Instructables

Worm bin bag for indoor vermicomposting and easy separation of worms from compost

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Worm composting is an easy way to turn your food waste and shredded paper into rich fertilizer for your plants. You can also feel great about keeping your food waste out of the landfill, where it turns into methane, a stinky greenhouse gas. Worm composting, on the other hand, does not stink - don't believe me? Try it yourself!

As a long-time "worm composter" or vermicomposter, I have tried many different types of worm bin systems. I've made several of those simple boxes with holes drilled in them, wood ones, rubbermaid bins, etc. and while the worms seem happy in there, I am too lazy to separate the worms from the compost that results. I've also tried those stacking type, both the homemade type and the expensive worm farm type. I like those better, but I'm still not happy with lifting out those dirty, heavy trays to get to the good stuff in the bottom tray. It always gets my clothes and basement dirty. I read about a funnel shaped, plasticized bag called the "Worm Swag", which uses a "flow-through" system of composting where your leftover food goes in at the top, the worms hang out up there, eating the food and the finished compost can be harvested from the bottom. This inspired me to make my own worm bag integrated into a table I called the Digestive Table, which can be seenhere. People emailed me, wishing this was easier for them to build themselves, so I came up with this simplified version. I call it the worm bag.

This version of the worm bag is made of wood, so you'll need some tools, a saw, a drill, a carpenter's square and a palm sander. If you don't have access to these, or you just don't feel like getting dirty, you might be interested in the laundry hamper worm bag, which only requires sewing a bag and purchasing a laundry hamper frame (around $20). Mine is a nice sturdy chrome style from the Container Store, pictured below. The bag part of this Instructable is designed for the wood frame style, so you'll need to adjust your measurements if you go with the laundry hamper frame instead. I decided to focus this Instructable on the wood frame style, because it is a little cheaper to build and more customizable.

I spent around $40 on materials. This is what you will need and the approximate cost:

$7.50 for 1.5 yards of fabric - 100% polyester felt. Ecospun from Joanne Fabrics is what I've used here because I like that it is made of post-consumer recycled bottles. I've also used landscaping fabric.
$1.79 for a package of 2 cord stops Joanne Fabrics
$2.59 for a spool of thread - 100% polyester or nylon. Cotton will disintegrate, so don't use it for this project.
$4.24 for 1 length of pine, 8' x 2" x 1"
$6.48 for 2 lengths of pine, 6' x 2" x 1
$5.00 for a Rubbermaid wash tub - or another brand that has a 12.5" x 12.5" sized tub
$5.00 ? for a 1/4" thick piece of plywood that is 20" x 15" - not really sure how much this is, since I had some around.
$3.00 ? for 16 wood screws 1 1/4" long - again I'm guessing on price here
$3.00 for some wood glue
$3.00 ? for 2.5 yards of nylon cord - I actually just used some old hiking boot laces I had around.

The finished project measures 24" tall x 20" wide and 15" deep. It will fit nicely in your home, pantry, basement or even at your office. Impress your work friends with your recycling gadget that eats coffee grounds, teabags, unwanted lunch scraps and shredded paper, turning it all into office plant fertilizer!
 
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my dad's always complaining about worms, i'm going to send him this way.

anilshenoy629 days ago

A test model using your design.. thank you... https://plus.google.com/photos/113788272212579538140/albums/6042314440730927169?banner=pwa

usually in the other worm bins I find the worms just stay at the bottom... hope it is different in this model

amyoungs (author)  anilshenoy629 days ago

Thanks for the pics of your lovely floral worm bin bag! I hope you don't mind I reposted here for others to see too. I look forward to seeing what kind of lid you might make for this one. If you keep it really dark on the top and put the food and paper waste at the top, the worms will congregate up there.

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Kyleluvspets4 months ago
you could do a smaller sized one with a shirt.
amyoungs (author)  Kyleluvspets4 months ago

Yes, you could - just make sure it is a strong shirt since it can get heavy. Over time, worms will eat cotton and other natural fibers. When you make yours, please do post it here so we can see it!

excellent
I LOVE IT!!! Any luck with it? I'm gonna make it but I'm gonna raise it higher So i'm not all hunched over on the ground while harvesting. Having the bottom at waist level sounds peachy... a little rock dust helps worms digest their food. so a bit of it to start doesn't hurt.
snoop9111 year ago
This looks great! How many pounds of bedding/food-scraps can it hold? My uncle has one of these, with draw strings at the bottom of the bag, but it seems to always leak, and so keeps a bucket underneath at all times.

Also, for bedding, every couple months he adds a mixture of Coconut Coir, grass clippings, shredded newspapers/cardboard and some manure...

I know some bedding material is unsuitable for the red wiggler worms, like perlite (which apparently is glasslike).. but does anyone have any experience with vermiculite or peat moss? Is it worth the money?

The place I'm ordering a pound of worms also sells a moisture / ph meter for $8 that could be nice to keep track and make sure its ~80% damp 6.5PH. But is this overkill?

The only part that seems like it could be a chore is separating the worm castings from the worms, from the unprocessed food-scraps, from the bedding! Any suggestions?
amyoungs (author)  snoop9111 year ago
When you first put worms into their new home they will need bedding, but after they get established, you can just add waste and you won't need to buy anything like vermiculite. To start out with, I do find coir the best to start out with since it holds the correct amount of moisture, but wet newspaper will work too. They do eventually eat up the "bedding". So, yeah, if you add more, they will just eat it up, no problem.

By the time the worms have done their eating of the food and "bedding", it has settled to the bottom of the bag, which is why it is easy to separate it from the worms. They tend to stay towards the middle and top where the food is.

I probably add a pound of food waste a week + some shredded paper on top. I'm not sure though, how many pounds it all is total though. Anyone else have estimates?

huf1232 years ago
I use my own homemade stackable worm bin. I am interested in trying this, but I am curious. Have you had any problems with the compost packing down too much? I wasn't sure if the funnel shape would cause the compost to compact, which in turn would lead to odors. Great Instructable. Thanks.
amyoungs (author)  huf1232 years ago
Yes, the compost does compact at the end of the funnel, but since it is finished compost by the time it gets down there, it does not smell. The compacting is not usually too much trouble, unless I let it dry out too much, which makes it like a rock stuck in there. The way I have fixed this problem is to add a lot of water to wet it throughout. I poured a gallon of water through the top every couple of days until it soaked the bottom part enough to loosen it up and come out through the bottom. Now, in the winter when I know the air is drier in my house, I just add a glass of water whenever I put food in the top.
Admirabilia2 years ago
I LOVE the continuous flow system and have set up several bags for friends... the problem that i have had however is that despite efforts to trap and deter mice they are a fact of life in our old apartment and they loved the worm bag as much as i do... they chewed a door into it and made it their new nest.... GROSS!

So, sadly my progress was for naught but i am going to post up a 'step can' tutorial for those who might have similar problems.

I am converting a steel stepcan into the new vermienvironment and its sturdy construction should keep out any little critters.

cross your fingers for me, but for those of you who also co-habitate with mice on occasion, this is fair warning. :(
amyoungs (author)  Admirabilia2 years ago
That is not something I've had trouble with myself, so I appreciate your experience here. Great to hear you have invented the solution to the problem already! The stepcan conversion sounds to me as if it will provide perfect security against mice. The only thing I'd be concerned with would be aeration of the steel can. Do they make these perforated? If not, I'd recommend drilling small holes into the side of the can to allow air flow. Please do post a picture when you make it, I'd love to see it and hear how it works!
whirlygeek3 years ago
So I have a fat ton of polyester fleece from my long ago "Oh, let's make Ren Faire Outfits" phase ... will that do alright, then?
amyoungs (author)  whirlygeek3 years ago
I love the thought of the worms hanging out in a stylish, fuzzy fleece bag! It will probably be harder to sew, but it should work. As long as there is no tasty natural fibers in there, the worms won't eat it. Please post a photo when you get it done, I want to see it!
Libahunt3 years ago
So great instructable! I followed most part of it.
I am happy wormkeeper now very much thanks to this instructable which gave me courage to take them into a tiny apartment.

I thought I would briefly share my modifications too. My wormbin has wheels because I have to move things around in my little kitchen when I use my laundry machine. And with wheels it's convenient to have a "floor" for the wormtea bowl.
The frame and bag are really contrast colored so I did not want the fabric covering the rim. Solution was to use wire in a fabric tunnel and attach the wire to the frame in cornes only. It's not too perfect actually, when the bag gets heavy wire might slip over the screws holding it - needs an improvement.
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amyoungs (author)  Libahunt3 years ago
Nice bin - wheels are a great addition! I also like the fabric pattern you picked because it looks like flowers and spider webs at the same time. The rim of your bag looks sturdy. I guess if it starts pulling away with weight you could just put a few screws right through the bag fabric into the wood. Maybe use some grommets to keep it from tearing. Maybe it will hold just fine as it is, too.

Thanks so much for posting the pictures of your modifications for others to see here!

amy
Great set-up, and I like the easy continuous flow design. This beats stacking systems as you have to 'dump' & 'sort'.
fraggle3133 years ago
Hi, the worm bin bag looks so cool. I was just wondering if it can be used outdoors. I'm from Australia and was wanting to put under my verandah outdoors. Do you have any suggestions on other materials that i can use or if the felt will still work?
Thanks great job!
amyoungs (author)  fraggle3133 years ago
It should work outside if it does not freeze where you are. The worms also don't like the direct sun baking them. The felt should hold up outside because it is plastic - polyester that is made from recycled plastic bottles. I have not tried it outside myself though. For my design I was inspired by a product called the "Australian Worm Swag" which is a huge flow through vermicomposter made of plastic that hangs from a tree. You might check into that too, to see if it would work for you or if it gives you some ideas for making your own hanging version.
Thanks for your advice. It definately doesn't freeze here about 12 degrees (53 farenheit) lowest for about a week during winter. Probably an issue other way 30+ degree (86 farenheit) and 90-95% humidity during summer months but that is about 5 months of the year. I won't be putting directly in sun but the humidity may be an issue. Is it best to just keep it moist?
Pizzapie5003 years ago
LOL so I tried a mini version of this with a shirt, TOTAL FAIL! The worms ate right through the shirt, luckily I put it inside a rubbermaid box so it didn't get everywhere.
amyoungs (author)  Pizzapie5003 years ago
Yeah, they love to eat cotton, wool and rayon (wood based). I guess if you use a polyester or acrylic shirt it might work, though!
gserrano7013 years ago
Fantastic idea, job and instructable, makes me wand to do vermicomposting at home.
du fox3 years ago
This is an AWESOME instructible, Kudos for sure!
denine3 years ago
This is really cool - we bought a composter last year and have it out in the yard, but I looked into using worms first. Unfortunately, all of the user reviews of the pre-made versions said the worms were drowning in the liquids that pooled at the bottom. I love that everything drips down and if the worms come out, they land safely in the bin!
http://www.weknowstuff.us.com/
kadewei5 years ago
Thanks so much for this Instructable! I made one using a very sturdy IKEA Antonius stand for laundry bag (7$ or 5.5 Euro without the bag) and an IKEA Trygg serving bowl (4$ or 2 Euro) at the bottom. The outside bag is made of a heavy duty disposal bag made of white woven Polypropylene. I find white nicer looking than black, and I guess that in summer it will keep the worms cool. But white lets through too much light for the worms, so I lined it with an identical bag made of landscaping fabric, which is black woven polypropylene. The top corners of the black lining are closed with duct tape so light is completely blocked out. Polypropylene is a food safe non toxic plastic, and the woven form can be sewn like very fraying fabric on a normal sewing machine. The worms are still alive, so I guess it lets through enough air. (Top inside view on the right. On top of the worm bag is a tray with seeds that have not yet sprouted)
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I did the same thing with the Antonius, but I didn't want to have to take stuff off of the lid to use it, laced it to the inside of one of the antonius' drawers.
amyoungs (author)  rkimedes5 years ago
This sounds very interesting. What are the drawers like? I'd love to see what yours looks like. Might you post a picture for us? -amy
I tried, but it didn't work :-) I documented my deviations, though...
http://rkimedes.livejournal.com/370812.html
Oooohhh, I love this modification. How has it held up over time?
amyoungs (author)  rkimedes5 years ago
Fantastic worm worm composting drawer design! I love your hacking of the IKEA drawers combined with the worm bag. The recycled Huggies box is also a great idea - thanks for sharing your pictures of it on your blog. -amy
jmm3225 years ago
Here's mine - we re-purposed a plant stand. Since the picture was taken (a few weeks ago) we've replaced the lid with a heavy saucer from a terra-cotta plant pot, which seems to close the gaps at the top a little better. It will have a plant living on top of it again soon. I'm looking for some help with a fruit fly problem. They're everywhere. We had a few of them before making the worm bin but they're much worse now. We're keeping the top layer nice and clean, shredded paper. Any ideas on how to get rid of the flies? What is a natural predator for fruit flies?
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for Fruit Flies:
I've had good experience with small jars of small, Sweet Pickles.

They really attract the fruit flies!  (of course, you have to throw out the jar, but it seems like a worthwhile investment -- don't know if I would compost them afterward, though;  do the fruit flies have eggs that would survive and grow in the compost?)

I use a mason jar with a screen rolled into a cone with a hole in the bottom. The screen holes smaller then the flies, and the rim lid of the mason jar to close any spaces on the rim. For bait anything with tanic works great (wine, beer, apple vinegar, and such) The inverted cone keeps the flies from escaping and the screen lets out the most of the attracting smells.
I was having a problem with fruit flies and their babies after some hidden potatoes rotted in my cabinet.  I found this online and it really attracks and catches.  This was for inside, they said use a tapered bottle, any thing with a smaller neck and it works great if you have the plastic squirt dispenser to make it harder for them to get out.  I used a rice wine bottle and enlarged the plastic whole.  Use apple cider vinegar and sugar.  Make it sweet.  Its almost the same as pickle juice.  The fly climbs in and can't get out.
 I found microwaving scraps for a 90 seconds before putting them into my bins prevents fruit flies from showing up
cpeds jmm3225 years ago
I've heard a couple solutions to the fruit fly problem. One, always cover the worm food with some bedding. Two, if you get fruit flies put some water and vinegar (50/50 split) in the bottom of an open two-liter soda bottle. The fruit flies will fly in but not find their way out.

I've found good information at http://vermicomposters.ning.com/
cpeds cpeds5 years ago
Also, I like your design. This one and the one with the closet shelving show good use of existing materials. Very cool.
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