Bentley’s SUPER-Simple Vermicomposting Planter

A little while ago I wrote a couple of blog posts about the “Vermicomposting Planter Project” Brian Donaldson and I have been putting together. Originally, we came up with (what we feel is) a nice design that offers ample space both for planting AND for worm composting.

Brian went to work, quickly building our prototype – not to mention creating spec/supply sheets plus 28 videos (all available for free via! I was super excited about the prospect of building my own…but then gradually, as I began going through the plans, figuring out what supplies I needed etc, I started to get cold feet.

I am NOT a skilled DIYer (even though I have gotten better over the years), and I was very concerned that my planter might never get finished if I attempted to build it based on the original design. So I decided to come up with a much more basic version – and the rest is history.

I just put the finishing touches on it today (building the lid), so I figured it was time to write about it here! The image you see above is how it looks now – yesterday I stained it with Valhalco “LifeTime Wood Treatment”, which is non-toxic and eco-friendly. (In case you are wondering, the dripping appearance is due to rain – I kept getting rained on as I tried to finish the lid today! lol)

If any of you follow me on Facebook, you will likely have seen the photos I posted there. But for the benefit of non-Facebook folks (or those who just missed the posts) I have decided to share the photo series showing how I created the pit in the (middle) worm composting zone. The basic idea here is that I’ve created a “safe zone” for the worms – a place the worms can retreat to if conditions get too hot or (once late fall arrives) too cold up in the main worm composting box.

First I scuffed the ground in the boxes to mark where they would be before moving the frame.

I removed grass and loosened soil a bit in the planter zones and started digging down in the composting zone. Of course, I made sure the composter hole was smaller than the dimensions of the box itself.

More digging…given the small size of this pit, it was in some ways more challenging than a trench (lots of bending over – lol)

This is a bit misleading. The measuring tape was curved over towards the edge. Actual depth is more like 18″.

Once hole was ready, the first step was to add a very thick layer of cardboard. This consisted of corrugated cardboard and drink tray cardboard. Once in place I added some chick starter feed – just to add some initial “food value” down below – and then I watered it.

I then added some aged (bedded) horse manure and watered some more.

Next I moved a bunch of material over from another backyard worm composter. You’ll notice quite a few paper plates in my pictures this season – we are doing a kitchen reno so are often eating on disposable (compostable, of course) plates. More bedding material for my worms!

Even more stuff from that same bin. Lots of drink tray cardboard in this batch. I should mention that both loads from the worm composter also had lots of Red Worms. So this could be considered my first bit of ‘worm stocking’ as well.

More of the aged manure as a cover layer – and then watered again. This brought the level up close to the soil surface.

How it looked with the frame back in place. I still needed to add my non-toxic wood preservative and to create my lid (and of course fill the planter boxes with soil) so that was definitely enough composting material for the time being. I actually ended up adding some more aged manure as levels started to sink down.

I can’t wait to finally get this planter up and running (very soon). I know I am kind of leaving it pretty late in the season, but I have been growing the plants in pots so it won’t be like I am starting from scratch.

Should be interesting/fun whatever happens!

Don’t forget to get signed up for the project where you will get full access to the plans (mine have not been added yet, but hope to do so before too long) and more information about using these planters.

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    • Dave Pawson
    • July 20, 2017

    I’m still puzzled how this system (or the posh one) works?
    Would you explain please Bentley?
    Since worms can’t get mid – outer sections (which I guess are planted
    with veg?) what is the thought behind it please?

  1. Hi Bentley,

    I’m intrigued by your use of the paper plates – assuming they are of the wax covered variety?

    I’ve always avoided shiny paper and wax covered paper and cardboard as I have assumed the worms can’t break them down and the micro stuff won’t grow on them.

    How long does it take for the paper plates to break down and become useful to the worms?


    • Bentley
    • February 8, 2018

    Dave – sorry, I must have missed your comment! The basic idea is that there is an active vermicomposting system in the middle, where vermicompost gets created. Over time the cardboard barriers rot away (I also punched some holes in the cardboard) and the plant roots extend over into the worm compost zone. Similar idea to my vermicomposting trenches, but in this case, raised above ground with the wooden structure.
    Colin – I tend not to use any sort of shiny paper plate, if at all possible – but yeah they do get in there from time to time. I much prefer the plain ones made from a similar material as is used for cardboard drink trays. How long it takes for them to break down depends on a variety of factors. If I manage to shred them up a fair bit first that can greatly speed up the decomposition process. Temperature, moisture and aeration are all important as well.

    This makes me curious to really test it out (and compare different plates)! haha

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