Last week I talked about the many composting options available for any size situation. There is no end to the numerous benefits that come from having your own vermicompost or fertilizer converted from organic waste by red wiggler worms. Not only do you get to cut down on your food waste, but also you get delicious, nutritious, good for the Earth compost for your plants.
A few years ago, I worked in an sustainable waste management organization and part of our educational lessons was teaching about the numerous benefits of vermicompost. It was such an awesome process and I desperately wanted to have my own system, but I only lived in a small apartment. My manager gave me a small coffee container, but it was such a small system I couldn’t get much from it and even the smallest of mistakes was deadly. I wanted to expand to try again, but the vermicompost worm factories ran from $80-$100, which was just too big of an investment, if I was just going to end up killing them all.
Fast forward a few years and I finally get up the nerve to try again, but there was still one problem: what was I going to put them in? I need something affordable, didn’t take up too much room and didn’t require for me to completely empty everything out in order to get to the good stuff. As I searched, longingly through pages of the same thing over and over again, a thought came to me. The worm factories were basically, containers stacked on top of each other, then there was the bottom container to collect all the excess water. Why couldn’t I do the same? Today, I’ll show you an affordable, space-saving, hit you over the head simple solution to your food waste problems.
- Lots of Newspapers
- Bag of leaves
- Drill (1/4 inch bit) or Nail and a Hammer
- Raw Fruit and Vegetable Scraps- No meat, oil, dairy or cooked foods
- At least 2 Stackable Buckets with one lid- I used kitty litter buckets, but you can use 5-Gallon buckets, icing buckets from your local bakery, etc. You can often find these on Craigslist for just a dollar or two.
Step 1:Drill Holes
The beauty of this system is as you expand your vermicomposting farm you keep adding buckets. No matter how many buckets you have, drill holes in all the buckets except the last one. This will help drainage from backing up and drowning your words because it will all drain into the last bucket. Also, drill a hole in the lid to let air in.
Step 2: Add bedding
To start out, just use two buckets, you can keep adding as you are ready to expand. Fill the bucket with holes with 1 inch strips of newspaper and crushed up leaves then stack on to the bucket with no holes. Then add enough water to make the bedding feel like a wet sponge. If you squish the bedding your hand it should stick together but not drip. This an extremely important step, because worms are made mostly of water, so they can’t survive in an environment that’s too dry. Just fill the buckets about 3/4 the way full. Don’t pack it down because that takes away the air space for the worms.
When the bedding is established, add your food scraps. Even if you have 500 worms, it takes time for them to get established and start working. In a couple of months, those worms will eat up to half their weight daily. In the beginning stick with a few bits of food and let them eat it all before adding more. Each time you add, the food scraps, cover them with a layer of newspaper or leaves and make sure their bedding is wet enough.
Step 3: Add worms!
Once your buckets are together and the bed is nice and comfy with food, then it’s time to add the worms!
Simply place the worms on top of bedding and let their natural photophobic tendencies do the rest. Allow the worms to settle into bedding overnight. Start feeding the next day.
Step 4: Harvest Your Vermicompost
After a couple of weeks, you’ll see little trails of what looks like dirt. This is what you’re looking for when it comes to harvesting. Keep adding bedding and food until your bucket is about half full of this vermicompost. That’s when you’re ready to fill the next bucket with bedding. The worms will slowly migrate up to the new food. Give the worms a couple of months to catch up and then you can take the whole bucket of vermicompost to put in the garden. A few worms might be left, but they’re super good for your garden.
Check out this tutorial in video form!
Here is a complete list of bedding and food options. Pin for later:
For more sustainable DIYs, check out these great ideas!