Apartment dwellers as well as those living in smaller houses may not have room for the traditional composting heap, which quickly grows in size as new material is added to the pile. A small composting area is possible with the help of worms. The process of vermicomposting allows a gardener the ability to practice composting in a 5-gallon bucket.
A 5-gallon bucket works as the worm and composting bin in the vermicomposting process. A bedding material is required for the worms to live in while they digest the scrap materials. Bedding materials can be finely shredded and moistened newspaper, cardboard or composted leaf material from the yard.
Regular worms from the yard will compost your materials, but too slowly for a 5-gallon bucket. The brandling worm, red worm and red wriggler are best suited for the job according to New Mexico State University Extension. These worms are found in composting animal manure and are available through mail order services. 2 lbs. of worms are used to decompose 1 lb.of food.
Worms eat through the waste material that is placed into the bucket and slowly digest it. As the waste is eaten, the worms create casings. Worm casings are a rich source of nutrients and organic material. When added to a garden it provides structural improvement as well as nutrition.
Preparing the Bucket
Air holes drilled at the bottom of the bucket gives proper circulation to the compost and keeps it from getting too wet. The bucket is placed on bricks inside a large plastic drip pan to catch the water. A layer of bedding material is placed at the bottom of the bucket and moistened. The worms are placed on top of the bedding and the lid is put on top of the bucket to provide shade. Worms will behave erratically if exposed to too much sunlight. After the lid is on for several hours, the worms will dig their way into the bedding and begin eating. Waste material is added to the top.
Worms will not eat everything put into the 5-gallon bucket. Worms require a longer time to consume meat and dairy products. Often those materials rot before they are digested, causing a terrible smell. Vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds and tea will compost well.