How Many Worm Bins?

Here are some excellent questions from Suzanne:

Bentley,
I have been looking at the videos on Youtube and reading the online posts. Here are my next questions:
1) How many bins do you have going at any one time? I have three children at home and with my husband, we seem to produce about a gallon of vegetable waste per day. For this amount of food, how many bins should I have going? 2) How often can you add food to a bin? For instance, if you set the bin up like you suggest on the youtube video, let it ripen for a couple weeks, and then add the worms, do you leave that bin alone for three months. Under this scenario, I think that I could have bins stacked to the ceiling before too long. (My husband is concerned that our house will be crowded with worm bins.)

Hi Suzanne,
I am sure there are many other people wondering the same thing – thanks for writing in!
At the moment I have 3 small systems and 1 medium sized bin actively vermicomposting indoors. I also have another small bin that is ‘aging’ prior to adding worms. Outdoors I have a very large worm bin and a backyard composter that just happens to have a lot of red worms in it as well! These won’t likely be very active again until the weather warms up some more. I also have been experimenting with bokashi during the last couple of months, and have a couple of buckets ready to be emptied (I have already emptied some into one of my worm bins, as discussed in another post).

Is all this ‘normal’? Heck no! I’m the ‘Compost Guy’, and need to live up to my name.
😆

All joking aside, the number of bins I have on the go at any one time is more an indication of my passion for composting than a requirement for handling all my kitchen scraps and cardboard waste (although, we DO seem to produce a lot of worm food around here!).

Regarding your situation, I’ll be honest – it DOES sound as though you produce a considerable amount of food waste in your home. One gallon of food scraps (maybe 3-4 lbs of waste?) every day is a fair bit! I suspect that you would indeed need a couple of decent sized indoor bins in order to handle all of it without any backlog – and this is once they up and running at full capacity (something we’ll talk more about in a minute). You can help matters by cooking, cutting and aging the waste materials before adding them to your bins. It will also help if you keep your worm systems in an area of the house that is above 20 C (68 F), since warm temperatures can help to speed up the processing time of vermicomposting as well. Apparently, the ideal temp for most composting worms is somewhere in the vicinity of 25 C / 77 F, but don’t let that worry you – I have successful worm bins down in my cool basement where temperatures have been below 20 C all winter.

If you are keen to stick with vermicomposting as your sole means of handling your wastes (ie. you are not interested in backyard composting, bokashi etc) then you next need to decide exactly how much space you have for vermicomposting. You definitely won’t need bins stacked up to the ceiling, but if you are using the little Rubbermaid tubs I like to use, you may need to set up 4 or 5 of them. I wouldn’t even worry about making the type with the reservoir as I show in the video – just set up a bunch of basic bins. I love these tiny Rubbermaid bins because you can put them pretty much anywhere, and they are so small that you don’t really need to worry too much about aeration, drainage etc. Just drill some holes in the top and that should be fine.

The amount of time needed for a worm bin to reach its maximum processing capacity is affected by a wide range of factors – this is why I try to be as vague as possible (haha) when people ask. Yes, you will likely need to be patient for the first little while until your worms are fully settled in, but you certainly don’t need to wait 3 months until you can start adding scraps to the bin. I would give the worms maybe a week or so without additional food after adding them to an aged bin (assuming scraps were mixed in when the bin was set up). At this point I would start adding small amounts of food (a few things at a time) and then closely monitor how quickly the worms consume it. Again, it will really help if you have aged these scraps beforehand. I recommend keeping them in a small compost crock or pail under your sink (or wherever is convenient) – just make sure to add a thick layer of shredded cardboard/paper to the bottom before you put scraps in there – this will help to absorb excess moisture and keep the lower materials from going anaerobic.

I personally think the ideal solution for your situation (given your husband’s concerns etc) is a combo strategy of indoor and outdoor vermicomposting. A regular backyard composter or even a basic compost pile will work just fine, and will ensure that you don’t end up with too much extra waste on your hands! This way you can simply set up a medium sized bin inside and not have to worry about it. Who knows, maybe after a few months you and your family will be SO passionate about vermicomposting that you’ll want to set up new systems all over the house!
😉

Anyway, hope this helps!

Bentley

[tags]worm bin, worm bins, compost bins, composter, vermicomposting, worm composting, composting worms[/tags]

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