Compost Tumbler Vermicomposting

Something I get asked periodically is whether or not a compost tumbler can be used for vermicomposting. The answer to that question is YES…and NO!

NO, I definitely wouldn’t recommend using a tumbler as an actual worm bin – even if you were able to keep temps cool enough to avoid killing the worms, and could resist the urge to turning it all the time – but YES, a tumbler can be a really helpful vermicomposting tool – specifically, for helping us Worm-Heads to create some really nice “worm food”. This is exactly what I intend to start doing fairly soon.

Some time ago I mentioned my plans to build some sort of DIY compost tumbler. Well, let’s just say it’s been a pretty busy spring, so the project (among others) ended up getting side-lined a wee bit! The good news, though, is that thanks to my dad’s ongoing help, the tumbler is very close to being ready for action!

So why/how is a compost tumbler good for making “worm food”?

Tumbling waste materials is a great way to mix them up and allow them to go through an initial “pre-composting” phase prior to feeding them to your worms. Worms love moist, microbe-rich foods so they are much more likely to move into (and quickly process) pre-composted wastes vs those simply added directly to the system. In larger worm beds (where more material is added at once) pre-composting can also be important since there will be less potential for overheating.

A big part of my focus early on will likely center on various mixes with coffee grounds. I’ve been pretty happy with the way the worms have responded to the grounds in my beds this year (as compared to previous years), but I suspect I can make this material even more appealing if I pre-compost it with some other wastes (cardboard etc) beforehand.

Anyway – I will certainly keep everyone posted!

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    • Steve L.
    • June 16, 2011

    Hey Bentley,
    That has to be the biggest “bottle” container with a screw-top lid I’ve ever seen. What is it, 2.5 – 3 feet long? Kudos to you and your dad for the design and build. It looks like it’ll make compost in a hurry, and provide some fun in the process of turning it. Overall, what Fun Factor rating would you give this device? Between 1 and 5 I’d give it a 4 – 4.5.
    I have another question for you… do you think you’ll be able to hear the microbes cheer when you toss in veggie waste and give the tumbler a spin?
    Looking forward to an article on the actual use of your tumbler. Thanks,

    • Anna
    • June 17, 2011

    What kind of container is that? I would love to get my hands on one for similar purposes.

    I also love the wheels on the device–great idea!

  1. That looks like the containers food items like olives or peppers come in. I guess I’m a little spoiled, I can get those all day long around here – for about $60.

    • Bentley
    • June 17, 2011

    STEVE – I will get back to you on the size. I think it’s around 50 gallons if I remember correctly, and more like 3.5 ft long.
    The original design is not actually ours – will explain in more detail in another post (likely next week) – although, in fine “Christie DIY” fashion, we kinda veered off in our own direction in a lot of ways! haha
    I will let you know about the fun factor – still need to add a couple more components before I start this puppy a-spinnin’! I’m leaning towards 4.5 for sure!
    ANNA – As Partick has guessed, this is a food-grade barrel originally used to hold pickled peppers (a peck of pickled peppers, perhaps?). I would think they might be available from companies selling olives, pickles etc etc. We lucked out with the wheels – I happened to have a set of four from a piece of Ikea furniture we didn’t want to roll. Originally I had wondered if I should bother even keeping them. For once, my inner pack-rack came through for me!!!
    PATRICK – I guess I am really spoiled too, Patrick! We have a guy just outside of town who operates a used-barrel business. He has all kinds of em – including some I definitely wouldn’t use for a tumbler (from chemical industry etc). He charges $20 for them, so I guess I got a good deal! Cool!

  2. I actually know someone who uses one with composting worms in Texas.Only problem is he uses ice bottles every single day during the summer! In winter it is okay.That’s about 250 ice bottles for me.And that is if you only use one a day!
    Better to use them for pre composting like Bentley.Or for a nice large print bingo dispenser. BINGO! Or for raffle drawings.LOL!Before long Bentleys inner mechanical genius will shine through.And next we will see him build something spectacular without directions or help! Just kidding! Help is always good!
    I’ve been putting cardboard in my manure feedstock.And let me tell you! You can dispose of lots of cardboard this way!As soon as you go to put it in the bin,they eat out of your hand! Not literally! But that is how i imagined it went in! But it still works great!
    Also since i’ve been gone from home,i’ve noticed the worms thrive when i leave them alone.And that is how it is.But in a perfect world i could leave my bins alone.Can’t seem to do it though.The little guys/gals are just so cute!

  3. I might be able to buy less expensive barrels. The ones I priced are already to go as rain barrels. I have gotten them as cheap as $15. There’s a huge place in Phoenix that has them too, don’t know about price, they won’t fit in the minivan which is what I have when I see them 🙁

    • Jeffery
    • July 2, 2011

    Bentley, In Ideal conditions, compost takes 3-4 weeks to compost.
    When you talk about pre-composting for food for the wormies,
    how much time are we talking about? Thanks

    • Bentley
    • July 2, 2011

    Those are some pretty ideal conditions, Jeffrey!lol
    I could see an industrial in-vessel system being able to achieve that, but would be surprised if even a top notch backyard compost tumbler could do the same (although some commercial ones certainly claim that).
    Anyway, as far as pre-composting goes, 1-2 weeks would be great. But even 4 or 5 days would likely make a big difference.

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