Name: Worm Factory 360 (left)
Rating: To be determined*
Name: VermiHut 3-Tray Worm Composter (right)
Rating: To be determined*
After months of failing to locate not only functional but attractive containers with which to build a worm composting system to keep on our apartment balcony, we managed to find two intriguing, albeit more expensive, commercial options. The Worm Factory 360 and VermiHut are both compact, stackable, and expandable worm composters that promise ease of use. With seemingly similar designs but widely different price points, we were curious to see how each would work on its own and in comparison with the other. These are our impressions after the first week.
Eero demonstrates worm bin size in relation to feline size.
We had actually intended to review the original 3-Tray Worm Factory, which is more similar to the VermiHut in appearance (yet still about $30 more expensive). However, Hayneedle.com sent us the Worm Factory 360, which is supposed to have a thicker, sturdier base and lid as well as a new "Thermo Siphon Airflow" design to allow air, but not light, to flow through the sides and base.
The higher legs of the Worm Factory 360 give it a less compact appearance (something we value in our small space), but it has a relatively small footprint of 18 x 18 inches and we'll be interested to see whether the change is worth it from an effectiveness standpoint. The lid has a sticker printed with quick tips for bin management, feeding, temperature, and moisture. This is useful information to have at hand, but we're actually thinking of removing the sticker. (Again, we're looking at this from the standpoint of apartment dwellers with the desire to make our small balcony as attractive as possible.)
Otherwise, the 100% recycled plastic, USA-made compost bin appears well made. The base/collection tray, worm ladder (which helps worms that have fallen into the collection tray get back up to the working trays), and four stacking trays all feel sturdy. There is also a spigot to collect worm tea, and accessories include a scraper, rake, and thermometer. Materials include one coir brick and a bag of shredded paper. Worms are sold separately; we bought ours at a local nursery.
Following the instructions in the booklet, we prepared the bedding in a single tray in the following order: 3-4 sheets dry newspaper + a mixture of the coir brick (dampened), shredded paper, and a cup of active compost (you must provide this yourself) + 2 handfuls of food scraps in one corner of the working tray + 2-3 inches dry shredded newspaper + 3-4 sheets moist newspaper. The remaining trays may be added later as the worms work through the material, and additional trays may be purchased for a stack of up to eight.
Once we got our red wiggler worms (a little over half a pound, though you can start with a full pound), we placed them under the top layer of moist newspaper and replaced the lid. Although the booklet instructed us to wait three days to check on the worms, we got impatient and checked after about five minutes. They had already burrowed into the bedding and then, three days later, we found them congregated in the food corner. A seemingly early success, but time will tell...
Though pricier than building your own worm bin, the VermiHut is quite a bit less expensive than the Worm Factory or Worm Factory 360. Made from 100% recycled plastic, it has a slightly smaller footprint of 16 x 16 inches and a more compact base. The plastic is not quite as strong as the Worm Factory 360, and the bin requires slightly more assembly (attach four screws to the base and insert the spigot), but at this point we consider these minor drawbacks. (We'll update you on the long-term sturdiness of both units over time.)
The 3-Tray VermiHut comes with a pedestal base, a liquid collection tray, three stacking trays, and a lid. We're charmed by the lid, which looks like a little roof and has a handle as well as air holes. Although it doesn't sit tightly, you can add plastic holding clips. There is also a spigot to collect worm tea. A rake comes standard, and the company also offers sets with thermometers, pH/moisture meters, and compost buckets. Materials include two pieces of drain cloth and one bag of coconut fiber. Worms are sold separately; we bought ours at a local nursery.
Following the instructions in the booklet, we placed one drain cloth between the liquid collection tray and first working tray. According to the instructions, it is necessary to leave enough fabric over the sides to prevent worms from escaping or drowning. We then prepared the bedding in a single tray in the following order: a mixture of half of the coir (dampened), 250 grams shredded paper (you must provide this yourself), and a handful of soil (you must provide this yourself) + food scraps buried under the bedding mixture to fill 7 centimeters of the tray. The remaining trays may be added later as the worms work through the material, and additional trays may be purchased for a stack of up to seven.
Once we got our red wiggler worms (a little over half a pound, though you can start with a full pound), we placed them under the top layer of bedding. The booklet noted that the worms could take a week or so to adapt to their environment. When we checked after three days, they had all burrowed in, but didn't seem to be eating yet. The bedding also seemed a little dry, so we followed additional advice in the booklet and added a top layer of moist newspaper. We're now really curious to see how the two units compare over time, both in terms of construction and the quality of the directions provided.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
• The Worm Factory: Simplifying Small Space Composting?
• How To Start a Home Worm Composting System
• Worm Composting Club: Deal With The 'Ick' and Have a Party!
• Small Space Composting Solutions
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer or retailer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emily Ho)