Some time ago I received this e-mail from Shelley:
I am new to vermicoposting. I am looking to find out how to separate
the finished product from “things” that are in it ie: pepples, bits of
paper etc. I dont need any larged tumbler. what are your suggestions?
One or two more recent reader-emails (with similar questions) made me realize that I should dedicate a post to the topic!
If you have been following my shenanigans here at RWC for the past few years (or more) you MAY recall my kooky “Super Simple Ultra Basic Worm Harvesting Tube” (S.S.U.B.W.H.T.) – one of my “hair-brained ideas” that never really went anywhere.
What’s funny, though, is that this weird contraption actually ended up becoming a very useful tool. As you can probably guess, I started using it to screen my vermicompost! I even created a second one using 1/8″ mesh (the first one was 1/4″).
Here are some instructions for creating one of these simple screeners:
NOTE: If you happen to be someone with ANY DIY skills in the slightest, what follows may leave you feeling shocked and appalled!
Consider yourself warned!
There are only three things you’ll need to make a “Super Simple Ultra Basic Vermicompost Screener” (my revised name): 1) A small roll of hardware cloth (aka wire mesh) – 1/4″ or 1/8″ are good choices, 2) A reinforced cardboard cylinder at least 10″ in diameter (this is the size I used, but I can see how a larger diameter tube might work even better), and 3) Duct tape (not shown in picture).
Well OK – you’ll also need some basic “tools” as well. In order to cut the cylinder you will at least need a box cutter or – preferably – some sort of saw. You will also need tin snips or a pair of heavy duty scissors for cutting the wire mesh.
Actually making the S.S.U.B.V.S. is “super simple“, as the name implies.
First, you cut the two “halves” of your screener. There is no set-in-stone required length, or specific size ratio of the top piece vs the bottom piece, but a good rule of thumb (in my humble opinion) would be to make the upper piece at least 1 ft in length, since we want to avoid having material bouncing out during the screening process. The lower piece doesn’t need to be as long, but making it at least 6″ should help to avoid any unnecessary loss of material from the bottom as well (since the sides will help to channel the screened material down into whatever container you are using to catch it).
To make the screen, cut out a circle of mesh with a diameter of at least 6″ greater than the diameter of your tube. This way you will be able to create 3″ (or longer) tabs that will help you secure the screen in place. To make sure you don’t end up cutting in too far you may want to trace the outline of the tube onto the screen with a heavy duty marker.
Once you’ve cut a bunch of tabs (again, no real rocket science here), you simply place the screen in between the two pieces of cylinder and then fold every other one in an upward direction. All the remaining tabs get folded…wait for it…DOWN!
Now, here is where the REAL craftsmanship comes into play…
Next, you tape this puppy up like duct tape’s goin out of style!!
The finished product may not be all that easy on the eyes, but you’ll now have yourself a handy dandy tool for easily screening your vermicompost!
As far as the actual screening goes, the process basically just involves scooping some of your vermicompost into the upper compartment then shaking (side to side) over top of a container (ideally, the screener should easily fit inside the container so as to avoid losing any finished material).
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
1) Make sure the material you are screening is crumbly and fairly dry. You won’t have any luck trying to screen muddy vermicompost, that’s for sure!
2) Start with very small amounts being added (and screened), then gradually increase until you find your “sweet spot”. If you add too much material all at once, the screener won’t work properly and you’ll end up tossing lots of good vermicompost into your “waste” heap (of course, this stuff is not really “waste”, as we’ll discuss in a minute). The advantage of making one of these screeners using a larger diameter (than 10″) tube is that you’ll be able to effectively screen more material at once.
3) This is probably pretty obvious, but if you have two or more of these (with different mesh sizes) start with larger-mesh sizes so as to separate bulky stuff that may impede your fine screening process.
Getting back to your separated “waste” vermicompost (etc) – needless to say, while it may not look as nice, this stuff can certainly be put to good use in your garden! If there is a fair amount of debris in it, you might try it out as a sort of “vermi-mulch” to spread around the base of your plants. If it’s basically just bulky vermicompost, it can be used in the exact same manner as the “good stuff”.
One other quick thing to mention about my flawless design (yuk yuk)…
Adding actual handles (maybe old cupboard door handles or something like that) to the sides would really help to reduce the hand/wrist fatigue inevitably resulting from screening a lot of vermicompost in one sitting. I’ve never bothered to do so myself, but I can definitely see how this, alone, would represent a major improvement over the original design!
So that’s basically it! Again, I realize this is not the fanciest homemade screener in the world, but it IS a nice easy-to-make option for those of you who – like myself – are not super-talented DIYers. And…as you can see below, it also happens to work very well!