Super Simple Breathable Bucket Worm Bin

June 1, 2020

This season (2020) I am putting most of my focus on helping people harness the “power” of composting worms in outdoor systems. I am selling an “outdoor grade” version of Easy Worm Mix – something I will write more about in another blog post.

But I still want to help those interested in starting up indoor systems. I am a huge proponent of indoor vermicomposting, especially during colder months of the year, and especially in cases where outdoor worm composting isn’t even an option.

In light of this, and as a way to help some people use the outdoor grade mix for indoor systems, I want to share a super simple indoor start up approach that I began testing in the fall of 2019 – involving the use of “breathable” buckets”.

I have written about this quite a bit on the Red Worm Composting blog (one of my other websites, in case you weren’t aware) so I won’t go too deep into the backstory. But here is a YouTube video I created that will help to lay some important groundwork.

The long and the short of it is that regular buckets are NOT usually a good choice for use as a worm bin, but when you add (very easy-to-intall) bottle cap vents – or something comparable – they can work really really well. They don’t take up much room and are very easy to move around as well – so I highly recommend you give them a try, especially if you are looking to reduce your vermicomposting start-up costs.

My outdoor grade Easy Worm Mix is a larger volume (~ 18 litres) of rich, “living” habitat material, containing not only Red Worms, but a handful of other worm species. Just generally, there is a very rich ecosystem of composting organisms – and this is partially why I suggest an outdoor set-up. Things like gnats, which may or may not gain a foothold, can certainly be more annoying indoors. And the sheer volume of the mix makes it less well suited for something like a smaller stacking bin.

One of the great things about the bucket system we are looking at here is that it keeps things contained (yet still provides great air flow) – we’ll touch on this again a bit further down.

On that note – let’s now look at how I set up one of these buckets with a single bag of the outdoor mix.

Step #1 with most of my worm composting systems is creating some form of “false bottom” with cardboard/paper. It just so happens that each bag of the mix has a decent amount of shredded newsprint down in the bottom, so this is what I put down in the bottom of my bucket.

From there on up it was just a matter of adding thin, alternating layers of material. First some of the Easy Worm Mix…

…then a thin layer of bedding (note: flat sheets of paper aren’t ideal since they can impede worm and air movement – I recommend either shredding or “scrunching”).

Next I added my first layer of kitchen scraps. I keep a bucket under the sink for these wastes and once the bucket is filled it is usually frozen and thawed before use. Chopping + aging + freezing/thawing greatly assists the microbes (and the worms) so these optimized waste mixes will tend to get processed more quickly than fresh scraps.

I then continued with these alternating layers all the way up (you really only need 1-3 layers of the food, however – it’s the bedding and the mix that are the most important during the start-up phase).

I always recommend ending with a thick cover layer of bedding.

I actually left the bin as-is for a number of days in the basement before adding my covers. As you can see, the activity of the worms had already led to a drop in the overall level of material in the system.

Because I use a very breathable fabric lid on these buckets I also lay a loose plastic bag over the surface of the composting zone. This helps to retain a bit more moisture. The fabric (cut from an old bed sheet) is secured with a large elastic band.

What’s great about a simple system like this is:

1) I had no problem using the entire bag of mix – plus bedding and food materials
2) In a climate controlled location (eg this one is sitting in my basement) this could sit for extended periods without any further attention
3) If any sort of gnat (etc) outbreak does happen to materialize, the lid and vents will keep it fully contained.
4) In a shady location, a bin like his could even do fine outside – my only (major) caveat would be to make sure it gets moved indoors during heavy rainfall so it doesn’t end up flooded. (I will be writing a blog about another type of bucket system that is actually a better choice for those of you who have some yard space to work with)

If this system looks like something you would like to try, please be sure to watch the video above since the vents are a very important feature (i.e. don’t just try this with a regular bucket).

Let me know if you have any questions!


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