Outdoor vs. Indoor Vermicomposting

Helena, MT

The biggest complaint about indoor vermicomposting is there are never enough worm castings to go around. While outdoor vermicomposting is not intended to produce pure worm castings it is never the less a viable way to produce compost 4 to 5 times richer than composting without the benefit of compost worms. So why not seed your outdoor compost bins, piles, and even raised beds with worms from your indoor compost bins.

Vermiculture and vermicomposting are virtually the same process which means simply you are harvesting worms in the vermiculture process. and castings in the vermicompost process.

Outdoor vermicomposting can use dozens of locally available materials for media as well as food and compost worms don’t really care what you put in the mix, but they do have their favorite foods. Some materials will take longer to break down than others, but they can typically be screened out and used in the next row, pile, or bin. Wood chips and wood chip fines are a good example.

Even purchasing organic fertilizers for your garden needs is expensive, and with so much compost materials going to waste in landfills it should be every gardener’s responsibility to grow their own fertilizers. All it takes is a little effort. The more you turn and water your vermicompost piles the quicker the process will take place. The optimum may be every third day during the most active periods.

Sustainable gardening is well within all our grasps and hopefully some company will build a machine which will assist the home gardener in this process. A version of the Brown Bear Auger could easily be built much like a hand operated rototiller, so come on Mantis or some company…get on the stick.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Ok, Duane. I'm in.

So, turn this new thread into an OUTDOOR VERMICOMPOSTING TUTORIAL

Outdoor Vermicomposting in Existing Raised Beds - Step #1

Helena, MT

Linda, just preaching to the choir I know.

Outdoor Vermicomposting in Existing Raised Beds - Step #1

I have been using French Intensive gardening methods in my raised beds for several years with compost worms to assist the process. The first step was to dig out two or more feet below the surface of each of my six 4' x 8' raised beds, and then layer in about a foot of fresh horse manure mixed wtih bedding straw. I can also incorporate some wood chip fines, coffee grounds, crushed rock fines. etc. Heat produced from vermicomposting layer is transferred up into the bed growing media allowing a much earlier starting date for cool climate crops. As the next spring rolls around this vermicpmposted layer become a growing medium in the raised beds; or mixes used in the garden holes dug in the garden for squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, peppers, and tomatoes. It can also be used in potting mixes or as a cultivating mulch. This is just one method of outdoor vermicomposting, but again there is never enough of this material to go around. So additional outdoor vermicomposting methods are necessary to become self sustaining.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Lemme see if I have this right, with a working example in progress. (This is right on time, BTW...).

I just finished harvesting all of my fall/winter veggies (broccoli, cauliflowers, cabbages) from two of my raised beds. They are currently sitting empty, waiting for the next step toward spring planting of tomatoes, bell peppers, okras, eggplants, and maybe a squash plant, or two...

I need to refresh the garden soil/compost blend that these two were filled with, to prepare to receive new seedlings. If I want to start vermicomposting in these particular beds, I should dig out the medium a minimum of 2' and

"then layer in about a foot of fresh horse manure mixed with bedding straw...wood chip fines, coffee grounds, crushed rock fines, etc. Heat produced from the vermicomposting layer is transferred up into the bed growing media, allowing a much earlier starting date for cool climate crops."

This generated heat would be a GREAT thing, since I plan to transplant tomato seedlings into this bed in the middle of our winter here, and can use all the soil warmth I can get!!!

At what point do the wigglers get added to the bed? And, how do I control how much heat I'm getting so as to not damage the seedling roots with too much heat?

Also, you are NOT preaching to the choir. I'm here, and I'm listening. And, there are probably lurkers, who are reading and learning, who will eventually chime in with comments or questions. So, "keep 'a goin'!"


SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The more I think about this, the more excited I'm getting!!!

Just spoke with another grower here who has access to fresh manure -- LOTS of manure (from a riding stable!)

Work with me...



Helena, MT

Not having gardened in Texas Linda I would probably use caution on the amount of manure added to the bed if you are concerned about too much heat.
Vermicomposting in your winter months is probably a lot like our spring months subject to sporadic frosts. Vermicomposting/French Intensive gardening is still a cool process for us even during the summer so temperatures generated probably would not add more than 15 degrees to the growing media temperature even during the day time. We commonly have 40 degree swings in air temperatures in the spring and frost days possible up until mid-June. That is why I cover my raised beds at night with old glass window panes and a tarp.

Some of the crops you mentioned would probably not be planted until mid-May in my sunken raised beds, so I prefer to stick with crops like lettuce and spinach for early transplanting around the first of April.

For us northerners placing a layer of black plastic over the surface of the raised bed growing media adding some old window covers can add some additional heat as well, giving us an even better jump start.
As for your southern winter gardening I would be surprised if conditions got too hot with this method, but there is another thing I do which might help. I place two vertical PVC pipe pieces in opposite corners of my raised beds. This tubing is large enough in diameter to insert a 5/8's inch garden hose. Bottom watering periodically with cold water should reduce the temperature of the decomposing materials in the bottom of your raised beds. In my case I add warm water instead to increase temperature especially when a freeze warning is in effect.

I invested in an outdoor hot water tap next to a cold water tap. Using a high pressure “Y” washing machine hose I can blend as much water as necessary for early spring watering. One of the best $100 garden investments I have ever made. Do to the size of my garden I need to be careful of when I do this or I get chastised for using up all the hot water!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

What you said sounds about right for my area. Thanks for the pointers on the addition of the fresh manure. We'll get sporadic dips down into the low-30s maybe 5-10 days between now and mid-April and, generally, nothing sustained for more than overnight or maybe 2-3 nights in a row, if that many.

The days should average somewhere between 42-52°, which won't be bad if the sun is out most of the time, cause I will have the beds covered with perforated plastic that will capture the daytime heat but not fry the plants. Wind and rain will flow through the covering. And, I'm ready with frost blankets, milk jugs of warm water/space heaters for overnight freezes.

But, the bottom heat from the warm manure and the compost is the ticket!!!

Now. What about the wigglers? When do they get added to this equation?


Helena, MT

Add worms at the beginning of the process so they can get busy.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

two feet down, in the horse manure layer?

Helena, MT

Doesn't really matter worms will migrate throughout the pile. There doesn't seem to be any interest in this thread. Might as well have done it on D-mail. I did update my indoor composting tutorial and sent you a D-mail copy. Your input would be appreciated.

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

H ey, mrader,
I have been lurking, not having anything to add about a raised bed system.
I have been interested in what can be grown in an exptemely small space.
Although I have done and will do raised beds, I am consentrating on above ground worm bins.
I do have to comment that it seems as though you would need to dig out your beds every year
to and add more manure.
Another way, I have seen is to dig a trench down the middle of your raised bed and add manure
and worm food. The worms migrate into and out to the edges. You build a bed wide enough to
accomodate the trench down the middle.

The Great thing about these forums, I get so charged up reading them; not to mention, the ideas.
Thanks for your imput.

Helena, MT

Paul, I do the same thing to you as well. You would not believe how many of your postings I have down loaded since you came on board. Glad you snuck in here. I just had the feeling I was talking to myself, but Linda kindly spurs me on.

To answer your question about digging out my beds each spring, yes that is exactly what I do. When I first started doing this I was taking this material and dumping it on my rock wall at the back of my yard in the highway barrow ditch. I mentioned this in a tread here and some one thought I was tossing this material and said I could give it to them. Maybe that was you Paul...Anyway it got me to thinking about all the ways I could use this material and believe me it all gets recycled.

Things like wood chip fines and possibly the rotted straw which may not have been fully decomposed can go into anther vermicompost pile. I have a quarter inch framed screen which fits over my wheel barrels and I sift out the “good stuff” before reusing it. And believe me Paul, IT ALL GETS REUSED!

There are numerous ways to outdoor vermicompost Paul and one I might suggest to you is an adaptation of a U-Tube video I watched a couple of nights ago. The video was made by two New Guinea gardeners constructing a no-dig bed, or lasagna gardening if you will. They started with layered cardboard, grass clippings, manure, compost, and that sort of thing, repeating several times and watering down well as they went along. They threw in some rotted vegetables and compost worms as well. When they finished their layers the bed was about six inches deep, they covered it with straw, and began sticking in their transplants. Took them all of thirty minutes to complete the process.

This was the first time I have come across this concept of combining lasagna gardening with vermicomposting. Since it has worked so well with my dug down raised beds and French Intensive Garden + Vermicomposting, I thought you might be interested.

I have followed postings about your community gardening Paul and hoped you would find this process of interest if you are still actively involved. I too am considering doing something I plan on calling Millenniums Child next season based on Haley Joel’s ‘Pay it Forward’ and ideas from your postings Paul. I don’t wish to talk about this now but sometime in the future I will do a posting.


Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi mraider,
Thanks for the kind words!! I have a pass-through worm bin under construction. It looks great, but time will tell if it is effective.
I saw this major pass-through worm bin on another site. http://www.mcguireorganics.com/new-flow-through

As I advance through this life, I find that I am slowing terribly, my body is not able to follow through with what my mind wants done.
It is frustrating, but I remind myself that I am only here because someone chose to leave me. I can only do what He gives me strength to complete. The secret is, to always question, whether I am really tired or just being lazy.

For some interesting information about vermicomposting go to: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/quick-facts-about-worm-composting/

His and Your Very Grateful servant, Paul.

Fabens, TX(Zone 8a)

Morgan, I have been searching for the vermicomposting on U-tube you wrote about but can't seem to find it, any help?

Helena, MT

The New Guinea U-tube video was a spin off from one of the videos about Mycondria I was viewing. Unfortunately I didn't save the link but I will try to see if I can back track it.

Helena, MT

Paul, interesting that I acquired a heavy duty shelf unit like the one in your first posting, however I am not sure what the author is trying to do here. Pics and description of the process did not tell a very good story as to how this system is suppose to work.

I browsed the second article and it looks like a pretty basic intro to what vermicomposting is about. My eyes are a bit tired now so I will copy the information to word, enlarge the print, and see what I can gain from the article later.

Thanks for the postings Paul.


Helena, MT

James, the video was actually a No Dig Construction Work Shop made in New Zealand by Myk Bushton and Bob Jones. Here are some links which you can use to access their web site and videos.




The interesting think to me was the addition of earthworms to give the bed a head start. My thought however was to add compost worms, and if you are lucky garden variety earthworms will come as well.

Saluda, SC(Zone 8a)

mraider and LInda, haven't commented but am following your discussions with great interest. Don't stop now. Am in zone 8A and just became interested in verimi................I think the interests is here, we just don't know what to ask or how to comment..............in otherwords, we need your leadership

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I am thoroughly enjoying this thread also - please continue if you don't mind. I am now wondering about starting a bin in my Fl house in Port St. Lucie (Zone 10). I'll need to find a source of veggie as I don't do much from scratch cooking. I once visited a Food Lion produce mgr. and asked about their throw-aways - he said I would be welcome to them about 8 AM every morning. I got one 13 gal trash bag full the next morning. The cashier wanted to ring them up but I convinced her they were feebies. I hadn't thought of that until your thread.

Another Paul

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Quote from Gymgirl :
...you are NOT preaching to the choir. I'm here, and I'm listening. And, there are probably lurkers, who are reading and learning, who will eventually chime in with comments or questions. So, "keep 'a goin'!"

Told yah...

"Keep 'a goin!"

Helena, MT

I took the time to go through Brother Paul #1 (lonejacks) posted threads and the second one is one of the best synopsis I have seen. The author does an excellent job of summing up vermicomposting. If you have not read it you should make a copy for your files.

The first posting is about making a flow through vermicomposter from a sturdy metal shelf. The posting is vague but it so happens I have the parts to make what the author is talking about. I have been giving some thought as to how I would do this if I chose to, but frankly I'm not convinced I want to since there are so many different ways of vermicomposting and I may have a better use for this shelve.
Vermicomposting out doors using materials which can be gathered at little expense is the goal I am after. Paul #2 (pbyrley) just gave me another idea with his comment about throw-a-ways. TYVM Paul.

Not only grocery produce markets, but restaurants have huge amounts of throw-a-way veggies. Much like collecting coffee grounds from these small corner coffee drive inns, you could set up a system to have them toss their scrap veggies in a large plastic barrel with a heavy duty trash bag. Stencil the drum with your phone number and have them call when it's time to be picked up, or set up a schedule. Snatch the trash bag of veggie scraps and replace the trash bag.

In exchange, offer some fresh picked French green beans. Bet that would get something started. I would see the owner of Jade Garden, our premier Chinese Restaurant at our local farmer's market on numerous occasions buying produce. I would imagine with the latest trend in restaurants now purchasing locally grow produce, it would not be difficult to set up a mutually beneficial relationship.

It seems that there are some 'lurkers' here who may be a bit timid about jumping in or letting us know you are with us. I would encourage you not to be timid about commenting or asking questions. That is how I learn and gain new ideas. Linda has been assisting me in updating my vermicomposting guide which has been long overdue. Although I have been doing this for five decades, Linda has just started vermicomposting and has already been a great help to me.

We have been talking about several different methods of outdoor vermicomposting here and I would like to continue this topic as much as indoor vermicomposting, but anyone who wants a copy of the indoor vermicomposting method I use, DMail me and I will send you a copy.

As for that New Zealand No Dig U-Tube video I would encourage you to take a couple of minutes to watch it. Although they seeded their no dig bed with garden earthworms, seeding with red wigglers actually might work better. Removing a three pound coffee can of worms from you indoor compost bins doesn’t really harm the population. I do it all the time in the spring and I believe it keeps worms producing eggs at a faster rate. The ratio of food to worms seems to be the trigger which gets the worms busy multiplying.

Mendon, NY(Zone 6a)

I like the no dig video. I start everything I plant this way (without the worms to this point). I use what I have availible though and if it's a garden bed I double dig it eventually to remove rock. The ground is so easy to turn after a year. Since I just started vermicomposting in my basement last week, I will hopefully have the extra worms to go the extra step of including some worms this year.

Helena, MT

daw, all it takes is a three pound coffee can of worms and media to start a bed like you saw in the video. This should be no problem by spring. I like your idea of doing this no dig prior to turning the spot into a garden. I wore out a shovel and my feet digging my main garden which is now 100' x 60'. My six sunken raised beds had to be chiseled out of bed rock to get them down and additional 2.5 feet or more below ground level. If I had been smart like you I could have saved myself a lot of miserable nights of rubbing my feet with rubbing alcohol. Sage advice friend.


Mendon, NY(Zone 6a)

Thank you, Our garden is currently only 1/3 the size of yours but each year I sheet mulch an addition. I'm adding 4 semi-dwarf cherry trees this year that I should have started sheet mulching in the fall. The sooner I get to it the easier it will be to plant. We also have alot of rock a few inches below the surface that need to be removed. I have unlimited amounts of cardboard from my business and a neighbor that bagges her horse manure for me to pick up weekly so I feel a bit blessed. Is there a minimum soil temperature you need to achieve to add red wigglers? I would assume around 60 degrees would work.

Helena, MT

60 degrees is perfect daw. The beauty of this critter is they can withstand a wide range of temperature and will probably stay right in place while doing their thing. I don't expect the red wigglers to survive our winters in my garden but some actually do. Their is evidence to their effectiveness in both the raised beds and the garden and possibly some day I will see more garden worms appearing in my once desolate garden.

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

i think ive brought another unsuspecting friend over to the
dark side.. wahhhaaa
was talking gardening with someone at work..he asked whats up
with all the coffee grounds,and banana peels..
oh..let me tell u..
few days later he asked..is there any $$ in this.. i told him im not
in it for any $$..i want the castings..
but told him can be..
a kid locally raised worms..some reds,other nitecrawlers.. he raised
enough $$ for all his scouting expenses,and for start of college..he did this
part time..
so..i told my friend..its possible..

Mendon, NY(Zone 6a)

My wife posted a video on her facebook page of my bin, she received alot of interest both positive and the ewww response. My son also finds it necessary to alert everyone who enters the house there is a worm bin in the basement. I think there is a growing interest in every aspect of personnal sustainability.

Saluda, SC(Zone 8a)

Well, my original bin has been working since 12/20/12. I guess in the 2 1/2 months I have made progress. I hope to be able to harvest enough vermicastings in April to brew a large batch of tea to use with my spring plantings.

Just to show what I have now. I open the top of bin pulled back the cover--here's what I see.

Here's how I started 12/20

This message was edited Mar 7, 2013 2:31 PM

Thumbnail by gessieviolet
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

How do I know if my wigglers are making castings?

Since the food is "pureed" when I pour it in, I don't really have anyevidence they are producing castings. I know they HAVE to be eating the food or they'd be dead, and they're not, so...

But, the medium in the bed is all peat, and, that's all I'm seeing. Haven't encountered any "crumbly, coffee-grind-y" looking castings. It all looks like peat. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the bin is heavier than when I started it -- much heavier. Could there be something further down in the bin that I haven't seen? I try not to go poking around too deep, but I'm really curious.

I believe something should be happening around the 3-month mark, yes? I set the bin up on December 10, 2012.

Just wondering...


Helena, MT

Put some worms in a closed container and leave them there for a couple of days. You will see castings all over the sides of the container. In time your media will take on a darker color which as it becomes blacker, the castings to media ratio will be great have increased to a point where the media is more castings than media. Then it's ready to be in germination and potting mixes.

As you can see by this test castings are not much bigger than fly poop, so it is difficult to tell what your ratios are. But in time you will see a change.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Duane!

Fabens, TX(Zone 8a)

Morgan, I was wondering the same thing, as I have said before your the Professor, thanks

Palmer, AK(Zone 2a)

mraider3...Thanks for this thread, and for your description of the New Guinea U-tube video. I was thinking of doing just that this summer at the edge of my garden.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I've upped the feeding schedule, and it hasn't had any adverse effect.

Still monitoring closely for odors, or signs of escape. None so far!


Helena, MT

Seems so easy doesn't it. Thw rhirty minute garden! I have a fairly good sized area of native grass, almost as much area as my main garden (6,000 sq ft). For some time I have wanted to do something with this area, but just didn't know what. I wore out a shovel, a pick, and two feet digging my main garden, sunken raised beds and holes for fruit trees in my rock infested yard. When I came across this video I was thinking about windrow vermicomposting and putting these two ideas together made perfect sense. I am going to make some no-dig strips about two to three feet wide for squash, pumpkin and cucumbers; with alternating strips of non-vining crops like broccoli, romaine, and bib lettuce. The four foot wide strips of native grass in between these rows can be mowed in the spring a couple of times before the grass goes goes dormant. The vining crops can then use up this grass strips without the need for mulching, weeding, as well as providing a good, well drained, surface for fruits which are prone to rotting when laying directly on garden soil.

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