Worm Composting Lodge

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About: I am recently retired. I created the vegetable fermenting system called the Perfect Pickler. I teach cooking classes and lecture and do workshops on fermenting and ferment gardening in New York and Florida.

Convert your kitchen veggie scraps into rich garden compost with the power of worms! This simple cardboard "lodge" sets up in short order. Create compost within just 8" diameter area in your garden or anywhere outdoors. Once activated it requires nothing but a pound or so of vegetable scraps weekly, a little moisture, and a little coarse sand (worm grit). Unlike the fancy worm cafes on the market, this cardboard tube costs under $8.00. If you ever want to stop the action, the worms will just leave and the lodge will disintegrate. No harm, no foul...

And your worms will produce castings (compost) to feed plants immediately around the lodge, plus create pounds of rich castings within a couple months to spread around your garden. Your garbage barrel will shrink while transforming scraps into soil. Unlike yard waste composting, there is no need to mix nitrogen and carbon based mixtures for balance. Just pop off the lid and drop in your veggie scraps.

Here's how to make your own worm composting lodge:

MATERIALS:

1 48" tall by 8" diameter cardboard tube $8.00

8 lbs. of manure (bagged at home improvement center or garden shop) $7.00

1/4 lb. of "red wiggler" composting worms (not earthworms). Google hardware stores in your area ($10.00)

1 lb. of "worm grit" or gravel dust (garden or hydroponics store) $5.00

Veggie peels and scraps (no meat, dairy). Egg shells

bowl or terra cotta pot to put on top of lodge

TOOLS:

Shovel

hacksaw

drill with large drill bit

Step 1: Prepare Your Garden Spot

DIRECTIONS:

Locate a spot in a new garden bed if you wish, or anywhere you can prepare a 24 inch deep x 8 inch wide hole Saw off 12 inches from the tube to create 36" lodge (retain this short piece for another future lodge).

Drill 15 to 20 holes (1/2" to 1" dia.) around the bottom 12 inches of the lodge. This will allow worms to migrate in and out of the lodge. As long as you add fresh scraps weekly, they will hang around for the buffet, but explore your garden.

Set the lodge into the dug out area and backfill with existing soil (or some manure mixed in.)

Add the 8 lbs. of manure (Black Kow or other manure). This should fill the bottom 12 inches of the lodge.

Add in the worms. They will live in the manure until you start feeding them scraps.

Add 12 inches of vegetables scraps, torn up moistened newspaper and cardboard, crushed egg shells. Also sprinkle about a tablespoon of worm grit or coarse sand (worms have a crop, just like birds, and use grit to break down food).

Water in the scraps. Worms must be moist to breath. Maintain moist, but not drenching lodge.

TO GATHER THE CASTINGS

After 8-10 weeks carefully dig out the tower and save some worms to set up another lodge elsewhere or in the same location. Sort and save the castings (finished castings look like coffee grounds) and use the partial castings from the upper part of the lodge as starter food for the next lodge along with another 8 pounds of manure. Follow the directions again to build another lodge.

SUMMARY: This is how America can improve landfills and gardens. Easy-Peasy! It's fun to check in on your little family and see the action after about 6 weeks; they begin to peer out of the top of the scraps. Worms eat their own weight every day and will begin to travel out of the lodge and into the surroundings. Add plants around the tower they will have their own fertilizer!

Each lodge requires about one pound of scraps per week. You can leave the lodge for up to 3 weeks at a time without hurting them. Once you get up and into a system, add as many lodges as you desire to create garden soil with kitchen scraps. I could have two lodges per adult in my garden.

OPTIONAL: Color the tube and add designs to the bowl and welcome your new family into the garden.

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24 Discussions

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belsey

2 years ago

This is great! I did worm composting indoors for a couple years in one of those expensive contraptions (which you do need if you're working indoors, because it's got to drain), but this is so much simpler and better! I had to quit eventually because I got a horrible fruit fly infestation, and in my attempt to get rid of all the fruit flies I also killed the worms. But I have a question about hot summer and winter.... have your worms survived the extreme temperatures? They're pretty fussy that way (I even had to crank up the AC in the summer because otherwise they'd try to escape their box -- so indirectly they became too expensive).

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Bille Nutmegbelsey

Reply 2 years ago

I am still reviewing my first lodge's run. It's been 8 weeks since I set it up. I am in Central FL and it has been getting into the upper 80's of late. But, I see the worms peeking up every so often, and there is no odd odors coming from the lodge. They are residing about 12 inches below ground, and they can move lower if needed. I am sure this is a seasonal application. But the worms will move out if they are not happy. So far I am really impressed with the simplicity and low-level care to keep the lodge going. I will be pulling it up in two weeks and post the update.

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nanaverm

2 years ago

To make this project cheaper, one can use coffee grounds instead of manure to start with and any old sand. If you have access to horse manure, that's good too if it's at least a month out of the horse (deworming meds...) and not producing heat. Worms left in the soil won't do too well unless the soil is very moist and rich with organic matter.

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belseynanaverm

Reply 2 years ago

Worms do love coffee ground, but using 8 lbs of coffee grounds instead of manure (rather than mixing it with other stuff) might throw off the pH too much.

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nanavermbelsey

Reply 2 years ago

You may be right - as well as getting 8 lbs. of coffee grounds! Eggshells help regulate pH by buffering the acid, but that's another thing to source and grind.

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Bille Nutmegnanaverm

Reply 2 years ago

I didn't know about coffee grounds. Good! I go to Starbucks and they give away the grounds; just ask. I know worms breath through their skin, so keeping it moist and full of organic matter will keep them staying at the lodge and not traveling too far. I just noticed after 9 weeks my cardboard lodge is beginning to break up; just in time to harvest the castings and start another lodge!

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Biscokid

2 years ago

I wonder what the worms love so much about watermelon riinds,cantelope and honeydew melons? I had an old worm guy tell me that they prefer these more than other food scraps and I have observed this myself.

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nanavermBiscokid

Reply 2 years ago

They like them as humans do, because they're juicy and sweet. And they decompose quickly. It's so fun to see the "cantaloupe lace" they don't eat and leave behind from the rind!

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Bille NutmegBiscokid

Reply 2 years ago

I didn't know this! I am working with a vermiculturist and she finds grinding up fruit and vegetable peels mixed with a little worm grit (rock dust) allows for fast conversion to castings. She also adds a layer of shredded paper so the worms can get out of the food and clean up a bit (before consuming the paper ;o)

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BiscokidBille Nutmeg

Reply 2 years ago

Bill H 102.Yes i was not aware of this either but as you know we can all learn more from those who have had years of what ever their expertise is.

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cmdr101

2 years ago

A suggestion for cutting down the cost. Call a roofing contractor that does large commercial buildings with flat roofs. When they are putting on a roof mate they have cardboard tubes this size in 10 foot sections that they send to the dump and most are happy to get rid of them for free.

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Bille Nutmegcmdr101

Reply 2 years ago

Sounds like a good idea. I have a mini-SUV so I needed a tube I could fit in my car. The tubes are only $8.00. I find it easier and cheap enough for now over 8 ft or longer plastic sewer piping, etc. This is the Model A stage of worm composting lodges. I can see artful models evolving that will add charm to the garden while performing this rite of life. ;o)

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charlesd.parker.33

2 years ago

Thank you for this idea. I am also a composter in the back yard and this will add a new dimension to my madness! Good idea and worldly in your perspective! Should work great here along the Gulf Coast.

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It's so logical, it's like, why wasn't this hatched before, way before. It lends a certain kind of circle of life quality, vegetables borne from composted soil from vegetable trimmings; improved each time. Please keep me posted on your progress. Bill

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seamster

2 years ago

Excellent instructable! We need to do this at my house, and I bet my kids would really enjoy this as an ongoing project to keep them busy.

Great info, and very nicely presented. Thank you! :)

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Bille Nutmegseamster

Reply 2 years ago

The neighborhood kids have led the charge. They helped load the worms into the lodge and bring me banana peels. After 6 weeks you can see the little gems moving around at the top of the lodge (for just a second, they move away from light. It is way cool and a teaching tool for kids and adults!

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wes23

2 years ago

I have been just digging holes around the yard to bury compost, but this seems much better. Plus I already have the perfect tube saved at work. Thank you in advance for the time and effort you've saved me.

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Bille Nutmegwes23

Reply 2 years ago

It's incredibly satisfying to have nature's creatures in harmony with you your kitchen wastes and your garden soil!

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buildandsewandstuff

2 years ago

Great idea! Can you paint or varnish the tube to keep it from breaking down, or is that bad for the worms?

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The worms will eventually eat the tube! You could go to plumbing supply and get plastic piping, and with more sophisticated cutting and drill make it a permanent lodge. I don't have those tools, so I set it up with a degradable version.