Yesterday I decided to harvest vermicompost from my WF-360 (so I am now back to one tray). It probably seems like I’ve been neglecting the bin for a while now – and it’s true, I have. But there’s more to it than simply being occupied with other things. Rather than continuing to provide the worms with lots of rich food waste, I decided to let them go hungry for a bit so they would convert more of the bedding material into vermicompost. Judging by the look of the material in the lowermost tray (i.e. the stuff I harvested), I’d say the strategy worked quite well.
Truth be told, I hadn’t even considered harvesting this early due to the fact that I was only on the second tray. In my mind it made sense to keep moving upwards with new trays until the very last tray (4th in my case) was full. An e-mail exchange with Kate (from Nature’s Footprint) reminded me of the fact that it’s the time (passed since starting the bin) that’s probably a more important consideration than the number of active trays.
Kate also shared with me a very cool (and easy) approach for harvesting the vermicompost without losing lots of worms (one of my other concerns had been the fact that most of the worms were still in the lowermost tray). It’s similar to my own “turbo light harvesting method“, but rather than ending up with a gob-o-worms down at the bottom of a harvesting tub, you’re using two Worm Factory trays – driving all the worms from the upper down to the lower tray.
My first step was to create a new “bottom tray” (which, as touched on earlier, is now my only tray). This involved lining one of my unused trays with newsprint, and then simply transferring to it all the material from my second tray.
Once all the material was transferred from tray #2, I placed my new “bottom tray” underneath the tray I wanted to harvest vermicompost from (the original “bottom tray” – confused yet? lol). At this point I had the system sitting underneath a bright lamp so as to drive the worms downwards.
Before removing any material I loosened it up quite a bit with my trusty hand fork. The disturbance, combined with the increased light penetration helped to get the worms moving down. After leaving everything to sit for a little while I started slowly scraping off the upper layers of vermicompost and then loosening more material down below.
There was still some intact bedding in the tray – primarily the remains of the newsprint around the sides and at the bottom. I ended up removing most of this and transferring it to my Worm Inn system since there were quite a few worms living in it, and (obviously) it wasn’t yet “finished”.
I ended up finding some pretty serious concentrations of worms in places – typically associated with the remaining bedding.
All in all, I was really impressed with the look of the vermicompost I removed, and the ease with which I was able to drive the worms into the tray below! Apart from a few stragglers congregated along the sides (where there are no grate holes), the vast majority of them seemed to head right down even before the light hit them.
After all the vermicompost had been removed, I took off the harvesting tray and provided the worms with a long-overdue meal of peeled carrots. Inspired by a recent “Worm Brief”, I also added some rich “living material” (which actually contained loads of tiny worms) from another bin. As per usual, I topped everything with a layer of shredded cardboard before putting the lid back on.
As for the vermicompost, I am storing it in a former worm bin. The idea is to keep it fairly moist while still providing it with a good supply of oxygen.
I’ll let everyone know when I start using it!
Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I’ve been procrastinating on VC harvest because it’s such a pain. I tried this method over the weekend and it’s SOOO much easier! (I have a DIY stackable system–two 5-gal buckets with holes drilled, set into a third undrilled bucket to catch leachate and stray worms.)
how long can casting be stored and how(what tecnhiques)
i wanted to know if you could tell me.
how many days passed with the worm factory until
you first harvested ?
and about how much food did you put in there until the first harvest.
an approximation would be good 🙂
great post !!!
TERRI – you are very welcome. Glad it helped!
TOMMY – hard to say for sure. It all depends on how they are stored. If they are in some sort of breathable, enclosed container (an old worm bin could work well) in a cool location, I’m sure they could remain potent for quite some time. That is what I’ve done with this batch to allow for some initial “curing” – but I suspect I’ll start putting them to use before too long.
TAL – I started the bin on November 3. I’m not 100% sure how much waste was added (didn’t weigh it all) but I suspect it was somewhat less than 10 lb. I let it sit for longer than I needed to at times though (i.e. don’t assume that I was operating at max capacity, that’s for sure). If you want to read through my WF-360 posts for more info, just click on the “Worm Bins” category over in the sidebar.
Just wanted to thank you for a great website, well written articles and so many good pictures. While books and and other websites have been good a good start, yours is the best by far because of all your great close-up shots and routinely updated postings on the progress of your bins.
Very well done, Bentley. The time you’ve spent and your attention to detail is so appreciated.
Thanks, Jan (and sorry for the lengthy delay responding)!!!
Thank you, Bentley, for your informative articles and posts! You saved the day for me; I woke up to ants in my worm bin in sunny Southern California and am confident now in how to keep my red wrigglers happy sans an ant take-over. I agree that your site is the best because of your understandable and practical items, along with the terrific photos. Hope you know that your time and efforts are appreciated. Keep up the great work, which benefits us all!
I have an 8-tray WF360 and didnt quite follow the directions. After reading posts about others’ experiences, I realized that I would probably never use all 8 trays If I waited until one was full before adding another. My solution was to fill all 8 at once. It has worked like a charm. I had more area for the worms and they appear to have used every inch nicely. I recently harvested the bottom tray and there were a ton of thread-like babies and thousands of cocoons. To avoid losing any of the cocoons/babies I set up a nursery in an old bin too (great minds think alike) and plan on re-harvesting in a couple months before these new worms become breeders. I’ll also keep you updated with my progress Bentley.
Thanks for the great site,
Hi RWC Bentley,
Last week I received my 5 tray WF360. I have also completely read your .pdf (very helpful).
Question: Could I improve my WF360 by drilling small holes into the sides (and top) of the bins? It would increase aeration yes? Does increased aeration NECESSARILY imply improved throughput of castings? Or do you think that the WF360 designed such that no more aeration would improve it?
Is there any downside/negatives to drilling small holes into the sides of the bins (or the top)?
Thanks for this great website & all your helpful investigations/reports. U da Man!
@ JD …. The comment isn’t appearing on here, but it showed up in my email. I’ve had an 8-tray worm factory 360 running since January. In my opinion, there is definitely no need to drill additional holes for aeration. The aeration of this system out of the box is great. I’ve never had a problem with anaerobic conditions and the worms absolutely live this bin. The top tray is really the only one you will have to worry about. It dries up pretty quickly because of the airflow, but not too quickly. Whenever my newspaper layer starts to dry, I spray it.
Thanks Adam for jumping in and fielding questions!
Just wanted to mention that the reason comments sometimes don’t appear (even though they’ve been added – and subscribers to the thread receive them via email) is that I have a caching plugin (helps to reduce demand on site resources) so what you are seeing is the cached version. Definitely annoying when it comes to comments, that’s for sure – but all in all, a very beneficial tool.
I have deleted the cache so JDs comment (and your latest, Adam) are now there for everyone to see.
BTW Adam – I can’t imagine having an 8 tray worm factory AND using all the trays at once. That’s crazy! lol
I think my biggest issue with that approach would be the effort involved in trying to feed all the various trays (since none would be “finished”) – I get annoyed dealing with ONE tray that needs to be lifted up (always worried about the worms dangling down when I need to place it somewhere). Haha
That being said- I’m definitely a subscriber to the “whatever floats your boat” school of thought (lol), so all the more power to ya!
Thank you very much Adam. This is exactly the info I was looking for.
Bentley, thanks for this comment. Even after reading your .pdf, I never quite understood why you didn’t like stacking trays as much as other products. Now I do.
I just ordered a new 360 and a batch of red wigglers. I am planning to grow organic vegetables to feed my family both indoors and outdoors. The worm compost will come in handy to feed the plants, especially in the winter. It is nice to find a site like this with more info.
Thanks for all the great info! I just added my 3rd box to the wf360. I cleaned the vc from the bottom tray and am letting it dry a bit. My wf has been operation since June 2013 when someone gave me a handful of red wigglers and we were off and running.
Question: I have never got any liquids to drain out into the collector. Is this normal? The vc was plenty “muddy” but did not drip with moisture.
Thank you. Cindi
I’m not Bentley and don’t have as much knowledge as he does yet, but I do own a worm farm. Included in my worm farm are (2) 8-tray Worm Factory 360s and another one that is 4 trays. I’ve never had and “muddy” castings. I actually use these systems whenever I have liquid to get rid of from my scraps. I pour it right in. The excess always drains out. I also never remove the castings from the reservoir where the worm “ladder” is located. The worms actually like a bit more moisture for breeding and that area is the perfect environment for breeding. If excess moisture isn’t draining, the spigot may be clogged or turned to the off position. Handle should be turned clockwise to open. Also…don’t worry about adding the trays slowly. I’ve always added them all at once. They’d need to be harvested before I ever got 8 trays on otherwise. More room just gives them more space to reproduce. I hope this all helps.
Bently and all,
Thanks for all the good info on the worm processing. I have just built my first work Inn and will be receiving my red wigglers this week. I look forward to learning the process and to feeding my plants some of that ‘crack’.
I’ll be checking in.