Worm Inn Journal – 09-10-09

my new worm inn pro stand
New homemade stand with a Worm Inn Pro ready to go!

Well, it’s certainly been awhile since I’ve written anything about Worm Inns! For quite some time I have had two of these systems up and running in my basement, and have been really impressed with the quality of vermicompost they produce.

I must admit to being a wee bit disappointed with the stands I bought for them however. While inexpensive, and seemingly an ideal size, they’ve become more and more unstable as the weight of the systems have increased over time. Apart from that – in order to actually harvest vermicompost I’ve had to prop the systems up on wooden planks, and even then it is a pain! The good news is that there ARE really nice laundry hamper stands out there that will work a lot better than mine.

Earlier in the summer, Robyn (creator of the Worm Inn) sent me a batch of Worm Inn Pro models, so that I could sell them up here in Canada. This was my first time actually getting to see this version, and boy was I ever impressed!! I’ve decided to keep one of these systems for myself so that I can really put it to the test and see how it performs in comparison to my two ‘regular’ Worm Inns – hence me starting up the long-lost ‘Worm Inn Journal’ series once again.

Rather than buying another laundry hamper stand this time around, I opted to create my own stand. Well OK, my dad technically ended up building it (since he was over and was looking for some way to help out), but in spirit it was a team effort! We aren’t the best handy-men in the world, that’s for sure – but we’ve had some fun this summer building things!

By the way – the Worm Inn Pro you see in the photos is actually one I’ve been getting ready for a customer (I’m nice like that – haha). In future Worm Inn journal entries you will notice a different Worm Inn hanging on the stand. I’m still not sure which design I’m going to chose this time, so you’ll just have to wait and see!

Since I was already setting up the system for my customer, I thought it might not be a bad idea to take some pictures, and once again review the basics of setting up one of these systems.

The first thing I always do when first setting up an Inn – and something I always recommend to customers – is tying off the bottom. The drawstring tightening apparatus works perfectly fine for closing things off as far as keeping everything from falling out goes, but it’s not a bad idea to create a tighter closure initially just to make sure you don’t get wandering worms, or liquid coming out of the bottom. All I do is constrict the opening by tying a knot (with the drawstrings) just above the tightening gizmos. Once you perform your first vermicompost harvest you should be fine leaving it untied.

Next, I added a ‘false bottom’ of shredded cardboard (in this case, egg carton cardboard). This helps to separate the main composting mass from the bottom of the Inn, and provides a zone where any excess moisture can be absorbed before pooling in the bottom.

I then created a moistened food/habitat mixture to add over top of the dry shredded cardboard. A simple mixture would be fruit/veggie scraps mixed with moistened shredded cardboard. In my case, I had some nice juicer pulp on hand, along with some old leaves left over from last fall. As I’ve written before, brown fall leaves make an excellent secondary bedding (and food) material since the worms love them. They can also help to inoculate the system with beneficial microbes, so that never hurts. A little bit of compost from a backyard composter, or even a pinch of garden soil could be beneficial as well if you don’t have any leaves on hand.

Next, I thoroughly sprayed down the material in the system. Speaking of moisture – unlike an enclosed plastic ‘worm bin’ type of system, with an open flow through system like the Worm Inn it can be a lot easier for things to dry out – so adding moisture on a fairly regular basis (assuming you are not constantly adding loads of wet waste) may be something you’ll want to keep in mind.

If you were going to keep things simple, you could probably just add an additional layer of cardboard and stop there, leaving the system to sit for a period of time (at least a couple of days) before adding the worms.

In this case, I decided to add one additional layer of food waste (some baby spinach that was starting to get a little gamy), before topping up with more cardboard. I then gave the system one last spray down (I have been adding more moisture most days since then as well) before closing it up and letting it sit.

A couple days later I also ended up adding some ‘compost ecosystem’ material I happened to have on hand to help the worms adjust to their new home even more quickly, as well as to help hold moisture. Good (but sterile) alternatives would be peat moss of coco coir.

So there you have it! Once the system is up and running, I’d recommend keeping a nice thick layer of bedding up top at all times. The zippered screen lid is an excellent first line of defence against flying pests, but it never hurts to be extra careful – aside from that, the cardboard should also help to keep in some moisture. By the way, speaking of the zipper – if you want to be super careful, you MAY want to add a piece of tape over the spot where the two zipper sliders (not sure of the technical term, haha) come together since there is a small hole here.

Anyway, I will certainly be writing more about my own Worm Inn Pro once it is set up and ready to roll, so do stay tuned!

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    • Glen
    • September 10, 2009

    What is the red fabric material used to make up the Worm Inn? I wouldn’t think it cotton? Vinyl perhaps? some other plastic?

    Thanks, Glen

    • Bentley
    • September 11, 2009

    Hi Glen – the material Robyn uses to make the Worm Inns is cordura, which is some sort of synthetic fabric. As you might imagine, most natural materials would end up decomposing over time (and would not retain moisture as well).

    • Rasha
    • September 11, 2009

    If it’s drying out too fast, you could wrap some sheet plastic around it, loosely, leaving the bottom open for air to circulate up around the sides.

    I’m making a small version of these, from of the cut-off top of a 5-gallon bucket (with lid) and some doubled 95% shade cloth. I expect I will have to add the plastic sheeting to the outside to keep it from drying out too fast.

    • Bentley
    • September 11, 2009

    It’s not a matter of it drying out too quickly – I simply meant that unlike a plastic worm tub (enclosed), you do generally need to add moisture to a system like this. This extra aeration is really helpful since it speeds up the composting process and results in higher quality compost.

    I suspect that your shade cloth version will dry out a fair bit quicker, but the plastic should help.

    • Robyn
    • September 16, 2009

    This is a great description of how to set up an Inn! I love the stand your dad made – looks super sturdy!

    • Bentley
    • September 16, 2009

    Thanks Robyn – I am definitely looking forward to using this stand! No longer will I dread trying to harvest the vermicompost! lol

    • Eric
    • April 10, 2010

    Hi Bentley,

    I’m really looking forward to receiving the Worm Inn that I recently ordered from you. This stand your dad built looks like just the ticket. Would you mind posting the dimensions? It should be easy enough to figure out but since yours looks just right and is done, after all, figured you wouldn’t mind taking a few quick measurements. If not, no big deal.

    • Bryan Grady
    • April 13, 2010

    Hi Bentley, I also would like to have the dimensions posted. It looks much stronger than the PVC one that I am building. Many thanks for your site!!

    • Bentley
    • April 13, 2010

    I will posting the specs in the form of a blog post (with photos) very soon!
    Thanks for the nudge (should have done this a long time ago)

    • Bryan Grady
    • April 13, 2010

    Hi Bentley,
    I built the PVC based stand that you show at the end of your recent post. I used the following dimensions:

    Verticle pieces: 4 ea 36″ lengths Sched 40 PVC
    Horizantal pieces: 8 ea 18″ lengths Sched 40 PVC
    The special 3-way corner pieces can be purchased from Jerry for a fair price. All joints need to be glued. A $8US PVC cutter very easily cuts the pipe. The important info is that the pipe needs to be Schedule 40 for rigidity, don’t use the thin wall pipe. Set up took me maybe 45 minutes start to stop. But, I will probably paint the stand forest green to match the Worm Inn.

    Thanks again for a great website!!

    • Bentley
    • April 14, 2010

    Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for the additional info! You mind if I add a copy of this in the comments section of the latest post?

    • Bryan Grady
    • April 14, 2010

    Hi ya, feel free to add a copy to the comments section. B>

    • Carie
    • August 28, 2011

    Gosh, these things look so cool. I am looking for a new way to compost my kitchen scraps. I don’t even garden, I just don’t want to throw the stuff away when it could go back to the earth. I am just having trouble picturing how one gets just a small amount of the finished product out without the whole contents dumping out. I just really want something that is easy, if possible. Any chance you could direct me to a really good video of this thing in use from beginning to end? Do these come with detailed instructions? Also, I am a juicer and am wondering if these things will take a nice large batch of new material everyday? I’m just having trouble really envisioning the details. Thanks – Carie!

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