5-Gallon Bucket Worm Farm=Black Gold

It is so incredibly easy to turn kitchen scraps and other “waste” products into black-gold worm castings, it’s amazing that not everyone is doing this. Worm castings have five times the nitrogen, six times the phosphorus, and ten times the potassium of most potting soils you would buy at a garden center. Think of your worm farm as an odorless compost system that you house in a 5-gallon bucket in the basement or under the kitchen sink. The concept discussed below can work on a large or small scale.  Instead of a 5-gallon bucket you could use a 30 gallon drum, a big plastic bin, or a trashcan.

Red Wigglers are typically the type of worm used in worm bins.  They can eat half their weight in food daily and really require very little attention.  You can feed them everyday, every few days, or once every couple of weeks.  If you want to go on vacation for a month, you won’t even need a pet sitter! The keys to good vermicomposting is keeping your worms moist, fed, and making sure they don’t get too hot (over 90 degrees is too hot).

How to turn a 5-gallon bucket into a worm farm:

You actually need two 5-gallon buckets.  One to hold the worms and one to hold the worm juice (sounds gross, but is actually a juicy bonus).

1. Put one bucket inside the other bucket.

2. With an 1/4 inch drill bit, drill plenty of holes all around the top of the interior bucket, so that air can enter it.  

3. Take the interior bucket out and drill a few holes in the bottom of this bucket (not in the exterior bucket).  This will allow any excess liquid to drain out and be collected in the exterior bucket.  This liquid can be used a fertilizer.

4. Drill several holes in the lid that will fit on the interior bucket.

5. Place a bedding of moistened, shredded newspaper or coconut coir in the bucket to 1/2 or 3/4 full.

6. In a bright sunny spot, place your worms on the bedding.  The bright light will force them down into the newspaper where they will be happy and start their new worm home.

7. Place a little finished compost or soil over the top of the bedding once the worms are below the surface.  You need to wait about a week before feeding the worms, as they need to become acclimated to their new home.

8. On the top of the worm bucket surface, place a loose damp “blanket” of newspaper or cardboard.  This will help keep the worm bed from drying out and keep them in the dark.

9. After a week has passed you are ready to start feeding them.

What to feed/not to feed your worms:

2,000 worms will eat around 1 lb. of food per day.  It’s best to bury the food under their “blanket” of cardboard or newspaper.

Good stuff: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tea bags, small to moderate amounts of coffee grounds (better to start a 5 gallon bucket mushroom farm with these!), shredded paper and cardboard, grit (crushed eggshells, rock dust, or oyster shell), leaves, and old flowers.

Not so good stuff: Too much coffee, citrus peels, shiny newspaper or magazines, meat or bones, junk food, sugary or oily stuff, dog or cat poop.

It’s best to shred any paper or cardboard that you add to the worm bin and some folks even make a slurry for their worms. This might speed up the process a bit, but it is also just fine to add to add your compost as it is. The only thing that really needs to be broken down a bit first is the paper products.  If you have a paper shredder, you could use that.  If you have little kids, they will love to tear up paper to feed to the worms.

Make sure you have a nice moist environment that is not too wet nor too dry.

Then what?:

Red Wigglers will produce 2,000-3,000 offspring per year in ideal conditions.  It’s important to harvest your worm castings, sell or give away your worm offspring, or put a pound or so of worms out in your garden or compost pile.

You can also set it up so that you have two of the interior buckets, so one is ready to start anew while you are harvesting the other one.


To buy or sell locally produced food, worms, compost, and all sorts of other cool stuff, check outPick-A-Pepper.com!


Worm Castings Photo Credit

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