Indoor worm composting bin

How to Create and Maintain an Indoor Worm Composting Bin

A worm composting bin, known as a vermicomposter, can be fairly inexpensive and easy to maintain. There are several ways to vermicompost. Below are instructions on how to build one kind of worm composting bin designed to be used inside. It is also possible to purchase worm composting bins. You will want to put your bin in an indoor space as you do not want the worms to freeze in the winter or get too warm in the summer. Additionally, you may want to put the bin in a basement or other out-of-the-way space since you will be producing compost and worm “tea” in the composter.

On this page:

  • What You Need
  • Preparing the Bins
  • Preparing the Paper, Soil, Water Medium and Adding the Worms
  • Feeding the Worms
  • Maintaining the Bin

What You Need

First, buy, borrow or repurpose the following items that you will need to start worm composting:

1. Two plastic bins – one must be taller and rest inside the other, shorter bin.

  • The shorter, bottom bin does not need a top. A bin made of rubber or plastic and that is approximately 15 inches deep, 25 inches wide and 5 inches high works great. The extra length allows you to scoop out the extra liquid or “worm tea” for use elsewhere (e.g., in the garden, for plants, shrubs, etc.).
  • The top tub should have a top to keep the worms from finding their way outside the box. It also needs to be somewhat flexible so you can drill holes into it. An 18 gallon tub that is roughly 15 inches deep, 20 inches wide and 15 inches tall works well.

2. A drill – A drill with a one inch diameter and a one-eighth inch diameter drill bit is needed to drill the holes mentioned above.

3. Screening material – The type used for window screens is fine – just be sure NOT to use metal which will rust over time when exposed to the moisture in the bin. You only need about four 4 inch by 4 inch scraps of screen. Why use screening? If you don’t cover the holes, the worms may escape.

4. Waterproof glue – To keep the screens in place, even after they get wet.

5. Shredded paper – Enough to fill your bin three inches deep and extra to add each time you feed the worms once a week. Almost any kind of paper works, but avoid heavy, shiny paper and colored paper.

6. A little bit of dirt – A pound will be enough. Just make sure it does not have harmful chemicals in it. If all goes well, the worms will be producing their own dirt (compost) soon.

7. A little bit of water – Some water is needed to moisten the paper and dirt to create a comfortable medium for the worms to thrive. Soak the paper and then drain it before using.

8. Worms – A pound of red wrigglers are recommended because they consume waste quickly, but earthworms also work. Red wrigglers are available online, from your U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extension office or from another worm bin owner. Be careful of worms that are invasive species, such as the Asian Jumping Worm, which can be sold as the Alabama Jumper or Georgia Jumper. Worm bins produce more worms as well as great compost.

9. A trowel – Needed to move the compost as needed in the bin.

10. Food scraps container – Use a small container with a tightly fitting top to collect vegetable and fruit scraps.

Why not just put the food straight into the worm bin? Worms do best left alone, so it is best to feed them only once a week. Use the food scraps container to collect scraps for a week and then feed the worms weekly.

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Preparing the Bins

Below are the steps to take to prepare the bins:

  • Drill a 1-inch hole about two inches from the top of the taller bin on one side. Drill another hole on the opposite side. Drill four 1/8-inch holes near the bottom near the corners of the bin.
  • Cover each of the holes with vinyl screening and glue the screening in place with the waterproof glue. Be sure the glue is completely dry before continuing to the next step.
  • Place the tall bin inside the short bin. Do NOT drill any holes in the short bin.

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Preparing the Paper, Soil, Water Medium and Adding the Worms

Combine shredded paper, soil and just enough water to dampen everything. Put the mixture into the tall bin and fill the bin about three inches deep. Add your worms to the mixture and let them get used to it for a day before feeding them. Make sure the mixture is very moist, but not forming puddles of water.

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Feeding the Worms

Collect food scraps, such as vegetables and fruit scraps, bread, tea bags, coffee grounds, and cereal in your food scrap container as you prepare and clean up after meals. Do not include any animal by-products (fat, bone, dairy, meat, waste). Also, it may take the worms longer to process woody or dry items like stems or the outer layer of onions. Worms will eat paper as long as it is thin or cut into small pieces, but they will not eat plastic or fabric tea bags, coffee filters or the labels placed on produce by grocery stores.

Once a week, do the following:

  • Take the scraps to the worm bin.
  • Gently use a trowel to create a hole to put the scraps into.
  • Throw in a small handful of shredded paper.
  • Add all the food scraps on top of the paper.
  • Cover ALL of the food scraps with dirt and moist paper. Exposed food attracts fruit flies, but covered food scraps don’t. Add dirt and moist paper to the bin until the worms have made enough compost to use to cover the food scraps.
  • Notice what the worms are eating and what they are not. Remove any scraps that your worms have not eaten for a while as they may not like that type of food (e.g., some worms will not tackle a whole potato or citrus rind, but may eat them if they are cut up).
  • Put the lid back on the worm bin.
  • Wash out the food scraps container for the coming week.

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Maintaining the Bin

Once every few months, scoop the liquid out of the lower container and use it as fertilizer outside on soil near plants, or water it down to use on indoor plants. When the worm bin is full (i.e., when the compost reaches the bottom of the top holes you drilled), do the following:

  • Feed the worms on one side of the bin for a couple of weeks in order to draw the worms to that side.
  • Once all the worms are on one side, harvest the compost on the other side and use it in pots, your garden, or sprinkle it across your yard. You can also scoop compost and worms onto a newspaper and sort them out, but this is a bit messier. Be sure to harvest compost at the end of the week, before you feed the worms again.
  • If there are too many worms in the worm bin, share extras with friends and family or release some with the dirt in your yard.

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Vermicomposting can be done almost anywhere, indoors and out. Using worms to break down your food scraps is great for the environment. Composting results in a dark, rich fertilizer that is perfect for gardening. Composting indoors is a bit trickier, but it can be done successfully. Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm offers this easy-to-use guide to indoor composting with worms.

Reasons why people compost indoors include:

  • want convenient indoor access to the composting bin
  • concern that composting worms outdoors won’t survive the winter (although they might lay eggs or could be replaced with a fresh bag of worms in the spring)
  • want to continue strong composting program year-round, in spite of cold or heat
  • apartment or city dweller with no yard
  • no room on property for an outdoor bin

It is possible to compost outdoors without adding composting worms, but indoors, almost everyone employs worms. The food needs to break down quickly, with minimal odor inside. Composting worms are hungry critters, rapidly devouring food scraps and causing no trouble.

Causing no trouble, so long as you provide the worms what they need.

What Worms Need for Indoor Composting

Worms need a composter, bedding, and food. They also need to be put in a suitable location in the building.

For indoor composting, we recommend a tray-based composter such as the Worm Factory 360, Worm Cafe or Can-O-Worms. The holes in the bottom of each stacking tray allow for proper drainage. Composting worms move up to the top “feeding” tray, leaving finished compost in the bottom trays. Harvesting is very simple. Also, these composters come with a lid for darkness, and a spigot for releasing any excess water. You can order one from our website. They come with instructions and sets up in minutes.

Simpler portable composters can be made from a tote or bucket. There are basic pre-made composters too, such as Uncle Jim’s Worm Kits. These also work, but it can be slightly more difficult to manage moisture.

Bedding should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Too dry and the worms cannot do their jobs. Too wet and you get odors, acidity, and dead worms. You will provide moisture the first time you set up the composter. After that, dry bedding can get a little sprinkle of water, but not too much or the worms will drown. Adding moist food such as melon also helps. Wet bedding can be treated with pure, untreated peat moss. Also, drainage holes might be clogged. Adding a blanket to the composter helps regulate moisture.

Feeding Your Worms

Worms are happy to eat your garbage. Left-over fruit, vegetables and grains; peelings; cores; end pieces; rinds; spoilt items; and inedible parts of the plant are all fair game. Just don’t add any fats, oils or dairy products. Rice drenched in butter sauce, meat, yogurt, and stale cottage cheese should not be put in your bin. Salad dressing can be rinsed off. Large amounts of acidic scraps, such as pineapple rinds and buckets of tomatoes and citric peelings should not go into the compost. Bananas peels can be melodious in an indoor composting bin. See more details about what to feed your composting worms.

Food must be cut up small so it can break down faster. This helps control odors. You can use a knife, food processor or chopper. Avoid over-feeding. If you have more food than they can start to eat in a few days, freeze it for later.

Always bury the food in the bedding. It makes the food easy for the worms to find, cuts odors and discourages flies. Sometimes, fruit flies will appear. If this happens, do not give up your indoor composting program. Instead, read our detailed article about fruit flies.

Best Location for the Worm Bin

The best location to put your worm bin depends on your home’s layout. You will want a space that does not block foot traffic. A location in or near the kitchen is handy. Consider a closet, a cupboard or under the sink. The basement is also an option. A heated garage might work. Temperatures should be between 57 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have space outdoors, you can choose to compost indoors during the winter and outdoors during the summer. In this case, a portable bin is ideal. Or, worms can be moved from an indoor composting bin to a larger outdoor bin during the warmer seasons.

Making free fertilizer, saving the environment and having a fun hobby are the main reasons people compost with worms. No matter why you want to compost, you can enjoy year-round success. Just get started! Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm has been breeding worms for more than 30 years, and our Red Composting Worms are ideal for this purpose. We also offer a selection of indoor composters and plenty of composting advice on our blog.

How to start and maintain an  Indoor worm farm

Having an indoor worm farm to compost kitchen scraps sounds for many still a little strange. But more and more environmental conscious house owners and apartment

dwellers are recycling their rich organic waste with the help of compost worms in specially designed worm compost bins.

The beauty of it is that it’s quite a clean affair and a healthy worm farm won’t produce any bad odors but rather smells like fresh forest soil, or so I’ve been told! My ability to smell has been seriously compromised years ago when a doctor wanted to stop a nose bleed I was suffering from…! But that’s another story! But many of my clients and friends have confirmed with me that there are no bad odors coming from their worm farms. And this makes sense because the worms are feeding exactly on those parts of the kitchen scraps that are just busy starting to decompose.

And those if not removed are responsible for foul smells.

This is a typical indoor worm farm that we produce.

Requirements for an indoor worm farm

Let’s have a look at the requirements an indoor worm farm should fulfill!

  • Most people will want to use the worm farm under a kitchen sink, in a cupboard or shelf either like I do in the kitchen or a store room. This will make it convenient when one wants to add kitchen scraps to the worm composter. So it shouldn’t be to big and fit underneath a sink or in a shelf. For that reason I suggest to either build or purchase a model that doesn’t exceed a volume of 20 liters / 5US gal lqd 2.26
  • It should not allow flies to breed in it. Generally the only way any annoying insects can get into a worm farm that is kept in a home is either through an open lid or air holes. Now both these options can be excluded if the lid of the worm farm is kept properly closed at all times and the air holes will not allow flies to crawl into the worm bin.
  • As discussed earlier on it should not produce any bad odors. This would in return as well ensure to keep flies away. The only 2 ways for a worm farm to start to stink are either to much food for the worms to handle inside the bin or the fact that the worms have died. This rarely ever happens if one follows the simple instructions that can be obtained either from us here on our pages or a reputed worm farming dealer in your area.
  • It should have a tap to be able to drain of excess liquids.

This will prevent the worms from drowning in the unlikely event of to much liquid inside the bin and will as well act against foul smells.

The main advantage of the tap is that you will be able to get hold of the worm leachate which will be an nice organic fertilizer if your worm bin has been in action for a while and accumulated an substantial amount of finished worm castings (worm poop).

The excess liquids in your worm farm will be able to absorb nutrients from the castings which can be fed to plants as a liquid slow release fertilizer.

There has been a debate going on about the differences between worm leachate and worm tea and although I agree that properly brewed worm tea is clearly much more beneficial to plants and soil than worm leachate I found

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that worm leachate improved our fruit and vegetables when we applied it on a regular basis. For more on that subject have a look at our worm tea page.

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Whenever you have some food scraps you want to add to the worm bin just open the lid, drop it inside and close the lid again.

The worms will feed on the scraps and convert them to worm castings.

When your indoor worm farm is full harvest the worm castings use for your plants and put the worms back into the bin.

On our pages you should find all you need to know about starting a worm farm, harvesting the worm castings and

every other subject around worm composting. If you are living in a small apartment or flat and would like to compost your organic waste, get a worm farm and give it a try.

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Type in your keyword for example “earthworm” into the search box to get more information about worm composting!

Return form “Indoor worm farm” to the home page.

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Amazing worm castings

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How to start a worm farm

Your Questions about worm composting?

Do you have any questions or suggestions about worm composting?
This is the place where you can interact with us and other worm composting friends!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

How to build the Indoor worm farm
Can you please give the instructions on how to make the indoor worm bin from bucket as shown in the picture here https://www.worm-composting-help.com/Indoor-worm-farm.htm …

Ants in my School Bin
Hi there- I have had a worm bin in my classroom for several years, keeping it out of the way under the sink. It’s spring and recently students were …

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I work as a special ed teaching assistant at a high school in Northern Virginia. Last year we purchased a worm bin and 10,000 red wigglers. Over the summer …

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How to Make a Worm Bin

It’s most satisfying to hunt worms in your garden. The worms you want aren’t the big, fat night crawlers; they’re the smaller red or purplish worms that live close to the surface of the soil, usually in leaf litter or in cool compost. They are most populous in spring and fall and can be hard to find in summer and winter. Make a trap for them by burying something tasty in your garden beds or in an area rich with leaf litter. Worms adore squash. It draws them like a magnet. You could also use leftover oatmeal or wet bread. Bury these offerings about an inch under the soil or leaf litter and come back in about three days. More than likely, you’ll find some worms bellied up to the bar. Scoop them up and take them to their new home.

Worms are hermaphrodites, so they’re not picky about mates. They breed at a rate that puts rabbits to shame. If you’re willing to be patient, you only need to hunt up about a cup of them to get started. If you buy them, you’ll buy a full pound — that’s usually the minimum amount on offer. Whichever way you go, it all works. More worms eat more scraps and make more castings. If you start with lots of worms, the bin will be productive faster. If you start with only a handful of worms, they’ll start breeding as soon as they settle into their new home, and you’ll be up to speed in a couple of months.

Which Worm Is Which?

Red worms (Lubricous rubellas) are the worms you most often find in leaf litter and garden beds, but they also hang out in compost piles. Compost worms (Eugenia fetid) are about the same size and can be red, too, but they also come in purple and tiger-striped varieties. These are true compost worms whose preferred habitats are compost and manure piles. Eugenia fetid is the type sold for worm bins, but Lubricous rubellas adapt to life in the bin very well.

Make a Worm Bin

Although you can buy or build elaborate multilevel worm composting systems, we’ve come to believe less is more when it comes to worms. A simple container is all you really need.

Preparation: 1 hour

Supplies:

Power drill or a sharp nail and a hammer
Rectangular plastic storage bin with a lid, any size
Newspaper and cardboard
2 cups ordinary soil, any type
Red worms (Lubricous rubellas) or compost worms (Eugenia fetid)

Instructions:

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Using the drill or the sharp nail and a hammer (the latter is much more difficult — use a drill if you can), create two rows of ventilation holes around the top edge of the bin, starting beneath the lid. Space the holes about 3 or 4 inches apart. The exact size of the holes doesn’t matter much, but they should be 1/4 inch or less in diameter. To make sure the bin doesn’t leak and can be kept anywhere, don’t put any holes in the bottom of the container. Lack of bottom drainage means you’ll have to be vigilant to make sure the contents don’t get too soggy, because there’s nowhere for water to go.

Shred newspaper into fine strips. Use plain newspaper, not shiny inserts, which may contain harmful dyes, and not office paper, which has been bleached. If you have a paper shredder, run the newspaper through that, because the finer the paper shreds, the better. Otherwise, rip the paper into strips. While you’re at it, rip up some plain corrugated cardboard, too, if you have it. It must be bare cardboard, not paper coated, because again, that paper may contain bleaches or inks. It’s easier to rip up cardboard that has been soaked in water first. Worms really like corrugated cardboard — they snuggle up in the channels, so tear it into worm-size chunks roughly 4 inches square.

Wet the newspaper strips by placing them in a bowl or bucket and drizzling water over them and stirring until they’re all equally damp. Add the shreds to the worm bin by the handful, squeezing them first to make sure they’re damp, not sodden. The ideal consistency is that of a wrung-out sponge. You don’t ever want to have standing water in the worm bin.

After you’ve added about 4 to 6 inches of newspaper to the bin, add the cardboard pieces and about 2 cups of soil. The soil adds grit to the mix, which helps with the worm’s digestion. Toss it all together to mix it. Add the worms. Put a little paper over them right away, because they don’t like the light.

Feeding Worms

Theoretically, worms can eat their weight in food scraps each day, but in practice, the amount they eat is highly variable. One factor is newness. A new bin doesn’t eat nearly as much as an established bin, no matter how many worms you start with. It may take a few months for a bin to hit its stride and become an eating machine. In the meantime, don’t overfeed. If you add more food than the worms can handle, it will lead to bad smells and possible invasions by undesirable insects.

Start off with just a cup of scraps on the first day. See “What to Feed Worms,” below, for suggestions. Bury the scraps in one corner of the bin and cover it with about an inch of newspaper. The worms will find the food. After a couple of days, add another cup of scraps in another corner. Proceed cautiously, even if you have lots of worms, because they may not want to eat much at first. Develop an intuition for what is enough and what is too much. While it’s important to feed them plenty if you want them to breed, don’t worry much about them going hungry. If they get hungry between feedings, they’ll eat the newspaper. Eventually, they’ll eat everything in the bin. All of the newspaper, cardboard and food scraps will be reduced to black gold: worm castings.

What to Feed Worms

Worms aren’t hamsters. They don’t rush to nibble your fresh offerings. Instead, they work in concert with fungi and bacteria to break down rotten food. If it’s not rotting, they’re not interested. That’s why it usually takes a couple of days before they approach new food. Overall, they prefer soft food, such as oatmeal and squash, to hard food, such as carrots. Of course, even carrots will rot eventually, and the worms will get to them then. Don’t put large chunks of food in a worm bin. Take a moment to rip or cut food scraps into small pieces to speed decomposition.

Worms don’t eat vegetable seeds. Nature designed seeds so that they don’t break down easily. More often than not, the seeds will end up mixed in with the castings and thus could sprout wherever you spread the castings. If this concerns you, separate out seeds before you give food to the worms. Send seeds to the compost pile instead.

Worms like to eat:

  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Dry cornmeal, just a sprinkle, as a treat
  • Fruit of all sorts, except citrus
  • Lettuce
  • Oatmeal and other cooked grains
  • Squash
  • Wet bread and bready things like cooked pasta

Worms will eat:

  • Just about any chopped vegetable matter, fresh or cooked
  • Newspaper and uncoated cardboard
  • Rabbit droppings

Don’t feed worms:

  • Citrus of any sort (It’s antimicrobial.)
  • Dairy (Traces are OK.)
  • Meat
  • Oil
  • Salty or processed food
  • Sugar (Traces are OK.)
  • Vinegar

Maintaining the Worm Bin

Put the bin in a safe, quiet place out of direct sunlight, otherwise the sun will shine through the plastic walls and irritate the worms. Wherever you stow the bin, be sure the temperatures are moderate. Keep the lid on tight if you have dogs in the house — canines don’t have discriminating palates. Our dog once nosed off the lid on our worm bin and ate half of the contents before we stopped him. We don’t know whether he was more interested in the worms or the rotten food, but he swallowed it all. If your bin is outside, lock down the lid with a bungee cord to keep raccoons and skunks and other insectivores out at night. And heaven help you if a wandering chicken ever came across your open worm bin!

Aim to keep the contents of the bin always at that magic consistency: moist as a wrung-out sponge. In the first few weeks, you may have to use a spray bottle to mist the paper to keep it from drying out. Worm castings hold water, so when they appear, the bin will stay wet on its own. Your challenge then becomes keeping it dry enough. It’s important that it stay a damp, airy environment. If it seems to be getting soggy and dense, mix in a few handfuls of dry shredded newspaper to dry it out and fluff it up. If lots of worms are hanging out on the sides or lid of the bin — or trying to wiggle out the air holes — it’s definitely too wet.

Note: Keeping the lid on the bin keeps out the light and also keeps out flies. However, it holds in a lot of moisture. If you’re having trouble keeping the bin dry enough, you could cut a window out of the lid, and then use duct tape to secure a piece of window screen over the hole. That way, you have both air and protection. If you do this, keep the bin in a dim place for the worms’ sake.

The deeper the contents of the bin, the greater the danger of the bottom portion of the bin turning swampy and anaerobic. To prevent that, don’t let the contents of the bin get too deep. Keep the depth of the contents between 6 and 8 inches and you should be fine. If you have a ton of worms and 6 to 8 inches doesn’t seem like enough room, it’s time to start a second bin, give your extra worms to friends who want to start their own bins, or feed some spares to your chickens. You could also distribute a few handfuls in a cool compost pile.

Don’t be afraid to dig around in the bin every so often to make sure all is well. Check regularly to be sure there’s never any standing water in the bottom of the bin. Bad smells will ensue, and worms will die. If all is well, eventually you should see tiny baby worms in the mix, as well as the little lemon-shaped beads that are worm cocoons. These are good signs. Your worms are happy and breeding. As your bin matures, you may find that other critters — decomposers such as mites, pot worms and tiny black beetles — will make it their home as well. This is nothing to worry about. They’re all doing the same work, and the worms don’t mind the company.

Before you go on vacation, feed the worms well and add fresh bedding. They’ll be fine for a couple of weeks.

Harvesting the Castings

When the contents of the bin start looking more black than anything else, it’s time to harvest some castings. This will probably happen about two months after you start the bin. The simplest way is to stop adding fresh food for a while and let the worms finish up the little scraps and bits dotting the bin. When there’s not much recognizable food in the bin, put a big portion of something delicious — a proven favorite such as squash — at one end of the bin. The worms will migrate that direction. Wait a few days, then scoop out the material on the opposite side of the bin and pile it on the bin lid. Do this during the day or under bright lights. Form the pile into a pyramid or cone shape. There will still be worms in the mix, and they’ll dive down to the bottom center of the mound to hide from the light. You can then harvest the castings from the top and sides of the mound and transfer them to a bucket or bowl. Return the worms hiding at the bottom of the pile to the bin.

Add fresh wet newspaper and soil to the bin, just as you did at the beginning, to rebuild after harvest. Mix this material with the remaining material and start feeding normally again.

Freshly harvested worm castings are very wet. Spread them out on a tray and let them air-dry for a few days, and then sift them through a screen or colander. This will catch any remaining food scraps and give the castings a nice granular texture that’s easy to spread. Store them in a bag or covered container.

Worm Tea

One excellent use of castings is in a liquid plant tonic. Put 1 pint of castings in a bucket. Add a gallon of warm water and a spoonful of molasses. Stir this well, and stir it frequently over the course of 24 to 48 hours. Dilute the resulting liquid at the ratio of 1 part tea to 4 parts water and use it to water container plants and fruit trees. You can use it in your vegetable beds, but they should already be well nourished by compost and thus don’t need it as much. It’s best to use all of your worm tea in a week or so.

Reprinted with permission from Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, published by Rodale, 2010.

Vermicomposting Worm Farm – DIY, Easy, and Frugal

Making Dirt – Part 2

This is part two of a two part post on compost. Read part one – DIY kitchen compost bucket – here

That’s what we’re gonna call it. “I Got Worms!” We’re gonna specialize in selling worm farms. You know, like ant farms. ~ Lloyd Christmas

This quote from the movie Dumb and Dumber was basically the same direct and hilarious approach I used when proposing our soon to be “Worm Farm” to my wife. As you can imagine, she reacted with a sobering degree of skepticism – as any other sane woman may do when presented with the notion of her husband running a “Worm Farm” out of their garage.

To bring her along, like with many of my ideas, I simply had to explain the plan in detail, assure her that I was not going to quit my job to run the worm farm, let it marinate for awhile… then begin construction.

A Vermicomposting Worm Farm

Why in the heck would anybody want to make their own vermicomposting worm farm? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Wikipedia defines “verimicomposting” as follows:

Vermicompost, is composting utilizing various species of worms, specifically red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms creating the heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and pure vermicast produced during the course of normal vermiculture operations. Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by the species of earthworm.

Containing water-soluble nutrients and bacteria, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. The process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.

This article is also a follow up on a promise I gave to several Five Cent Nickel readers in my “Breaking Free From a Culture of Temptation” article a few months back. I promised I would write a post detailing how I constructed my very own vermicomposting worm farm for very little money. In the original article I mentioned how I was tempted to purchase a vermicomposting bin rather than make my own. Here is the snippet from the original article:

A store-bought vermicomposting bin ($130) Instead of buying one, I decided to make my own. I spent just a fraction of what I would’ve paid in the store ($22), and it works great. I hope to put together an article about this soon.

Making my own vermicomposting worm farm — in order to enjoy the benefits of the nutrient rich soil — was very easy, inexpensive, and fun. In my opinion, it is always an awesome thing to save a boat-load of money AND enjoy the feeling of building something yourself. As I mentioned in my DIY kitchen compost bucket article, not everyone is into building things themselves. If that sounds like you then I recommend purchasing one of these two prefabricated vermicompost systems:

Prefabricated vermicompost bins

  • The $130 option – The famous “Can-O-Worms” has a multi-level design that’s easy to assemble, easy to use, and can be kept both indoors or outdoors.
  • The $100 option – The Worm Factory employs a tray system that automatically separates food scraps from finished compost. This system can also be used indoors or outdoors.

If I were not on a staunch mission to destroy my debt as soon as possible I would have probably gone with one of the above systems, but instead I opted once again for the DIY route! (Prices posted were taken at the time of writing.)

My Frugal DIY Vermicompost Bin

The $21 option – Here are the actual costs and necessary parts for making a vermicomposting worm farm for just $21:

  • 2 dark, plastic, non-transparent 10 gallon storage bins – cost = $7
  • A drill with ¼” and 1/16″ bits
  • Shredded paper – I use a mix of paper from my shredder and newspaper
  • Red wriggler worms – I bought a pound from a local source I found on CraigsList – cost = $15
  • 4 equally sized blocks

1. Start with your parts and tools (my worms are in the coffee can)

2. Drill 20+ ¼” holes on the bottom of both bins – for drainage and worm travel

3. Drill 1/16″ holes along the side of both bins, near the top. Then drill 30+ 1/16″ holes in the top lid of ONE of the bins (not both)

4. Place bedding in ONE bin only (leave other bin empty) – mix shredded paper with a shovel full of black dirt and spray with enough water to lightly dampen

5. Add your pound of worms and stir it all up. Cover mixture with damp piece of cardboard then place the empty bin on top of the cardboard and cover with the ventilated lid. Place the non-ventilated lid upside-down, position your 4 blocks on top of it, then place the bins atop the blocks like so…

Some Detailed Info on our Worm Farm

The Jabs Worm Farm Inn has been successfully operating in our garage for over two full months now! (UPDATE: This worm farm was in operation for three years, providing us with rich compost for our garden and flower beds! When we moved out of state this worm farm was quickly snatched up by a fortunate responder to our CraigsList ad.)

We keep our DIY kitchen compost bucket under our kitchen sink until it is full, at which time we feed the worms by emptying the contents into the worm farm. Be sure to bury your food scraps so you do not attract gnats and other flies.

We only put organic food scraps in so that our soil can remain free of chemical pesticide residue. We are also careful in maintaining the balance of proper moisture in the bins. You do this by adding more shredded paper when the mixture gets too wet. You will know things are too moist if you start to notice odor or gnats.

Once the bottom bin is full you can simply start a new mixture in the top bin. Don’t worry about adding more worms, once they have exhausted their food supply in the bottom bin, they will naturally migrate up into the top bin through the ¼” holes you provided them.

Any excess “worm tea” will drain through the ¼” holes in the bottom bin and will collect on the upside-down lid. Once a good amount of liquid accumulates on the lid I simply dump this tea into a container and dilute with water and use to water the plants in my garden. It is a very powerful natural fertilizer.

For more detailed information about red wriggler worms and vermicomposting systems in general visit this informative article on Composting with Redworms.

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