Mid-scale worm bin management
Binet Payne's method of
worm bin management is quite complex, but it can be summed up as
- Only add
as much food as your bin can handle. The first step is to
audit your food waste over the course of a month and then build an
appropriately sized bin that you stock with the right number of
worms. Then weigh your food waste each day as you put it in the
bins to make sure the amount of food is close to the daily
average. If you get a sudden glut of food waste, use the extra in
a traditional compost pile or feed it to your chickens rather than
overwhelming the worm bin (and promoting fruit flies.)
- Keep food under cover.
Every day when Binet's students add new food to her bins, they dig a
trench across the width of the bin, put in the food, break up any large
pieces of food with a shovel, then completely cover the food with
- Turn bins at least once a week
to double the compost speed. If you use the complicated
filling method I'll outline below, you'll need to turn each section
separately so that you don't mix old and new food waste together.
- Give your worms six weeks for the first
round of composting. Binet Payne splits each of her four
bins into eight sections and fills alternate sections every day, so she
has completely filled the 32 sections in her bins at the end of six
weeks. Although the method is complicated, I can see the utility
--- you don't overload one bin all at once, and worms can move between
areas with lots of fresh food waste and areas with fresh bedding as
necessary to keep themselves healthy.
your worms to migrate to fresh bedding after six weeks.
After the first six weeks passes and each of the sections in her four
bins are full, Binet Payne rakes the contents of each bin to one side,
leaving three quarters of the bin bare. The bare part of the bin
is filled with fresh bedding and is then divided into six sections,
which she will fill with food waste in the same alternate manner she
used to fill the bin the first time. Meanwhile, worms will be
migrating out of the older composting materials and into the fresh
bedding as they finish composting the older section.
- Move nearly completed compost to
the finishing bin. Five to ten days after raking the old
material to one side of the bin, begin to move those castings to a
finishing bin. The worms should have migrated sideways and down
out of the top two inches of the old material, so you can rake that
part off wth a hand rake. Wait a day and rake two more inches and
repeat until you're near the bottom of the bin. The last bit of
material may be chock full of worms, in which case it is scattered
across the new material in the rest of the bin to speed up
- Use castings only from the
finishing bin. The finishing bin is like another worm bin,
but the materials inside are nearly or completely done
composting. Binet Payne found that compiling all of the finished
castings into one bin made it easy for other members of the school to
use them in gardening projects and science experiments without
bothering the busy worms in active bins.
When I first read Binet
Payne's method, it felt overly complex, but as I sum it up for you, I
can see the importance of each step. For anyone who's not an
obsessive list-maker, though, I suspect this sytem would be tough to
stick to, which makes me think somebody needs to invent a system that
does all of the thinking for you. I've seen worm bins where you
fill the bottom bin up, stack on another bin which you fill up and into
which worms migrate as they finish the bottom bin, and so forth, but
this would be a very bulky system on any scale larger than a few cubic
feet. I'm sure we can come up with something better. Any
suggestions on how to scale this idea up to a farm-sized version?
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