01 October 2012

The magic DIY 2 hour Ikea hack cheap $14 worm compost bin

At work yesterday I built this worm composting bin from 8 bricks, 3 Ikea Trofast storage bins, 1 Trofast lid, PVC pipe, caulking, and some bailing wire.

This is truly the lazy man's worm bin. The two hours includes the time it took me to go to the hardware store and buy the bailing wire. Everything else I had on hand.

I started by drawing a 1" grid on the top and middle bins (but not the bottom one) with a sharpie. If you want the sharpie to come off use rubbing alcohol on it after you drill the holes.

I drilled through the plastic with a 3/16" bit. The plastic will melt a bit ... consider ventilation.

I also drilled four holes in each of the three bins an inch from the top, then wrapped wire through them.

The bins can then be stacked on each other, and the top two switched at will.

No oxygen vents are needed for this bin.

For the spigot, I sawed off a bit of 1/2" PVC pipe and sanded the edges. Then I used a really huge drill bit to put a hole in the bottom bin (the one without holes drilled in the bottom).

Angle the pipe before using caulking to seal it. The top of the pipe can rest on the molded plastic groove that allows the bins to stack.

To start the bins, collect kitchen scraps, place in bottom of each layer and add worms. Being mailed stresses the worms out so try to find a local supplier.

In the bin, always strive for a balance of fruit, veggies, brown, and green bits, wet and dry, etc. Variety is key. The worms prefer not to subsist on "bedding" like leaves or newsprint, so if you do use it be sure to include plenty of food as well. As you generate more food scraps, just toss them onto the top layer and switch up the two layers once in a while.

Worms move from the upper levels of the bin to the lower levels, which is another reason to rotate the top two layers occasionally. If at some point most of your worms are in the bottom layer you'll have to fish them out and stick them back in the top layer.

Keep chemicals in the bins to a minimum, as the worms are sensitive to them. In our bins, we only use scraps from organic produce. We don't use newsprint as bedding (try dried leaves instead) as the paper can have acid and bleach in it. We also use rainwater (rather than the treated city tap water) in the bins.

This type of worm bin is geared toward folks who want to primarily use the worms' waste as liquid fertilizer. Put a bucket below your spigot and watch the liquid gold appear. I swear it brings dead plants back to life. It also is a miracle worker that keeps things like tomatoes (above) alive in pots in the winter. Often, yellowing leaves indicate that a plant needs the nutrients it will get from fertilizer ... with your own worm bin, you know exactly what goes into your fertilizer.

We make our compost tea with 1 part worm castings to 3 parts rain water. Use it the day you mix it up and don't let it sit overnight, or it will smell really bad.

To fertilize potted plants, we set them in a plastic bin, douse them with compost tea, and let the extra drain off. The runoff can be reused to fertilize other plants.

If you run out of castings, flush your bin with lukewarm water (too hot or cold will shock the worms) to get more.

This is a very manageable first worm bin. It is deep, holding many food scraps, but not wide, so the worms don't have to travel very far inside the bin to find food or other worms.

Happy composting!

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