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Stacking Worm Bins Improved

The Stacking Worm Systems Improved

There are worm growing trays built to stack. The trays are perforated on the bottom with the understanding that you can put new trays over finishing trays and the worms will migrate upwards to follow the food. For examples: Worm Factory, Vermihut, Can of Worms…lots more including DIY.

When I first used one, the not yet used trays were always in the way. Either they were stacked empty on top of my working tray or they were laying around taking up floor space (or they got misplaced). It turns out the directions I read did not tell you what to do with the spare trays. So, I worked out a better way.

First of all, keep them in the stack so the empties don’t disappear. Second put those empty trays UNDER your working tray(s). This holds the top working tray at a convenient height for working with. Any worms who want to make a break downwards hit the dry empty tray below and get back up home in a hurry. This heading home is much better than hanging out in the puddle at the bottom.

Third, use the bottom tray as an ‘emergency’ worm catcher above that drip tray. Put a little bedding in the tray but no worms. If any worms do fall down from above they will land in this friendly zone and again will not fall through to the bottom puddle. If any food or drippings fall, this bottom tray stops them in a healthy composting zone. If both worms and food fall, they make a nice home there together until you feel like moving that bit of wormy bedding up into your working tray.

So, you feed the topmost working tray with food and bedding until it is ¾ or more filled with well broken compost. It is not yet vermicastings because it is still full of lumps – food and not yet composted bedding. Stir that top tray as often as the urge grabs you. Some say stirring slows egg production. I have never had that as a problem and stirring speeds up the food eating and worm growing.

When the working tray is well filled with compost and worms, move an empty tray to the top. Put in bedding and food to get it started, (more bedding than food to start). This would be a good time to promote the bottom ‘catcher’ tray to the top (and start a fresh bottom tray). Continue feeding and stirring the top tray. After the initial load of bedding, add just enough fresh bedding to keep the working bed loose. Maybe a 3 to 1 ratio of three servings of food for every one serving of fresh bedding. Now, ignore the trays below the top working tray. Food only goes into that top tray. The second tray and especially the third tray are maturing. Leave them alone except for the occasional admiring glance.

Each tray can take two to three months to fill. If you fill faster, then you need more trays to give the maturing trays time to finish. You harvest the lowest tray when it looks like dirt (almost no lumps) and only if you need that vermicompost. The filled trays can stay in the stack forever or until you need to empty a tray to rotate it to the starting position on top. This means the trays can easily take six to nine months to be ready.

I did not believe in the stacking systems until I used one. It turns out they can be fun.

4 thoughts on “Stacking Worm Bins Improved

  1. Would this process be a good idea to use 5 gallon buckets stacking them

    1. These instructions would work, but I am not a big fan of homemade stacking systems. 5 gallon buckets lack the best surface area. It is hard to get a successful number of holes drilled for connecting between buckets. I would instead suggest you look up making a 15 to 25 gallon tote grown as a single worm bin.

      1. Thank you

  2. I bought my worms from you in May, and you suggested this setup for my Worm bin 360. Maybe I set up my bins incorrectly. My top bin is full of compost and some of my worms, my bin below that was empty, and then I have a third bed of just bedding right above the the base to trap any worms who traveled downwards. Well, my empty bin has a bunch of worms and their excrement, and my third bin down with the bedding has more worms, too. My compost bin is doing fine, I think except the worms don’t seem to want to travel back up so I added a little shredded paper and some food to the second bin just now. Do I move the worms back up to feeding bin, or just leave them where they are?

    Hi Gretchen,
    It sounds like your worm factory is doing great. The top layer is full and ready to move down. The middle tray moves to the top. To start it, use bedding from the bottom tray. That bedding is nicely pre started from the juices (and worms) dripping from the top tray. See how the new top tray is more than ready? Put fresh bedding in the bottom tray to continue catching drippings.
    So, the new stack is 1) a top tray ready to start feeding 2) a full middle tray maturing and 3} a bottom tray still catching drippings. I look forward to hearing from again when the new top tray fills up.
    Tom B

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