Worm Bin IV

Drip, Drip, Drip - liquid food for worms

That is IV as in ‘intravenous’ not “4” by the way!

I seem to be on a roll with getting posts published today, so I figured why not continue to ‘go with the flow’.

As you may recall me mentioning, I am now basically an open vermicomposting system convert. I love the fact that the air flow in these bins is so much better and they don’t end up with water pooling in the bottom – so it is easier to produce good quality vermicompost.

While I still love my Vermicomposting Trays, I’m starting prefer using shallow (but still deeper than the trays) 55 liter Rubbermaid tubs (without a lid, of course). I find these hold moisture a bit better, plus I can fit two of them per shelf on my vermi shelving unit, while only a single tray will fit on each shelf.

Since these open systems DO gradually dry out over time, I have to periodically water them to ensure that the worms stay nice and moist down below, and that the decomposition process continues to move along.

I’m not a big fan of just dumping water on them however, since it generally just runs straight to the bottom without really soaking the composting mass. Sure, it does get wicked up and spread around over time, but still – I’d rather introduce the water at a rate that will allow for it be be soaked up right away. My preferred method when in this frame of mind is the use of a spray bottle, BUT – as anyone who has tried this can attest – it just takes SO long to make any progress.

A little while ago, on a whim I decided to play around with a little contraption that basically releases liquid from a bottle at a fairly slow rate. The cool thing is that – unlike the spray bottle – with this I can set it up then leave it sit (well ok, it is technically hanging from a ceiling pipe in the basement) while I do other things.

You could even add some liquid ‘food’ if you wanted to. For example, today I mixed some baking yeast pellets with water and started dripping it down onto one of my tray systems. I haven’t really tested this out before, but I suspect that the worms will congregate in the region with the yeast water. Even if they don’t directly feed on the yeast (which I suspect they actually would), the increase in microbial activity in this zone would certainly translate into a nice buffet of microbes for the worms to munch on.

I don’t imagine too many people will have a bottle exactly like this (I’ll spare you the details on what it’s original intended use actually was – haha), but I’m sure it wouldn’t be all that hard to rig up something similar, especially if you happen to be the creative type!

Anyway, I will be sure to report back on the results of the yeast feeding!

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    • Saravanan
    • January 8, 2009

    Hi Bentley ,

    I’m a big fan of your websites , I find a lot of useful information regarding vermicomposting and helps me a lot starting my own vermicompost here at Malaysia ( the other side of world ) . I did tried out your worm bin setup ( from your youtube vidoe ) but sadly I find a lot of maggots in my worm bin after I let it rot for a week as per your advise. FYI , I used cardboard as bedding and add food scrap from our local wet market ( no meat or dairy product ) such as fruits and vegetables . I also use EM , mix with water to moist the cardboard and food scrap mixture . I did notice some fruit flies flying on top of my bin. What went wrong pls advise.

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2009

    Hi Saravanan,
    You have highlighted one of the potential negatives of my approach. Since the system is sitting without worms to process the materials, other creatures have an even better opportunity to colonize the system. One thing I should add to my instructions is the importance of keeping organisms out of the bin while it ages. Covering the holes with some sort of breathable material (with spaces to small for creatures to get through) is probably the best bet. Or even putting the entire bin inside some sort of tightly closed breathable cloth bag.

    Once the worms are added, the other creatures should decline in numbers somewhat, but it will be tough to completely erradicate them unfortunately. I would probably just let the bin sit without disturbing it for several weeks or more (perhaps starting a new one, using the preventative measures mentioned above). Or try putting it in a freezer for a few days (before adding worms obviously) – this should kill off all the invaders.

    Hope this helps


    • Patricia
    • January 11, 2009

    Bentley, could you give a little more info on the use of yeast in a worm bin? Liquid or dry? Quantity? etc.

    • Pamela
    • February 3, 2009

    Bentley –

    Very compelling site you have here – I have read the archives almost nonstop for the past two days. After having read Worms Eat My Garbage and The Worm Book, I found I still had questions that had me hesitating to get cranked up with my own little worm farm, but your site has answered a lot of my questions. I’m going container shopping this weekend, and then will order some worms! Yay!

    Couple of things – one, I recognize your drip bottle there! I used one myself once, and it was miserable, and I think I like your usage of it a lot better. 🙂 Do you reckon an empty water bottle with some very small holes poked in it, put in or on the bin would work to hydrate gradually? Kind of like a drip hose but without the water pressure? (I no longer have a “worm waterer” like yours in the picture.)

    Also, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what kind of worm bin to use, since right now, space is at a premium for me, and I like the flow-through concept. I’d like to have multiple bins, or at least multiple trays, but I’m just too cheap to buy one at the prices they’re going for. I was wondering about your opinion on this idea:

    Around here, at almost any big-box store, you can find these little two-drawer or three-drawer containers made of plastic for about twenty bucks. The drawers are made of translucent plastic, and they fit into a plastic outer frame. There aren’t any rollers or anything for the drawers to slide on. It’s very low-tech, good for holding papers and office supplies, great for college kids or adding extra drawers cheaply to closets. Anyway, I was wondering if perhaps I could convert one of those into a flow-through worm system, if I drilled holes in the sides and around the tops and in the bottoms of each drawer. Pop a tray with a lip underneath the whole shebang, maybe cover the outside of the drawers with landscaping cloth to give the worms a little darkness and privacy. Pull out the drawers to add bedding and food, close ’em back up when you’re done, etc. etc. Do you know the kinds of drawers I’m talking about? If so, with your worm farming experience, do you think that would work?

    I’m torn between trying this for my first batch of worms, or going with the tried and true Rubbermaid bin. I can only order a pound of two of worms right now, and until I have a better stock of worms, am hesitant to experiment too wildly with alternate bin systems.

    One more thing: the vermicompost from your plastic bins – how did you dry it? How long did you dry it? Do you want it to retain roughly the same moisture level that you find in pre-bagged potting soil? Can you dry it out completely without ruining it or weakening its efficacy? I would like to bag up some of my vermicompost – you know, when I have some three months from now – to give to my gardener brother, and I want to know how to properly process it since it won’t be going straight from bin to garden.

    Sorry for such a long-winded comment, but man, big ups for such a fantastic site!

    • Bentley
    • February 4, 2009

    Hi Pamela!
    Sorry for the delay getting back to you. Thanks for the kind words.
    I like your water bottle idea – I think that could work very well!

    I’ve had similar ideas about those plastic drawer sets – I’d love to hear how it works for you if you try it out. Definitely cover it up though – those would let in a LOT of light. I think another potential issue would be getting the material in one drawer up flush against the next drawer (to encourage migration). Also – unlike the tightly fitting stacking systems, the worms could get out from the drawers themselves and end up falling down to the bottom of the outer shell – might get a little messing trying to open and close the drawers (squished worms and falling materials). Just some thoughts.

    I definitely recommend “tried and true” for at least one of your systems – this should be a good insurance policy in case something goes wrong with the drawer system.

    Drying out vermicompost is pretty straight-forward. (not sure which of my plastic bins you are talking about though). I tend to be pretty lazy about it, simply leaving it to sit in an open bin. If you laid out some corrugated cardboard (multiple layers if really wet stuff) on a basement floor and dumped the material on top, it should be in good shape relatively quickly. For longer term storage you might want to put it in plastic bags with air holes or some other type of ‘breathable’ bag.

    Hope this helps!

    • Julie
    • February 6, 2009

    hahaha I have a “worm waterer” exactly like that too! I have at last, thanks to you, found something I can actually use it for SUCCESSFULLY!!!

    • Barb V.
    • April 28, 2010

    Bently …. I didn’t see a follow-up to your feeding baking yeast to worms.[Worm Bin IV . 1/09] I infused newspaper with some yeast and put in one of my bins. Plus, put the ‘foam’ from the yeast into a few places in my in-ground pit. Then I found a comment online saying not to feed bread to worms, as the yeast is still alive [?] and will kill the worms.[described what I have read is a symptom of protein poisoning – horrible] I removed the yeast-infused newspaper roll, but the ‘foam’ place was swarming with worms and all gone [in just 2 days] I will watch that ‘foam’ spot for sick/dying worms, but can you allay my fears? Did you have any adverse effects from your IV experiment?

    • Jillian
    • November 9, 2010

    Ha! I know exactly what that is. Fantastic use for it after it has served its purpose.

    • Carolyn
    • November 10, 2010

    Looking at the picture closely I was relieved to read baking yeast pellets mixture. What a great way to hydrate the little ones. You deserve an award for most creative reuse.

    • gwelch
    • August 26, 2012

    Had and idea about water…something like they use at supermarkets on the produce…a timed watering system… not sure that would work it is an idea….(may have to see if I can set something up…hummm…piping…pump…)
    Sorry…anyways if someone does come up woth this or knows of something like this already please let me know

    Happy Worm Time…

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