If you didn’t think I was kooky already, this post should put you over the edge!
Some time ago this bizarre idea for a vermicomposting system popped into my head. I was thinking of ways to make a simple ‘continuous flow’ system that would allow you to easily collect castings without having to worry about separating out the worms later.
Continuous flow systems, like the one I’m using for my 4 worm experiment are great because they take advantage of a composting worm’s tendency to follow a food source (whether it be in an upwards or sideways direction) and move away from their own waste (worm castings). Like my wooden stackable bin, most of these types of systems are rigid containers of some sort.
The inspiration for my ‘creepy pants’ idea came from the landscape cloth funnel vermicomposter of the ‘Digestive Table‘, and a commercial system known as the ‘Swag’ (see video below).
These systems are brilliant in that they involve a much simpler design, are far less expensive to make, and are very easy to use. I figured I would take it even one step further and come up with a system that utilizes something most people already have – old jeans (or any other pants) that no longer get worn. They have a considerable volume capacity, so you could likely process quite a bit of waste and house a lot of worms. They are also very breathable so they will provide ample aeration, but still thick enough of keep out a lot of light.
Yesterday, I finally decided to make one of these systems for myself. As mentioned recently, I have a lot of aged manure and new Red Wigglers so I figured it was a prime opportunity to set up some new systems.
Normally, I would set the pants system up exactly the same way I set up a regular worm bin. I would mix a lot of food waste with shredded cardboard, then simply let it sit for a week or two. For this system however, because I already have this nicely aged manure and worms I can get started right away (since the manure provides habitat and food for the worms). All I did was 1) Hang the pants from one of my basement ceiling supports, 2) Close off each of the legs using a pull-tie (cable tie?), 3) Add some shredded ‘egg carton cardboard’ in the bottom of each pant leg (for moisture absorption), then 4) Add aged manure and worms to each of the legs. Now they are ready to receive food scraps (I’ll likely add some more worms first though since I want this system to work quickly).
You would likely need to add water to a system like this since a considerable amount of moisture will pass through and evaporate from the pants. If you keep your pants composter outside, I would recommend hanging it in a shady location – from a shady tree perhaps? I think this would be a really fun project for kids.
Once your system is totally full you can start testing out the vermicompost in the bottom of the pant legs. Simply loosen the pull-ties and let some of the material drop down into a bucket. If it looks good you can harvest some of it from both legs. One other possible idea, if you don’t want to bother emptying it at all – you could probably remove a lot of worms from the upper layers then simply turn the system into an outdoor planter. Cut slits down the pant legs and insert young plants (herbs would work very well) directly into the vermicompost. You can then move it to a sunny location to allow the plants to grow – just make sure to keep it well watered since it will likely dry out very quickly!
So there you have it – the ‘Creepy Pants Vermicomposter’. Try it out for yourself!
Just so ya know, I’m also going to put together a quick video about this system, and will of course keep you posted on how it is working for me.
Oh, and by the way – in case you are wondering about the name – you try hanging a pair of empty pants from your ceiling and see if you aren’t just a little bit creeped out too!
Kind reminds me of that Dr. Seuss story…
…I was deep within the woods
when suddenly I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
with nobody inside them.
I wasn’t scared but yet I stopped.
What could those pants be there for
What could a pair of pants at night
be standing in the air for?
Excerpt from What Was I Scared Of? in “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Dr. Seuss.
Other (Later) Creepy Pants Blog Posts:
Creepy Pants Update
Moldy, Creepy Pants
The Pants Come Off!
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I’ve been reading your blog since I’ve been worming. (About 6 months.) I love your practical tips (aging food before putting in the bin, shredded cardboard, etc.) I love the pants idea – so crazy, it’s gotta work. Please keep us posted how it turns out.
I am seeing it all now!! HAHA
Great idea! it is going to work great,
There is no reason why it shouldn’t work..
The only thing I forgot to make mention of is the fact that jeans are biodegradable, so I may see some fungal growth on the walls of the system, and of course the pants will also eventually breakdown. As such, a system like this might be better suited for an outdoor location. Using old nylon ‘wind pants’ or workout pants might work well too, and will avoid the potential pitfalls of having the system decompose inside your house.
Anyway, lots of progress reports to come!
Love the pants idea. I am going to try it using my 7 yrs old jeans just in case I do something wrong. Would you figure it would need to be watered as much or less than a regular pile?
If your pants system is outside it will definitely need to be water regularly (likely daily during warm weather) – more than a regular worm bin for sure, and perhaps even more than an exposed compost heap (haven’t compared these, so not sure about that).
Hi there! I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your very informative website. So much that it’s a regular part of my Google Blog Reader. I’ve had a worm farm since January, and it’s great to get all of your tips and stories here. I came across this in the Gardening Australia TV Show’s website, and it brought to mind your Creepy Pants Composter. They suggest putting it near a tree for the constant fertilizer and also the moisture can go straight near a tree.
Thanks again for your website!
Thanks for the kind words, and for sharing that article!
I hadn’t heard of a worm pouch before – thats pretty cool! It looks as though it might let in a lot of light though – I’d prefer something darker or at least thicker.
Well it’s been almost 2 months since I set up my bin and today I harvested quite a bit of vermicast and my worms seemed happy as could be. I was nervous to do it since I wasn’t sure what to expect. I haven’t heard a peep from them since I put them in there 🙂
The separation/sorting process was rather tedious though.
Also, I loved the creepy pants idea and designed my own system using your idea of synthetic material. I had some scraps of Supplex (kind of a fake Gore-tex material), so I sewed together basically a big bag, open at the top (using a variation of the woman’s system in the video) with 4 loops sewn at the top which are attached to bungee cords. Then I have a pull string at the bottom where I can release the vermicast – similar to your cable ties. I then put some newspaper and egg carton cardboard material at the bottom to absorb the moisture, then some food scraps, then the worms from my bin and the rest of what wasn’t digested from the bin as well as more food scraps that had been sitting for a couple weeks. I then added a layer of fresh bedding at the top and watered it all down. Now it’s cooking.
Based on your example and the video, I’m wondering what will keep all the material from falling out when the cords are released at the bottom. Also, I understand the why bedding is placed at the bottom initially, but this will fall out when the castings are released and it will be difficult to replace it – is this a concern?
Thanks for any thoughts and advice,
Thanks for the update! Sounds like you’ve really taken the idea and run with it. Way to go!
I’ll definitely be interested to hear how your synthetic funnel system works out for you. Pull strings are definitely a lot easier than cable ties, at least in terms of releasing the material from the bottom.
Speaking of which, I suspect that when the ties are released it will be a bit of a delicate maneuver to get the castings out. I will likely keep a tight grip and release a little at a time. I’m sure most of the bedding at the bottom will come out basically intact (since I don’t think too much moisture is getting down there), but that’s ok. This bedding is mainly just there to absorb moisture early on when the fresh materials are a lot closer to the bottom. By the time everything is up out of the legs into the main compartment, the lower regions will likely remain fairly dry anyway so bedding won’t be needed.
Something I noticed from Debbie’s link to the Australian gardening site. The bag/pants don’t have to be hung from something. You can set them on the ground. I’m thinking if you leave them in a container with a little water at the bottom (at least to begin with) you won’t have to worry about them every day. As the system gets fuller, you just water the top.
I’m hoping to expand my ‘global worming’ as they reproduce and thought about cutting off the pants legs, so you have two individual ‘bins’ and neither will be quite as heave, then propping them up in a garbage pail.
I also think the harvesting will be a 2 person job, one to untie the bottom and keep it over the collecting container one to manually control how much can get out. Whoops, now that I think about it, just lie the thing on it’s side!
Sorry for the delay responding.
There are certainly lots of possibilities when it comes to setting up cloth funnel vermicomposters.
My only concern with keeping one on the ground is that the point of contact will likely rot a lot more quickly than the rest of the pants (assuming it is not a synthetic material).
Anyway, keep us posted on your “global worming” efforts!
In the spirit of “free” and “low-cost”, I have a worm bin (_not_ continuous feed) made from an old dishwasher, just the door and inner “liner”, turned on its back with the door lifting up. I plugged the big hole at the bottom with some old CDs some inside, some outside, and a couple old ball-point pens with a stout wire going through the hole in the CDs to hold them together (a zip time might be more durable). I drilled some holes in the “new bottom” for drainage. I have been using it almost 10 years.
I have another worm bin (also not continuous feed) made from some 5mm-ish (1/4″-ish) wire mesh (hardware store) that is maybe 1 metre (3 feet) wide and I made a tube out of it to fit closely inside an old trash can lid. I buried the bottom 10-15cm (4-6″) in dirt to keep animals from burrowing under, and wrapped an old tarp around the outside to reduce the breeze blowing through. The tarp was already old and I doubled it up, the outer layer has rotted in the sun but also protected the inner layer which is still good. Again, almost 10 years. I occasionally see dig marks around the bottom, but have never had an animal dig (or gnaw) through. Even with the tarp, this one tends to run dry because it is well-drained and well-ventilated.
Neither composts stuff fast, and a lot of seeds survive the trip, but both are pretty much no-brainers to use.
Wow, it’s pretty amazing to realize that Robyn’s post here and Bentley’s idea is how the worm inn started. Quite fascinating tbh!
Do the worms produce many babies this way as well, or is it primarily for the vermipost?