Vermicomposting (It just sounds fancy)
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
Vermicomposting is also known as worm composting. The worms consume kitchen waste and bedding and turn it into usable compost in the forms of their poop (worm castings)
I recently started my own worm bin to make worm castings for my garden, and I am loving it so far. I decided to make my own worm bin using 5 gallon buckets I already had on hand (for some reason we always have a ton of 5 gallon buckets) I followed instructions to make my own worm bin from www.thespruce.com and it was super simple and easy to follow. If you want to make one, I highly recommend heading over there to read their tutorial. I will give a brief breakdown of what I did and how it is working for me.
3-five gallon buckets
3/16 inch drill bit
1/8 inch drill bit
Red Wriggler worms (this specific type of worm is crucial)
Bedding material (I'm using shredded printer paper. coconut coir is another option)
Kitchen scraps (no citrus)
How the bucket system works
The idea is that the bottom bucket has no holes drilled in it so that it can catch any excess liquid from the worms and kitchen scraps. The next bucket has holes drilled in the bottom and also around the top lip of the bucket. The holes in the bottom allow the excess liquid to drain to the bottom bucket. The holes around the lip of the bucket are for airflow. Holes are also drilled into the lid for ventilation.
Once the worms have had a chance to eat through the kitchen scraps and bedding and have turned all the material into castings (poop), then it's time to place another bucket with holes drilled in the bottom and around the top lip on top of the worms and castings. You place new bedding and food in this third bucket and the worms will migrate up through the holes in the bottom of the bucket to get to the new food. You have stopped feeding them in their current bucket so they are motivated to move up.
When the majority of the worms have moved into the third/top bucket, you are able to remove the middle bucket, pick out any stragglers and use the worm castings in your garden.
How things are going
I ordered 250 Red Wrigglers from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm which was probably on the low end in terms of number of worms to get. Everything I have read has said to order 1 pound or 1,000 worms, but I wanted to start out small to see if this would even work. I was very happy with how quickly the worms came, and they were all healthy and happy when they arrived. It is important to get the right type of worms, specifically, Red Wrigglers as they readily eat kitchen scraps. UPDATE: 250 worms were plenty, they have more than tripled in population!
I quickly realized that I added too many kitchen scraps at first for the number of worms I have. Luckily, the worms will lay egg sacs and baby worms will help bring up my population numbers. I ended up having a fruit fly infestation that I was able to quickly remedy using Mosquito dunks that I crumbled up on top of their bedding and spray with water.
I am keeping my worm bin in my garage and there is no smell. The garage helps keep them at the right temperature; not too hot and not too cold. I keep a layer of moistened brown grocery bag on top of the bedding to keep it dark and keep in the moisture.
I periodically check the bin to see if I need to add more kitchen scraps and bedding. I found out that I don't need to turn the castings and should not disturb their habitat. I do not put meat and dairy in the bin as they can take a long time to break down. The smaller the size of the kitchen scraps the faster the worms can break them down.
In the first few days as the worms get acclimated to their new home, they will try and escape out of the bin. Don't worry, they calm down and get cozy in their new home very quickly. I waited a day or two to add the first batch of kitchen scraps and just let them get used to the bedding.
So far I've spent only $36 which includes the original order of 250 worms and the mosquito dunks to get rid of the fruit flies. If you have to buy all the materials, and purchase 250 worms the cost of the project is around $42 before tax and shipping. ($4 per bucket from home improvement store, $2 for the bucket lid, $28 for the worms) I feel like this has been a completely worthwhile endeavor and I can't wait to harvest my first bucket of worm castings. My reading indicates it should take 3-6 months to get a bucket of vermicompost.
UPDATE: After 5 months I was able to harvest a good amount of castings. I mixed 1/4 cup of castings to every 1 gallon of water and let sit for 24 hours, stirring periodically.