Worm Factory 360 – My New Toy

As I wrote recently in the newsletter, a short time ago I was contacted by Kate Alldredge from Nature’s Footprint – makers of the “Worm Factory” series of worm bins (among other products). Her initial contact was innocent enough – she simply wanted to know more about my use of the parasitic nematodes, Steinernema feltiae (how effective they were against gnats and fruit flies etc). Well, as you might imagine (based on the title of this post), one thing led to the next, and Kate ended up asking me if I’d like to test out one of their Worm Factory bins.

(NOTE: We can also thank Kate for getting me thinking about – and then ordering – parasitic nematodes again!)

In all honesty, I’ve had a pretty long-standing mini-grudge (haha) towards stacking worm bins. I own a wooden model, and found that it fell short of expectations, and I’ve received a LOT of emails from vermicomposters encountering issues with their own plastic stacking systems. As such, the opportunity to ACTUALLY test out one of these bins myself could serve as a very valuable experience. I’m hopeful it will help me change my tune about stacking bins, and I DO think it will definitely help in terms of providing people with educated feedback regarding how to effectively use these things.

As is usually the case with “free stuff” – I was pretty excited about the arrival of my WF-360. My (almost) one year old even decided to get in on the action (he was so excited, in fact, that he spilled his drink – yeah, yeah, that’s it! lol)

Right off the bat, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of “stuff” that came with the bin. Here’s a list of the included items:

– manual
– instructional video DVD
– mini compost thermometer
– a bag of pumice (gravel basically – intended to help keep things well aerated)
– plastic hand rake
– plastic scraper thing (lol)
– a block of coir (coconut fiber – like peat moss)
– some sort of black plastic container – called a “sprinkler tray”
– even a bag of shredded paper/cardboard

It really does seem as though Nature’s Footprint wants to see new users get up and running effectively. I also must admit to being somewhat surprised by the size of the bin (see how it “stacks up” against a one year old above! lol). Already I can see how this one might work a fair bit better than the bin I tried previously (which has very shallow trays). Just generally, I really like to “look and feel” of the bin – almost seems like something my wife might tolerate being in plain view (haha) – not that I plan on pushing my luck! It seems very sturdy as well.

Part of the reason I’ve wanted to test out the “360” model was due to the fact that I was told it had improved aeration over other Worm Factories and other plastic stacking bins in general. For some reason I thought there were actually air vents in the corners of the trays, which in fact there are not. I guess if there was ONE potential “disappointment”, it might be the lack of any OBVIOUS major improvements in ventilation (I would still love to see one of these manufacturers actually put air vents in the trays and lid. That being said, one thing I DID notice was that the walls of each tray seem to curve inwards slightly, thus leaving an air space – there also may be a space at the corners as well. Hard to say for sure before actually getting this thing up and running!

I am going to resist the temptation to drill holes in the bin (haha) for the sake of properly testing it out as it is sold. I definitely look forward to getting the ball rolling!!

One of the things that came up on the recent survey was an interest in seeing more how-to stuff using different systems. Obviously doing a bit of a follow-along with the WF-360 is a great start. To make it even MORE interesting, I plan to also get my Worm Inn set up as well. NO, this is not intended as some sort of “head to head challenge” (lol) – it will be an educational look and how to use both of these bins, and to demonstrate how the care/maintenance might differ somewhat. I KNOW already that the Worm Inn works – and works well – and I’m quite optimistic that the WF-360 won’t disappoint either.

Now, for some serious stuff…


FULL DISCLOSURE


I want my community to be 100% clear on the terms of this arrangement with Nature’s Footprint. For starters, be assured that I told Kate I would only be interested in testing out the bin (or at least writing about it) if I was able to express my honest opinions. Also be assured that I am receiving NO financial compensation for this testing – my compensation is as follows:
A) I get a free WF-360 bin (whoohoo!)
B) Nature’s Footprint has agreed to give away one free WF-360 per month IF I can get 100+ readers to complete their survey (thereby entering themselves in a draw) – NOTE: I forgot to mention the 100+ entry minimum in the recent newsletter (sorry!)
c) Nature’s Footprint has also agreed to provide a 10% purchase discount for any RWC reader who orders from the special RWC page on the NF site (I can’t remember if one needs to fill out the survey for the 10% discount).

All I need to do in return is write about my use of the system periodically – as I told Kate, this is pretty much a given anyway, since I like sharing my vermicomposting activities here on the blog


With that heavy stuff out of the way – let’s NOW have a look at what my children did with the WF-360 box (funny how little kids can get more fun out of the boxes the “fun stuff” comes it – probably a lesson in there somewhere for us adults!):

Will write more soon – hoping to get the bin set up this week (along with the Worm Inn)

Stay tuned!
8)

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Comments

  1. I hope the Worm 360 works for you, if it does please let us know how. I’ve had mine for a year and it is now empty again. 2 thousand worms of mine have perished within the system. Some escaped, but many just died off and I can’t figure out for the life of me why. Thought maybe it was error on my part the first time so I started all over a few months later..same result…sigh. I had better luck with my homemade rubbermaid composting bin, they seem to flourish in there.I would love to use the 360 again, but I’m reluctant because I have already spent a fortune on replacement worms twice over.

    • Bentley
    • October 26, 2011

    Thanks very much for sharing that, Katerina! It’s all the messages like yours (although typically not quite so disheartening) about plastic stacking bins that’s served to make me skeptical of them, and thus VERY keen to actually put one of them to the test! I’m eager to show people how I would personally use a system like this – hopefully this will help others to see where they may have gone wrong with their own etc.
    Should be interesting!
    8)

    • Kathleen
    • October 26, 2011

    I have a Worm Cafe which is a stacking system like the Worm 360 for the last 18 months. Must say that it has been pretty successful. I did find that the worms seem to thrive better living in the more temperate temperatures in my garage rather than outside.

    • Melody Silverberg
    • October 26, 2011

    Have a WF standard model. It has worked very well, except for the minor inconvenience of the fly / gnat invasion last summer. I have been very pleased with the amount of compost I generate each month, and the ease of changing the bins. I started with a thousand worms and now have many multiples of that number. I keep a couple of inches in each corner clear of food and bedding. As you stack the bins, the air flows up through the holes. I also empty the liquid tray pretty often, and make sure the spigot is clear. I harvest a large tray of compost every 5-6 weeks. I think freezing the produce helps the worms break it down faster. I have mine inside, in the basement. Would not leave it in the kitchen, like in the advertisements. It is not suitable for that venue.

    • Carmela
    • October 26, 2011

    I’ve had my WF-360 for about a year and a half and had some success with it. Like Katerina, I experienced a mass vermicide last year when I made a HUGE mistake and filled the bin with a LOT of strawberry cuttings I got from the farmers market. Couple the amount of acide in the berries with the freak 113 degree temperature that day and I ended up with a gooey mess. They just melted like gummy bears in a microwave. Now I make sure that I avoid feeding them when the temperature is above 80, and if I absolutely must feed them during warm weather I do it in the evening. The thing about worms is they’re really resilient, though, and it takes a lot to knock ’em down for good!
    Another issue I’ve had is that sometimes there is a buildup of sludge in the worm-pee basin and the spigot gets clogged. That is not a fun fix. I have had to remove the upper levels then scrap/pour out the sludge and dismantle the spigot to clear it out. Not sure what I’m doing wrong to get this result, but I’m open to suggestions.
    I have also been reading about soldier fly larvae. From what I’ve read and experienced they really are fast when it comes to processing the food in the bin and I guess they don’t hurt the worms. But they have really multiplied in my bin in the last month or so, and I fear they might process the food a little too fast. To combat this problem and go back to housing my red wigglers exclusively I now put the kitchen clippings in a ziploc and freeze it for a couple of days. This, I’ve read, will kill any larvae already in the veggies. I then defrost and place in the worm bin as usual. Just began this experiment so I’ll let you know if you’re interested.
    I would love to hear from anyone who actually keeps their worm bin in their kitchen and how that works for them, but as for our family we’d rather not. When those soldier-flies hatch and (try to) fly away, they’re kind pathetic, in spite of their menacing appearance.

    • Dave
    • October 27, 2011

    You let your kids have that box?! Nowadays every time I see a nice big box like that, I think: BEDDING!

    • shirley
    • October 27, 2011

    where’s the survey we take to enter to win?

    • John
    • October 27, 2011

    I’ve had a 5 tray Gusanito system that has worked very well for the last 2 years. I keep it in the garage where temps can range from 35 to 90+ degrees. I agree with Melody’s point of keeping a couple inches clear of bedding in the corners to help the air flow. I think the problem most people have with the plastic stackable systems is temperature control and over-feeding. Even though redworms typically migrate up to their food source, I find a large number of worms throughout all the trays. My bottom 3 trays have some great VC and lots of worms even though I’m only feeding the top tray. I have also noticed that the worms tend to feed more heavily when I add powdered egg shells 2-3 times per week.
    I do freeze my fruit & veggie scraps and, thankfully have not “yet” had any problems with fungus gnats or fruit flies.
    I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your new toy.
    Man, your kids are growing so fast! Looks like they’re having a great time with that box

    • George
    • October 27, 2011

    Yes where is the survey?

    • Cindy
    • October 27, 2011

    I’ve been using the Worm Factory for several years now. It’s ok, but I find that even with draining off the liquid from the bottom tray frequently that the bottom tray of v-compost is always very wet – way too wet for sifting it. Mine is in the house since I live in a high plains desert area that has extreme temperatures. I’ve had trouble with flies and gnats – didn’t realize that freezing food scraps first would eliminate that issue, so I’ll have to give it a try if I can find room in my freezer!
    I have a hard time getting the trays to come apart because they tend to get heavy and want to stick together. The one nice thing is that I haven’t lost any worms and this bin did come with a “cloth” to cover the bottom liquid bin and help slow down the filling up of the spigot – and one for the top bin. I get alot of worms down in the liquid bin – they seem to love it there. Looking forward to getting my new vb-24 finished and see if I can keep the worms alive in the garage. Thanks for info!

    • Rich
    • October 27, 2011

    Bentley, I hope you enjoy the 360! I want to sign up for the drawing and the discount, so I will check and see if there are more details about that in the newsletter.

    On another note – what are you planning to do with the Leachate that the spout produces during the usage?

    • Bentley
    • October 28, 2011

    Hi Everyone – thanks for sharing your thoughts! Lots of great stuff here.

    Regarding the contest – while I was HOPING we could hold one this month, Kate let me know that unfortunately they still need to do some tweaking with the survey etc. So things will get rolling on November 1st. I will be letting everyone know via the newsletter, likely on Mon or Tues.

    RICH – Good question. Not 100% sure – if I ended up adding nematodes to this system I may try to test it as a fungus gnat / fruit fly control. We shall see.

    • Bob Mulcahy
    • October 29, 2011

    I’ve had a plastic bin system in my basement for almost three years. It took me some months to figure it out, but once it got going the results have been spectacular. The worms are so thick I’ve been worrying about overpopulation. Some recent spigot clogs are my only complaint. Great system!

  2. Hi Bentley,

    I am so excited to see how the Worm Factory 360 works out for you. I wrote a Worm Factory review on the original Worm Factory because I had some problems with it. I was always curious whether the new design helped with some of those problems. I am very happy with a plain old Rubbermaid bin and I don’t even put drainage holes in it. I never put the lid on tight and I go in about once a week and mix up the compost. My end product is not nearly as wet as the end product from the original Worm Factory. And I feel that the worms have more aeration and do better. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

    Sandie Anne

    • Ron
    • October 31, 2011

    I have just set up a WF 360 about two weeks ago as per the included instructions.
    Today I have added the first batch of worms.
    I am new at this stuff, but feel confident all will work well.
    I will feed them mainly organic fruit and vegitable pulp from my juicers .
    I am looking foward to watch and follow your results with the 360.
    R

    • Colleen
    • November 2, 2011

    I laughed when I read that you wanted to see a manufacturer put air vents in the trays and lids! My first homemade constructed lid for my worm beds had a 1X3″ wood trim frame with the middle being made out of the tiniest screen I could find – because air circulation is essential for a healthy worm bed. I watched in horrer as the little buggers stretched themselves through the wholes and get out when I first put them in! (I never knew worms were so FAST!!!) I should’ve had a video tape going… it was quite comical…

    • dcd
    • November 6, 2011

    Hi. I have the WF-360 operating since last june, 2011. I live in a tropical island which means high temperatures in summer. You just need to be careful with the type of food, because of the temp. changes. I have placed the system outside the house in a cool and shaded area. i have over 2,000 worms. i use to collect in a bowl the potatoes skins, coffee and its used bags, eggs shells, and sometimes other food scraps (no meats or greasy scraps) and place it in the fridge. Then, the saturday I serve food “ on the rocks`. I have collected over a gallon of vermicompost just scrapping the surface of several trays. i am not good in the art of patience. i know that this system uses the vertical way for the worms to migrate. but this is a long road. I also have found over 100 eggs the day I harvested the gallon. I think this system is very good for the people that is starting, like me. you just have to follow the instructions in the booklet or watch the DVD included. I recommend this system, DEFINETEVELY.

    • Ted
    • November 10, 2011

    I have found that the plastic bins don’t breathe well on there own, and if there is liquid coming out of the drain its too wet and anerobes are doing there thing. However a small aquairum air pump placed into the drain keeps the moisture from building up to a point of dripping and provides fresh air to the more compacted lower layers resulting in lots of worm activity. I live in the pnw so people in more arid climates would not need to do this.

    • Paula
    • December 8, 2011

    I have had my Worm Factory 360 for over a year. The worms do work thru the trays and eat all the food in the trays and move up. I stil hve to harvest the trays like I would a home made bin. Because there are still worms in the finished trays. But I don’t have any unfinished food or bedding to pick thru.

    • tyler
    • December 21, 2011

    yoyoyo bentley,

    i was out at a friend’s house a few days ago and he wanted me to take a look at his worm system… it was indeed a 360.

    Dude, I was pretty surprised. Mainly because there were flies everywhere, leachate all over the floor all around it, but every one of those trays had some killer castings in it. I definitely noticed the worms bucked the trend and just ate stuff from whatever tray and seemed to jump around…but nonetheless the system was productive, and he had it since springtime.

    Have you noticed the spigot clogging up yet? That was my friend’s major concern…and the flies.

    • Bentley
    • December 22, 2011

    Hi Tyler – that’s cool.
    I haven’t been getting much liquid down in the reservoir yet, to be totally honest – so certainly no spigot issues at this time.
    Sounds like your friend might want to start adding more dry, absorbent bedding materials, and perhaps hold off on feeding for a little while.

    • Tyler
    • December 22, 2011

    Yep, that’s exactly what I prescribed, as this happened to me with my first worm composting experiments… you taught me well!

    • Mary Phillips
    • December 29, 2011

    This is a great page! Just got my new worm factory 360 up and running a couple of days before Christmas with 1000 worms. They seem very tiny and don’t eat half of what they should. I am buildng up quite an over suppy of food for them.
    I keep them in my bedroom but found in order to keep the temprature down to even 70 F I need to keep the room door closed and the window open a crack. (16 F outside) In the summer I will have to keep them in the cold room in the basement to keep them cool enough. I found a couple of worms climbing up the sides today. Hope they don’t escape!
    I like to process the food before feeding. It says on the instructions to feed them about 1/2 lb of food per day but was wondering if I could feed them less often til the worms reproduce more.
    The only minor problem I have is that the top layer of damp newspaper stinks. (The worms don’t seem to mind)
    I am so excited to be able to actually watch them and see how things develop over the next few months.

    • Christopher Fausz
    • January 10, 2013

    I recently purchased a worm factory 360 and iam not for sure if i like it or not yet since im new to the world of composting. My wife says iam a tree hugger oh well between recycling and composting iam hoping to eliminate if not to at least reduce my overall trash that I place by the curb every week. as far as my com poster goes I tried ordering worms from uncle jim,s worm farm via internet and it was not a pleasant experience the worms had a extremely foul odor so i got rid of them and found a worm breeder locally and purchased a 1 1/2 pound of red wigglers. the problem iam having is the worms are trying to climb out of the bin until I take the lid off then they try to burrow again can anyone tell me how long do they try to escape so far I checked temp and its 70 degrees as far as food so far I have gave them one tomato cut up small, shredded newspaper, dryer lint , a little bit of corn meal and piece of card board which is laying on top of compost pile

    • Melody Silverberg
    • January 11, 2013

    In my experience, worms like a lot of cover to hide in. If things are too thin around them, they go looking for another place to hide. I have a small business, and all my plain paper is shredded for use in the bin. I even keep one tray on top with nothing in it but shredded paper, that way the lid can be off to improve circulation. I had great success with my worms from Uncle Jim’s, but time of year and temperature can really impact the condition your worms are in when they arrive. A few months after starting my bin, I was able to give worms to some friends who wanted to start composting with worms. I continue to get very good results from my Worm Factory system, and now that I am keeping it a little drier through use of more paper, the fungus gnat problem has disappeared. I would suggest you limit the really acidic foods in your system until you build up enough volume to help neutralize the acids. I don’t feed them citrus at all, and limit the tomatoes, too.

    • Christopher Fausz
    • January 11, 2013

    ok melody I tryed put tray in top of other tray with shredded paper and they still where trying to climb out of the bin so I took the bin off and put dry paper in the first bin where the worms actually are. like i said a good majority of the worms are staying in the bin. from what I have read is that worms are very restless for the first 1 to 2 weeks and that when they get use to there enviroment they will be fine. just trying to tell my wife to be patient because she is starting to hate stepping on worms

    • Christopher Fausz
    • January 11, 2013

    Is it a good idea to purchase a moisture meter to tell me what moisture content is and would a ph meter be a good thing to purchase also

    • Rocco
    • June 2, 2013

    I’ve had my Worm Factory 360 for about 6 – 7 weeks. At first I set it up all wrong with lots of coarse newspaper and not enough real bedding. As you can imagine the worms hated it and tried to leave in droves. I corrected the problem by using all the coir that was provided vs. half (recommended) and finely shredded newspaper – I used my paper shredder! that solved things. They have settled down and now My worms are migrating up, but still occupy all trays. I am recently getting a lot of “worm tea” and the lower trays seem rather wet all the time. I added more shredded paper and this seems to help. I keep the WF in the garage so the fruit flys dont bother me too much. But come winter, when I have to move them inside, I may have to try the freezing trick for scraps that so many of you refer to. Stay tuned – this is an interesting adventure.

    • Zeldar
    • December 8, 2013

    I have had my WF 360 for over 4 years now and have never had a die-off. Here what I do:

    I dump all of my fruit and vegetable waste, along with some coffee grounds and filters, into a large stainless bucket with a charcoal filter vented lid. Sometimes it takes many weeks for it to fill up due to the decomposition that occurs in the pail. Once it gets full, it’s usually a pretty gooey mess. I drain most of the liquid out in the back yard and dump the material into the WF 360. I usually alternate between halves of the top tray for how I distribute it in the WF. I then flatten it out and cover up the material with about an inch of shredded newspaper from my office cross-cut shredder. Note: Once I started using the shredded newspaper (instead of moistened sheets of newspaper, which is what the instructions say), my fruit fly problems ended. The only nuisances I have now are an occasional slug and some fungus on and off (mostly not a problem). I don’t add any water to keep the trays moist, they are just naturally about right. I think the coffee grounds help the moisture level. I don’t get a whole lot of worm tea, especially in summer, but when I do my plants love it. The WF 360 is in the storage space under our house (in northern CA) where the temperature ranges from 42 degrees in the coldest days of winter to 75 degrees in the hottest days of summer. Humidity is fairly high under there, which also probably helps. It is generally dark under there, but the worms do not try to leave. They seem very happy in their home. The only problem I have had is when I want to distribute the castings from the bottom bin, there are still worms in there. Even if the tray has been under other trays for months, some of the worms still hang out down there. Not a big problem. I take out what worms I can and put them into the top tray. The rest find their way into the planting beds. There is one other notable difference in how I operate the WF 360, I use a square of landscape fabric in the bottom of the bottom tray to prevent the soil from falling out of the bottom tray into the tea reservoir. This means that when I rotate trays, I have to turn the remaining trays upside down and move the landscape fabric into the bottom of the new bottom tray. The worms may find this somewhat disorienting, but it doesn’t seem to pose any problem. I have done it many times and everything is still working like a Swiss clock. Well, that’s my two cents.

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