Wooden Stacking Bin – The Return!

Recently, I decided to dust off (quite literally) my old wooden stacking worm bin and get it set up and ready for some worm composting action once again. I’ll be honest – I am NOT a huge fan of stacking systems, for a number of reasons, but when it comes down to it I really haven’t tested them out as much as I should. Lots of people have ’em (and love ’em), so I do receive questions about their use on a fairly regular basis. Wooden systems are certainly a different kettle of fish than plastic systems, but a lot of the same (stacking system) principles apply.

So what are my plans, you ask?

Of course, I need to add some “twists” here – I can’t simply set it up in a totally normal manner. That would be too easy!

I’m not going to do anything completely off the wall, but there are a couple of things I want to test out with this project. For starters, I have decided to keep this bin outside for as long as the weather cooperates (i.e. until it gets too cold). I have plenty of outdoor systems – and now actually prefer to do most of my vermicomposting outside, but I still tend to keep all my smaller “worm bins” indoors. I’ll be interested to see how well the system performs, and what sorts of issues/differences I might end up encountering.

Secondly, I aim to ONLY add shredded cardboard and coffee grounds (with filters). I’ve never tried a solely coffee grounds (as food) system, and a number of people have asked if this is possible recently – so I thought it might be fun to test it out!

Setting up the bin was very straightforward. I started with multiple layers of newsprint laid down over the screen bottom of the first tray.

Next, I added some shredded (drink tray) cardboard, along with some frozen coffee grounds I’d been saving up for a number of days.

I then simply added more cardboard over top and put on the lid.

Notice I didn’t add any of the other trays initially? (hint hint)
I think one of the most common misconceptions among new vermicomposters with stacking systems is this idea of setting the entire thing up all at once – perhaps this is something the manufacturers suggest doing? I have no clue – but what I DO know is that in order to fully take advantage of the principles of “flow-through” (aka “continuous flow) vermicomposting, we are much better off starting at the bottom and working our way up.

As for the worms…

I will likely wait until at least next week before adding the Red Worms (even if I had lots of Euros on hand, I wouldn’t use them in a stacking system since they definitely tend to prefer a deeper bed). I want the system to be well-aged, and to contain a sufficient quantity of grounds by the time I get started. As far as initial quantities of worms go, I will more than likely add the equivalent of a single bag of “Red Worm Culture” (a product I sell up here in Canada) – which might be the equivalent of 500 worms or so.

I have a sneaking suspicion that keeping the system nice and moist is going to be my biggest challenge. I haven’t had much luck with coffee grounds in well-ventilated systems before – so it will be interesting to see if I can somehow overcome this hurdle.

Anyway – that’s it, that’s all! Should be fun!

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    • Tracy M
    • July 29, 2010

    Oh Goody! I’ve set my bin up as a stackable. They’re about 9″ deep and I started the first level about 2 months ago. They’re also clear which makes it alot more fun for me because I can lie on the floor and watch them eat. (Freaky).

    But I started with 2 lbs of redworms and I’ve started aging and preparing the next level 2 nights ago. I’m not quite sure when I’ll add it but it seems like I had a population explosion and then no more babies. Hopefully this will give them some more room. But I’m really excited to see what happens with yours.

    • Kator
    • August 1, 2010

    I have a great source for plenty of coffee grounds however they are acidic and I read somewhere that reds don’t thrive in acidic environments. Is this an issue?

    • Dani
    • August 2, 2010

    I have been feeding my worms strictly black and white newsprint and…lots of coffee grounds! I’ve had this system for 2 months now, lots of happy caffienated worms! They are growing really fat, and the coccoon production is awesome! I have used my worm poopy dirt on my scrawny pothos and it is so healthy and beautiful! Thanks for your site, I’m a fan of your work!!

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2010

    TRACY – Sounds like an interesting set-up. 9″ is certainly much more appropriate than the 3″ or whatever these trays are in this wooden system I’m using. The first tray is already stuffed with cardboard and grounds!
    KATOR – Red Worms are pretty tolerant of acidic conditions – and in fact seem to prefer a somewhat acidic environment (but yeah, if things get really acidic they won’t do well).
    Anyway – should be interesting!

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2010

    Dani – thanks for sharing that! I’ve definitely been hoping to hear from those people who have tried something similar.
    Glad everything has worked out so well for you!

    • Kator
    • August 6, 2010

    Great idea Tracy .. do you have a photograph of your setup that you can share? Does the top bin have a mesh bottom?

    • Yvette
    • September 29, 2010

    Coffee grounds only is a bad idea. I just washed out my bin today. All my worms are dead. The only remaining life was from Soldier worms/larvae/flies. I had my worm bin for more than a year and was very successful with using kitchen scraps. I went to a nursery and attended a program with a worm composting “expert.” I made some changes based on her recommendations. And I introduced so many coffee grounds there just wasn’t room for other food. I decided to remove some of the grounds in order to bury some vegetable scraps. But alas, my worms were no more. Two months ago I had a healthy and happy bin and today I have nothing. Don’t try this if you only have one bin!

    • Bentley
    • September 30, 2010

    Hi Yvette,
    Were you literally adding ONLY coffee grounds? Or did you add bedding materials as well?
    Something else I found is that not all grounds are created equal. I tried really finely ground dark roast coffee grounds a number of years ago and they were terrible – the worms seemed to hate them. The stuff I currently use (coarser grind), taking from my own coffee maker, doesn’t seem to create any problems. I will definitely continue to add quite a lot of bedding materials in addition to the grounds/filters as well.

    • Kator
    • September 30, 2010

    Wow Yvette – not good news. I was about to start adding coffee grounds to one of my bins which took months to mature, but as part of a mix. Your experience and Bentley’s words of caution give added meaning to the term, “Walk, Don’t Run.” I have a good source for grounds and would like to use them, but I think that I’ll set up a special trial bin to see if my grounds are accepted with vigor or distain (there may be another Great Escape) :).

    Sharing experience is always helpful and your information underlines the important value of having an active forum like this. Thank you, Yvette, for sharing; and, thank you again, Bentley, for sharing and making this possible.

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