THIS AMAZING WASTE-TO-RESOURCES SYSTEM USES A SIMPLE BUCKET TO TURN YOUR TRASH INTO BLACK GOLD.
Nature has its own way of creating resources out of waste. In the forest, leaves fall to the ground in autumn and eventually decompose with the help of tiny microorganisms. That decomposition ultimately feeds the soil, which in turn feeds the trees. Nature is full of awesome closed-loop systems that we can learn. At home, we typically resort to buying prepackaged compost to enrich our garden soil. There are many options on the market; some good and some not so good. It just so happens that you can effortlessly make the best compost at home, inside your home, with no foul odors. It’s true!
If mushroom compost is the Cadillac of compost, then vermicompost is the Rolls-Royce of compost. You may have logically deduced that mushroom compost is made from the spent substrate that mushrooms are grown in, but do you know what vermicompost is? I assure you the name sounds far more complicated than what the process actually entails. Vermicompost is similar to regular compost, except that worms play a large part in the composting process.
Vermicomposting systems are typically small, cheap and portable. Worms are brought in to an enclosed container to decompose organic food waste such as table scraps, and paper products such as shredded up junk mail. The worms turn the waste into a nutrient-rich material that is capable of supporting superior plant growth. Vermicompost enriches the soil, creates an ecologically safe system for food production, and raises the productivity of the land. Enough about how amazing this stuff is, let’s talk about how you can construct your own simple vermicompost system at home.
Materials You Will Need:
- 1 Five Gallon Bucket, with Lid
- 1 Round Plastic Louver, 3″
- 2 Round Plastic Louvers, 1″
- 1 Length of Schedule 40 PVC Pipe – 1″ diameter, 10 3/4″ length
- 1 Plastic Spigot
- 1 Grit Guard Bucket Insert (See Below For Cheaper Option)
- 1 Piece of Window Screen
Tools You Will Need:
- Tape Measure
- Power Drill
- Small Drill Bit
- 1″ Spade Drill Bit
- 3″ Hole Saw
- Hand Saw
Step 1: The Lid
Take the lid off of the five gallon bucket and drill a hole in the center using the 3″ hole saw. Sand the rough edges and snap the 3″ round plastic louver into this hole. This ventilation will allow air exchange from the top of the vermicompost system.
Step 2: Drainage
Install the spigot on the side of the bucket, using the instructions that came with the spigot. Try to place the spigot as low as possible while still ensuring that the hole does not extend below the inside floor of the bucket. Also make sure that the spigot is not placed so low that it prevents the bucket from sitting flat on the ground. The spigot will allow you to drain out the valuable liquid that will collect at the bottom of the bucket when the system is in use. It also prevents the worms from drowning! (People have inquired where the liquid comes from if you don't add any water into the system. The simplest way to answer this is that the black compost is the poo, and the liquid collected at the bottom is the pee.)
Step 3: Build the Bottom
Using the top of the grit guard as a template, cut a circle shape out of the window screen. The final piece of screen should be the exact same size as the grit guard’s circumference. Insert the grit guard into the bottom of the bucket, and then lay the screen on top. The screen should lay flush on top of the grit guard. These pieces together will act as a false bottom in the bucket, allowing liquid to drain through but preventing worms and their bedding from falling through.
Step 4: Center Ventilation Shaft
Use the tape measure to mark a spot 5 1/2 inches from the bottom of the bucket. Mark the spot on the outside of the bucket, and make sure that the marked spot is well above the top of the grit guard on the inside of the bucket. Drill a 1″ hole here using the spade drill bit. Drill another hole on the other side of the bucket, directly across from the first hole.
Using the small drill bit, drill alternating ventilation holes in the 1″ PVC pipe, as pictured. These holes do not need to be pretty, or exact. When you have drilled the ventilation holes, sand the pipe to remove any roughness. Wedge the pipe inside the bucket horizontally so that the ends of the pipe align with the two 1″ holes on the sides of the bucket. Secure the two 1″ louvers from the outside of the bucket.
For those who are having a hard time finding the materials needed, I have included Amazon links below: (Full Disclosure: I earn a very small commission from Amazon if you choose to click the links provided -there is no additional cost to you). Please try repurposing (free) five gallon buckets at your local bakery (frosting buckets), hamburger joints (pickle buckets), and Car Washes (Soap Buckets). Make sure the buckets are "food grade" and didn't once contain some nasty chemical. The PVC pipe can be found at any hardware store.
PS - See below for a cheap alternative solution for the "Grit Guard"
UPDATE: "Grit Guards" can be quite expensive so I devised a $1 alternative. I've thoroughly tested it and it holds its structural integrity.
I went to the local Dollar Store and purchased a thin plastic cutting board (pack of 2).
You'll need to cut out the following pieces from the flimsy plastic cutting board:
(2) - 2.5" x 10"
(4) - 2.5" x 8"
Cut notches at the 2", 5", and 8" marks on the two 10" pieces. (don't cut past the "halfway" point)
Cut notches at the 1", 4", and 7" marks on the four 8" pieces. (don't cut past the "halfway" point)
Put the four 8" pieces together, and then add the two 10" pieces to the center.
Kind of hard to see, but the grid has been placed on the bottom of the bucket (the spigot fits between the walls of the grid). The window mesh is then placed on top of the grid to prevent the worms from falling down into the liquid.