A Worm Bin Update

March 31, 2008

When I first started looking at different options for vermicomposting I decided to go with the one that had the easiest harvesting method: the OSCR Jr.

The OSCR Jr. has three bins: the base that catches the leachate, the middle bin that starts off as the working bin and the top bin that you use a few months later once the middle bin has filled up. After about six months of worm wrangling, your middle working bin should be getting pretty full. The next step is to stack a new bin on top of the full middle bin, place a layer of food and the worms migrate upwards. This way you can harvest the middle bin which will have pure castings and very few worms. Other methods involve hours and hours of separating worms from castings. No thanks.

I checked in on them and realized that they were starting to get to the top of their bin. Here they are in their cold, cramped location in the basement:

You can see that there is really only about 2 1/2″ of room left looking at the sides of the bin and the bottom of the lid of the worm bin was actually resting on top of the newspaper:

There were even worms cruising around underneath the lid:

There were loads of worms lolling about the top-side of the newspaper layer:

I peeled back the newspaper layer and found many, many worms on the bottom-side:

I started digging down to the food layer and there were loads there too:

Thinking that they were running out of room, I decided to add a new bin to expand their home. I found the extra Rubbermaid bin and started to drill holes. I used a 1/4″ drill bit and eyeballed the holes about 2″ apart, way less precise than when I had first drilled the bins. I used a kitchen knife to cut off the sharp, excess plastic created from drilling the holes and then placed the bin on top of the newspaper layer of the old bin:

I put the top back on and thought I was done. Here you can see the bottom bin (catchment bin for leachate), middle bin (full of worms and vermicompost sitting mostly inside the bottom bin) and the top bin (empty, on top of the middle bin and waiting for the worms to move in):

Well, just because I put a new bin on top of their house, it didn’t mean that the worms were going to relocate. After two or three days I hadn’t seen any worms crawl up through the holes. I had to give them some incentive. I moved them upstairs next to the recycling bins to get them warmed up and active.

Then I went out and bought the biggest, ripest cantaloupe and diced it up. My worms love cantaloupe, it’s like crack to them. I took the top bin off, scraped off the newspaper and food layers in the middle bin, put the food layer at the bottom of the top bin, spread my ripe cantaloupe and topped it off with the newspaper layer and put the lid back on the whole shebang.

It took a couple of days for them to find their way up through the holes that I had drilled in the bottom of the top bin. I was worried that they’d have trouble finding their way up and kept checking on them to see if they were okay. I checked on them this past weekend and was mildly squicked-out at the number of worms frolicking amongst the cantaloupe bits. Success!

It’s a brave, new world for my worms!


9 Responses to “A Worm Bin Update”

  1. Jim Says:

    Nice job with the bins!! You have those buggers trained so well. The cool thing with your tub setup is how the bottom bucket is full of finished product. Easy and simple. I took a different approach with my bin because I wanted more compost from each cycle. But like your setup it is easy for everyone to setup. Harvesting is simple as well, just shovel out the side that is finished. The worms have already migrated to the food filled side.
    Your pictures are great!!

  2. Wow – great job on the bin setup. We did our slightly different than that but have a 4-tub hotel nonetheless.

    How long does it take for the worms to fill the bin like that? Three months? Six months?

    Did you buy your original worms on the Internet?

    Thanks for the info, Martha

  3. Kathy Says:

    Thanks Jim!
    I just hope all the worms migrate upwards into their new bin. I had been digging around in the middle bin to get an idea of how far down they were hanging out and it was almost to the bottom. There were just more and more the further I went down! I’ve added some pear and will get another cantaloupe to entice them upwards so hopefully they’ll all relocate.

    Hi Martha,
    I bought my first 1/2 pound of worms from The Worm Factory. After a month my first bin died in May 2007 and my parents gave me some of their extra worms to start a new bin in October 2007. I moved them to the basement which reduced their activity due to the cold these past few winter months. Since I’ve moved them upstairs they’ve become very active and move quickly when I pick them up. So it took them about six months in not very optimal conditions.

  4. Go worms go. Hey, if you have too many next year (hint hint), I’m tired of treking out to the composter in the middle of snowtime.

    So has the lion come to your end of narnia yet?

  5. Amanda Says:

    I too have started a vermicomposter this year which was purchased from The Worm Factory. I didn’t know about the three tier option. I started mine in late April and just harvested my compost on Saturday. I thought it would take longer but those little suckers sure are efficent! I was not looking forward to rummaging through the masses of worms but once I got going it didn’t bother me at all. They are quite entertaining to watch actually. The worm factory’s web site has the downloadable education brochure which addressed the most common problems that are encountered. I found it very useful. I also blend up my fruit and veggies first to make a nice thick smoothie for them, that seems to speed up the process. They also say that blending will keep fruit flies away because their eggs are laid on the skin.

    Compost on sista of the worm!

  6. Kathy Says:

    Wow, Amanda, that’s awesome! I thought creating a slurry of food would reduce the amount of air pockets available to the worms and create an anaerobic environment but I guess not! Your worms do sound pretty happy. I know that fruit flies love banana peels so I haven’t put any of those in the bin.

    Have you used any of the castings yet?

  7. Michele Madoski Says:

    Great pictures and information. We did a class worm bin this year and harvesting the castings was the difficult part. Your idea will be perfect for the next class year. We packaged, advertised, and sold the castings. We made enough money to have a great class party, and enough to buy more plastic containers.

  8. Corbin Says:

    Thanks for the detailed account. I’m about to embark on an OSCR Jr. system, but I wanted to read of more success stories. How did the castings harvest turn out? Did all the worms eventually migrate upward? How long did it take? Am I reading correctly that it took 6 months? If so, that seems like a long time.

    • Kathy Says:

      The harvest was great. I didn’t weigh it though I used it to spread on my indoor plants and they really liked it. The worms did migrate upwards, however, there were some that were in the lower levels of the bin. It did take a while before I could harvest as I didn’t have a lot of worms to do the work. Also, they’re more active in warmer rooms than colder ones.

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