Build an inexpensive compost bin for red worms and get started on basic vermicomposting!
What is Vermicomposting?
"Vermicomposting is the process where red worms and micro organisms break down rotting food such as breads, banana peels, coffee grounds, paper products, (anything but meat and oil) and transform it into rich, compost soil for your garden!"
Do you want to put your leftover food to work and save money on buying compost for your garden?
It's easy and doesn't require a demanding time commitment or a lot of money to get started.
How Do Red Worms Create Compost?
It's a comlicated process which I will simplify for you:
The red worms live in a compost bin where microorganisms are plentiful.
They dedicate themselves to eating rotting food, multiplying and excreting "vermicastings."
Watch Video: "How to Make a Vermicomposting Box: Gardens of the Rich and Famous"
In this video, "How to Build a Vermicomposting Bin: Gardens of the Rich and Famous," I instruct a couple of new gardeners, Ari and Emma how to create their own vermicomposting bin using paint buckets.
Although the show is actually a comedy and not a traditional garden show, you will take away a valuable "garden 101" tip from me in each video!
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Materials for Building a Compost Box for Worms
These are the materials I used in my video tutorial:
- Two, 5-gallon paint buckets with plastic cover (one bucket will be placed inside the other)
- A powered drill with 1/4" bit
- Shredded newspaper
- Rotting fruit, vegetables, bread, coffee and tea grounds
- Red Wiggler worms (these are the best type of worms to use for vermicomposting)
- Watering can
Steps for Building a Compost Box for Worms
Prepare the buckets!
1. Drill holes on the bottom of bucket that will be nested inside the other bucket using 1/4 inch drill bit to provide drainage for liquids and water.
When excess water drips out of this bucket, it will be caught in the bottom of second bucket and can be used as "liquid tea" for watering plants.
Holes should be 1/2 inch apart at bottom of bucket to release excess water.
The worms may crawl out but this is not likely.
Add a fine mesh cloth at bottom of bucket if it is a problem.
Add more holes below the bucket rim for aeration.
Add holes all the way around.
Your worms need oxygen too!
2. Nest the bucket that has holes into the second bucket that will act as a resevoir to hold excess liquid.
3. Add shredded newspaper to the bottom of your compost bucket
The newspaper will function as bedding for your red wigglers and should be fluffy and not compacted down, even after watering.
Many newspaper publishers use soy ink these days which is non toxic, but don't use the glossy paper or colored advertising circulers.
4. Water the newspaper to a "wet rag" consistency.
The newspaper should not be soaking wet as this causes the paper to compact and reduces air circulation for the worms.
5. Add rotting pieces of food to bin.
You have a wide assortment of foods that you can add to your worm compost bin but avoid meat, butter, and greasy food at all costs!
Oil and protein do not break down easily and you will attract rats and other vermin to your compost bin.
Be a mensch and cut your food into small pieces so that the worms can digest it easiser.
They have tiny mouths, as you can imagine, and a huge appetite.
Red wigglers in captivity will eat double their weight in food.
They channel their energy for eating and reproducing!
Get ready for worm population explosion in your compost bin- which is a good thing.
More worms, more poop!!
6. Add coffee or tea grounds!
Make friends with the local barista and ask for their used coffee grounds.
Coffee grounds contribute a source of nitrogen and acidity to the compost.
Don't worry if you don't remove the paper filter- the worms will eat that too.
7. Add a final layer of newspaper and water it
As a top layer, I like to hide my food under a final layer of moist newspaper.
This gives my red worms a landing pad when I throw them in and the opportunity to dive and explore their new home.
The newspaper also obscures light coming from the top of the bucket (white lid) and maintains a dark environment which is ideal for the worms.
8. Add the worms!
Some people prefer to wait a week or two after preparing the worm compost bucket to give the food an opportunity to rot and time for micro organisms to multiply.
I add them immediately!
No problem so far.
You will need approximately one pound of red wiggler worms for each pound of food in your composter.
Great deals can be had online or at your local garden center.
I spent $15 for one pound of worms and I expect them to double in population in 60 to 90 days!
9. Add your bucket cover and place your new vermicomposting bin in a sheltered area where it doesn't recieve direct sun.
We are not baking our worms!
Ideal temperatures range from 38 degrees to 85 degrees.
If you don't mind, you can place your compost bin indoors in a kitchen cupboard, utility room or garage.
10. Keep your worms fed!
The first few weeks of vermicomposting will be your discovery period.
Check your bin every few days to inspect the food consumption and assess how often you will need to feed your worms.
A good idea is to feed weekly and set the food in different places underneath your top layer of newspaper.
You don't want to concentrate the food in one area, let them explore!
If you need more paper, add moistened paper to your bin and fluff it so that worms can move around it.
Use Your Worm Castings in the Garden!
Within a few months, your worms will delight you with a supply of fresh compost soil that you can apply to container gardens and landscape plants!
Once you experience the joy of creating your own compost, you will be hooked!
Tips for Worm Composting
- Use an opaque colored bucket or bin to keep the inside of your bin dark. Your worms require it!
- Make sure the compost bin is always moist but never soaking wet.
- Add a little prepared compost or grit to your food mix for extra roughage. Yes, worms need fiber too!
- Harvest your worms from the finished compost by luring them to one area of the compost bin with new food. As they gather around the food, they will abandon the clean compost areas so that you can collect it and use in your garden!
Shirley with Ari and Emma of the Digs Channel show, "Gardens of the Rich and Famous"- a comedy web series with gardening undertones!
Good luck with your worm composting project!
Please leave me your questions and comments below so that I can answer them for you.
Interested in Basic Composting For Beginners?
Perhaps you would like to learn about basic composting that does not involve worms?
See you soon.