Recently, I wrote about David L’s tub harvesting method, and mentioned my ‘modified version’ of the light harvesting method (promising to write about it soon). I managed to make a video about this on Friday, with the intention of sharing it with you before the weekend – but these darn things take SO LONG to upload!
Oh well – it’s always nice to have something to write about on Monday…
I apologize for the video kinda getting cut off at the end – I needed to keep it under 10 min and my memory card ended up filling just before the 10 min mark anyway. I also wanted to point out that the green bottle off to the right hand side is not a beer bottle (lol) – it is in fact a fruit fly trap I made a long time ago (haven’t had issues with these pests for quite some time)…honest!
In a nutshell (for those who want a quick synopsis), my ‘turbo’ light harvesting method involves the use of two shallow tubs, a table and a bright flourescent light fixture. The one tub is the ‘holding tub’ and contains material with high concentrations of worms. The other tub sits empty most of the time and is where the actual harvesting takes place. Basically, after I’ve let the worms munch away in their holding bin for a few days, I can start to transfer fairly small amount of material (with loads of worms in it) at a time over to the one end of the empty tub. The worms head down (away from the light) and I start scraping away vermicompost until I get to the bottom where there is a dense concentration of worms.
Rinse, and repeat…
For those of you thinking about doing this with a regular worm bin, simply dump the contents of the bin into the holding tub and let it sit for a few days. This will allow some time for the wet, anaerobic stuff to dry out (and become aerobic). As is the case the with the regular light harvesting method, it’s not all that much fun when the material you are trying to harvest is soaking wet.
Speaking of which, it is important to mention that the type of material you are trying to separate the worms from can have a major impact on the speed of this method. I’ve been using a really nice bedded horse manure (containing small wood chips) as of late and it has really helped to speed up the harvesting. Manure + straw for example takes a lot longer to work through, as will the contents of a regular home worm bin if you don’t let it mature for long enough and/or remove the bulky (undigested) stuff ahead of time.
The cool thing about this method is that it offers more than a means of transferring worms to a new bin. This way you are able to concentrate worms as well – especially useful for anyone interested in selling them.
As I suggest in the video, it really helps to use the light to your advantage – rather than getting to the point where you are basically picking the worms out (time consuming!!) prior to hitting the serious concentration at the bottom, simply loosen up the material a bit, which lets in more light, then step away from the task for a little while. I like to do a bunch of different things while I am harvesting so as to limit the amount of time spent picking worms.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that this is a great way to harvest large quantities (5 lb+) of worms, but it has certainly served me well for my small worm biz up here in Canada (not to sound like a broken record, but again, this is totally separate from the worm business based here on the RWC website, which relies on large-scale U.S. worm farmers with real equipment! haha ).
Fruit fly trap! That sounds wonderful! Can you give us instructions on making that?
I will have to try this method. I have been using David’s method (first time harvesting) and I have not had much movement and its been about 2 weeks. Maybe the holes are too small or the material in the new bin is not appealing.
I knew there must be a faster way to harvest worms/casting from my worm bin, but I was having a tough time seeing how I could speed it up! Thanks for the demo!
OMG Bentley! You Rock! I think I learned more from this vid than from anything I’ve read up until now! I’ve been using the rubbermaid bins and I’ve gotten really disgusted with it, because, like you said, the compost is horribly wet and muddy and a total mess, and having to sit on the cold basement floor separating out the worms was something I dreaded.
I’m sooo gonna use these new bins! You make it look simple! And the compost looks wonderful!
Thank you again for taking the time to shoot and share.
MARA – The fruit fly trap is very easy to make. Simply pour a small amount of apple cider vinegar into a bottle or jar, with a drop of detergent (dish soap etc). Put plastic wrap over the opening and punch some small holes it (I use fork tines). Swirl the cider around to release more smell and there you have it – all done.
As for your worms not wanting to go down – that likely means the material they are in now is not far enough along (still plenty to feast on) and/or the new system is not tempting enough (as you suspected). If you look at the photo of the material David was removing worms from, it basically looked like pure vermicompost (all dark soil-like stuff) – worms should be happy to abandon this stuff in favor of a new (yet aged – haha) system.
JEFF – glad you liked it. This method does obviously take up some room, and potentially require some purchases being made. But fluorescent fixtures really aren’t all that expensive (definitely doesn’t need to be a grow light like the one I have), and any old table will do.
KIM – I remember you wanting a bit more info about the tub systems I use. Glad this video proved to be the missing link for you. I find that Rubbermaid bins with the dimensions mentioned in David’s tub harvesting method post, sitting without a lid, are just as good as these black bins though – no mucky stuff.
i just harvested for the first time, I also use the rubbermaid bins. The method I used was kind of a mash-up of this and David’s method. From a local wormer I picked up a frame/tray made of wood and 1/4″ hardware cloth ($7). Lay the tray on top of the new bedding, dump a 1″ layer of compost and worms on top and expose to the light. It worked pretty well. I posted photos on my flickr page, linked from my name above.
I use a similar system that I developed. I start with a large plastic bowl and fill it with damp shredded cardboard. I then take a plastic flower-pot base (which collects run-off water from the flower pot) and set it on top. In the flower pot base I have drilled many 1/4″ holes. I fill the base with the castings (and worms) to about 1″ high and set it out in the sun. The worms immediately begin to move down through the holes into the damp shredded cardboard below, leaving the castings 95% clean of worms.
What’s left are usually the little guys plus lots of cocoons. I dump this into a large holding bin for further processing and start again.
How much material you can harvest in one day depends only on how many bases you have to work with. At present I have 15.
Sure, drilling out 15 bases was a lot of work, but it only needs to be done once.
At the end, it’s fairly easy to separate the worms out from the wet cardboard in the plastic bowl and the cardboard can then be used as bedding in a new bin.
[img]Flower pot base.jpg[/img][img]Flower pot base with holes.jpg[/img][img]Plastic bowls.jpg[/img][img]Wet shredded cardboard.jpg[/img][img]Plastic bowls filled with wet shredded cardboard.jpg[/img][img]Bowls and bases.jpg[/img][img]Finished bin ready for harvesting.jpg[/img][img]Castings and worms before sifting.jpg[/img][img]Worms moving down through holes.jpg[/img][img]Wet cardboard with worms and some castings.jpg[/img][img]Cardboard with worms.jpg[/img]
Sorry about the pictures not loading. I was afraid that might happen.
Any suggestions on how to upload pictures would be greatly appreciated.