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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!

Written by Bentley on July 29th, 2010 with 9 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting Tracy M
#1. July 29th, 2010, at 4:20 PM.

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.

Get your own gravatar by visiting Kator
#2. August 1st, 2010, at 2:01 PM.

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?

Get your own gravatar by visiting Dani
#3. August 2nd, 2010, at 2:24 AM.

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!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting Bentley
#4. August 2nd, 2010, at 2:25 AM.

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!

Get your own gravatar by visiting Bentley
#5. August 2nd, 2010, at 2:39 AM.

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!

Get your own gravatar by visiting Kator
#6. August 6th, 2010, at 7:01 PM.

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

Get your own gravatar by visiting Yvette
#7. September 29th, 2010, at 11:56 PM.

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!

Get your own gravatar by visiting Bentley
#8. September 30th, 2010, at 2:29 AM.

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.

Get your own gravatar by visiting Kator
#9. September 30th, 2010, at 8:48 AM.

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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