Worms-I Confess We Keep Them
Why would anyone want a container full of worms in their house, let alone in their kitchen??? Actually there are a lot of good reasons to keep worms in your house if they are Red Wiggler composting worms. First, they eat your food waste. Second, they turn food waste into worm “castings” (the polite word) that are awesome for your plants! One source states that The castings in this mixture have, on average, 5x the available Nitrogen, 7x the available potash, and .5x the available calcium as average topsoil. We have a compost pile and in the spring, summer and fall, I may add kitchen scraps to the compost pile. That involves walking across the back yard and in the summer, that means I have to put on my chigger boots. What about winter? Two great things about worm composting are that you can do it year round and it is convenient. The system doesn’t smell bad unless you are overloading it with too much food.
To start composting with worms you need a specific type of composting worm, Red Wigglers. Worms are added to a container along with some type of bedding (shredded paper with a small amount of dirt or coffee grounds is most common). The container must have air holes. Some systems also have a drainage option so that excess moisture can drain out of the bedding. Fruit, vegetable, and grain kitchen scraps are added to the container and the worms “eat” the food waste, turning it into compost. Meat and dairy food waste should not be added to the system. As worms eat the bedding and food waste the worm compost accumulates. Worms can eat about half their weight in food waste per day. As time goes on, the worms will also multiply in the worm bin. As the bin gets full you can harvest the compost and also some worms if you want to put them in a potted plant (indoors), use them for fishing, or feed the local birds.
Red Wigglers will not survive the winter outside so Red Wigglers are not going to be the best choice to add to a garden or compost pile. A new compost pile that is properly assembled is going to heat up to over 140 degrees and this would kill your worms.
(You can purchase Red Wigglers online or from us. Contact us at email@example.com for more information.)
I saw a 5 gallon bucket worm system on a gardening post and researched other 5 gallon bucket systems. I made changes that I thought improved the design and reduced the cost of the systems I saw online. I like the idea of composting in this 5 gallon bucket system for several reasons:
- Small enough to lift even when heavy (they can get heavy as compost accumulates)
- Includes a handle to lift
- Includes drainage
- Small enough to keep in or near the kitchen
- 5 gallon buckets are sturdy enough to stack
- Looks like an ordinary 5 gallon bucket with a spigot, your friends don’t have to know
I have tried to give a lot of detail in these instructions. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the steps or just don’t want to make your own we made some of these for a local expo and have a few extras to sell. It was a bit of a hassle to round up all the materials so we wanted to make it easy for other people to get started. If you are interested in purchasing a bucket system ($34.95) contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thought this would involve one trip to the hardware store but I was very wrong about that. Even in a large metropolitan area (Kansas City) I had to go to multiple stores to get the materials (more details you’ll need on that later). Here’s what you need.
1. 5 gallon bucket
2. Lid-this photo was taken before we changed to an “easy off” lid which I recommend
3 Grit Guard-this is made for washing your car. It keeps the grit in the bottom of the bucket so it doesn’t scratch your paint
4. 1/2 inch spigot
5. 1 inch vent covers (you need 2-they are sold in a 6 pack)
6. Landscape fabric
7. 1 inch PVC pipe, cut to 10 3/4 inches
1. Drill with a 1 inch hole drill bit (double check this size to see that it matches the outside dimensions of your spigot. Since the 1/2 inch spigot measure refers to the inside diameter, the outside diameter can vary. I used a 3/32 drill bit for the smaller holes but it can be a bit larger or smaller.
4. Silver sharpie
Some Optional tools:
1. Hot Glue Gun to tack down the landscape fabric to the Grit Guard
2. Chalk board paint
3. Masking tape and sand paper to prepare surface for chalk board paint
4. Brush for paint-update-I found a foam roller worked better
Step One: Put the Grit Guard in the bucket, making sure it fits all the way in the bottom. Set the bucket on a flat surface and place the spigot against the bucket as low as you can place it and still allow the bucket to sit flat. Mark around the outside of the spigot where it meets the bucket. Now hold the bucket up to a bright light. You should be able to see the shadow of the grit guard through the outside. You want to be sure that the hole cut for the spigot will be below the top edge of the Grit Guard. Drill the 1 inch (or what is needed for your spigot) hole for the spigot.
Step Two: Drill multiple small holes in the PVC pipe.
Step Three: Place the Grit Guard upside down on a piece of landscape fabric and trace around it with the silver Sharpie. Cut out the circle.
You can tack down the edges of the fabric to the Grit Guard with a little bit of hot glue (optional).
You might also test your landscape fabric to see if it really does drain. Put the fabric on a plate and pour a small amount of water on top. If the water sits on top of the fabric and doesn’t drain, you might need a different kind of landscape fabric or you might need to put the other side up.
Step Four: With the Grit Guard in the bucket place the pvc pipe inside the bucket. You want the pipe to sit about 1 inch above the Grit Guard, enough space so you could get your hand between the bottom of the pipe and the Grit Guard. Lift the bucket up to the light and you will see a round shadow where the pipe contacts the bucket wall. Place a dot in the middle of the round shadow. This is the center of the hole you will drill. Not very scientific but that’s how I did it. Drill a 1 inch hole on each end of the pvc pipe. You want the pipe to run left right as the bucket front (spigot) is facing you.
Step Five: If you want to use the chalk board paint, tape off a square area and lightly sand inside the area to be painted.
Apply the chalk board paint according to directions. Remove tape when dry.
Step Six: Drill small holes around the top edge of the bucket. I placed these underneath the overhanging ridge around the top of the bucket. This ridge has small sections and I drilled one hole in every other section.
Step Seven: Empty out all the plastic debris from the bucket. Place the Grit Guard and landscape fabric back in the bucket. Place the pvc pipe inside the bucket and line up the opening of the pvc pipe with the holes in the sides of the bucket. Insert the 1″ vent covers into the hole. They should fit snugly inside the pvc pipe.
Step Eight: Insert the spigot into the first hole you cut and adhere it with silicone. If your hole is a little large you can add some plumbers tape to the spigot. Let it dry.
That’s it you’re done!
Last thing-the details that will help you find materials if you decide to make your own. A unique feature of the system I first saw online was the addition of a Grit Guard to the bucket to allow space for liquid to accumulate and be drained off with a spigot. I could not find any store in my local area that carried the Grit Guard, I had to order it online. Once I had the Grit Guard, I found it only fit in the Lowes bucket (Encore Plasctics). It did not fit all the way to the bottom in the Home Depot (Leaktite Plastics) , Walmart, or True Value Hardware bucket. The big box home stores did not carry the 1” vent covers, I found those at the small local hardware store. I started with bucket lids from Lowes and found that they were hard to get on and even harder to get off. Okay, impossible to get off, even with a bucket wrench. I even tried putting them in boiling water to soften them. That made them easier to get on but not off. Even an inexpensive spigot was hard to find. Isn’t anyone making rain barrels out there? If you decide you’d like to just purchase a system already assembled with bedding and instructions ($34.95) let us know at email@example.com.