want
my bin to be almost full before I start harvesting.

Step 4: Add bedding and food scraps on the top and when the castings
is ready you can harvest!

A few words I have to say about this design. I've only had it for
about a month or so but so far I am loving it. I used to have worm
factories (2) but they just don't seem as efficient as these and I
hated harvesting because I had to seperate the worms from castings. My
hope with this design is that once the bins are pretty full that there
will be hardly any worms near the bottom of the bin. Hopefully
harvesting will be easier. Like I said I haven't had this long enough
yet so I can't comment on that. When I dig from inside the bin all the
way to the rods, the castings are pretty compact towards the bottom
and I don't have many worms down there. I think when the bin is full
there will be even less worms for a easier and faster harvest.

I have also noticed that the worms can take much more food than my
worms in the worm factories. I'm not sure why but the food disappears
pretty quickly. I might just have more worms in the new bins compared
to the worm factories. Whatever it is, the food is disappearing fast
and so is the bedding which prompted me to make the 2nd blue 55 gallon
bin. I'm going to try to sell my worm factories off to recoup the cost.

I do not add any water in the bins at all. It seems the open bottom
and closed top give perfect moisture level. There is a lot of water on
the lid when I open it but the worms seem to be thriving so I'm not
adding more paper.

Hope this helps people that want to try a flow thru bin! Btw you can
find 55 gallon bins on craigslist and pennywiser for around 25 bucks.
Cheaper than the trash can I bought at home depot. Some of them have
lids that are removable too so you wouldn't need to cut anything.

Wow that was a long post but after watching American Idol I just felt
like I should "Give back" to the forum members and everything I've
learned.
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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Great post and pictures. Do you find any worms on the bottom of the bin below the grate?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

So far I have not found one single worm below the grate yet. I haven't harvested yet though so I'm not sure if I would fine any when I harvest.


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Yes definitely buy the food grade ones. The blue drum I got was used to hold water in case of an earthquake so I know it's safe. I just finished adding the last 2 rods tonight and the worms got put in.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I'm really interested in your design, let us know how the harvesting works. Do you think you will be pulling down the castings from above the rods? Once the paper dissolves, won't the casting come falling down; or maybe that won't matter because the worms will be moving up?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

As I understand, the castings somewhat stick together and you have to use a something like a small garden fork to encourage it to fall. So no problems with everything falling through once the initial compost is complete.

I'm new too all of this so someone correct me if I'm wrong.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I love your design. Have you notice yet any worms falling through yet? Please keep us posted on the progress of your bins and how much castings you get. One more thing, ive heard that most worm bins create alot of liquid (worm Tea) is this the case with your setup? Look foward to hearing the results.

Mark


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

The castings won't fall through the rods because they are kinda wet. The worms should be moving up that why I'm going to wait until my bin is pretty full before harvesting.

Suziqzer is right when she says to use a garden fork to harvest castings. I have a three prong fork that I plan to scrape the castings with from the bottom. From both my bins, I have not noticed 1 worm falling through the rods.

The 2nd bin I created which was the blue drum one I noticed some lecheate because I transfered the worms from my worm factory. The worm factory kept everything pretty well so the castings that were transfered to the blue drum was sorta wet and mud like. After a day the lecheate dried up and now i don't have anymore at all.

I added lots of bedding just the other day because both bins looked to be running low on bedding. Everything seems good so far and the worms are eating a lot.

I'd suggest everyone to try this if you think you can make one. It's not that hard and I think harvesting will be pretty easy.


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Once you start harvesting from the bottom I'd be interested to hear if you see many worms in the castings or find them on the bottom of the bin below the grate


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Thanks for sharing. I printed your pictures and took them to our local master composters meeting. They were well received.

I have used a Worm Wigwam for 8 to 10 years. It is a flow thru system with a scrapper near the grate that can be moved from one side to the other with a hand crank. Great in theory but does not really work for me. I started using hand garden hook to dig out the compost from between the bars every few months.

As far as the worms getting into the bottom, yes they do. It is not so much they fall thru the bars as they crawl down the side of the container. Most worms stay in the top and very few are in the chunks I dig out thru the grate.

My bin is outside and anytime it rains some of the worms decide to go for a crawl. Part of them getting the wanderlust lets them find the bottom of the compost bin.

I would do two things to improve the design. Put holes in the top so the worms get air and put holes in the bottom so any liquid can drain off. Other than that, great design. Gives me a reason to grab a food barrel from the cannery next door.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

splitsec002
My hubby looked at your pictures and wanted to know if we made one if there was an easier way to harvest it. He works in a machine shop and was considering making a bar that had holes in it to run across the bars at the bottom. I didn't know how well this would work as I've not harvested any castings yet and don't know the true consistency. If the bar was thin enough would it work? or would it be too hard to push through the compost? I think this may be similar to what some of the large operations use, but they are powered by machines.

Because of the shape of the garbage bin(assuming you use a round one), you would miss all four edges this way. Don't know what affect this would have .

He thinks a small garden rake is too much work (even though I'm likely the one that will be doing it) What do you think?

We haven't put any of it together yet.. just talking about it right now. I have to get my population up a little before I can start a new system. I'd like to keep my Rubbermaid tower going and try this system too and see what we like better.

splitsec002 - How is your bin going? Still eating more than in a tote?


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Having a bar running across the rods at the bottom is exactly what the wigwam does. And that thing is about 500-600. I don't have the ingenuity to build or or I would of tried. I also though about the wasted space because the bins are round.

I was toying with the idea of building a larger one with plywood. Maybe a 4x8. That would give enough room to build that crank to be really useful. Have you guys checked out the worm guy on you tube? Just type in worm guy. He has something like what I'm talking about and has a motor to do it. If your husband can do it for you, give it a try and let us know how it works out.

I don't think harvesting would be too much work. The whole reason I tried a flow through was because of the work of harvesting regular stackables. That was a lot of work and I think harvesting a flow through would be much easier.

I'm still letting it build up but I am almost there. The trash can bin pretty much ran out of bedding already so I put a bunch of new bedding in there and it's getting there. The blue bin is doing good too but it didn't have as many worms to start with. I still haven't had any escapes in either bin and both are doing well.

I haven't added holes because I like how it contains the moisture. The blue bin actually had some dried up cardboard so I dumped a bunch of stuff on top of it hoping it'll soak it up. They haven't smelled bad or anything so I'm going to keep it this way for now.

Yes, they are still eating more than my worm factory. My mom juices every morning and she saves the pulp in bags and leaves them in the fridge for me. I dump whole bags, probably 3+ lbs every few days. I don't even get scared about over feeding now. There was some leachate in the blue bin at the beginning when I transfered from the worm factory because the castings were really wet. I cut the whole a little bit above the bottom so it catches the leachate. It just dried up in a few days and there is no more lecheate now.


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Sounds good. I will have to let my hubby know how you're doing. He really likes the flow through idea instead of the bins. I hadn't thought about having him build one out of wood. He originally thought he would build a wooden tower for me but after I told him about your flow through he started to think about what he could do with an extra trashcan we have. Maybe combining the two ideas would be even better. My only concern would be moisture. You said you like the moisture level that the plastic keeps for you, do you think the wood would pull too much of it away? Would it be better to put some kind of wax/protection on the wood for that reason?
Thanks for the suggestion! It works for me on more than one level... DH wants something that looks "decent" in case I decide to put it outside or in sight of anyone that might come by. Preferably something disguised as something else, a table or something. Although he didn't like the idea of just a big hollow bench to hold lots. This might just be the answer.

I don't know when we'll get to it. We're working on getting the garden ready right now, and I just started with my first 2 lbs of worms a few wks ago & think I will probably keep the bin going at least for awhile while even if we do a flow through. Do you know about how many worms you started with?

I guess I could divide my worms when my bin is done... I started with 2 lbs so should have more by then. I don't know how much they will populate in the bin they're in in one cycle anyway (14 gal) before they reach their max. Then I would just have to wait for both systems to reach full working capacity & divide from there as I want more systems (or as friends do). I haven't got anyone else even interested yet although my sister didn't think I was nuts :) Guess cause we're related? Everyone else just looks at me. I suppose this is normal! :)


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I wouldn't use straight wood if you were to build a bin. I was thinking of using 6 mil plastic to wrap the inside of the wood all the way to the outside, then staple it on the outside so that no moisture gets to the wood. Eventually it would rot if you had moisture on it constantly.

I started with 1/2 lb of worms for my 1st worm factory. Then another 1/2 lb of worms for 2nd worm factory. And finally I had the large grey tote with 5LBS.

I emptied the tote into the first grey trashcan bin. And emptied out 1 worm factory into the blue bin. The grey one has much more worms but the blue one is doing fine too. Its 3:40am I think I'll go check on them :)


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"ralphdean" said ... "As far as the worms getting into the bottom, yes they do. It is not so much they fall thru the bars as they crawl down the side of the container."

That's pretty much what I was expecting. Is it a large amount? I'm using a RubberMaid bin now and I have very few "wanderers".


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Boreal, Not compare to how many stay in the top. They tend to group together so when I com across a group I drop them back in the top.

SplitSec, thanks to the link to the Worm Guy. I enjoyed it and learned a few things.


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splitsec, how did you put pics on your posting?


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I use photobucket to post the pictures. Just make an account and upload your pictures. They will give you a link when you view the pictures. Use the link that is the html and post that directly into the messages where you want the pictures to show. Hope this helps!


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Yeah. It helped. I got my pictures going, thanks. So do you take the metal bars out when you harvest the compost? Or do you just scrape at it until the newspaper breaks and all of the stuff falls?


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The metal bars should stay there. You just scrape the bottom and the castings fall through. Then the weight of the above material should push everything down to the bars again. My newspaper hasn't rotted yet which is probably a good thing since I need more volume first.


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Hey everyone! I'm new to this webpage but I was looking at your forum and noticed you were talking about flow through systems on a larger scale. I'm an intern at Mansfield Univeristy doing vermicomposting on a commercial scale. The bed I started with was 4x4 it has a scraper bar and we just harvested again today. It was easier then I thought it would be. And it's easy to build the model also. I didn't know if anyone would be interested in seeing a picture of the bed before and with worms in but I do have them.

The flow through system that I use allows the casting to fall down onto a tarp that we pull out and take the casting. I've only been doing this for 5 months now but I'm definatly hooked! Anyways glad to join in the group!

Whitney


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That'd be great if you can send us some pictures! Please do!


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Sounds great Whitney.. we'd love to see your pictures!


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splitsec002 ... how about an update on your bin too?


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My bins are doing great. Not much change though, I still think it will take a few months to fill up my first bin. They're still consuming like crazy. Just dropped in about 15lbs of food within the 3 bins I got.


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Wow... that's a lot of food & only in 3 bins. Can't wait to get one up and running myself but have a lot of waiting to do to get my population up to starting one.

Although... I've been thinking that when I add my next tray to my tower I will start on making a flow through if we haven't already gotten to it. Then when the bottom try is ready to harvest I can put the stragglers in the flow through to get a small population started & continue to do that until the population seems adequate for the flow through. If there aren't enough stragglers I may take a few from the bin also the first time just to help w/reproduction in the flow through.

I don't want to spend the $ to order more (although I may start a bin of ENCs at some point for my DH's fishing). But, I'm anxious to get my population up before summer so I don't have to through everything leftover from the garden out to the compost pile.

It will be good too I think to split my population up in case of a problem arising in one of the bins.

Sound ok? May take awhile, but better than spending that hard earned moolah!


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If you have the patience then go for it. I started with 1/2 of worms and after almost a year of growing I had enough for the 2nd bin.

One tip, you need about 3-4" of castings on the bottom bin. If you don't have enough castings you can purchase some coir which would be a good substitute I think. The reason for this is because once the newpapper has composted, you want something to hold up against the rods.

So far my newspaper is still intact.


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Thanks for the tip on the coir. I wouldn't have thought of that & probably won't want to part with any of the first of the castings to start a new bin (except for a few to help the microbes along. :) Anxious to see how they help my garden!

I talked to DH again about starting a flow through. He wanted to know if I was ready to get it started. I told him that yes I wanted to get it ready so when the current bin is ready to harvest that I would be ready to start it. He was initially looking at using an extra trash can that we have that I don't even think he's used yet. It's round and he thought if he tried to make a clean out bar you wouldn't get all of the castings out & it wouldn't make as much efficiency of the space. He also thinks it's too tall for the worms to live also... wouldn't use the top 12 inches of the bin. I told him I'm also concerned about the temperature because I know it will have to stay in the garage where it stays too cool most of the time for the worms to thrive.

I found a design at Happy D Ranch called the Eliminator that is made of wood... they no longer sell it but it would be easy to mimick I think. I told DH that a wooden one might just be the ticket if I paint it up nice we could put it on the front porch. He wasn't sure about spending the $ now on wood since the prices have gone up so much & you would have to replace some of it after several years.

I showed him the worm wigwam online and he thought it was the perfect size, aside from again being round & the price!!
He would like to try and find something about the size of that to make into a bin.

I haven't had the chance to show him the wooden one online yet, but plan too. I think it would be the best of our options & I could probably put it outside in the summer with his ok.

I'm ok with any of the options and just anxious to get one started. I think if we just get one together I can somehow disguise it on the porch w/ a little creativity. If all else fails and we end up using something too big to hide/disguise I could put it behind our barn where only the neighbors behind us would see it, but it would be quite a walk to go out to feed them & then put them in the garage in the winter.

Sorry to be so lengthy.. just wanting to get this project going & that's where we are right now.


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Suziqzer, I would not paint the worm bin. I would be afraid there would be something in the paint that would make the worms sick.


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Hello, I am waiting for my first red worms to arrive. They should be here the 1st of next week. I am thinking of building a bin like yours. I have a question, how far did you space the threaded rods? Whould you change your spacing? I have been watching for an updated..... Thanks for all your GREAT info.


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there's no problem painting a worm bin and it doesnt harm the worms. I have two outdoor worm bins made of wood and they are painted inside and out to protect the timber. the worms have been living in them for 5 or so years now with no problems at all. If you're concerned, just stick to a water based paint


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I was just speaking of possibly painting the outside of it to match the porch. If I painted I would likely use latex base paint as it would be less bothersome to the worms I would think.

I had considered the inside at one time for protecting the wood, but don't know how much longer it would really make it last. trancegmini wa do you have any idea about the long term difference?

As for starting a flow-through, I've had a little setback. Although I hadn't been feeding a lot I found a few worms that had the string-of-pearl appearance and panicked and divided my worms into 2 bins. They seem to be doing ok now.

I did some research on here and think maybe it was stress related from being harvested, traveling, being introduced into a new environment, and new foods. The only casualties I seemed to have were adults. At first I thought it was sour crop, but I'm pretty certain it was not... Thank goodness!

I don't want to disturb them too much for now for fear of making things worse, so I'll probably wait until I harvest the first bin before I start the flow through & with my population now divided will take longer. I'm trying to neglect them a little in hopes that ones that were adults when I got them have a chance to settle in really well (my worms were bedrun and lots of them were small when I got them).


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splitsec002 how about an update? Has the newspaper layer on the grate disappeared and are you harvesting castings?


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I'm new to this forum, but I've been vermicomposting for all of 6 months now. Old hat! I've also done a lot of worm surfing. The best flow through system I've seen yet is a pair of jeans. See http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-bins/the-creepy-pants-vermicomposter/
Below his description of the set up for the jeans, he has a link to a video of an Australian product called a swag, which is a $90 version of his old jeans. I'm in a studio apartment, so I can't hang it from the rafters of my basement. What I was considering doing was makeing a canvas tube with a draw strings at both ends. I'm going to put a tall thin trash can in the useless corner created by my 2 sofas and just set it in there. Then you just keep feeding it on the top. When you're ready to harvest, untie the draw string and take the bottom bit out. I'm thinking I'll lay it on it's side to harvest. One of the posts I've seen about this method recommends proping the bag against a tree in your yard so it gets any lechate. (No tree here, either :-) This seems the easiest to set up and I don't want a garbage pail in with me. I might even put a board on top with a lamp, so it will be less noticeable. I know the canvas will eventually rot/be eaten, but I think it will take a while and you'll get some warning. I'm going to see if I can find a better material to use to make my tube. Certainly the blue tarp stuff that's so common (Costco, etc.) would work. I'd sure have a lot of material left over! Can anyone see any flaws in the set up?

The other thing he talks about is what seems to me the best idea for harvesting non-flow through systems. He sets up his new bin, puts a single layer of garbage bag with a number of pencil sized holes in it over the new bin, and then dumps his old bin material into the new bin. This takes advantage of the worms natural tendency to go down. A day or two later, he takes the castings off and presto, he's got worm free castings. My bin isn't ready for it's second harvest but it sounds a lot easier than the 'make a series of pyramids and take the top off method that I used last time!


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This has been a wonderful, very informative thread to read! I'm about to make the move from apartment to house where I can put in a garden and I plan on working on increasing my 2 existing herds by quite a bit. I never even concieved of a flow-thru system but now I have plenty of ideas! Especially the one using Jeans... who knew!


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Hey guys, here's the update. The first bin is starting to get full. The newspaper of the first bin (grey one) has started to disappear. Since I used less rods on this one, some vermicompost has fallen through on the sides of the bin where the rods weren't that close together. Which is a good thing I guess. I didn't even have to scrape and I have some falling through. I haven't bothered to use it yet but it looks like good stuff! I've been so busy lately so I haven't been able to give you guys an update but everything seems great. I showed my mom the amount of worms today and it was pretty crazy. All worms on the top where I feed. I want to make a 3rd one but again, haven't had time lately.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

  • Posted by sdpa 5 CNY (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 6, 08 at 11:07

I love this design idea and may change my current bin to this design. I think that I will add a platform w/ casters so I can easily move the bin around the garage, etc. as I imagine it will get quite heavy as it fills up.

Great info! Thanks!


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splitsec002 thanks for the update. Are you just adding food or do you alternate with some sort of bedding material?


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I either shred cardboard or newspaper or sometimes I mix them together. I feel a mix is the best. Newspaper seems to clump up too much and cardboard seems to leave too much space so a mix is the best. I dump a lot of this bedding material and just put the food scraps on the top. I used to bury it but I tried putting it on the top and it seems to work fine. Whenever the bedding material seems to get low, I shred a bunch more and put more in.


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I just built one using your idea. I used a 35 gallon trash can with wheels, as someone else was spot on about the weight these things can accrue.

I'm curious how well you think they'll hold up during the heat of summer and the cool of winter. I'm hoping to keep them in the garage year around, as the flies are a bit too much to have in the house.


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Update! Hey guys I have an update for you. A lot of VC has fallen through the rods now that it has gotten pretty heavy. So I ended up with only 6-8" in the bin now. The rest has fallen through which is about 1/3 I'd say. There are a few worms but most of the worms are still inside the bin. When I get the chance I am going to clean out the whole bin and add some additional rods. If you're building your own, make the rods closer together. I guess this would be ok if you didn't want a full bin because very few worms are on the bottom but I want even less worms to come out. I am going to leave some of the rods the way they are because I want the VC to fall automatically like how it has been doing.


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Hello, I am going to set up a flow through system like the one that you have described. I am going to use an old wheelie bin similar to this one http://www.gonegardening.com/xq/ASP/dept_id.4052/pf_id.990142/referer.US7NA79JPS5K8MU93X3H34BA7JSC5MNE/qx/gg_shop/product.htm.

I started a tired system last year which going really well but I need to put the next layer on and I can see that is is not going to work. and I think now is a good time to move to a flow through. at the moment I have one tub about 40ltrs in size.It is 3/4 full with casting, worms and food/carboard. here is the description of my tied system http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/verm/msg100653415954.html

my questions are
1. I am not sure if I have enough castings to start a flow through. I see that splitsec002 had a couple of layers of his worm factory to get him started in his flow through. Could I put my 6 layers of newspaper at the bottom and then maybe 4 inches of sand then empty my worm bin in that? I don't want my worms to escape out the bottom because I don't have enough initial castings.

2. Will worms travel through 4 inches of sand?


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Hey Vegas, I'm not sure about sand but if you need some bedding I'd recommend you use either shredded paper or cardboard. Another good thing to start with is coconut coir. You can find some on ebay and it's relatively cheap. It's also great bedding for worms.


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Vagas,
I would think you should be okay with your six or so layers of wet newspaper,
and then just add your bin contents. The paper should hold for a while, while
your worms are processing your food and corrugated.

Ron


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How about using the plastic line that's in weed wackers instead of metal bars? You won't need as many tools. Other than needing to make the lines closer together, can anyone forsee any problems?


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You got me thinking, Susan.
I first thought that maybe the weed whacker line would be too stretchy, and perhaps metal wire or fine steel cable would work better.
But then I began to think that either of those two things would tend to pull the sides of the bin toward each other when the stuff inside the bin weighs down on them. That would not happen with the metal bars since they are rigid.
Maybe I'm wrong about that, or maybe you could put something inside the bin to strengthen the walls.
I'm going to think about it some more.
I've got 2 worm bins going, but there's always room for another one!
MB


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Hey Splitsec, look at this! I made a new worm bin following the your idea, only it is quite a bit smaller. The barrel is 14 gallons rather than 55.
I used some vinyl covered wire instead of rebar to support the compost. It is 1/8 inch in diameter. I just found a reel of it in the basement; I have no idea where I got it. (I save everything; you never know when it will come in handy.) The strands are about 1" apart. The bottom pictures shows the strands. A bit hard to make out, perhaps.
I put down 6 newpaper layers, and then I added a bunch of nearly finished vermicompost which I had harvested from my tiered vermicomposter. I think there are probably a lot of cocoons in it, plus a few worms which escaped my notice.
I put in just a small amount of vegetable waste on top of that, then some sweepings from the chicken coop.
Now I am just going to try to leave it alone for a while and see what happens.
I took some pictures, and I am going to try to post them here, but today is my first day with photobucket. Fingers crossed.
I really don't know if this bin will work well, but I sure did have a good time making it. Besides, the bin only cost me $7.00, and the wire was just taking up space!
Thanks for the idea, Splitsec. Also you, Susanfromhawaii, for the idea about the wire.
mbetts
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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I am planning on using nylon braided rope for mine. The berkley vermtopia bins use rope and it seems to work just fine for them. Have unused 2 garbage bins with casters that I'm going to on convert. Should be simple to build, and frugal.

I am also considering using some sort of heat tape/soil heater wire as insurance for the winter, they will likely be stored in garage. Or maybe I'll rig something up with an old aquarium heater (need to figure out how to get its thermostat to function properly in bedding.. or maybe have it heat a bottle of water that'll sit in the bedding)

Not in a huge hurry though as my worms are still busy in my first tub. Will see where they are at this fall when I cant use my compost pile for the food scraps that worms cant keep up with


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

  • Posted by wfike 8, Atlanta, Ga. (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 20, 08 at 21:31

Just a thought here that might improve the flow throughs with rope or wire. (anything flexible) If you tied a piece of the rope at each center of the ropes or wires in the can and went from each one to the others and then out the side of the bin with the wire you could just give the cord a jerk or two and cause the wires to move. This would make some of the loose castings fall quicker. You might go out both opposite sides and have more room to move the wires.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

mbetts, love your new bin. I don't begin to have enough worms for a 55 gal drum, but the smaller one might be a good start as my worms reproduce.

Let us know if the wire you're using stretches or if it pulls the sides in as the contents get heavier.

I have one question, can anybody think why worms might consume more in this type of bin (as splitsec says)? My only thought is that you can't disturb them much even if you wanted to. One of the ways I force myself to leave the dears alone is by reading this forum! It doesn't always work ;-)


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hi Julie,

The worms consume more because you typically start with and maintain greater poundages of worms in these units.

You can maintain greater densities, because there is good air flow throughout the processor.

If you were to add this much food in a rubbermaid tub, you would create a swamp. That said, you can create a swamp in a flow through unit, or basically any unit if you go nuts with the food to worm ratio.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Worm Dude, how come the air flow is so much better? Just because there is air at the bottom and top? There's still an awful lot of uninterrupted bedding and compostables for the air to go through, especially if you're using a 55 gallon bin.
mbetts


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

The answer to the question above is two fold.
1. Worms work all depths of decomposing organic matter.
2. As the worms work all through the bedding is is not as compacted as it would be in a solid bottem bin. The solid bottem gives rise to more moisture and better compacting conditions. The compost collected from the harvesting chamber still has lots of food value to the worms. In order to get the best compost from a digester system you need to reintroduce the material at least once and let the entire food/bedding be worked several times through the worms digestive system.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

  • Posted by wfike 8, Atlanta, Ga. (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 25, 08 at 19:33

Even in uninterrupted bedding and compostables there are gaps between every piece of material. The warmer air slowly rises up through the material and the cooler air comes in through the bottom and supplies fresh oxygen to the microbes. In a sealed up bin with only a top the air at the bottom pretty well stays there as something has to replace it as it rises or it can't rise. Anyway thats my story and I am sticking to it! I always wanted to try an experiment with a fishtank pump aereator in the bottom but I think the vibration might upset the worms.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

What does veryone think if this idea, same design as above but have some type of tray system that you can insert say 4" above current bottom layer or tray. Once top self is pushed though castings the bottom tray is removed , allowing the castings to fall to the bottom. Bottom tray re-inserted and top tray removed allowing worms and bedding to fall to bottom tray.
Any ideas on a material for te removable tray? I would imagine it would need to hve some type of ventilation holes, plexiglass with holes drilled in it? Wood frame with chicken wire stapled to it?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

This is a VERY cool design. I'm definitely going to build something like this as soon as the wife decides the little bin I currently have isn't going to be a gigantic problem.

I had one thought when I saw all the work going into the grill at the bottom: If you're trying to essentially duplicate the structure of a barbecue grill, why not simply use an old barbecue grill?

Just brainstorming here, so if I overlooked a problem with that idea let me know, but wouldn't it just be a million times simpler than all the complicated wires/rods/whatever?

Here is a link that might be useful: My Worm Bin Mods


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I thought about using a BBQ grill too but I came up with 2 problems. 1, the BBQ grill didn't fit perfectly and I didn't know how to mount it inside to fit right. 2, the grill has metal rods going in both directions. So there were some rods that were perpendicular to the main rods. This would make it hard to scrape castings off.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Nice looking bin there mbetts :) It's cool how you made it so cheap. Keep us updated with your findings and any improvements you can think of.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Yeah, the trick would be to find one circular that was big enough to be almost snug.

Beyond that I would imagine it wouldn't be too hard remove the cross bars. All you'd need to support it would be two of the bars like you put in your bins, one on each side. Lower the grill onto those, lined up with them, and I would imagine it would work pretty well.

I'm still brainstorming...


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hey splitsec002,

If you put the very first layer of newspaper on the grates without ripping it and shred the other 5 layers into overlapping strips, would that work to hold the bedding material until the castings are ready? The newspaper layer would decompose or be eaten and you would not have to scrape the rods.
Also, can you make layers of newspaper and bedding like a cake, one on top of the other (as the worms eat and move up) so each newspaper layer falls down to the grates as the bottom layer decomposes and turns to castings?
Gonna build a bin from your plans...great idea.

squibt


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Does anyone know how to make some sort of crank to harvest flow thru bins like the wigwam? I've got an idea to build a larger version of this. About a 3X6 foot box and I wanted to use those metal shelves for the grate. I just can't figure out how to make some sort of crank to move a bar across the top of the grate to harvest the castings. I've never really played with machinery and things like that. If anyone has any ideas or can show a picture of the crank part of the wigwam that'd be great!


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

mbetts, I'm about to build a version like yours, but even a little smaller. (I live in a studio apt.) How did the wire you used work? Did it pull the sides in? I just think the weed wacker cord would be cheaper and easier for me. I don't have a lot of room for tools here, but I do have a friend who's got them and will cut the bottom panel out and drill holes for me.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

So far it seems to be working fine. I haven't harvested anything yet, though. I'm trying not to put stuff in it too fast, and I haven't filled it yet. I will wait until the bin is full before I try pulling anything out from the bottom.

It is leaking a bit of leachate into the bottom.

And the shape of the bin is a little bit distorted from the wires pull down with the weight of the compost. Nothing too dramatic. I think if I ever to empty the whole thing out I will try to figure out a way to brace it front to back, maybe with a wooden dowel wedged in there, or one of those pieces of rebar with a nut inside the bin. You might want to give some thought to putting some kind of brace in at the get-go.

On the other hand if your bin is smaller, there won't be as much weight on it....

I do think it would be better to find some wire which isn't stretchy, something with a metal core. Even a clothesline (some types) might be good. But if you do try the weed whacker cord, then we'll know whether it works or not!

Everything is an experiment!

mbetts


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I've had distortion issues before - my DWC system will try to bow out of shape if I don't have the lid on right.

Same kind of thing, I didn't expect the effect of a lot of weight inside but in my case it works out as long as I'm sure to get the lid on tight each time.

It's hard to plan ahead for everything, but that's kind of what makes DIY so much fun. Challenging yourself to try to get it right the first time, and invent solutions to the problems that arise when you don't.

I almost always prefer DIY to buying something someone else built for just that reason. It's the solving problems that I enjoy most.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I'm going to build one similar to what splitec made. I am going to use galvanized metal tubing instead of threaded rod and space them closer together. Pretty exciting stuff, just got done shopping for it; picked up the plastic barrel yesterday!


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I put one together today. I am a copycat. I took splitsec's advise and spaced the rods closer together. Only I used 5/8" tubing. I have 2 big Tupperware worm bins that were maxed out (maybe 8#?) They were full of castings and bedding so I layered with paper shreds, cardboard, scraps, ans old pantry items.

Grate from galvanized steel pipe

Bottom door

Filling the bin

Finished bin without the lid

Bottom though door


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Looks nice. You just need some casters to let you roll it around after it starts gaining weight.


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Thanks! The girlfriend is finding out how convenient it is. Throw scraps in after dinner with a little bedding and be done with it. Everything is pretty loose in there right now but I could see it weighing 300# once it fills up. People I work with think it is very strange. Wait until they are buying tomato seedlings from me in May. Anyway, I'm glad I came here and found this idea!


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slight problem I found. The worms seemed to be evacuating the core of the bin so I put my hand in there and it was hot. I mixed it up and put a few frozen beers in there (old beer). about 20 hours later it seemed to calm down quite a bit.


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Eric, how did it work cooling it down? This overheating seems to be a problem, I would really like some advice on cooling it down a little (I dont drink so I have not beer to add), I am using corrugated cardboard as the main bedding and I am not putting the lid on at all because of the heat, I feed twice a week, by then the food is disapeared. My bin is a little wider and much shorter (we are only 2 people) than the ones in the photographs


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

During summer I used old Gatorade bottles filled with water and then frozen. I put one in the bin around noon, took it out at night to refreeze.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

The frozen beers cooled it down a little for the day. I mixed it around a little which I think was a mistake because that is typical behavior for maintaining a hot compost pile. I checked yesterday and it is still warm but not as bad; just in the core. Plenty of room around the outside for the worms to wait it out. I've smelled dying worms before so I think they are fine. I realize that I did too much at once, I was cleaning out the fridge and pantry, and using a lot of shredded paper and cardboard that I had saved up. Right now I plan on doing nothing until it cools down and they polish off the top layer of stuff (egg shells, shredded paper, tomato trimings, and coffee grounds with more cardboard).

I'm excited to see how this thing turns out. It seems like less work for continuous flow harvest. Also, I always feel like I am having to save materials and batching things. Now you just throw stuff in as it becomes available. Quick elimination of scraps, paper, bills, dryer lint, hair clippings, vacuum cleaner stuff.. you name it.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I have been looking for ideas on how to make my first flow through bin and have found all this information so very helpful.

I have found a couple more ideas that can be added onto what you have here and it thought i should share them.

On one site there was gent that was using a 55 gallon drum just like splitsec002 used and this guy had found a heavy round BBQ grill ( Webber type ) that just fit into the bottom ring of the drum. He screwed in some clips to keep it in place. Don't know how sturdy it will be but looked real nice. But with the addition of a couple bars under it it would sure hold up. He had also used the plastic from the hole he cut in the bottom for a door with hinges a nice handle and a latch to keep it closed.

While the door was off I would have put air holes in it myself. But i thought nice it would help keep critters out.

On another site i found a guy who was making wood drum size platforms with casters under them to sit his drums on. He said that the casters were from Harbor Freight and would take a lot of weight. Only a couple bucks each.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Has anyone tried long tubes like paper towel tubes stuck down vertically into the bedding to improve aeration to the lower areas in these bins to keep things cool? I've just got a small indoor bin going and haven't seen any heating so far so I don't know if that would help for sure or not.

And I'd say that for my money the casters would pretty much be a must. Too easy to plan ahead a little and if you're going to build the bin anyway, the extra work is negligible. I'm no old fart just yet, but I've learned not to intentionally build things my back won't lift without complaint.

Or at least if I must build them, to also build in a friendly transport method.


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Before this i operated 2 bins that were only 7" high and they never got warm. Someone said you need at least 1 cu. foot to generate heat. My mix is very aerated right now simply because the bedding contains hunks of cardboard I tore by hand. I checked today and the heat is about gone.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

great job making flow thro' bin. as for harvesting one can put small piece of grill over the rods below the bedding with four corners attach to string that comes out thro' a hole. pulling in different direction will work like the crank make the VC to fall
hope this works as i am yet to make one bin to test!
vnswamy


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

vnswamy, pic please


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

As i dont have a setup the pic below may give some idea
http://i371.photobucket.com/albums/oo160/vnswamy/flowthroharvest.jpg


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Now that is an interesting design. That actually gives me some cool ideas of my own.

Good thinking!


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Hey splitz et al. Just made a flow through bin following your design. I used a 32 gal. plastic trash can. One question; how much bedding did you start with and how many pounds of worms. All the recommendations in the book "Worms Eat My Garbage" don't seem to be relevant to a flow through system I think although I'm new to this. This will be my first bin. Thanks in advance, Cheers,,,,


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Put in several inches of bedding. I put in about ten inches in my 17 gallon flow-through, as I remember. Where you have an even larger bin, you shouldn't put much less than that.
As for how many worms, that all depends on how much patience you have to wait for them to reproduce. They can be expected to double in number in just a few weeks, and then double again a few weeks after that. After a while they will sort of reach an equilibrium based on how much food and space is available. At that point you can start more worm bins, get friends started with worms, go fishing, or do whatever you want to do. So it just depends on how eager you are to have that happen.
My totally unscientific guess is that within, say, a year, if you keep your worms happy you are going to have a zillion worms no matter whether you start out with a lot or a few.
If you do start out with just a few, remember to place them near each other in the bin so they can find each other in order to reproduce. They don't have much in the way of an organized social life in order to get dates. They just need to happen upon each other.
mbetts


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

What? You mean they don't have MY SPACE pages?
Thanks for the info, that makes sense. I've just found a retired guy in my neighborhood who has about 20 bins and sells the castings as a hobby. So I bought 50 pounds of castings to put in the garden until I start getting my own. He suggested about 5 or 6 pounds of worms to start and I'll go with at least 10 inches of bedding. Thanks a ton.


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Well, that guy should be a tremendous resource to you. And BTW, some of the worm compost you bought from him would be good to use as part of the bedding. If it is actually worm compost and not totally castings it will still have some good stuff for the worms to eat, and it will also have the microbes you want. Microbes are important.
mbetts


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Thanks mbetts, my neighbor already has given me a lot of good info. The castings I got from him look like there isn't much food left in them. There were a very small number of very small worms but otherwise it was a very homogeneous substance, rich and earthy smelling, absolutely no sign of the material's previous incarnation. It looks to my untrained eye like 100% castings as opposed to vermicompost. I suppose I could add it to my bedding without worry anyway as there isn't any down side as I understand it. I've also been advised to add some grit for the gizzard. So I'll probably throw in a little DG (decomposed granite) which we have in abundance here on the east side of the Sierra Nevade. Its kind of like slightly coarse sand. Gee this is a helpful forum. Thanks again for all the help.


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I was wondering if there are any follow up pictures or comments regarding the flow through bins. I am thinking of graduating to this type or the worm inn which is a cloth bag type. I would love to see the progress in the big plastic bins.

Thank you

George


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Since put mine together a few months ago, the material has reduced to 1/3 the volume even though I have been adding to it. I have been feeding and adding bedding about once per week. I just got back from a 2 week vacation. I fed heavy and added bedding before I left and they leveled everything. The only problem I am having now is compost falling through the grate now that the newspaper has decayed. It's a little at a time and I just throw it back in the top to add microbes to new bedding. I found the area where it is leaking by and jammed some newspaper down there. It has been pretty successful other than that. I want to try and get the barrel as full of compost as I can before starting to harvest in the spring. If you make one of these don't be afraid to space your bars close together.


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Hi All
and especially splitsec002 for starting this thread. There are some awesome ideas, suggestions and concerns and they have given me even more ideas for converting an old water feature into a flow through bin. When it's finished it should be about 2.5m by 2m by 1m high (that's about 8.2'x6.5'x3.3') I will let you all know how that turns out - and send pictures of the build and finished reactor.

Because it's such a large bin I'm worried about heat in the centre of the bin. I guess you can combat that by adding enough bedding to keep the compost aerated. But if that does not work I was thinking about adding 4 4" PVC pipes with holes that provide additional airflow.

Thanks
Alex

PS: splitsec002 how are your bins and have you used your vermicast yet?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hi everyone, sorry I haven't posted a reply sooner but I've been crazy busy with work. I actually don't use much of the vermicastings but my mom sure does. She grabs what falls through the grates and feeds her garden. I do this mostly for fun and for the eco-friendly factor. As most have said, don't be afraid to put the pipes closer together. Still thinking of making a larger one but haven't gotten around doing it. Both bins are doing great and the worms still consume very fast. Keep posting the pictures for new ideas everyone!


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Here's my follow up. I set up a flow through in a standard tall kitchen waste bin about 4 or 5 months ago. I'm single and live in a studio apt. I knew I'd need to move it so it couldn't be too heavy.

It's SO MUCH better than my rubbermaid bins. I think the reason is the amount of oxygen that gets through helping the bacteria to reproduce more quickly. The internal heat causes the air to rise, pulling more air in from the bottom. Bacteria reproduce exponentially and would take over the galaxy (really!) if they had unlimited resources. In the real world, amount of food is the rate limiting factor. In our bins, I think oxygen is the rate limiting factor and flow throughs are better at delivering oxygen. I can't say if stacking or cloth systems are as good, but our standard rubbermaid with holes drilled in the bottom and sides isn't the best once you get a fair number of worms.

I've got one additional suggesting after learning the hard way. When I started I put newspaper at the bottom. I laid it down so that there was some extra running up the side of the bin on 2 sides and the paper was exactly flush with the other 2 sides. In the beginning LOTS of worms decided to check out what was down there and couldn't get back up. They either dried out or drowned if there was the least bit of leachate. Don't fit the newspaper in perfectly. Make it a little bigger and have it go up all 4 of the sides.

If you want a photo, please tell me how to get the digital photo from my hard drive to this post. (Or tell me where instructions are.) It's VERY close to the one mbetts posted about half way down this post. (The second set of photos.)

I agree with someone above. I started with about 100 worms and found it to be really slow going. Exactly a year later I've got 2 big bins, zillions of worms and have started out a number of others with some of my worms.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

hey slpitsec002,

I hope your bin is going well. I would really like to see pictures of some harvesting.

I have just finished building mine. Here is a link to the process.

Alex

Here is a link that might be useful: my


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Some great ideas in this thread. I think I'm gonna try building a flow-through system. I got a empty 32 gallon rubbermaid trash can I can use.

I want to try to use pvc in place of the metal rods as it is probably cheaper and I won't have to worry about rusting. Do you think pvc will work? Also, what kind of spacing between the rods will probably work best?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

the 5/8" conduit was only about $3 for 10' and it is holding up nicely. I took other's advice and spaced the bars close together because of fall throughs. I just recently got it to stop, only because I got enough compost against the bottom grate, and I stuffed bedding up where it was leaking from. It's a very nice system, I'm glad I went with it.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I think you can use pretty much any bar that does not bend too much. Remember it needs to hold the weight the compost. I think I know why slitsec chose threaded rod. It's because he could fasten it from the outside, which prevents the rods from bending too much. Eric's 5/8" conduit also works well even though it's not fastened on the outside, because a pipe is not easy to bend. I don't think PVC would wok too well because it bends too easily. Anything thicker than a 3/8" (+-10mm) solid metal rod (unthreaded) might work as well. It all depends on the distance between the walls of the unit.

I would not make the distance between the rods (centre to centre) larger than 1.5" (+-4cm). You will have to base the distance on the tool you use for scraping out the VC.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I agree the pvc would probably collapse. especially if it's 1" or smaller. The tubing I used is galvanized so it won't rust. It's pretty funny that my whole system is designed around a garden fork that costs less than $2. One difficulty I found with the round barrel is getting the rod spacing consistent. I pretty much had to measure and install one rod at a time. The changing angle around the barrel plays tricks on you. If I make another one of these I might consider a square plastic recycling bin.


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In the '70's my BIL had about 30 worm bins in the basement of his store. I have been wanting to get started in vermiculture for several years. I am going to try to post some pics of one I built today. I used the same blue 55gal drum most of you have used. I recently replaced my central air at my house and saved the fan blade guard off of the condenser unit. I had to cut a few "rings" off the diameter and bent the support arms that had holes drilled for screws. Sorry, I've tried to post the pics, but haven't been able to.


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SusanfromHawaii the best way to post pictures is to go to www.Photobucket.com and set up a free account post your picture on there and then you get the right link that allows you to post on here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket


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My Mini Flow Through Bins--using cat litter box

I learned a lot from every single posting under this thread. Thank yall ! I hope you don't mind me sharing my experience with my mini flow through bin. My setup is based on the inspiration I got from ya'.

Ever since deciding to go with vermicomposting a try, I've being trying to figure out a best system for me. I know I want to go with flow through system, but just have not figure out how. I found this worm bin bag (http://www.instructables.com/id/Worm_bin_bag_for_indoor_vermicomposting_and_easy_s/) seems quite eye appealing to me and already purchase fabric to make the bag. Long story short, my 1 lb. worms arrived last Wed. and my fabric is still waiting for the sewing machine to be purchased. I had to find a home for my wormy. I have a large sifting cat litter box (http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2755056)sitting in my garage, so I decide to use it as a temp until I figure out what to do. I torn a piece of Dillard's gift box, laying on top of sift so no worm will fall thru, and filling the beddings half way up the sifting layer, and use the bottom litter box to catch any drippings. (They were supposed to be 3 pieces device, 2 of bottoms, which one of them is a sift, and the top.) I don't have the cover; so I use a cardboard box to cover the top.

It's just over a week; so far my worms seem quite happy. They are not consuming as fast as I thought; but as a newbie, I may give them too much at once. The dripping was pretty bad for the first 2 days; I soaked it up with newspaper strips and put it back to use as beddings. There were 2-3 swimmers in the drip pan the first day, and 1 the next day; I took them back to the bin. There were some worms under the sift when it was dripping, as if they were ready to dive in; but I don't see them any more when dripping stopped.

All the stuff I fed them were pretty "decomposted" (molded); I'm not sure it's a bad thing. They did not complain about it. There was a while I kinda concern of hot composting/anaerobe in the bin, so I use the chopstick to open up an air pocket here and there to increase aeration. I was thinking to drill some holes around the sift bin, but since this bin doesn't have a top, I really don't see the need. I also thought about drill a couple holes to prevent the bin going "anaerobe" but seeing your big drum has no holes in between, I think mine will do just fine. (The bin is about 12" tall) So, I'll just wait until my bin turn sour. So far, it's sitting in the corner of my kitchen. One observation that I'd like to bring up is it seems like my worms eats more beddings (shreded computer paper) than the scrap I gave them. (I know, they are molded.) I can see white dots here and there. (they aren't moving, so I don't think they are springtales or that sort.)

I know this is just a mini "Flow through" (Or probably not even heavy enough to flow flow) But I'm hoping that this "system" will minimize the amount of work that I have to do to harvest them. My goal is not to "harvest" them for a least 6 mo. or not at all, as long as I keep maintain the surface feeding. And building a drum like yall did will be my ultimate goal.

I want to thank splicsec/mndtrp/eric for sharing your creations. And I'd like to encourage yall to go to "instructables" to show people how you made this step by step. I'm sure this can benefit lots of people and inspire ppl to starve the landfill.

ps where can I get that 55 gallon drum? And where can I get it for free? I think I can also use it for rain harvesting.
(I'm all about recycle/reuse/green. O.k. O.K. I admit I"m cheap.)


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I imagine Craigslist would be the best place to start. I had a hard time coming up with one that hadn't been used with some sort of chemicals. That's why I ended up just buying the trash can with wheels.

I also didn't have a pickup at the time, so I'm not sure I could have made it home with a 55 gallon drum.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

freecycle.org

Here is a link that might be useful: freecycle.org


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

"where can I get that 55 gallon drum? And where can I get it for free? I think I can also use it for rain harvesting.
(I'm all about recycle/reuse/green.)"

Rosegone: If you Search the Garden Forum for "rain barrels" you will find lots of suggestions for sources for that 55-gallon barrel. Some people got them from car washes, soft drink plants, and water treatment plants - any place that receives large quantities of ingredients. I found these suggestions *after* I bought my rain barrel.

You might also peruse the Frugal Garden Forum for suggestions. Happy hunting!


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Does anyone know if there's a difference in performance between the type of flow throughs seen here and stackable? Besides the ease of harvesting, I think the flow throughs are so good because they get more air into the center of the mix. I've never done a stackable and I don't know if it has the same rate of air flow (not that we could ever measure it.) Susan.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Less restriction should allow for greater air flow. Stackables, as far as I can tell, have a fixed amount of holes in each layer, piling compost in between. Flow throughs don't have the fixed amount of holes in each layer, allowing for a far greater amount of paths for air to travel.

As far as compaction at lower levels of the flow through, I'm not sure what effect it would have.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I haven't owned a stackable bin either. I've harvested from my flow throw twice in the past 3 weeks that totaled less than 5 gallons of compost. I noticed that the bottom stuff I raked out was compacted from the weight above. It was just semi moist and was semi cemented together in clumps that I had to squeeze and crumble with my hands. After the first harvest, the rest of the pile was hung up above the grate. After the second harvest, the stack began to settle down unevenly. This created cracks or "faults" in the compacted compost above. With the open bottom, breathable cardboard lid, and cracks throughout the compost, I would have to say that there is a very good amount of airflow through the whole system. I think that another indication of this is the bin's tendency to dry even though I am adding wet food scraps to a plastic barrel. Yesterday I sprinkled 4 cups of leftover coffee in there.


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Here is an update on my flow-through bin which I started last summer. (There are pictures of it posted above.)
Overall, I am very happy with it, although I must say it still does not make separating the worms from the compost a non-issue.
First of all, it took a while for the bin to really get going. I don't think I removed anything from the bottom until about November. I was a little surprised it took so long, because at the start I filled it about a third of the way up with the contents of the bottom tray of my stackable, which had a lot of worms, a lot of nearly-finished compost, and presumably a lot of eggs.
The first harvest I scraped with my scraper-thingy. The compost looked great, but there were still quite a few worms. I picked out many of them, and put the compost in a five-gallon pail to wait for spring.
I kept adding stuff to the top and pulling it out of the bottom. I added all sorts of vegetable waste, a lot of corrugated cardboard and shredded office paper, some chicken coop sweepings, and a goodly amount of cow manure.
Now that the snow has melted I was able to put TWO five gallon pails of vermicompost in the garden outside. I was very happy about that.
I did have to pick through it to get worms out, but oh well.
Lately, I find that stuff has been falling down into the bottom of the bin without my having to scrape it. It is very wet and mucky, and there are still a lot of worms to pick out.
Curious that mine is extra wet, and eric30's is only semi-moist. Must have something to do with the size of the bin. Or maybe all those rotten jack-o-lanterns I threw in last winter.
Anyway, I do like this bin. It seems to process the waste very quickly now that it is established, and it's nice not to have to hoist those trays and bins around.
I do still have to pick through the compost if I want to save the laggard worms, though.
mbetts


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I've harvested twice and haven't had any worms at all. I'll count myself lucky. I've got tons of them at higher levels. I garden on my balcony in containers and only harvest when I need some, so perhaps it's the quantity?

As to water level, I'll occ. add water if nothing has dripped through in a while. I only add enough to have a few drips when I come back later. I do have a piece of plastic loosely draped over the top that collects water that evaporates and drips it back into the system. eric30, do you have any sort of lid? That might be part of the difference.

I had some wet stuff oozing out of the bottom for the first month or two, but that's resolved itself as the bin has matured. (Lots of worms came out with the ooze, but that's stopped too.)


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Had to join just to say this is some excellent DIY wormin! Way to go!!

I'm surfin to brush up on what's new in vermicomposting and found this thread. Glad I did! Was thinking of some sort of flow-thru to vermicompost 2-3 cubic yards per week of dewatered sludge from our city wastewater facility. I really like your blue barrel design but I'm looking at needing several and a lot of worms for the amount of material...

Barrels I can get locally for $5 each. Plastic is good when dealing with my sort of food stuff and containing any possible leachate is a must.

As for the grate, I was thinking of a large version of something like a material classifier I make for gold prospecting. I would cut through the barrell at the height you have your rods and lay a piece of 1" x 2" stainless steel mesh wire between the barrel pieces and go around heating the wire with a propane torch. That should cause the wire to melt into the barrel pieces and fuse the two back together, making the mesh a permanent part of the structure, then grind off the outer excess, leaving a few tabs to bend down just in case. Very hard I would imagine to collapse a circle inward with even tension on all sides...

I may leave a portion of the lid intact like a few inch wide strip in the center to install something like a blade over the mesh with a handle that would extend up and through the center to turn like the old style brace and bit drill to dislodge castings. Hmmm. Probably too hard to turn but maybe not. If it was extended so that the bottom end went all the way to the bottom of the barrel and rested in a sort of cup to keep it centered...

Well just thoughts for now. I've kept worms for years. At one time I had well over a million in old refrigerators. Had them in piles and every sort of contraption imaginable, all DIY stuff so I love to see other's ideas and ingenuity. Yours is great! Flow-thru is the way to go.


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@arkiegold

Would windrows work better for your situation, or are you concerned with leakage into the ground?

If you have the room, I wonder if something with a much larger surface area, and not quite as deep, would work better. Something just a couple feet deep, but with several square feet of surface area would probably allow for faster processing.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Arkie, Have you investigated BSF?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Susan,
My cover is breathable. After I sawed the lid off and started filling, the barrel warped slightly causing a mismatch. Because of insects I used a large piece of cardboard under the lid to stop the migrations. Insects can't get in but still very breathable. I've sprinkled 2 quarts of water in there after not paying attention to it for a few weeks at a time. Never had any leachate. With the plastic cover I can see how your bin is more moist.
Eric


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mndtrp, windrows would work if I had a place to contain any possible runnoff. I do have a place for a bin like you describe though and it's a thought bouncing around also. Thanks.

leearnold, BSFL have no interest in spent sewage sludge as I did try that last year. They do love fresh organics though and there is a portion of our facility that expells particles of undigested organics like corn and stuff that is separated from the rest of the soluable fecal matter before entering the treatment process. About 10 pounds of that is processed daily through a grit removal system and emptied into a dumpster where it is very foul smelling and produces maggots from all the flies. This year I plan to purchase a commercial Bio-Pod after doing some testing with the BSFL on this material last year. Soon our facility will be zero landfill waste.

I like the idea of these blue barrels mainly because of cost, portability and containment for now. I have to prove to the powers that be of a viable working system with the worms before I can get financial assistance for bigger and better if you know what I mean. Right now it's considered a pilot project financed out of my pocket, working with small amounts so I see at least a few barrels coming along real soon...

But the first thing is to determine if the worms will eat this material. For the sake of records I purchased a pound of Eisenia Fetida from Trinity Worm Ranch in Missouri and have made a temporary bin out of a couple of five gallon buckets. The dewatered sludge in question contains a polymer through the dewatering process and I'm not sure it's going to be palatable and might even kill the worms though it is considered non toxic to humans. If the pound eats, lives and multiplies, then I will expand to as many barrels as is feasable and from there look on to building a larger shallow bin that can be loaded with a tractor and have if not an automated scraper, then one with something that can be done also with the tractor like maybe a push/pull something or other...


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Arkie,
Check out the Worm Guy on Vashon Island, WA. His Youtube video may give you some additional ideas for your large scale project.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm Guy video


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

folly_grow: I follow your advice and got a 55-gallon barrel from a car-wash, ALL FREE!!! Thanks!

splitsec002 and eric30: The barrel you got seems quite thick; what tool do you use to saw through the lid and the hole in the bottom? And instead of saw through the whole lid, would you say leave 1/3 of the lid on can preserve more moisture? And would that pose a operation difficulty?

Q: the barrel I got is opaque white (light can go through), do you think I should spray paint it to solid black/brown/green? Personally I thought after all that bedding/scrap put in, there should be very little difference when comes to light. But I'd still like to make it as comfortable as possible for my wormy. What do you think?


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Rose - you got me thinking now. Maybe just half of the lid can be cut off and fitted with a hinge? Don't get me wrong, I don't have any issues with keeping moisture in, just saying that the bin will slowly lose moisture over a long period of time even with regular feeding. I would consider this optimal, no worries about it being too wet and I know there is plenty of air in there. The only issue is this clunky lid that doesn't really fit, and I have to find a place to set it down every time I take it off.

Anyway, for the lid I used a 36" bow saw as if I was cutting a giant log. It is what I had handy at the time and it made a nice straight cut. For the bottom door I borrowed my neighbor's jigsaw. First I had to trace out the shape of the door and drill a hole to get the blade started. I also used the bow saw to begin the top and bottom cuts because it worked so slick on the lid. For the holes I used a 3/4" flat wood bit and measured the spacing with a garden fork. For the bars, a hacksaw. The plastic is actually pretty soft and cuts very easily when you put carbide blades and bits to it.

I wouldn't mess with paint, they should be just fine in the opaque barrel. With any bin don't put it in the sun.


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Eric, thank you for your advice. Adding a hinge is exactly what I have in mind.
As far as the tool used to cut it open, besides bow saw, jigsaw, what other thing will you recommend? I'm 5 feet and 110 lb, bow saw isn't exact an ideal tool for me to operate.
For the bottom door, you seems to leave a few inches from the ground. Does it serve as a compartment to store compost that scrape down from the crate? I was thinking to cut all the way down to the ground, so I can slide a tray in, however, doing so, I'll have no room for a garden fork to reach in. Any solution?


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Rose, a bow saw is pretty light, and should be easy enough for you to handle. I used a jigsaw myself, because it didn't occur to me to use a bow saw. I think a bow saw would be good for the horizontal cuts because it is fast and cuts straight. You'll have to use something else (the jigsaw) for the vertical cuts. It's good to have someone helping you to help hang on to the big round barrel because it's going to try to roll away while you are trying to saw it.
As far as I can tell, you'll definitely need to have an opening at the bottom large enough to get your hand in. I think the tray idea has appeal, but still the barrel is round and the tray is not, so there is going to be some stuff that is going to fall outside of where a tray would be. You need to be able to reach in there and pull stuff out.
Also, for me it is good to have a "lip" at the bottom to keep any compost that falls down from above from falling out onto the floor. There can also be some liquid falling down too, which you don't want on the floor. I think the lip also gives some structural support to the barrel.
How big is the barrel you are going to be using? If it is a 40 or 55 gallon you'll have plenty of space for compost even if you leave the opening at the bottom. Mine is only 17 gallons, but there is still a fair amount of room for the worms to do their thing, and the weight of all of that stuff is significant. I think it is possible that the weight of what is in the barrel can cause the stuff on the bottom to compact.
mbetts


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

The bow saw was the easiest thing I could think of for doing it at home. Yes, very straight cuts if the barrel doesn't get away from you. When in doubt I would have someone else do it. I was thinking the same thing with the door being up to contain compost that came down. I use it for storage if some falls down and I'm not ready to use it. Use a little water to keep it moist. I have to lay down on the floor to reach because my bin isn't elevated, but it sure beats dumping and sorting every 3 or 4 months.


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It seems the door at the bottom actually weakens the structural integrity of the barrel and the rods (or pipes or rebar, etc.) weaken the barrel as well. Why not make a steel table or stand (26X26X8) out of 2" angle iron with bars for a top spaced at 3" and sit the barrel on it with both ends cut out. You could use a concrete mixing tub from Lowe's(20X26X6) to catch the VC in. Just shake the drum and let the stuff drop on down past the bars and into the tub. Just an idea, cause all this other stuff seems so complicated.


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Hi Steam,
That seems like a pretty good idea you have. You're saying to cut the bottom out of the barrel and set it on an elevated grate with a tub underneath? I could see that working great.

Believe me though, the barrel is plenty strong. I could fill it full of wet sand today and it wouldn't move. I considered this most of all when drilling the holes; I wanted to put them far enough above the bottom door so the bars wouldn't tear through. The bottom door is large enough to look around and do your business but not large enough to allow the barrel to buckle. It was easy to fabricate except the bar spacing was a bit tricky.

I copied the design from others on this post, mainly splitsec and mbetts; and took their advice before building mine. The only thing I would do different is change the clumsy lid; maybe make it a half lid with a hinge. Anyway, if you already have the tools and can get the barrel for free, the total cost of the electrical conduit is $6. I paid $10 for the barrel. Another advantage is that its mobile. You can pick it up with a dolly and wheel it to a different location if you want.


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Hi eric30. You got the general idea, I want to keep this simple. And I talked it over with the guys at work (experts at most everything) and simplified the project even further. Here's where I'm at with this. I took a 15 gallon steel drum and drilled 4 holes in the bottom. Hole size = 4 1/2 ". This drum is 15" across and 27" high and will serve as a prototype of the full size (55 gallon drum) model. This 15 gallon drum will sit in the Lowe's tub (20X26X6) on a couple of bricks. Once the system is cranked up, it should be easy to harvest (just rock the drum and the poop will fall out). I will start the drum with 2 lbs. of red wigglers. I'm thinking the output of this 15 gallon barrel will compare to the output of my 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes, but without the hassle of sorting castings and losing cocoons.


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There's an idea. Maybe lay some cardboard on top of the holes to hold material back until you're ready. Even with the large holes I could see you needing some sort of digging tool. The compost will become compacted under its own weight and hold itself together like a large clad of dirt. This is sure worth a try, do keep us posted!


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This forum is great and has my mind racing. I want to start a flow through. I already commandeered a couple large plastic drums from my warehouse (we make raw materials for nutritional supplements). My question - Outdoor vermicomposting? I currently have a small cool compost pile, it is teaming with red worms. I was thinking of layering this partialy digested compost in with layers of bedding (on top of a grate, and layers of wet newspaper. followed by my daily layers of vegetables scraps from the house.

I am in CA (between sacramento and San Francisco) my summers will get well above 100 degrees. will this temperature cook the worms? Definately planned on having the drum in the shade.


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One thing I am still trying to figure out is why the pictures of the drums don't show any air holes in the sides. Is this the reason everyone is having a problem with overheating? These drums would overheat as long as there is newspaper blocking the bottom and the drums without air holes in the sides. Once the system is up and running, the paper would not be in the bottom and the drum could draw some air up thru the bottom. Not much cause the poop is gonna block most of it off. Side holes seem to be necessary for these drums, right?
Does anyone have a drum with working worms or are all the drums "hot"? By hot I mean killing worms and composting the old 6 to 9 month, slow rot with heat method.
I would like to see a picture of a real flow-thru drum with worms that was up and running, and not a "new" build.


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I don't have any holes in my bin, other than the large one at the bottom, and the small ones in the lid. Even from the beginning, with newspaper over the bars, I had very small instances of overheating. The overheating was caused by me adding in a massive amount of yard waste, coffee and shredded paper. I didn't have a compost bin set up yet for that stuff, so I basically did it in the worm bin by accident. My worms survived, and I moderated what I put in the bin from then on.

Side holes are not necessary for these bins. I've been using mine for about a year with the above mentioned holes, and it works swimmingly. It's true that the vermipost compacts on the bars, limiting the air somewhat. For that matter, my vermipost doesn't even push itself down to the bars under it's own weight.

To solve both problems, I insert an unused broom handle into the bin, and move it around a bit. I do this in a couple of places, which breaks up the vermipost, allowing it to drop down to the bars, as well as get more air movement.

I think I'm going to try to keep my bin no more than 2/3 full at any time. As far as pictures of an up and running bin, imagine the last picture in the first post almost completely full of poop. I'm not sure what you are hoping to determine from a picture of a trash can with waste a few inches from the top.


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Steam,
I put more pictures on the below thread. There is one in there of the bottom after the first harvest.

The heat was an initial problem because I added too much food and bedding. The worms evacuated the center of the bin until it cooled down; then they went back in.

Like mndtrp said, no extra holes needed. There is plenty of air flowing through the system.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flow Through Bin


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Ok, I did it, I took a 55 gal drum, I decided to cut a hole in the bottom, as this unit will be outside, and the drum has nice handles on the side for lifting and or rocking the drum from side to side. I am using 1" pvc for the grill at the bottom, but I left them stick out 2" on each side for 2 reasons, one as the pvc bows, they wont pull out and 2 I want to see if by pulling the pipe back and forth, I can harvest compost. If the pvc starts to bow, i will insert metal rods inside the PVC.

I am concerned about air flow. At the moment, I have a large hole in the bottom, but this will be resting on the ground (unless I but the unit up on blocks), and the holes that the pvc goes through which are maybe a 1/8 to 1/4 larger than the pvc.

Question, should I drill holes in the lid and or just under the lid in the side of the barrel, or not necessary? During the summer I get no rain, but all winter it is nothing but rain, so I did not want to cut a hole in the lid and attach screen , but also don't want it to be too easy for flies to get in and out. Look forward to your suggestions. I will try to take pictures and post them here. I got into a zone, once I started making it and did not stop until I had my bedding in and a layer of compost swarming with red worms. Then I realized, I had not taken any pictures. :-)


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OK, so it seems that everyone has had a problem with heat at some point, and everyone says it was because they overloaded the system. Is it possible to design a worm barrel that humans can't overload? Would heat be reduced by holes in the sides of these drums or not? How can some claim they don't need side holes and yet say in the same post that the drum is a dead air space?


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Compost piles heat up, and those are exposed to complete air on all sides (except the bottom). You most certainly could build a bin that humans couldn't overload, it would just be smaller than a 55 gallon barrel. Or a 35 gallon barrel, in my case. The problem was simply because we created a compost bin inside a worm bin. It has nothing to do with the amount of air holes in the bin.

I also don't see where we stated there is dead air space, which I'm not even sure what that is. How many more times would you like us to explain that extra holes in the side of the bin aren't necessary? The fact that we've been doing this for over a year like this seems to imply that it works just fine.


As for fzilz, I would put the bin on blocks and drill holes around the top. However, having an open bottom into the ground would be sufficient for any sort of runoff, and holes full of worms process waste just fine. If you are looking to just lift the barrel and dump what's in it in that location, just leave it on the ground. If you want to harvest it like the rest of us flow-throughs are, you'll probably want to put it up on something.

Since you are concerned about the rain, I probably wouldn't put very many holes in the lid, just on the side at the top. I also wouldn't bother with the screen. I tried it on my bin, and flies still made it in. It doesn't really matter, as they don't have much of a detrimental effect on the process.


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Recent lurker and 1st time poster. So glad that I found this forum and this thread.

I have a dumb question -

If I have a 55 gallon drum designed according to this thread, can it handle some morning sun, do you think that the heat will kill the worms in this time window? The spot that I have in mind for the drum is shaded most of the day except for few morning hours. Since it is so big, do you think that it might take a while to heat up by the sun?? Yikes, I know, it's a dumb question. Just hoping....


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coffeenut:

This is a guess, but I would imagine they will be ok. Where are you located, and what are your temps during that time frame? If it's only 50 degrees outside, then they should be fine. If it's 95 during that time, then they might get too hot.

I have a 35 gallon bin that I keep in my garage. During the hottest weeks, the temp outside is around 95-100 degrees. I don't know what the temp in the garage is, but it must be comparable. I put frozen water bottles in the bin around noon, taking them out when I got off work at midnight during these weeks. I don't know if they were necessary, but I didn't see any dropoff of population.


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Thanks mndtrp for the response. I have a garage but it is full of stuff. Maybe a garage sale is in order.

I am in San Jose, California. If we have heat wave in the summer, then it gets above 100 degrees. Mid 80's to low
90's in the summer is pretty common.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Can the worm tea be used to fertilizer say tomato plants or other vegetables in the garden?


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

mndtrp Thanks for explaining again that I don't need holes in the side of my barrel and how you've done this for a year and it works great.
So tell me how many frozen water bottles I will need to stuff down into a garbage can on the really hot days.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

mndtrp, thanks for the response. I do plan to harvest as the bin gets going, but will cross that bridge when I get there. I will place a few small holes on the side under the lid (as the lid seems to seal very well). I am seeing moisture on the sides and lid but nothing excessive and no dripping out of the bottom. Guess that is good. I did not see anybody wriggling on top last night, but when I went just below the surface they seemed to be wiggling with joy.

Placed a used coffee filter and grounds bucket at work to start collecting more coffee grounds.

And off topic, I emailed my local newspaper to be sure the ink and paper would be good for compostin - expecting them to say it was all soy based ink - not so. The color ink is soy based but appearantly the black ink is not. The ink manufacture sent me a letter saying there were no heavy metals of solvents in the ink. hmmmm.


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I only used one or two frozen bottles. If I had a compost thermometer, I would see what the middle of the barrel's temperature was during the heat of the day. If it wasn't over 80-85 on the inside, I wouldn't bother with the bottles. I cold compost, so I don't own one.

Several consecutive 100 degree days sounds excessive, but I imagine the larger the bin, the better it will weather heat and cold. Try it, who knows? What works for one person may not for another, and vice-versa.

I've never been concerned with moisture on the lid or sides of my barrel. If there is an excess, it will disburse through the rest of the compost. If there is still too much, which is rare, it will drop through to the bottom of the barrel.

As always, everything in moderation. Be careful with the amount of grounds you'll get from work. I did a good job of giving my worms too much, and the bin started smelling like ammonia. Being as large as a flow through is, they weathered it quite well, but I was still worried. Now, I only give them work grounds every other week or so, and the rest goes into the compost bin.


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Yes, I plan to use the grounds some for my Vermi-bin and some for my compost pile or straight as a top dressing for flower beds.

but...

I have already had a 90 + degree day and the lid of the bin which is black was very hot, Inside it felt warm - my guess 80 +. I think I am going to paint or cover my lid so that it is not black. The drum itself is blue. I am thinking of painting it white as that might help reflect heat. But in the end, this summer it will be 100+ so my guess is that no matter what i do the bin is going to cook , shade no shade, . I was hoping to get a couple months of vermicomposting then go to composting for the summer and start back in the fall, (can worms be kept "on ice" for a period of time - Can I keep a starter set in the refrigerator over the summer) ? Just looking for ideas.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Painting the outside will help. Leaving the top off of the bin altogether, during the dry months, will help cool the bin. Drying out will be a concern at that point, but some water here and there would help. I would try not feeding, to avoid as much bacterial heat as possible, and putting some water in it occasionally.

Cocoons last over a winter, so they might last over a summer, even if the worms themselves don't. Worms are cheap. Try doing nothing different, and see what happens. If they all die, see if new ones come around when it cools down. If they don't, buy new worms and try something different.


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Well, this has been a very informative post that has taken me about 4 hours to read! All because I wanted to buy some worm tea online which lead me to worm bins which led to diy vermicomposting. And though I am almost ready to go barrel hunting, it appears that no one using a flow-through gets any liquid from it. The store-bought bins have spigots so they must all produce sufficient quantities of liquid that spigots are necessary to avoid a mess. But the flow-through doesn't, and tea is what I'm looking for. I know compost tea can be made simply by steeping compost in water for a few days. Does anyone know if that can be done with worm castings? Also, with all those worms and all that feeding, I'd think you'd have a lot more castings than anyone is reporting. Can anyone estimate the quantity of castings being produced from a mature flow-through?

I guess recycling is y'all's primary reason for vermicomposting, and as I told my DH, if I did this, I'd have to buy fresh vegetables just to put in the worm bin since I don't buy them for the two of us. (I got tired of throwing away expensive produce.) Though it's a wonderful economical diy idea, I'm wondering if this is worth the effort since it won't get me any worm tea to spray on my roses. It's a very worthy post though. Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge and experience. And if someone has some thoughts on collecting liquid from a flow-through, I'd love to read them.

Sherry


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Thanks for all the great info in this thread, I made my flow through bin after 1.5 month of vermicomposting. I moved a cup full of worms and cast into the new bin and waited a day to see if there was any ill effect, then move the rest of my worms from the rubbermaid into the new bin. I did not provide 10 inches of bedding, I only did approximately 5 inches, so far, after 4 days, the worms seem to be okay but am I putting my worms in danger by not providing a thicker bedding? My bin is outdoor, at 1st I thought it would get some morning sun, as it turns out, it does not get any direct sun at all.

After reading some of the postings, I find myself checking temperature at least a couple times a day. I used to put the worm food through a processor and freeze but now trying to just add food as they come. I am not sure if I have enough worms to process them all but so far, I have not seen heating issues. But I am worry about over feeding.

Another question is, should I drill tiny holes on the lid?? Right now, the lid is solid and the only air is from the bottom and when I open the bin.

TIA


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Sherry: Flow-through bins may leak some fluid, but it is not compost tea! Folks call it leachate, and it does not have the same benefit to the garden because it does not have the microbes. It can even be anaerobic. I throw it on the lawn when I have it. I can't say whether it helps, but at least it doesn't seem to hurt.
You CAN make excellent compost tea with worm castings. You would soak a bag of them in water, same as with other compost. From what I read, vermicompost is superior to other compost, and the tea you would get from it is better too.
Last year I started making aerated vermicompost tea and spraying it around. Again, from what I read, aerating it (using an old aquarium pump) causes the microbes you want to multiply exponentially. I can't say I've done the research, but I'm convinced. It's easy and fun to make the aerated VC, if you like that sort of thing, and I do!
I can't tell you how much VC you get from a flow-through, because obviously everybody's is different. Mine seems to work faster than the other types I have though.
And if you do decide to give worm composting a try, don't think that you necessarily have to have a ton of vegetables. You can use leaves, torn cardboard, old jack-o-lanterns, plate scrapings, spoiled stuff from the back of the fridge--just about anything organic. And even if you don't eat a ton of fresh produce, surely you have the occasional apple core or banana peel.
I'd also encourage you, if you decide to do this, to add some horse or cow manure. That will add the nitrogen that you would otherwise get from vegetable waste, adding nutrients to the finished product. I don't know where you live, but if there are any farms around (or ag schools) you should be able to find a place where you can fill your five-gallon pail up with manure for free. That much would keep the worms happy for a good while.
Good luck!
mbetts


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Leachate is not compost tea, so you don't need the spigot. Flow through bins seem to handle their moisture better than other types, so there is rarely leachate.

Drill holes in your lid.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Thanks, mbetts, for answering my questions and being so helpful. I'll think on this some more. I'm in Ocala, FL - Horse Capitol of the World (or at least one of them.) I can get horse manure, but I read that's a no-no. Do you mean manure that has been allowed to cool for some time?

Sherry


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Au contraire! Horse manure is NOT a no-no. The only problem might be if the horses had been de-wormed recently. No one that I know of has authoritatively said how long you have to wait until the worm medicine dissipates, but I have heard two weeks as an educated guess.
Aged manure is fine, but you can also use fresh as long as there is space in the bin for the worms to retreat in case it heats up.
I put a shovelful of fresh cow manure in my bin last summer, being careful to put it in only one section of the bin. The worms were immediately all over it!


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Thanks mndtrp. Will drill. Since it is an outdoor bin,
I need to figure out how to keep rain from going in during
rainy season.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

As far as the sides of barrel collapsing under weight using wire, cord or rope there is a way to solve that.

You use a small piece of PVC pipe maybe 1/2" or so and cut them to length to be installed. The PVC pipes are cheap and you can cut them with a hack saw or a band saw easy. Also they will not rust and last as long as the barrel.

Sample image below I will make PVC a "red color" for reference and black lines represents rope,wire or cord.

Tie the rope into a knot at the end first, if it is a wire then make a loop whatever it takes to STOP the rope from pulling through that first hole it will be going in to on the barrel.

So again pull that rope (cord or whatever) through the first hole of barrel into the barrel but now you thread it in and through your PVC pipe you have cut to proper size, go ahead and pull it through (push it with a clothes hanger wire if it bends) an as it pops out the other end of PVC then grab it and now you feed that out the other hole in the barrel, now completly through the barrel. Grab it and pull it tight and make a knot or secure it with a clamp like a snap tie. It won't come though because it has a knot on the other side right? And that PVC is ridged so it can not bend to easy so you end up with a stiff piece of "plastic" pipe inside instead of metal.

So hen you secure that rope or cord or wire on the outsides just make sure you pull it as tight as it needs to be and then secure the outside ends. If rope (cord,wire) is pulled tight then that PVC has no place to go see? So no collapse on side of barrel at that point. You do all of them that way and the barrel sides can not come in on you now because all those PVC pipes will not bend. Grab a piece of 1 or 2 foot PVC pipe in store sometime and bend it, this will give you idea on how stiff you think you might need it.

Photobucket


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

While these bins are pretty heavy, I wouldn't worry about walls collapsing. The 55 gallon barrels have been completely full of liquids, traveled many miles in a bumping transport, and then pushed around with forklifts. They came out just fine. Granted, drilling holes will weaken the structural integrity of the barrels, but not as much as people seem to think.

My large trash can on wheels has a much thinner wall than the 55 gallon barrels. I used threaded rods to create the grate, and cut a fairly large hole in the bottom to reach through. At its fullest, the bin walls didn't budge in either direction. I was more concerned with the bottom hole causing the lower 5 inches to collapse on itself. It's still very strong.

My suggestion, build the bin with whatever you have laying around. If you have to buy something, buy whatever is cheapest, as long as the combined materials can support about 150 pounds. The biggest concern will be whether or not the grate can support the weight of the compost. PVC, rods, a grill grate all will. Wire, vinyl string, something like that, I would second guess as it can stretch.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

sherryocala, another food source for worms, in addition to what mbetts mentioned, is coffee grounds. They love them. Some people collect them from places like Starbucks, or at work so they can have more.

Also, now that I have worms I don't feel really bad if some of my veges spoil before I've been able to eat them all. If you eat melons, you get LOTS of food for the kids AND get to enjoy the melons.

Then there are neighbors and restaurants and .... Lots of food possibilities even if you don't create enough of your own! (Also, the worms will regulate their numbers. If there isn't as much food, they just won't reproduce as much but they'll be fine until you get more food.)


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

I live in Florida and want to make a bin like Eric's. I am worried abou the heat though. It's 88 degrees today. I have some shade, but not immense amounts of it.

What are your thoughts about using a PVC pipe through the middle of the bin that I could use to cool the bin? I could put ice in it. Or, would frozen water bottles work just as well (maybe even better)?

The issue is that I work during the hottest part of the day and I'm worried my ice might be ineffective.

I can keep in the garage which is fine at night, but it heats up a little around noon. It's still probably cooler than outside though. May a two liter bottle?

Has anyone else tried this? I don't want to freeze the worms. In the middle of the bin they still have plenty of room to avoid the ice if it TOO cold for a while.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Put a frozen two liter bottle in a hole in the middle of the bin. It should last all day. I did this last year, except with smaller bottles.


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hi, sorry to bother you guys again. I now have my 55 gal flow through bin up and running for about 3 weeks now. The 1st couple of days, there was liquid dripped out the bottom but now the bottom is totally dry, I am worry the with the dryness the bottom bedding will never get processed. The inside seem wet/moist enough but the outside/bottom is dry to the touch. My bin is outdoor, should I add some water to the bin to a point that it wets the bottom layers again?? I have recent spotted a couple of pot worms. Is this an indication that the bin is too wet or acidic? I have about 10 inches of bedding and VC right now, if I add water, will I cause problem that I may not be expecting?? Is there something that I need to watch out for??

The next couple days, I will definitely add a little water to the system as we will be see heat wave here to over 90 degrees. I will probably also add a couple of frozen water bottle in the bin during the day.

Another question is that - the worms don't seem to be going down that deep, so how do will the lower layers get processed??

TIA


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hi, sorry to bother you guys again. I now have my 55 gal flow through bin up and running for about 3 weeks now. The 1st couple of days, there was liquid dripped out the bottom but now the bottom is totally dry, I am worry the with the dryness the bottom bedding will never get processed. The inside seem wet/moist enough but the outside/bottom is dry to the touch. My bin is outdoor, should I add some water to the bin to a point that it wets the bottom layers again?? I have recent spotted a couple of pot worms. Is this an indication that the bin is too wet or acidic? I have about 10 inches of bedding and VC right now, if I add water, will I cause problem that I may not be expecting?? Is there something that I need to watch out for??

The next couple days, I will definitely add a little water to the system as we will be see heat wave here to over 90 degrees. I will probably also add a couple of frozen water bottle in the bin during the day.

Another question is that - the worms don't seem to be going down that deep, so how do will the lower layers get processed??

TIA


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RE: My Flow Through Bins

Hi, I did use exactly your design splitsec002, with the addition of a 3 watt led fitting in the top, I also cut the lid in half and put a hinge between the 2 halves, fastened one half to the bin.
the bin is in the shed, less temperature fluctuations and the light discourages wanderers.
put the bars a bit closer then your picture, used about 4 layers of newspaper and 1 inch of sharp granite sand for aiding digestion, about 3 inches of clean fresh peat from an Irish bog, some composted horsemanure and started feeding around 1000 worms.
2 months on an 4 inches higher, at this rate will be full around may.
I feed alternativly left and right in the bin every 7 days and give them around 500 gram of half composted kitchen waste, 14 days later totally gone.
thank you for your post, pictures could not be clearer, seems to be working like it says on the tin.
thanks


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