Design 6- Vermiculture

Summary of Goals

In an effort to increase the comfort inside the apartments by decreasing the temperature, an outdoor kitchen would help avoid unnecessary heat indoors. It would also decrease the humidity caused by the cooking process. An outdoor kitchen would also attract interest for our guests by being available for their use.


This Survey uses the data from the Client Interview and the Site Survey.

Current site elements

The diagram below shows the main building on this 0.5acre lot is a 35’ by 35’ concrete structure. A separate building (labeled: tiny house) is my residence.

To the south of the tiny house there is a roofed and paved section that will be reserved for a nursery and a Grey Water Harvest System. The Compost System is currently located to the south of the site using the south fence as back-wall (See image below).

Needs and Wants related to this system

In the Summary of Goals, one of the goals that would be covered by this design is to increase local resources like mulch and fertilizer (Mollison’s Principle: Energy Cycling) and to decrease in the amount of waste generated on site from food leftovers. (Principle: Produce no waste)

By decreasing the need to bring outside resources we would lower our expenses and our contribution to pollution.

There is also a need for a diverse set of educational and demonstration elements on site and this design would serve as one if PDC’s are some day offered and to generate interest for guests.


Resources needed for a vermi-compost system:

  • Bath tub or large recipient- An usable old bath tub is already at the site. (Principle: Use & value renewable resources & services)

  • Cured Horse manure for bedding- This resource is easily available for free from a local stable nearby.

  • Compost worms- Can be purchased once from local or online sellers and then harvest them as they multiply.

  • The site generates significant amounts of sweet fruits like Bananas, Mangoes, Coffee Fruit and grounds, Starfruit among other kitchen leftovers. This can be used to feed my earthworms.


The only element that needs to be purchased for this design is the earthworm bag which I can purchase locally or online at Uncle Jim ( ). Based on the price of $60 approx for 1000 Red Wigglers and any potential additional costs, I will set aside a budget of $150.


Permaculture EthicsGuidelines within which this design should be completed

  • Earth Care- Make use of the valuable resources generated on-site. Lower transportation pollution related to bringing soil amendment materials from outside.

  • People Care- Generate savings in fertilizer and soil amendments and increase the nutritional value of the food we grow.

  • Fair Share-. This design can be used as an example element to increase interest in vermi-compost farming. This can be attained by demonstrating how a low-maintenance and multifunctional system like this can provide them with many benefits.

Key Functions (Principle of Multifunctionality- Mollison)

Out of the Client Interview process, we can discern some specific functions related to this design from which our goals were set:

  • Lower costs on fertilizers and any travels to the store.

  • Turning waste into a resource (Principle of resource use- Mollison)

  • Soil improvement- Obtain a nutrient rich fertilizer that we can be used in the garden, nursery and our food forest (Law of Return- Mollison)

Secondary functions

  • Serve as an example of an eco-regenerative system that can be recreated by our guests and serve as an example of the “Produce no Waste” principle.

  • Serve as one of the example elements on PDC’s and workshops.

Inputs / Outputs

Below is a diagram of the inputs and outputs of a Vermi-Compost farm to aid us in the Survey and decision making process.


The decision on the placement of this design is based on our experience with sun exposure in this western section of the site. This area receives exposure to the western sun up until around 4pm. As it can be seen below, the area in red shows a space that is protected from the sun. This was a place chosen for a small coffee bush and there is sufficient space behind the tree which would add more shade. This would also benefit the tree which would receive any overflow of worm-juice exchanging it for any coffee fruit that is not harvested. (Principle: Integrate rather than segregate)

Also, this section is part of Zone 2, behind my residence which is not a place I walk by constantly but frequently enough to keep an eye on the system.

This location right against the southern fence is also convenient because:

  • It is quite close to the garden and nursery which helps with the exchange of resources (Principle of Relative Location- Mollison)

  • It provides easy access to our guests and students.

The prevailing winds take any potential odors away from the house and into a vacant portion of the neighbor’s lot. (Principle: Design from patterns to details)


The following design shows how the analysis process and the available resources could translate into a working system that supplies us with fertilizer and savings. It uses local elements like a plastic bath-tub that was lying around on the site and compost that is already being generated on site.

The diagram below shows the bathtub place on a bed of raised soil held with two cinder blocks. It will be raised high enough to allow for a bucket under the drain hole to collect the worm juice.

The drain hole will be covered with a screen, to block any worms from coming out. The screen will be held by a few rocks and a 6 inch layer of horse manure will be added on top. A small layer of compost and water will be added and it will be allowed to rest.

The worms can be bought locally if available or a bag of 1000 Red Wigglers can be ordered online at Unkle Jim for approximately $60. ( )

Another element that is free but has to be brought in is horse manure which would serve as the bedding.


This is a simple and low maintenance system and most of the work will involve setting the bathtub in a high, leveled and stable position which would allow for a bucket to fit underneath. After this, we have to add the bedding material and the worms.

2015: August- Purchased a 4oz cup of red wigglers from a local vendor and placed them in a five gallon bucket using compost and shredded paper as bedding.

2015: October- SInce the worms multiplied quite fast I added a second 5 gallon bucket.

2015: Nov 19- Moved worms to two bigger bins to continue trials.

2016: March 12- Purchased horse manure to be used on the vermicompost farm.

2016: March 16- Placed and prepared the tub for the worm farm and transferred the worms.

2016 March 16- Used two cinder blocks held by the soil as a solid base that would raise the tub high enough to place a bucket underneath. 16- Placed and prepared the tub for the worm farm and transferred the worms.

2016: March 16- Placed a screen near the drain and held it with a few stones.

2016: March 16- Once finished I added the manure bedding and a little water.

2016: March 16- Worms were added and a cloth cover was placed on top to shade them and provide protection. Food leftovers were added.



Compost worms eat half their weight in food every day. It is also important to always have food available for them but never to over-feed them.

One technique is to only place food when their supply is almost gone. This avoids rotting which would attract pests, warms-up the bin and may turn the substrate more acidic.

What can I feed them with?

  1. Egg Shells

  2. Coffee grounds

  3. Sweet fruits like banana peels, mangoes’ peels and papaya

  4. Tea bags

  5. Cardboard and paper

What not to feed them with:

  1. Citrus and acidic fruits

  2. Meats and dairy

  3. Any alliums or vegetables with strong flavor


Avoid exposure to the sun and heat. Worms need a temperature of around 86°F max in the tropics.

Oxygen is essential so creating air-pockets in their bedding is vital. This can be done by adding shredded paper to the bedding.


Correct moisture is essential- A method is to squeeze a bit of the bedding in your hand. It should release a few drops of water but not more than that. You can add a bit of water if dry or add shredded paper if too wet.


Any liquid from the tub should fall in the bucket and be used as fertilizer. It can be used as-is to water the plants or mixed with water or as part of compost tea.

My favorite technique to harvest castings or worms is to feed the worms in only one side of the bin with ripe mangoes or a very sweet fruit for a week or more. Then, when most worms are on one side, you can either grab handfuls from the worm side or the casting side depending on what you are harvesting. By placing these handfuls in a bright spot will help separate any worms from any remaining bedding since they will dive down to avoid the light.

Replace any portions of bedding you took with fresh bedding.


What went well:

The population growth was immense and I had to add new bins quite quickly. The shade in the area helped significantly in keeping the bin at an appropriate temperature.

The drain bucket filled every few days and had to keep an eye on it so it wouldn't overflow.

The coffee tree next to the bin went crazy and turned red with fruit more frequently than before. Soil nutrition was increased as we saw in the gardens where the castings or worm juice was used.

What I would have done differently:

I should have designed the system with a lid so rain water could be diverted. Rain water provoked the system to be overflowed a few times while I was working overseas and many worms disappeared from the bin.

I should have also made a higher base so a 5 gallon could fit underneath.


Areas in front and near the worm farm where vermi-compost and worm juice fell, were getting a significant amount of weeds compared to other areas. A concrete floor was extended (see photo below) and the areas around the system were layered and deep mulched to minimize maintenance and to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

I plan to start sprinkling Rock Dust (Azomite) in 2021 so the worms make the dust plant soluble making the worm casting even more nutritious for our gardens and food forest.

Design Process


Learning Pathway Reflections:

Learned how a system with minimal inputs can generate higher yields and decrease our costs and pollution related to bringing soil amendments from outside.

Was able to take into consideration the micro-climates onsite (shady / cool) and the prevailing winds (to carry away any smells) at the time of choosing the design’s placement.

How this design helps me apply permaculture in my life:

This is a system that I would implement wherever I live, even if it is a small bucket in an apartment. There should be no reason to generate food waste. It also makes me feel confident to provide advice to guests and family while offering tangible evidence of the benefits of a worm farm.

How this design helps me apply permaculture in my works and projects:

Gained experience in the design and implementation of a vermi-compost system that integrates with other pre-existent designs and elements, e.g., the Compost System and the Grey Water Harvester. Was able to translate this data into a design and this document could be available so clients and visitors can understand it.

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

“Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”

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