Building the 5 bucket worm stack. Easy and inexpensive worm system.
I saw this worm crawling across my driveway. It’s a little hard to see, but it must extend over 18″.
That’s my shoe in the first photo, my hand in the second.
These are the result of my window sill tomatoes. I have the big beef hybrid (which grew to about 2 1/2″ across in the confines of the pot) and romas, which were so sweet to bite into that my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
These tomatoes were grown in a 12″ pot, worm compost, commercial compost, coconut coir and some secret (all organic) ingredients make for window sill gardening.
The volume is a little loud, adjust your speakers, and then learn how to have tomatoes year round.
These are from last spring/winter…
This year, just to see what happens I’ve planted some bush beans in 10″ pots. Plants are about 8″ tall now. I’m going to start some of those tasty goldens pretty soon too. And I finally got some basil to sprout – can’t wait to see if I get anything out of that.
I heard through the grape vine that the original source of our worms had a complete die off. The worms had, as she put it, drowned. Now, keeping worms in the small space of 5 gallon buckets can be tricky. I have had relatively few problems, but the small systems can be very sensitive to any imbalance. I have spent hour after hour researching vermiculture on the internet. I carefully built my bucket systems based around what I have learned. I periodically empty the leachate from the bottom bucket. I feed slowly and methodically, never too much. My worms are thriving and I’ve harvested quite a bit of vermicompost as of late.
After hearing that our benefactor had a total loss, A was sure they had a complete failure in the vermiculture department as well. But, with worms, benign neglect is worse that dutiful over feeding (and not emptying the leachate) and A & J’s worms were just fine. I did decide to do a harvest of the system. As I was using the reclaimed colander to shake out a few castings I pulled out the wood pieces and decorative gravel that the original designer had placed in the bucket. I never understood what the gravel was for – turns out neither did the system designer. He just threw it in there. I threw the gravel onto the driveway, losing some castings in the process. The wood I threw onto the driveway as well.
At the bottom of the first set of buckets the designer had placed a rock to keep the top bucket from getting stuck in the bottom. The idea was imperfect, the rock had cracked the bottom of the lower bucket. Turns out benign neglect saved a pool of stench in their garage. If the buckets had any moisture, there would have been a permanent reminder stain. I consolidated the worms into one system and brought the Homer buckets home – to await a time when I can collect enough Burger King pickle buckets to rebuild the bucket set.
As fate would have it, I was at my mom’s working on a few things so she can move when she crooked her finger at me, beckoning me to the garage. She had me lift the active bucket from atop the solid bottom bucket of her worm bucket system. The active bucket slurped away from two gallons of leachate. Leachate is anaerobic. So is the human colon. And they smell the same (although leachate could be worse). I dutifully carried the six inches of stench around to the flower garden and poured it over the surface. Six inches of undrained leachate contains about two inches of solids. And when first poured off it looks pretty much the same as it smells. Thick, black as night, anaerobic. It’s disgusting.
Mom had been doing so well with the worms. When she was on a weird diet she bought a single banana per week just to let it go mushy so she could squeeze the innards out onto the top of the bucket like an over sized tube of banana tooth paste. The worms were ecstatic, thriving, vibrant. But that all changed because mom is moving. She stopped feeding her outdoor compost bin and doubled down on the worms. Nay, quadrupled down. Mom’s buckets could have used the next working bucket placed on top, but the bucket sat empty next to the stack. When I dared open the top I saw a two inch layer of lettuce and smelled the unmistakable odor of dead worms. I cannot describe it, but I know it when I smell it. I stuck my unprotected hand into the top layers of lettuce and paper. I pulled slightly to the side and was both sickened and saddened by what I saw. Worm bodies in a semi decayed state, still with stretch but with no life. Barely a day away from being unrecognizable. But such is the way of life, ashes to ashes, worms to muck.
This allows me to perform a small experiment – assuming that mom doesn’t ditch the entire waste treatment plant in a bucket. Leaving the buckets alone for a month or so should allow the lettuce to melt into mush and any worm egg casings to hatch. In theory, the hatchlings should repopulate the buckets. I should really add a second set of buckets to mom’s system so they can handle the double down. I may have to add some more worms to her system though.
Get your own Red Wiggler worms (EF)
Feeding backyard chickens can be a lot of work.
I have tomatoes growing in the window sill. These silly things don’t know it’s winter still. They started on their own and I transplanted them out the pot they “volunteered” in. Now I have six plants ranging from the experimentally rooted “sucker” at about 5″ tall to 36″. And there are 15 – 18 tomato fruits right now. In February. On the window sill. This is almost more and better than we had all last summer in the garden.
If you are easily grossed out – take a day off from reading my blog. Today is gross picture day. I don’t usually post photos, but I was asked for pictures of my worm bucket system by a co-worker so I took a few. These buckets started out life as pickle containers.
This first photo shows just a few of my buckets lined up.
Worm aging buckets: One solid bucket, ie no holes drilled as our “catch basin” and one bucket with holes drilled for draining and aeration. This bucket contains mostly finished VC – vermicasting or vermicompost – a little bit of unfinished bedding and lots of worms. I’m currently top feeding with outdated powdered vanilla pudding mix and powdered milk. The level of VC has shrunk about two inches in just a few weeks time. This might take a few months to get to the point where I can just scoop out the castings onto the plants. The remaining worms will be relocated to the more active buckets.
The worms are “swarming” over the powdered milk mix.
View of a much less processed bin.
Two of these bucket tops are cut off to make spacer rings. These are placed on top of a nearly full active bucket. A new empty active bucket is placed above the spacers. The new top bucket rests on the built up waste below. The spacers prevent the bucket from smashing the waste and bedding in the lower bucket. I add a little bit of bedding and slowly start feeding the new top bucket.
Worms continue to work the bottom bucket. Notice the slight indented ring where the top bucket rests.
And if you thought these photos were gross, don’t dare visit RedWormComposting (humorously, he abbreviates his site RWC)
The worms continue to be happy. I noticed on my top bucket of one of my stacked bucket system that a few worms had made it to the top. I had been filling the bucket way too fast with kitchen waste and it was filled to the rim. There was simply no more room to add so I stopped. Now there are some people who say you can over feed your worm bins, and if they stink, they’re overfed. I was worried that mine would start to stink out in the hallway and I would have to get rid of them. I lucked out and about a month after I stopped adding anything to the top bucket there are worms near the surface – and the height has dropped about three inches. It looks like it will be worked over after all. Now it’s time to start peeking to see when the bottom bucket is ready for “harvest” of the worm castings.