In Gardening, Methods of Design & Patterns, Permaculture Projects, Soil & Compost

For some time now I’ve been anxious to get a worm composting system for our kitchen scraps to turn our “waste” into a valuable resource – soil! Inspired by some pretty neat worm systems that I found on the web, I set out to design something that would work very well, yet could be built with scrap or easily available material.

Red Wiggler Worms are a special species of earthworm native to Europe that are adapted to living in decaying organic material. These thrive in rotting vegetation, compost and even manure.

In true permaculture-fashion I started the design process with a Needs and Yields analysis:

Red Wiggler Needs:

  • Dark moist environment
  • Adequate drainage
  • Food (scrap veggies, fruit, bread, coffee grounds, ect.)
  • Carbon bedding (newspaper, cardboard, leaves)
  • Mineral supplement
  • Fresh oxygen supply

Red Wiggler Yields:

  • Worm castings
  • Worm juice (garden supplement)
  • Education
  • Landfill reduction
  • Food supply for future aquaponics system

I’ve heard that worms contained in a breathable material have better oxygen supply and therefore eat and multiply faster. A breathable material will also reduce the risk that the rotting food goes anaerobic (and stinky) before being digested.

Landscape fabric seemed a good fit to provide breathability, drainage, and a dark space. A few days after having the idea of using some form of landscape fabric, I was shopping for groceries with my reusable grocery bags and as I packed my groceries I noticed that the bag was black and woven – very similar to landscape fabric. The light bulb illuminated!

Here’s what I did:

Back home I emptied the grocery bag, collected two 5 gallon buckets and a drill.
Next I drilled numerous 1/2 inch holes into the bottom of one of the buckets. This bucket becomes the Worm Frame.
The Worm Frame (with holes) is nested into the second bucket. The outer bucket is now the Worm Juice Harvester.
Here is the black grocery bag, being fitted inside the Worm Frame. The bag will hold the rotting food and worms.
In goes some straw, shredded paper and food scraps.
Lastly I drilled a large hole into the side of the bucket to let air flow access the bag from all around but keep light and flies out.

Next I posted a request on our Facebook page to see if anyone had some spare worms and very soon thereafter I had a small cup of worms to place into the new home (Thanks Cathy!). 

Now all I needed was a cool name – The Vermipod!

A month later our worms are living a happy, aerobic, dark, moist life and breeding very quickly. We are looking forward to starting our next pod.

Here it is, the Vermipod:

Based on the success of our little Vermipod I’ve got some ideas on how to design a system that could handle larger (i.e. commercial) food scrap streams. Let me know if you are interested – I’d be happy to share my design.

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Showing 20 comments
  • chelsie

    This looks super awesome, but just wondering what the point of the bag is? It seems the worms should be fine just in the top bucket. does it sit inside the bucket like a garbage bag, or does it “float” above the bottom of the bucket?
    cheers, and nice work on the DYI!

    • Rob Avis

      The top bag allows oxygen to hit the castings and provides superior drainage to the bucket.

  • Anni

    That is probably the simplest DIY vermipod (we call them worm bins here) I have ever seen! And I think it would definitely work. I love the idea of using a reusable grocery bag for holding the worms. Definitely breathable. Great design!

  • Sandi

    I have made really good coosmpt in a terrace. Just get a small trash can where you can put what you want to coosmpt. Throw in kitchen scraps every day as you get them and also some shredded newspaper to keep an adequate nitrogen-carbon ratio. Specially at the beginning add some soil to get some organisms to start the job. In my experience, the key to success is that you have to turn it every day. This way the coosmpt is always well aerated so decomposition is aerobic and therefore there will be no smell and the excess humidity will evaporate. It also makes it more difficult for bugs to lay eggs or be around it. If the weather gets too hot cover the coosmpt so it doesn’t dry out too much. If there is too much humidity turn it over more often (maybe twice a day) and add more newspaper to soak up water. It’s not as much work as it seems, it only takes a couple of minutes to turn. I’ve been growing houseplants and veggies in it for a while now and it’s worked really well.

  • Anonymous

    Just wondering what the “mineral supplements” at the very top of this post refers to (under “red wiggler needs”)? I haven’t heard anyone mention what they are and/or why they are important? We are starting a vermipod in our office this week, are preparing the necessary materials and want to get it right! Thanks.

    • jentashi

      Hi Anonymous,
      I’ve read (from Worms Eat my Garbage by Appelhoff) that the worms need some sand to help then digest their food (they have a crop, like birds do). They might need other mineral supplements too. I imagine a scoop or two of garden soil might do well.

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