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.