Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to build a worm compost bin

Here is my attempt at building a worm compost bin. It's very easy and a lot of fun to make. As this is my first shot at building a worm composting bin I'm sure there will be some modifications I'll be making in the future, but until then here is how I made my red wiggler worm compost bin / tote:

Living in Arizona, the extreme summer heat followed very cold winters prohibits me from keeping my worm composting bin outdoors. Not to worry, I'm going to store my worm composting bin inside the house in our laundry room. Since it's going inside our home we need to make it look presentable and conceal the fact that we have living red wiggler worms eating old kitchen scraps!

Step one is to find two non translucent totes. You may already have some at home. The totes I'm using are the 18 gallon size. Note that the totes must not let any light into them as this will kill the worms. You will also need a drill with a 1/8" drill bit, newspaper for the bedding, four zip ties and some window screen.

Now drill about fifteen to twenty 1/8" holes into one of the totes a few inches from the top; ten on each side looks nice.
This is for done for ventilation purposes.

I used the fins under the rim as my guide to drill evenly space holes.
UPDATE:I later drilled four 1" holes, two on each side of the top tote, for more ventilation. I cut out four squares of window screen and used a hot glue gun to secrue them to the inside of the tote to prevent the worms from getting out.

Now what I did here might seem complicated, but it's really quite simple.
I set the tote lid on the ground and put the tote bin on top of it. I reached into the tote bin and drilled a set of two 1/8" holes through the bottom of the tote bin as well as through the tote lid far enough apart from each other where I thought it would be sufficient enough to hold the weight of the top tote bin. These holes will be for inserting our zip ties to secure the tote bin to the top of the tote lid. After drilling the holes for the zip ties, I used a ruler to draw a straight line from hole to hole and then cut out the midlle section of the lid. As you can see from the image below, I used my drill to drill many 1/8" holes into the bottom of the tote bin. These holes will allow the "worm tea" to drip down into our second tote bin.

This shows the tote lid attatched to the bottom of the tote bin with our zip ties. If we did not cut out the center section of our tote lid, the "worm tea" would pool on top of the tote lid. The center section being cut out will allow all of the worm tea to drip into our bottom tote bin.

Now we take our window screen and cut it to the size of the bottom of our tote bin covering the holes we drilled. The screen will let the worm tea drip into the bottom of our second tote bin, while keeping the red wiggler worms from escaping.

Shred newspaper to make a 2"-4" bed. Lightly spray the newspaper to make it moist, but not soaking wet. This helps the worms stay healthy and not dry out. Try to tear the newspaper into thin strips as the worms like to crawl over and under them.

Now we can add the red wiggler worms. I was able to locate red wiggler worms at Petco for about $4 for 45-55 worms. You may be able to buy them cheaper online or at another store, however I didn't want to wait for an online order and the Petco was five min.'s from my home. I bought four containers which should give me 180-220 red wiggler worms. I wasn't sure how many I needed so I bought all they had :)

The nice thing about these red wiggler worms is that over time they will reproduce, giving you more and more hungry red wigglers to make you that awesome worm tea and worm castings your garden loves!

Throw in some food for your hungry new worms like banana peels, spinach, lettuce, carrots and all your kitchen scraps minus potatoes, meats, oils as well as dairy products. Also, go sparingly on items like onions and citrus.

Here is how your new red wiggler worm composting bin / tote set up should look. The top tote has our red wiggler worms inside sitting on the window screen in a bed of moist newspaper happily eating our kitchen scraps in the dark. When you want to pour out the worm tea, simply lift off the bottom tote lid, which is zip tied to the bottom of the top tote, and pour it into a container! The two totes sititng on top of each other give the look of plain old storage bins in the laundry room.


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