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Bin Design Question...

Posted by dzignr_tastz none (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 21:42

Hey all! New to the site, and soon to be a noob vermicomposter! That said, I think I'm electing to go with European Nightcrawlers as opposed to Red Wigglers, and since I hear these larger specimens are a little more likely to potentially escape, I have a few proactive questions about my upcoming homemade bin design.

Anyway - I've been looking around the web and see that a lot of people utilize inexpensive Rubbermaid storage bin containers set into one another for multi-tiered bins like I want. However, since these aren't necessarily "airtight" when stacked inside one another, presumably with space around the edges, I'm not sure they would suit my purposes well with the above worms and concerns. As such, I was considering a different approach...

Basically, I was considering utilizing the same type of Rubbermaid containers (albeit maybe a lower profile type), but instead of removing the lids and placing each one within another, leaving the lids ON and aligning and stacking the bins on top of one another to drill the migration holes through both the bottom of each bin and the lid below it at the same time. I could then flip the next container, flip the pre-drilled lid onto the bottom of it, use the holes in the lid as pilots for the next bin, and so on, and so forth.

Basically, all the holes in the bottom of all the bins and all the lids would line up and (theoretically) be interchangeable to accommodate swapping levels, but I would be able to utilize the entire volume of each bin for bedding and material instead of just the bottom fraction of each bin. Additionally, even if the lids weren't lockable or "airtight", the weight of each successive bin would keep the lid tight on the bin below it.

Opinions? Thanks in advance!

This post was edited by dzignr_tastz on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:16


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Bin Design Question...

From one 'noob' to another: Sounds good to me.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"European Nightcrawlers as opposed to Red Wigglers" lots of new people on this board seem to be going this way lately. Please interpret any lack of responses to the fact that only a few of us, possibly the most experienced, have worms other than red wigglers. Thus answers that might be unique to them many of us can not answer.

pskvorc I'm surprised at your answer. It is nice you are so supportive but I miss the usual criticality.

Oxygen is a biggie. Maximizing oxygen is perhaps another name for what we do. Vermicomposting is all about creating air channels into more than just the first inch the bedding material has direct access too. Sealed bin, upon sealed bin, upon sealed bin does not sound very oxygen maximizing.

Many of our posts here are about why worms do not flow up the way the instructions told us they would. Flowing up through small holes with a possible airspace that would occur as compost settles is even more difficult even for worms that climb trees as a hobby.

You want air. Air is your friend. I do not know how to keep worms from crawling on the ceiling.

That is maybe why instead of nice, big, juicy worms I keep nice but small, friendly, but not larger than a bluegill enticing worms.

While European or African Night crawler info is out of my league. So I'm not ignoring you all.

I will read all the posts while I sleep a safe distance from my worms that will not crawl towards me at night en-mass.

This post was edited by equinoxequinox on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 23:55


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Nope.

The stackable bin thing works because the upper bin sits directly on top of the bedding in the lower bin. The worms don't really perceive a difference between one bin and the other. You are taking that aspect away from the bin design. One bin will sit on the lid of the lower bin, but will not make any contact with the bedding. If you think you will load up the lower bin until it reaches the lid, keep in mind that the bedding will continue to drop in the lower bin as the worms continue to consume it. So even if the bedding touches the lid today, it won't tomorrow.

I think you are trying too hard to solve a non-problem.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

It would however be so nice if it worked that way. I would be nice if it worked the way any of us at one time though it might. We have all had our hearts broken. Them worms just don't do what they are supposed to in our minds.

If you have drilled the holes already, no problem, because for harvest of compost worms do seem to be able to flow down through holes and out of the material you want.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

The commercial stackable bins that I looked at in the seminar on vermicomposting I took (can't remember the name at the moment) had an "air gap" between the bins. I asked specifically if the gap would prevent worms from moving up as the lower bin's food supply dwindled. I was told EMPHATICALLY "No", and an explanation of considerable length ensued about how that wasn't a issue.This woman had five of these systems set up each with four bins. They were "cranking" VC out, and had been for several years.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Well, then, give it a try and let us know how it works.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

People crawl out of the money-grubbing woodwork all the time to take advantage of people who are enthusiastic about particular things with products for sale that "will revolutionize" everything previously known and believed about existing products already owned/used by their targeted buyers.

One infamously revolutionary thing was "vermicastings" packaged in sealed plastic bags "with unlimited shelf life viability" on the shelves of garden supply stores a few years ago. This enhancement to inventory concerns and shelf life of product was, of course, the selling point.

That went away when the rancid odor and obvious decomposition of the rotting, formally thriving biology in the sealed packaging forced the retailers to write it all off as shrinkage and toss it into the "lesson learned, shame on me" trash.

One of the insidious little oddities common to people who decide one day to begin playing with worms is the trait of thinking "outside the box".

In this case, inside the box is not "outside the box".

Like oxygen for the VC, the wormies WILL need a bridge to migrate into the next level. Actually, more like a continuous, unimpeded, open road path to the penthouse. Not an unattainable vastness of space reachable only by airtravel or a ladder.

However, go for it and let us know when it works. But come back often anyway with updates on the inevitable tweaks to the systems' theory.

Chuckiebtoo


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RE: Bin Design Question...

There isn't an "unattainable vastness of space reachable only by airtravel or a ladder".

There is a patently obvious pathway, and it is the sides of the bin they are in and the bottom of the bin into which they are going.

However, I'd like to fully grasp the totality of the logic before I spit into the wind. This person that gave the seminar set up an elaborate hoax so she could hype bins that she doesn't sell. The hoax requiring her to inport a couple of hundred pounds of VC; put it in the useless bins; put worms in the useless bins; let the worms "settle" the VC that she "salted the mine" with; then held a seminar so she could promote the sales - which she didn't - of a bin system that she didn't sell. Tough to argue with the strength of that logic. Still, "it could happen"...

I am a very strong advocate of finding one's own truth. So let me relate what I have seen with my own eyes. The motivating factor for getting me to start vermiculture was the observation with my own eyes of (for those with tender sensibilities that are offended by the use of capital letters, I'll just write the phrases [italics on] and [italics off] in front an back of all those words that I would italicize if that option were available in this editor), [italics on]thousands[italics off] of worms that had crawled [italics on]up the side[italics off] of my friend's garage as they were drawn to the smell of the fermenting birch leaves he had raked from his yard and bagged up. There were thousands more between the bags and the garage wall, and thousands more between the bags and the ground. They didn't need a ladder or an airplane to traverse to a height that was tens of times larger than any "air gap" in a stackable bin system.

I'm sure there will be a cacophony of "I told you so" when dzignr_tastz's worms don't migrate en mass at the snap of a finger, in spite of the too-many-times-to-count that this forum has had posted that the worms in stackable bins don't "exactly work as advertised" with regard to the migration of [italics on]every single[italics off] worm from a lower "finished" bin migrating to an upper "new" bin.

The logic - or lack thereof - of my comments should be taken in the context of my "vast" experience with worming: About a month now. However, I have [italics on]personally observed[italics off] worms climb a wall no different than the side of a plastic bin, to a height of at least 10 feet, [italics on] exposed to air[italics off], (bad for worms), [italics on]in the daylight[italics off], (bad for worms) with the only motivation being [italics on]getting to food[italics off]. I think the four inches or so of wall-climbing in a plastic bin that would be necessary to get to food isn't really invoking any great 'leap of faith' or any great leap of any kind. I do however, hate to see people's enthusiasm and innovation get urinated on with contradictory statements and 'logic'. After all, we should all do things exactly the same. Life is much safer that way, and after all, LIFE (I mean to use capital letters here) is like that... You know, UNIFORM.

But I've been wrong before.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

screens between ? quarter inch ?


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"Can o' Worms" is the commercial stackable bin system to which I referred above. Each bin/tray has hundreds of holes approximately 1/8 of an inch square in the bottom of each tray. The whole arrangement is injection molded.

My comments should not be construed as "endorsement" of the "Can 'o Worms". (No one [italics on]should[italics off] [bold on]care[bold off] about endorsement from someone as inexperienced with worming as I am, about a product that I am not even using.) I "like" the system, but it is [italics on]way[italics off] too expensive for my tastes. Clearly, it is not too expensive for other people's tastes or pocket-books. I am perfectly fine with that, and wish the Can o' Worms people all the best with their commercial endeavors to bring worming to more people that [bold on]don't want to 'roll their own' worm culturing systems.[bold off]

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Thanks for the quick replies and insight on different variables. I'm basically just brainstorming on it before going any further and all of your expertise is appreciated, so to elaborate a bit more on my thinking and address a few of your points...

While I opted to go with nightcrawlers primarily because of their increased "processing power" (yeah... that's what you get when a tech guy goes organic - LOL), I was hoping that their increased size and length, potentially in the 5-8" range, would allow for a few things. First, with the bins technically being "sealed", I could drill plenty of 1/16"-3/32" holes into the sides of each to allow for adequate airflow (which I'm aware is usually a requirement for even a single bin system), and the holes would hopefully be small enough so they couldn't escape from them, even if below the compost level (effectively, allowing for even more holes, and even better than "adequate" airflow). I guess I could potentially face moisture escape from the holes, but with the bins being tapered, at worst it would run right down the sides to the next bin.

Also, the bottoms of the containers would have to be pretty much flat, with no upward inset, so there is no gap but good contact with the bottom of each one and the lid beneath it. Then, in utilizing lower profile containers (maybe 6-8" high?) there would be less room for both the compost to settle as it is "processed" and less space that would need to be traveled from the top of each bin to the bottom of the next. Additionally, while I was indeed planning on filling the containers entirely (and covering with cardboard underneath the lid to hopefully help bring them to the top for a snack), the increased length of the nightcrawlers should, in theory, allow them to easily make the "stretch" of an inch or two to migrate from one to the next. Furthermore, if there is apparent concern about them escaping from a non-"airtight" container anyway, then maybe their activity levels might aid in this as well?

Keep the thoughts (and debate) coming!


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Welcome to the forum!

A few thoughts from a worm herder with no experience with Euro's, stackable bins, or indoor vermicomposting.
1) Worm bins get heavy! Unless these bins are small, they may break the lids below.
2) Worm bins get heavy! Unless these bins are small, they will be difficult to move around when feeding and managing the bin.
3) If you are worried the worms will "escape", I suspect they would still be able to if they choose (which some surely will).
4) It is difficult to think outside the box until you have been in it. If I were to start an indoor Euro system with my lack of experience, I would start out simple. The largest tote made would be on the floor and stocked. After the bin was 1/2 full, the contents would be moved to one side, and fresh bedding/food would replace the void. A month later the worms would move into the new bedding, and the remaining vermicompost would be removed. This is called lateral migration, and is the easiest way to harvest IMO. After I got some experience I would start experimenting.

One of the fun things about our hobby is experimenting. Worms can tolerate a WIDE range of conditions. They reproduce quickly, and leave cocoons when their demise is imminent. This ensures their survival as a species.

I hope this helps. Good luck and happy wormin'

Pete

BTW Paul, I liked the way you posted before much better!!


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RE: Bin Design Question...

ME TOO. :)

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

I'll try to keep this as straight-forward as my exaggeratorical style of inaneness can muster. In my interpretation of this art of vermicomposting, one of the primary endeavors is to maximize the efficiency of the worm lifestyle and reproductive cycle. To make them poop more. Reproduce more. Expand the worm-world we're making for them.

That's why we keep them warm when it's cold, and cool when it's hot. Give them unnaturally pleasant-er living conditions than in the real worm world. We chop and dice and puree and pre-rot their food. And blend it.

And we strive to make it easier for them to access whatever it is they are satisfied-er with.

I've no prior experience with any variety of worms climbing, by the thousands, toward and up garage doors to get at bags of birch leaves, but I would love to get my hands on some if they're that awesome. Birch trees, alas, aren't indigenous to my area so...........wait!.......maybe I can locate a source of the leaves, mulch and bag them, and sell as the new vermi-addiction gotta-have.

Worms do sometimes climb walls. But usually not. Especially when they've got it better in the first floor room than out in the real world because most of the time when we declare vermicompost "finished", it is not.

With my own eyes I've seen a "finished" bin of "vermicompost" become a whole lot more finished after purposely leaving it be for a month (as an experiment, of course). I can say that when you compare that bins' contents with contents of it a month earlier, you can see the obvious difference in the textures of the VC instantly.

So....I'm gonna make it as easy as possible for the wormies. But, what do I know.....I use both vertical and horizontal migration methods in the same bin at the same time.

I totally agree with finding one's own truth, but when new wormers ask for opinions here and elsewhere, they are reaching out for some agreements with their opinions as well as some of the knowledge base and experiences that may help them determining their way available here and elsewhere.

One sure thing newbie's find out in this little adventure we're on is that, along the way we'll find things that alter our methods, and change our minds, and tweak things that've been successful the way we've been doing them and they can sometimes make it even successfuller. Because almost all ways work.

cb2

the ladder and airtravel weren't intended to be taken any more either literally or seriously than that "urination" alliteration imagery was......I hope.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

When I first started my bins, I cut a tote shaped hole in one of the lids to keep try to keep the worms from escaping out the bottom bin. As the bin filled up and got heavier, it sunk and the lid cracked. Since then, I found that it really isn't necessary. The worms that go down into the bottom bin seem to like it and if they crawl back up they go back into where the food and bedding is. Also, they might get confused by the non-Euclidean nested shaped universe they live in. Imagine if instead of living one a psuedo-spherical planet, you lived in a group of partially separated nested cubes.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Well I'm not privy to the previous style of posting (but am WELL aware of CAPS etiquette, which I can only assume is the story behind it all given the lack of post formatting options), but yeah... the HTML tags for italics WAS kind of hard to follow in paragraph form - LOL! And while the climbing a 10' wall narrative was certainly entertaining, I hopefully won't have to test the theory as I'm only going for probably 3 (low profile) bins high. ;)

OK. So we've now got "weight", potential lid cracking, and simplicity vs.a "wiggler skyscraper". One by one (again)... with a few more "specifics".

Honestly, I only chose to go with Euros based on their supposed ability to process things faster due to their size, ability to process larger, lesser broken-down items (again, I assume due to their size), and the added bonus that I can grab a few if I want to throw a pole in the runabout while heading out on the lake for the day. My "escape" concerns are based solely off an Amazon review by someone who bought some and, not placing them in an "airtight" (or rather, let's use the term "escape-proof") bin, roughly 200 of the 600 he received in the pound were on the floor the next day. Needless to say, with a couple cats in the house, I cannot imagine the bloodbath I would wake up to the next morning .

Going on... weight, and lids. Again, I'm considering relatively low profile bins, so where I hope to place the "tower" (which is in a 16"W x 24"L x 30"H area in my laundry/mud room right beside my deep sink) I have just the right amount of space for about three 10 gallon totes, such as these...

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Rubbermaid-10-Gallon-Roughneck-Tote-FG2214TPMICBL/202260839

They would seem to fit perfectly, and while a little higher than I would like at almost 9", they're still small enough overall so each one shouldn't be too awfully heavy. The lids are also polyethylene, so they should have a little give to them (as opposed to a hard, possibly brittle plastic lid), especially given the support of a relatively full bin beneath it. And while I can't see how flat the bottoms are, but the top of the lid looks like a pretty even plane so I'm hoping for the same on the bottoms, and I also like the lip around the lid that would allow any moisture runoff from the breathing holes to remain in the system.

However, I had initially considered some "stackers" like this (which still seem ideal in theory, albeit a bit smaller), but obviously they would require some "custom" paintwork and are a more solid, brittle plastic. The convenience factor of being able to clip them together into a single unit along with the perfectly flat bottoms (which are actually the lid for the next when stacked, eliminating the necessity to align holes through two layers of plastic) still have them in the running, though...

http://www.sterilite.com/SelectProduct.html?id=800&view=0&picture=1&tab=Description&ProductCategory=274§ion=1

I could also fit two separate 4-tier "skyscrapers" of those in my available space. ;)

Now as for the simplicity (of difficulty) factor, as you can see I'm basically trying to maximize limited horizontal space by going vertical, and while I may be able to find a narrow, deep single bin, most I've seen are relatively proportional to some extent. Now obviously I've never done this, but given that each bin would eventually be practically full and there are sufficient holes for travel (which could be of decent size given the proper setup), why would the worms still not treat a multi-tier unit basically the same as a single, larger unit, chewing through the levels (or layers) as a collective group?


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Just a note: The worms will not stretch up through the air gap to the upper bin. They will crawl up the sides of the lower bin. Some may migrate up. Certainly some will. But I would guess that most will like the conditions in the lower bin and not bother making the trip. Usually when we see lots of worms crawling up the walls and on the lid of a bin, we assume there is a problem in the bin. Happy worms stay in the bedding.

BTW, a Can of Worms is designed such that the upper tray rests on the bedding in the lower tray, assuming that lower tray is sufficiently full. This from a Can of Worms FAQ:

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Secondly, you may not have waited for the level of worm castings to pass the line on the inside of the tray before adding the next tray. This will create a gap preventing the worms from reaching the top trays.

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So even the Can of Worms does not work if there is an air gap.

You will also find that worms don't really distinguish between the levels in a multi-level bin the way we do. Many will crawl part way into the upper tray and stay there for a while. If you lift the upper tray, you will find worms dangling from the bottom. When this happens, I would rather set the upper tray down on bedding in the lower tray than on the lid of the lower tray.

As for MendoPete's concerns about the strength of the lid on the lower tray, I don't think this will be a problem.

The best way to prevent worms from escaping is to give them conditions they don't want to leave. You would be amazed the tiny gaps they can crawl out of.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

So addressing the "air gap"... how do bins like this work, then?

http://www.amazon.com/Worm-Factory-WF360B-Composter-Black/dp/B002LH47PY/ref=pd_bxgy_lg_img_z

It's effectively what I'm considering with the 2nd (clear) truly "stacking" option. I can't imagine they pack each level absolutely full, yet it seems to have pretty good reviews?

Regardless, the only "gap" there would be in either of my systems is as they compost and the level of the entire bin drops as a result.

EDIT: JUST realized my very first words on the site were "Hey akk." - LOL!! :/

This post was edited by dzignr_tastz on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:17


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Addressing a couple of things you posted before I sent my last post (I was out running errands before I finished the post).

If 1/3 of the worms escaped, then something was not right in the bin. Some worms may try to look for greener pastures the first few days. Keep a light on in the room for a few nights, and let the worms settle in. I can't imagine you will have the massive escapes you describe unless something is very wrong. I had blues mixed with my reds. Blues are known wanderers, and I NEVER had a massive wholesale escape.

You asked: why would the worms still not treat a multi-tier unit basically the same as a single, larger unit, chewing through the levels (or layers) as a collective group?

Answer: They will treat a multi-level unit the same as a single level unit. They really aren't smart enough to understand the complexities we introduce into their production. But there is one caveat. They will treat a multi-level unit the same as long as it is the same to them. If there is an air gap between layers, then it is no longer the same as a single layer unit.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"So addressing the "air gap"... how do bins like this work, then? "

Look at the second picture down, you will notice two things:

1) The walls in each tray are tapered so that the tray is smaller at the bottom than it is at the top.

2) The lower tray does not have a lid.

When the upper tray is added to the stack, it sits directly on the bedding in the lower tray.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

But essentially, aren't they supposed to migrate after all (or most) of the resources in the bottom bin are "processed" and utilized, and one of the reasons they migrate to the next layer is to find those "greener pastures" you speak of?

Mind you, I'd not arguing. Just taking it all in and soaking up the experienced knowledge... ;)


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RE: Bin Design Question...

@ sbryce...

Actually, those bins have a "lip" just inside the top of each tray so they don't sit right on top of the bedding/compost of the lower bin, allowing the most amount of space for material in each tray. I actually read about using nursery trays (which are cheap) primarily because are the same basic design...

EDIT: Actually, you might be right about that. However, the diagram below that shows each tray also has a "worm ladder", which, if there is a gap, would aid them in bridging it.

EDIT, EDIT: Looks like that tray is just in the drip pan, in case some fall through. :/

EDIT, EDIT... (you get the idea - LOL): Maybe this is a better example of what I was trying to say, where it's made of solid wood (with a slight inset on the bottom so they stack). There is still a defined, separated space for each bin, only separated by the screen...

http://ana-white.com/2011/03/worm-compost-bin

This post was edited by dzignr_tastz on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 18:44


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Far be it from me to contradict what the manufacturer recommends, especially with respect to something I haven't personally used, BUT... I AM willing to repeat what I was told by a person that I personally witnessed using the Can 'o Worms and what they said about an "air gap". Take that as 'you' may.

As a young man, I REALLY got interested in bonsai trees. I did not want to go the typical - and expertly recommended - route of buying one someone had already made and "nurturing" it. I wanted to start one from seed and "see it through". I was told by an expert that had an arms-length of credentials and awards, that doing that "would be a complete waste of time". (That's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of his "recommendation".) Unfortunately, I believed him. He was after all, an "expert". He wasn't a liar, but he was a deceiver. It was "technically true" that it certainly would have taken longer to achieve HIS goals - entering some effing contest - but if I had followed what EYE wanted to do, TODAY I'd have several FORTY-PLUS-YEAR-OLD trees that I would have grown from seeds, that would have the shape EYE wanted, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, that I would have learned a helluva lot more from than I would have from "doing like everyone else does". Decades pass damn fast. When I realized how wrong the "expert" was, I started my trees FROM SEEDS. If I could find that expert today, we would - as Inspector Clouseau would say - "have speakes".

That is but one of too many errors I have realized I made by listening to what an "expert" told me. Nowadays, I'm a bit "sensitive" about novices being told that what they have thought up on their own, "won't work". In my opinion, even if I think the odds are slim, the value in the lesson of DOING far exceeds whatever I might be "saving" them from unless it is bodily harm.

We learn by doing, and "doing" usually means mistakes. I am loathe to quell the 'wild heart'.

Since I detect the slightest hint of skepticism, and no small portion of sarcasm, in "I've no prior experience with any variety of worms climbing, by the thousands, toward and up garage doors to get at bags of birch leaves, but I would love to get my hands on some if they're that awesome", I'll check with my friend and see if he has washed his garage walls of the dried carcasses. If he hasn't, I'm sure there are some here that would appreciate seeing pictures of such a 'unbelievable' event.

dzignr_tastz.:
I certainly didn't mean to offend you by suggesting that what you have suggested might actually succeed. I can assure you I won't let THAT happen again. You'll have to let me know what's less offensive to you: ALL CAPS or [caps on]all caps[caps off]. In the future, I'll be sure to use what offends you the least.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

That is why I often hear little helicopter sounds.

I have seen worms crawl in a line about 5 thick or a pencil thick up a 5 gallon bucket. All in a row. I don't know where they were going or what they would have done once they reached the top. I do not know if worms can smell food. I guess worms could crawl up the sides and avoid the gap. This would be like when we open the cover and find worms on the lid. It would seem to be more efficient to have them just go up through to the next can via bedding touching bedding. I though can of worms and worm factories worked by overfilling a bit so the next bin sits on top of an inch of compost at the start. This means the sealed sides would be an inch apart.

I will say worms seem to prefer moving not up unless there is food right above their head. It is easier to harvest by having the worms above where you want them to crawl for harvest.

Now in another post did you say you were going to add tiny holes all around the can o worms? That would mean the designers designed it wrong. They could have easily of added holes. Maybe most people would not purchase a bin with holes on the side even if it did work better. I have my doubts about how much air that would let in. The amount of air I think we want is tons. See my new post about air.

Taking the worms out for a day trip. That is nice. ... ... Wait a minute. ?!?



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RE: Bin Design Question...

I'm not sure who the "you" to whom you refer is, equinoxequinox, but assuming it was me because I brought the Can o' Worms up; EYE have not posted that EYE was going to do ANYTHING with Can 'o Worms, as I have no intention of parting with $160 for the privilege of owning one. I'll have to go to the basement to count the holes in the one bin I currently "manage". (Imagine the sound of footsteps going down stairs. Now imagine them coming back up.) It was tough, but I got the count: It has exactly zero holes. :)

I have no plans to change that until I see cause to.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"But essentially, aren't they supposed to migrate after all (or most) of the resources in the bottom bin are "processed" and utilized, and one of the reasons they migrate to the next layer is to find those "greener pastures" you speak of?"

We never bother to explain to the worms how the bins are supposed to operate. If there is an upper tray, some worms will migrate up and others won't. The idea is that you don't add an upper tray until the lower tray is full of mostly complete worm compost. Then you add an upper tray. And still, some worms will migrate up and some won't.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"Actually, those bins have a "lip" just inside the top of each tray so they don't sit right on top of the bedding/compost of the lower bin, allowing the most amount of space for material in each tray."

You will note that the lip only goes about 1/3 of the way down. It is there to prevent the trays from getting stuck together when they are stacked empty. If the lower tray is full of VC, the upper tray will sit on the surface of the VC, and not on the lip. The same is true of the Can of Worms.


"Actually, you might be right about that. However, the diagram below that shows each tray also has a "worm ladder", which, if there is a gap, would aid them in bridging it."

Only the lower catch basin that sits below the lowest tray has a "worm ladder," whatever that is.


"Looks like that tray is just in the drip pan, in case some fall through."

Exactly. And some will. Whether they will try to climb back up, I can't say. The worms really don't understand how these bins are supposed to work. They do whatever they want to, and it isn't always what we expect them to do.


"Maybe this is a better example of what I was trying to say, where it's made of solid wood (with a slight inset on the bottom so they stack). There is still a defined, separated space for each bin, only separated by the screen..."

And you will note that several times on that page she mentions that her design is flawed.

But you are free to do whatever you want. Let us know how it works.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

@ pskvork. You definitely didn't "offend" me (in ANY way... not that I'm easily offended - LOL), and quite honestly, I'm somewhat intrigued by your obvious intellect and writing style, not to mention captivated by your opinion of the subject. I was just joking around and making light of the limitations of the forum... ;)

On THAT note... I went out to the (soon to be, 2nd year) garden for a few to play in the dirt (and - acquired - rabbit nuggets, combined with straw, and separately, 40 cubic feet of dead grass - and weed - clippings I recently thatched from my front yard and am currently composting via the "drunken" method) since it rained earlier today, and, ON topic, saw quite a LOT of worms. As I turned my grass/weed clippings, the burrowed like crazy back into the pile. There were TONS in the top layer of my 10' x 20' garden, as opposed to hardly ANY yesterday, and I can only assume it was because of the recent moisture. Several I caught (out of both areas) for the primary purpose of giving my recently, wild caught (but oddly, extremely tame) garter snake a Friday night feast (which was quite interesting), and in doing so, dropped them in a roughly 13" deep clear plastic bin I had in the shed as a temporary "holding cell". Wanna know what I noticed? Several practically climbed up (and almost OUT) of the side of the (wet, as I added a little spray of water to keep them active), smooth plastic bin.

Now mind you... these are common garden worms, which are NOT recommended for vermicomposting (lest they perish), but they were so "unenthused" with their current surroundings be it lack of nutrients, or anything else) that they climbed up the wet, assumed slippery side of a bin almost twice the height of what I am considering for my indoor setup. That noted, is "everyone" (or most, at least) trying to tell me that bona fide "Euros" (or red wigglers, for that matter) won't attempt to migrate across a 1-2" gap (max), be it up the sides, across the ceiling, or otherwise, to find more food when the bottom bin is totally "processed" and there's nothing left to interest them?

Then again, there is the excellent point that worms have no comprehension of "tiers" or "bins". In fact, I would personally put them into a similar classification as "zombies", who are solely driven by their primal instincts to eat (and obviously, in this case of LIVE organisms, multiply). Perhaps the previous post about "leaving castings for a month and them further breaking down" has something to do with selective migration, and a lot of people are assuming there are less enticing nutrients in the bottom layer than the "zombies" do?

Anyway - keep the debate going. STILL appreciating all the different viewpoints and opinions (right or wrong... similar or not). ;)

And thanks again (everyone)!!


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RE: Bin Design Question...

@ equinoxequinox

I was the one who mentioned putting lots (or a ton) of small holes all around my "custom" bins as a method of increased airflow. All of the ones I've seen mainly have a few small holes around the top of the top bin, and while I realize that allows air into the top bin (below a sealed lid), which "migrates" into the bottom, why would tons of super small holes all over not be better to aerate the compost from all sides? Actually, one of the shipping boxes I've seen pics of had tiny holes all over one side of it... I'm assuming to allow the worms maximum oxygen during transit? Would the same concept not apply to a bin? The only drawback I can fathom would be the moisture added to the bin seeping out, as I seriously doubt light transmission through the super small holes would be an issue. Escape? Possibly... but with the larger Euros and 1/32 to 1/16" holes... I would hope many couldn't squeeze through (or wouldn't put out the effort given a proper environment).


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RE: Bin Design Question...

pskvorc, nope was not you and possible mentioned in a different thread than this one. For what it is worth I think the animate discussion actually pushes forward knowledge about this worm stuff that might in more timid circumstances not be pushed to the forefront. I think it is healthy. Difficult but healthy. I think this is actually how things are supposed to work. Information being tossed around. New areas for looking at by newbies who may have a critical eye for things we missed while getting the basics solved. Sort of reminds me of the "women's movement" don't no young women know about, care about or give any reverence for what their elders toiled for. They just take it as how it is now. Maybe that is the way it should be.

A can o worms or a new and improved worm factory the square bin with more air circulation so owners will not have to set each layer offset to improve air would be great fun for either of us to have. Neither of us will pay the biggo bucks. I have purchased worm inn. They are great. My methods with them have been poor. Thus my greater appreciation for those freezing, micro, grinding their feedings. Not enough to follow suit. I keep waiting for my method to catch on with the worms. They are not reading the instructions. Yes without all of the social clues discussion on forums is sometimes way to easy to think a poster has said negative about my thoughts with that being furthest from their thoughts. Not having access to italics, bold, etc does make clarification more difficult. Mostly long time posters spread goodwill and kindness. We sort of want to keep the board nice. My guess is we do not project as well as we want our genuine interest in promoting the hobby and project really well sometimes something else. I have particular difficulty with first time posters with strictly entraperanical interests. I help out with an attitude those going for their doctorate studying worms. We never hear back from those. I really tick off those who want us to do their doctoral for them or who want us to discuss how to kill worms in a system designed exactly for worms. Peace. I'm going to finish reading the replies.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Bins of finished compost are HEAVY. I'd be afraid of squishing the poor things if the bin is resting on the actual bedding.

I harvested my single large bin last week, and as an experiment I made 4 smaller bins, using 1 kitty litter bucket and 3 small square buckets, collected from the coffee shop that they get muffin mix in. You can also get them from Dairy Queen, etc.

As you can see with the green bin, that red screen is the air hole, 2 of them, 1 at each end.

With my new bins (buckets) I haven't drilled any holes, I just leave the lid ajar.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

The above post made me consider another question regarding having the bins sit on the bedding of the bin below it. Since oxygen and relatively good airflow is crucial for the composting process, would having the bins sitting directly on the layer below not keep all of the layers in a constant state of compression and/or compaction? It only makes sense that compacted soil doesn't circulate air as well as light, "airy" soil (thus why people turn their outdoor compost piles and till their gardens), so would air holes around the top edge of only the top bin (as I see in a lot of homemade systems on the interweb) really circulate that well down through the migration holes all the way to the bottom level? Aside from the worm migration issue, I would tend to think that individual tiered bins, each with their own air holes and minimal compaction would aerate the entire system better, potentially leading to a more efficient overall process?


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Comments:

1) Yes, finished bins are heavy, and, yes, they do weigh down the bedding in the lower bins. This does not appear to be a big problem.

but....

2) Yes, leaving an air gap probably would increase airflow in the lower tray. The rule of thumb is that some oxygen can be expected to permeate about 10 inches into the bedding. movement of the worms through the bedding does facilitate movement of oxygen.

3) An air gap will not prevent any worms from making the trip up to the upper tray. I just don't expect them to do so quite as efficiently. Or nearly as efficiently. But that is conjecture. You are free to prove us wrong. Whatever the bin design, there will always be some worms that are content to stay in the lower tray. What we perceive as food and what they perceive as food are not the same. There will still be some food value in the lower tray. The question then becomes whether there is sufficient food value in the upper tray to entice the majority of the worms to crawl up the sides of the bin. Setting the upper tray directly on the bedding in the lower tray eliminates that question, since, from the worm's perspective, it is all just one bin.

4) I think you are right about holes in the sides of the trays. You will need to decide whether the increase in airflow is worth the increased mess. I don't like the outsides of the bins to be dirty.

This post was edited by sbryce on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 10:15


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RE: Bin Design Question...

With regard to "squishing" worms, one should think in terms of units of weight per units of area, i.e. pounds per square inch.

The bin I have is about 13.25" x 19.5" at the compost line. It weighs 7lbs 2 oz. Since metric makes the math easier to do AND "see", I'll convert those numbers. The 13.25" x 19.5" yields 1666 square centimeters. (There are 6.45 square cm in a square inch.) The 7lb 2oz converts to 3.23 kilograms. Dividing 3.23 kg by 1666 square cm yields 0.002 kg/square cm or 2 grams per square cm.

Now, lets say the longitudinal cross-sectional area of an "average" E. fetida is equivalent to one square cm. (I think that is a reasonable assumption.) That means that in my bin weighing 7.16 lbs, a worm would only have two grams of pressure on it from a bin above if the bin above weighed the same as the one below. There are approximately 28 grams per ounce. Therefore, our theoretical worm would be getting 'squeezed' by about 1/14th of an ounce. Double the weight of bin and you double the weight on the worm. HOWEVER...

All of the above is the absolute "worst case scenario" as the VC itself is "supporting" the upper bin. In other words, there isn't a solid layer of worms at the surface of the lower bin being subjected to the force (weight) of the upper bin.

Here's the bottom line: Until the VC becomes so compressed that a worm cannot burrow through it, there isn't a problem with 'compression'.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Compression may squeeze-out, crush, and compact the bed, destroying structure which traps air and helps with gas exchange. You know, that fluffy airy bed we strive for.

I have read of people putting 4 small plastic bottles or containers in the corners of their bin to support the weight of the bin above.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

I'm still not hawking the Can o' Worms, but the designers put four supports in each bin thereby preventing the next bin up from resting on the VC in the lower bin unless the user was to fill the lower bin above those supports.

I mention their 'vile' name again only to offer support :) (I LOVE puns), for mendopete's comment about putting plastic bottles/containers in lower bins to support upper bins in stacked systems.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

I have only heard of putting plastic bottles, etc., in the catch basin below the lowest tray to prevent the lowest tray from getting stuck.

This post was edited by sbryce on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 21:54


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Actually, I've seen what pskvorc is talking about on Google images with homemade bins. Some people have put four metal vegetable cans in the corners of each bin to support the one above it, and some have even put horizontal 5/8" PVC pipe midway through the bins for the same support. I guess it's basically the same concept as having stackable trays.... and would potentially introduce an air gap.

I also read through that anna-white.com bin I posted above (same concept) and while she did say there were flaws in her original design (which is the one she built), the one she provided plans for on the site was the "revised" one with all - or most of, as nothing is flawless - the kinks worked out (in theory). Then again, wood may provide more texture to climb along for migration than smooth plastic...

Anyway - I grabbed 3 of the Rubbermaid totes from Home Depot yesterday, but I'm still torn on which route to try as the lids don't seem very supportive being the relatively thin Rubbermaid material. However, they do seem to fit together pretty snugly pretty quickly when set inside one another, and while I wouldn't say they would be "airtight" or "escape-proof", I think I could provide a fair balance between a good amount of area for material and a decent seal between each bin when placed into one another with no additional support.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

My first multi-bin system was 4 RM and a 5th one to serve as the leachate bin. I used 4 - one gallon nursery pots (in the leachate bin, upside down) in each corner so the bin above it wouldn't get stuck as mendopete mentioned. And yes, I drilled each pair of bin and lid together so they would line up and marked them A, B, C, D with each corner as 1, 2, 3, 4, to make them match more accurate. Or so I planned.
I even made a template for drilling. My reasoning for doing it this way was to prevent the bins to get stuck together once filled with no way to get them "unstuck".
It worked, but not the way I imagined or planned for it to work. Worms being worms, you know.

All that work trying to line up the holes, they look nice and neat, but I end up having to use a 3/4 x 3/4" piece of wood longer than the length of the bin to lift the bin from the lid that sat at the bottom. Reason: leachate collected there and got anaerobic and lots of worms stayed there too. They got flattened and squashed when I tried to lift the bin.

Long story short, this system end up to be just a stackable system but basically ran as 4 separate bins. The only advantage is that it needed less space, being stackable and only 1 leachate bin.
I staggered the start and sub-sequent re-start date by 1 month. The bottom bin being the oldest which was full after running for 3 months and no feeding on the 4th. month. So my harvest schedule was 1 bin each month once I got all 4 running.

The only problem I encountered was that population increase once it reached 1.5 lbs just stayed there although the surface area is larger than 2 sq.ft. (The system was kept indoors).
My back also started to complain from lifting individual bins for feeding.

Then I got a DIY worm bin plan and built a 24 x 48 FT so no more stackable. I still have a RM as back up but NO drilled holes and I have run it successfully for 3 years now. Being a back up bin, I am not too concerned with population increase ratio. I'm happy as long as they are happy.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Thanks otis. Some excellent points I hadn't considered about the leachate... ;)

Well I pulled the trigger yesterday. After a short 2-day trip from PA to NC, my worms arrived and, purely out of obvious necessity (despite the fact it was my birthday... and yes, I played the "I got WORMS for my birthday" card a few times), I spent the evening making their initial home. I just went with a single bin for the time being, drilled multiple 9/32" holes uniformly around the lowest portions of the floor of the bin (probably 30 in all), drilled about the same number of 9/64" holes uniformly just in the center indentation of the lid (rather than the sides of the bin or all over the lid, primarily to make it more difficult to escape through them), set it in a second, stock bin for leachate drainage/collection, filled it with cross-cut, verified soy-inked newspaper (I work for one) and a light mixture of aspen bedding from my snake terrarium, garden soil recently amended with Black Kow manure compost, and some dried grass clippings I thatched out of my lawn this spring from one of the piles I have "drunken" composting (I made previous reference to this, which consists of spraying a diluted mixture of beer, cola, and ammonia - yeast, sugars, and nitrogen - on the pile to speed the composition process) out in the backyard. I could only assume the last was to be beneficial since the outdoor piles have TONS of worms in them with a quick turn of the top layer.

Anyway - after some rigorous mixing and a few quart spray bottles of water later, I dug a hole, dropped them in, and let them make their way. A few hours later I found a cat nosing at with two strays on the floor, but after returning them to their HOME (sorry... Happy Gilmore moment) and relocating the bin, not another has attempted to escape since, despite being in total darkness last night.

I will probably still make it into a tiered bin whenever necessity dictates it, and will continue to consider and/or theorize the best route to go with that, but for now, it seems they like the initial bedding mixture, with food scraps and maybe a light sprinkling of homemade chow to soon follow.

Thanks again for all the varied opinions and discussion! ;)


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Why are you buying composting worms when you have "TONS" of worms in your "drunken" compost piles that are free? I bet they are EF, have you checked? Was it just to get Euro.s? I am curious.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Forgot to mention re. the lid for my RM bin. (or for the top bin of my stackable). I removed most of the lid, leaving only about 1" from the side and used weed cloth glued to it. This way the bin has enough opening for air exchange and IMO didn't need holes in the side of the bin.
When using contact cement to glue the weed cloth, I did roughen the surface of the 1" lip with sand-paper.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Good info.

The only objection I have to an "open" system - as opposed to a "sealed" system - is odor. If odor is not an issue, then screened holes, even very large ones - seems like the best way to go. Of the few wormers I know, all maintain "open" systems and have no problem with odor. BUT... that does NOT mean there IS no odor, only that the odor is not offensive to them or their SPOUSES. Of course a "sealed" system does not ELIMINATE odors, it only reduces them significantly.

Paul


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RE: Bin Design Question...

@ medopete: Basically I read two things along my "intro" course of learning; one... The Euros were better at breaking down larger food particles (which is primarily why I went with them), and two... garden - or rather, "outdoor" - worms were not optimal for an indoor system. However, I also read about a few people collecting outdoor worms to populate their indoor bins (not sure of their eventual success rate), and quite honestly, the main difference I see between the worms in my outdoor pile and the Euros I received are the yellow tails on the Euros. They're still roughly about the same size at the moment, but my Euros still seem to be relatively small and adapting (I'm assuming, as I read EF's are supposed to be noticeably smaller than the Euros)?

That aside, I've learned a few things in my first week... primarily, don't throw decent quantities (in chunks) of leftover birthday donuts (sugar and grains, I assumed) and hamburger buns from work into the bin with a considerable amount of coffee grounds, a few corn cobs, a few miscellaneous veggie scraps, a couple of processed Fuji apples and a potato as their first meal! While I gave them a couple of days to adapt to the bedding mix and had it at what I thought was an ideal moisture, apparently after adding the food combined with a top layer of dry bedding and a quick spray or two, I had an escape attempt Sunday evening and have since left the lid off with a light over it around the clock, hoping it was simply a moisture issue. Today, however, I dug around a little and realized I had inadvertently turned half of the bin into a virtual (steaming, in some spots) hot box for my new friends. :/

Anyway - I turned it all, removed the - again, chunks - of bread and anything warm, threw it in the outdoor pile, mixed in some fresh, dry, shredded newspaper, and now have an adjustable (circular) box fan cooling it all down further. Hopefully they'll be a bit happier in the coming days. Lesson learned (the hard way)!

EDIT: On a positive note, aside from the "hot spots", there was quite a bit of mold and decomposition of the food I'd served as a first meal, and despite digging through it to clean up my initial mess, there was minimal odor (for the situation) and more of a earthy, compost smell to the entire bin, even with the lid off for the past couple days. As such, I'm hoping all my problems are solved for the moment, but I'll be checking for additional hot spots and adjusting as necessary through the weekend... ;)

This post was edited by dzignr_tastz on Wed, May 7, 14 at 20:55


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RE: Bin Design Question...

A lesson learned. Grains in large amounts can be a problem. In small amounts they are fine. They get hot, as you noticed, and they get moldy. Mold in small amounts is not a problem. In large amounts it can suck moisture out of the bin and bind everything together in one big, dry, moldy mass. In time the mold will finish doing its thing and die off, leaving some very yummy worm food behind. But the process of getting there is messy and not very good for the bin.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

All worms are "outdoor" worms.
Garden worms are undesirable for vermicomposting. Compost worms are found in compost or manure piles are desirable They can be kept indoors. The worms in your pile are likely to be EF (red wigglers). You should ID them. Wigglers, pound for pound, compost as fast or faster than EH ( Euro's). Wigglers are generally the worm used to compost and are considered easier to keep. Euro's are more desirable for fishing because they are bigger. You could turn your compost pile into a worm bin. Free worms are the best.

BTW I have noticed my outdoor wigglers get bigger in larger homes Small house = smaller worms. Big house = bigger worms. Just my observation.

Good luck and happy wormin'! Pete


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RE: Bin Design Question...

"bind everything together in one big, dry, moldy mass" hmmmm Where have I see that before? Oh yeah, my bin.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Touche on the "outdoor" worms! I was just in the mindset that since my "compost" pile (which, again, is actually just a bunch of dead grass clippings I thatched up and and am trying to get to break down rather than burning them) is right around the corner of a building from my garden, some of the "garden" worms probably migrated to it. I mean... they had to have come up from the dirt surface into the pile, so wouldn't those still be garden (or "dirt", I guess) worms? The pile hasn't been there quite a month now, so there hasn't been time for that many to procreate, multiply, and grow to the size they are. I've also fed my pet garter snake worms directly from both the garden and pile and they look (at first glance, at least) to be pretty close, of varying sizes but most considerably longer than the 3" or less red wigglers are apparently supposed to be. I guess I can compare them side by side and try to classify both, though. Alabama Jumpers, perhaps (as they're pretty active and I do live in NC, so the soil is rather clay-based... thus all the compost and amendments)? Either way, another learning experience on the agenda!

Either way, my Euros seems LOT happier (I'm assuming, since I haven't seen them) in the past few days since I converted the sauna back to a habitable abode.


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RE: Bin Design Question...

All is still well. going to feed again (as the bedding structure is now much more balanced in terms of moisture and content; I added quite a bit of shredded corrugated instead of primarily newspaper).

Before I do, however, I just grabbed a few wigglers from my grass compost pile for my snake and snapped a couple of shots. Figured you guys could more easily identify them than myself... maybe with a few points as to how you could tell. I've read a little on identification, banding, and coloring, but figured I may as well keep the thread going with some more useful information! ;)

For reference... the wigglers were (temporarily... they're a snack as of now) in a KFC side order container, which measures almost exactly 3-1/2" in inside diameter.

EDIT: Disregard the tail tip of the frozen pinky mouse in the bottom right corner (was trying to scent him with the worms as it was the first one). I simply couldn't bring myself to keep sacrificing wigglers to feed him at this point... not to mention mice are a much more nutritionally complete option)!

This post was edited by dzignr_tastz on Wed, May 14, 14 at 20:09


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RE: Bin Design Question...

Nice big worms. I am no expert on worm ID but they are not red wigglers. Too bad as free is the best. Looks like a night crawler or garden worm. Great for your soil, fishing, and I guess snake food!

Good luck with your bin and happy wormin'


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