5-Gallon Bucket Worm Composter Try

bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)April 17, 2007

I went to a university-sponsored lecture/hands-on class this evening to learn about making worm compost bins. We constructed 8 out of plastic tubs to be given away to the lucky folks that had their names pulled from a hat. I wasn't so lucky, but as I was helping the bin creation process it hit me that I have some 5 gallon buckets with lids sitting in my garage doing nothing. One of the attendees very familiar with worm composting generously brought in a tub of red wigglers and gave them out to everyone else that attended.

So after I got home with my cup of worms I used two plastic buckets, one of which leaked anyway and drilled holes in this top bucket for the worms to live in. Has anyone used a similar bin with their worms? How did it turn out?

There's an indeterminate amount of leftover takeout Indian food in my refrigerator (chicken tika masala). If I separate the chicken and just give the worms rice and sauce (it's mild), can these guys handle it? Otherwise I am lacking on the organics for these guys to chew and odn't have much to start them with other than coffee grinds that they are munching on now.

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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

Just read worms don't like rice, so maybe the rice can go in the outside compost bin

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 12:11AM
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The Indian food should be fine without the chicken.

I've never heard that worms don't like cooked rice. Where did you read that bencjedi??

Coffee grounds can heat up in a bin. Be careful how much you use.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 12:47AM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

Read about the rice in the 'worms don't like' colum here:

Hopefully I didn't give them too much coffee

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 7:41AM
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Hmm, thanks for the link. Interesting.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 8:58AM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

actually there isn't anything on that list that worms "don't like", that's a "politically correct" list for the benefit of newbies who might blame the govt when the bin starts to stink or attract rats

worms happily take care of any organic material because what they really eat is the microbial life that causes decomposition - you just need to make sure you have a bulk carbon bedding so that food waste added to the bin doesn't bring the N level up enough to cause hot composting to start and give the food waste time to get microbially active before expecting them to dig in


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:33PM
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kristal(3b MN)

So, do you have some instructions as to how to build this 5 gallon vermicomposter? I'm new to this and I want to make my own for my gardens and for my kids to learn. Where and how big should the holes be? If you use two buckets, how do you assemble it? Please share.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 1:55PM
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giboosi_alttara(z6 CT)

My worms were all over the rice like... uh... like white on rice!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 9:42PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

I didn't give them the rice. I put that in the outside compost bin. I have several worms outside that took care of it anyway.

kristal: it was simple.. I just used a 5/32 drill bit and drilled 2 dozen holes around the bottom of one bucket. Then I placed the drilled bucket into another 5-gallon bucket with no holes to serve as a drain pan.

Next I took cross-shredded copier paper, doused in water, squeezed out the excess water and added loosely to the hole bucket for bedding. After that I added a cup of potting soil and the worms (red wigglers). Every since they get at least an apple core every day. I mostly have coffee grounds to give to them. They are multiplying and seem to be doing ok. I close the top with the lid that came with the 5-gallon bucket. No fruit flies in the garage yet.

One thing I would have changed though... use a smaller drill bit for smaller drain holes. The worms like to crawl to the top and bottom, so every other day I pull up the hole bucket and pick out the little guys that went into the drain bucket. I put them back in the hole bucket. I guess they go down there cause they like to swim in coffee/compost tea liquid. I have no problem picking the guys out with my fingers and putting them back where they belong. It's just annoying I have some revolutionary worms that won't stay put.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:39PM
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Hello there. I spent quite some time reading and preparing before I ventured out and purchased 1 lb. of worms (European Nightcrawler or Eisenia hortensis) that I hope will live and reproduce in the environment that I provided. Now that I have them, I am very nervous about doing something wrong and as I review what I have done and read more, I am concerned. I had decided that cardboard sounded like the end all be all for worm bedding so that is what I used. My cardboard is shredded into ¼ inch strips that are about 2 to 4 inches in length. I was careful to put the cardboard through the shredder so that there are not "tubes" for the worms to secrete themselves in. I also added about 1/5 total volume of coconut coir which I purchased in brick form and re-hydrated. The bedding is very moist but not dripping. If I squeeze it a few drops of water will come out, but not many. As most of my kitchen organic waste is going to my chickens, I am mainly interested using my worms to compost the paper products (cardboard).

For a bin, I too decided on a 5 gallon bucket with drain holes in the bottom. I nested that inside another 5 gallon bucket without holes in the bottom to catch the drips. Does anyone have any thoughts about there being enough air without holes in the sides? I havenÂt quite settled on a lid, however am leaning toward just a lid with holes in it as opposed to cardboard on top or carpetÂ..I am also wondering if a flatter bin would be better. Right now the bedding is about 12 - 14 inches deep. Would say 6 to 8 inches be better spread out over a greater distance?? I would truly appreciate any feedback from anyone about these matters.

My worms arrived in a mesh bag (no instructions which was disappointing as I love information!) with a cable tie on the top. The bag was filled with very dry coconut coir and in the middle was the mass of worms!!!! Even as dry as the bedding was, they seemed fine and 100 percent of them burrowed into the fresh cardboard bedding. There did appear to be some whiter looking ones which I was worried about but they too burrowed on down into the cardboard.

I am concerned now that I read about an experience with someone who said that their worms not breeding and multiplying in the cardboard bedding. I am really into the cardboard as I have an unlimited supply and have been shredding volumes of it for my compost pile outside. From what I had read, it seemed that it would attract "natural" worms to the pilesÂ..I was hopingÂ..

Anyway, is there a better mix that anyone has tried that still incorporates the cardboard?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 11:36AM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

Approaching a month since I first created my nested 5-gallon bucket worm compost hotel... I have no holes other than the drain holes and the worms are doing great! I do stir around the mixings to see how things are going. The worms are leaving castings everywhere including the sides of the bucket as they sometimes crawl up to the top. In the class I went to the instructor mentioned she has no breathing holes on her bin either. She said she figures opening the lid each day to add in more organic waste is enough. She's been doing this for years without incident, so I guess it is ok.

I have had some fuzzy mold forming in my bin, but it hadn't seemed to affect the worm activity. When I stir the stuff around the mold gets buried and seems to vanish anyway.

All in all the bucket bin is working great for me. It's hard to designate a 'corner' for new food without disrupting everywhere else. I sense it will be difficult to separate the castings from everything else and worms if I keep peeking and moving stuff around, so I'll try to quit doing that. It's just so exciting trying to ascertain the worms' progress. I've noticed some baby worms joining the colony as well.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 12:38AM
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I use about 50% corrugated cardboard in my bedding mix along with some shredded newspaper and some partly rotted leaves. I tear the cardboard into pieces about 8 inches long by about 6 inches then layer it with leaves and paper in between. I bought some coir once but now only use bedding that doesn't cost money. My worms have job to do. Last time I did a partial harvest it was a bathtup worm bin and I did one end only. When I replaced the bedding as above, the worms were right into it the next day. I have a feeling it was the leaves in which they were most interested.

I am not sure if a 5 gallon bucket is the best thing for worms. I think surface area is the most valuable space, therefore something like a rubbermaid tote might be better.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 6:22AM
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wormfarmer_6(z6 Ct)

I have a 5 gallon bucket that is being used as a worm bin. I set it up last fall when I wanted to bring as many worms as I could inside from my outdoor bin. I didnt put any holes in it and leave the top off. The bedding is shredded newspaper and "junkmail". The worms are doing fine and look healthy, eat up a storm, and make more worms. I just put a cloth then plastic on top of the bedding to keep moisture in and its working well.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 5:51PM
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I do everything wrong but it's turned out right so far. I bought 5 lbs of red wigglers in Sept. Threw them in a rubbermaide tub with newspaper, cardboard and some peat moss that I soaked overnight. I feed everything from lots of coffee grounds, eggs shells, tea bags, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, bread, you name it except for meat or dairy and not much citrus. I never even bothered with drainage holes and still don't. I've harvested 2 times and now have 4 bins and ready to harvest again and add another bin. All I do is take the lids off each morning, throw garbage in there, cover up with shredded paper. If it's a hot day, I put in frozen jugs of water. If any seem to be getting too wet (which isn't often, I just add more dry paper or cardboard. Then put the lids back on before dark.
One thing that might help this work, is that the bins are large enough that the worms can move to another location in the bin if they become uncomfortable, like too wet/dry, to hot/cold.I also feed in one area for a while, like a week or so, before I switch places.
Anyway, just thought I'd mention that maybe we sometimes worry too much. My worms at least seem pretty easy going, and don't seem to mind that I have no idea what I'm doing. :-)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 7:31PM
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wfike(8, Atlanta, Ga.)

I think one of the reasons for your success is that you started with plenty of worms to keep your feed eaten quickly. I think that a lot of problems are not enough worms for the amount of feed and not enough patience to let them multiply to do the job. I also think that the bigger the bed the less effect the mistakes will have.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 12:37PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

Holy smoke! I recently started giving the worms banana peels, which provides more OM than they are used to... after work I popped up the lid on my bucket setup and it was like looking at Indiana Jones in that snake pit in The Temple of Doom!!! Cool! Where'd they all come from? I have also refrained from using a stick to stir around their decaying home since my last post. There were so many worms clinging to the side of the bucket.. it appeared as though my population tripled since April 17th. I'm not sure when I will harvest, but the bucket is approaching 1/3rd to half-full of OM and shredded credit card offer bedding.

So far the 5 gallon buckets are working fantastic and the price was right (free). :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 9:50PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

After 8 and a half months I have made my first harvest in my nested 5-gallon bucket setup today. The bucket was 50% full of worms, castings and compressed bedding before I dumped it out onto a dog litter box (which made it easy to sort through)

It took me an hour and 45 minutes to sift/divide worms/bedding from compost. The product is like a thick cake mix/facial mud consistency; which I don't think is supposed to be like that, however I will dry it out a few days and hopefully be able to use this with my indoor seeding that shall take place soon.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 10:59PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

I made a seed starting mix tonight with some of the casting 'mud'. I used the following proportions:

2 parts peat moss sifted through a screen for smallest particles
1 part vermiculite
1 part worm casting 'mud'

Mixing the 3 ingredients provided the perfect moisture and texture. It looks like this:

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 11:07PM
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bencjedi, I'm curious re the dog litter box. Is that for real? Will dogs really use a litter box?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 4:45PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

Yes it is real. My chihuahua wouldn't use it. Can't say I didn't try though. Works better for temporarily using to sort worms from their castings. :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 11:04PM
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bubbalove(7 Central AL)

If you stack a five gal bucket in another, how much space is between the bottoms of each?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 9:38PM
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bencjedi....My "finished" compost looks closer to yours than what I have seen online in other places. I am trying to find the secret to having it look more like:

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 5:15PM
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The picture of the compost with the shovel came from my website, WWW.BlueRidgeVermiculture.Com

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at TheWormDude@Comcast.Net

I can help so your compostlooks just like in the picture.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 6:24PM
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