Introduction: The Worm-A-Rater
Having a vegetarian wife means we produce a whole lot of bio-waste. We decided to try our hand at organic gardening and that led me to vermi-posting (using worms to produce compost ). I started out with just a simple plastic box but soon found that we were producing more than the box would hold and the worms just did not seem happy. they tended to congregate on top of the bedding. After doing some research I realized that my worm bedding was to damp and way to hot for the worms liking. This was in early March and the temps here in north Texas were still quite pleasant. In the heat of the summer we will have temps in the 100 degree range and that is sure death for my wiggly little friends. If I was to save the worms from a cruel death by baking a solution was needed and the wife was certainly not going to allow those things in the house! Oh what to do?! Eureka!
Step 1: Enter the Worm Hotel
I just happened to find a very large discarded ice chest that was easily three times as large as the first box.
AS the worms digest the bio mass there quite a bit of liquid produced that must be drained to help keep the bedding dry. This worm juice is also a very rich fertilizer and I want to catch as much of it as I can so I constructed a simple stand from scrap lumber to elevate the box 14". Using a 2" hole saw I bored a hole through the bottom on one end and inserted a 2" PVC floor drain fitting and attached a 6" PVC tail. A bucket is placed under the tail to capture this wonderful liquid gold. (just don't smell it!) A 3"x3" piece of landscape fabric is siliconed over the inside opening to prevent a worm exidous into the bucket. A slight pitch was later added to the stand to ensure that the liquid drains properly.
Good air flow is also needed for happy worms so I bored a 2 1/2" hole in the lid and inserted a 2" PVC T using silicone to secure it in place. covered the inside with paint filter mesh to keep the bugs out. This allows warm moist air to rise and exit the box. For air intake I drilled 10 1/4" holes in the front with a paddle bit and framed around the openings with a yard stick. The same paint filter mesh was used to cover these holes as well. The mesh serves to keep the flys and other bugs out.
Success! I was once again blessed with happy worms producing what worms produce and doing it at a very rapid pace, for about 3 weeks then once again Worm Strike!
I found that the compost was heating up to the point that the worms wanted out. Here is where the story gets weird, after all why would some one really care about a bunch of worms going on strike because of unfavorable work conditions.
Well I consider myself to be a fair and reasonable worm manager and promised the worm union a solution to these deplorable composting conditions, they agreed to work even harder if a solution was provided. So I consulted with all the experts in HVAC and refridigeration that I know (exactly none) And found no solutions being offered so here is what I did.....
Step 2: Get the Heat Out!
Thinking about geo-thermal systems I realized that by simply circulating cool water through the inside of the box and out into a bucket I could pull a lot of the heat from the compost.
I just happened to have 12 foot of 3/8 copper tubing left over from another project that was formed into a coil that would fit inside the box with one end projecting through a hole drilled into one end.
The tubing spirals down and around three times and exits through another hole in the same end.
Poly tubing is attached to the copper pipe and connects to a small fountain pump on the upper and and a manufactured spray head on the lower. A five gallon bucket sits below the nozzle, in the bucket is the small pump. SUCCESS! compost temps dropped back to a level that the worm union was more than happy with. (78 degrees)
Step 3: A Breath of Fresh Air
To further improve ventilation in the Worm-A-Rated Hotel I added a small dc fan connected to a discarded solar cell that was used to power landscaping lights that died. The little fan kicks on after the sun goes down and pulls in the cooler night air further cooling the box.
The worm union is so happy they are now producing over a gallon of "Worm Juice" per week!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my wormy adventure as much as I enjoyed solving the challenges.