Super Simple In-Ground Bucket Worm Bin

June 12, 2020

I recently wrote about a simple “breathable bucket system” that is very easy and inexpensive to set up for indoor use. I wanted to illustrate that you can use a bag of my “outdoor grade” Easy Worm Mix for an indoor system – and I’m happy to report that the bucket bin is chugging along nicely in my basement as I type this.

In this post I want to tell you about an even easier bucket system you can put out in your yard. Aside from being a great way to grow a nice population of Red Worms and turn your kitchen scraps into “black gold”, these little units can serve as integrated fertilizer (and moisture) stations when you install them close to growing plants.

I’ll be the first to admit that outdoor vermicomposting can be more challenging than indoor vermicomposting due to various factors (eg climatic conditions, wildlife etc), but with in-ground systems – especially those using an actual container – your changes of success can be much greater.

On that note, let’s now look how I set up my basic bucket system today (in about 15 minutes).

Site selection is an important first step with any sort of system like this. Some considerations can include: 1) aesthetics (although, as I will show you, a bin like this can me hidden completely), 2) ease of access, 3) overall gameplan (eg. if you want to fertilize plants directly it should be close to growing plants).

In the case of this particular bin I decided to put it in a garden bed directly below a big honeysuckle bush (which has certainly benefited from all the nearby vermicomposting activities over the years, that’s for sure).

For the sake of getting the system set up as quickly as possible I grabbed a small bucket (pretty sure it is 3 gal) that already had some holes drilled in it. Bins like this absolutely need drainage holes so they don’t end up flooded, and I recommend holes in the side to allow the worms to move in and out (also very important if you plan to use them for garden fertilization). If you are using a larger bucket or bin, don’t hesitate to drill a lot more holes than what you see below (I normally would). Not a big deal with a bucket this small, as long as it has good drainage.

I wouldn’t say a lid is critical – but it is highly recomended in a lot of cases. It really helps to moderate moisture levels, and will keep bigger critters out. I do recommend having some holes in the top, however, so some rain water can get in. Once again, this just happened to be a lid I had on hand – I likely would have drilled more holes with a smaller bit. I’m certainly not concerned.

The pit should be deep enough that the top of the lid will be just below or at soil level.

I always like creating a “false bottom” with paper-based bedding materials. In this case, I added some shredded corrugated cardboard in the bottom of the pit itself and also in the bottom of the bucket. This will become an important “safe zone” for the worms – helping to protect and sustain them for extended periods even if they end up a bit neglected.

I next added a layer kitchen scraps. Normally I like to freeze and then thaw them since it helps to start the breakdown process (and with indoor systems it can kill fruit fly eggs in fruit peels as well).

Since the bedding was added dry, I decided to add some water at this point. One of the great things about these free-draining outdoor systems (unlike typical indoor bin) is that you don’t really need to worry about how much you add.

Before adding the worm mix I decided to add another layer of bedding. It’s nice to have a bit of a buffer zone between the worms and the food materials, but I also wanted to showcase some “scrunched” paper – another great bedding option, especially since most people will have good access to waste paper. Obviously if you happen to have a shredder, shredded paper is great as well.

As a sidenote, I always recommend avoiding glossy paper and cardboard as much as possible.

If setting up smaller buckets like the one I used, I recommend splitting a bag of worm mix between two. With a larger bucket (like one I used for my “breathable bucket system”) one bag may be fine – although there are definitely advantages to setting up multiple systems. These worms are very much adapted for taking advantage of favourable resources and conditions – in other words, when split into two separate bucket systems you might find that you end up with twice the size of population by the end of the season that you would have had you simply opted for one. It’s also great to have multiple buckets if you want to use them as fertilizer stations!

I brought the level of worm mix up close to the top of the bucket, leaving just enough room for some cover bedding.

Next, I secured the lid. As you can see, it’s not the most aesthetically appealing composter – but the good news is that you can easily cover it with mulch or even a thin layer of soil. Just make sure you remember where it is! 😉

Maintenance for a system like this can be pretty minimal. I recommend checking on it periodically and adding more food and bedding as the level drops down. It should stay pretty moist, but adding a little water each time isn’t a bad idea either.

These little buckets probaly aren’t going to be waste processing powerhouses for you, but they do offer a very cheap, easy and effective way to get started with outdoor vermicomposting and “vermigardening”.

UPDATE: Be sure to also check out “Simple In-Ground Bucket – Late June Update


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