How To Make Your Own Vermicompost Bin & Worm Farm

by heather

Red Wiggler Composting Worms

Red Wiggler Composting Worms

I’ve been resolving for months now to start vermicomposting in my kitchen.

Why do I want to start my own indoor worm farm? Well, 75% of the stuff that goes into my trash is food waste. My town has an amazing recycling program which takes all plastics (#1-#7), glass, steel, and paper. So, all I really throw out is food.

Composting with worms means I would be feeding all that food to them, which means it stays out of the landfill (and doesn’t contribute to the landfill’s methane production).

In return, I get compost tea for my plants, and nutrient rich compost for my garden.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

The Commercial Vermicompost Bin I Want…

canowormskitchenlgI’ve had my eye on the Can-O-Worms vermicompost bin forever. I’m sure there are very few people out there that actually lust after vermicompost bins, but I happen to be one of them.

But, the Can-O-Worms vermicompost bin is a whopping $130. For plastic trays.

I’ve gone back and forth over the purchase. And, I finally decided that I should at least try to make my own vermicompost bin before dropping a wad of cash on that one.

So, lucky readers, yet again you get to learn with me! I’m pulling my classic “write a post while I do research” routine so I can start building my own vermicompost bin weekend.

How To Make Your Own Vermicompost Bin

I found a great set of instructions over at the Herb Gardener.

Quick Aside: I’m in love with this blog. Seriously in love. I found instructions on how to make Lavender Sugar, how to grow dill (mine is already on its last legs), and how to make your own Herbs de Provence. This woman knows her stuff, so go check out her blog! She’s amazing.

According to Sarah at the Herb Gardener, you’re going to need:

  • 1, 20 x 30 inch opaque plastic bin with lid
  • Screening material
  • Plastic tray big enough to fit under the bin
  • Bricks
  • Shredded newsprint
  • One pound of red wiggler worms
  • Table scraps
  • Coffee grounds or fine sand
  • Drill with a quarter inch bit

Steps

  • Step 1: Drill ten, 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage.
  • Drill several holes in the sides of the bin for air circulation: 8 or 10 holes in each side should be fine
  • Lay mesh screening material on the bottom of the bin. This will keep the compost material from dribbling out.
  • Elevate the bin with your bricks, and then place the plastic tray under the bin for drainage.
  • Next, wet your shredded newspaper (don’t use colored newspaper) to the consistency of a wet sponge. This is your worms’ bedding. You can also add some dry leaves. If you squeeze your newspaper and it dribbles water, it’s too wet, but if you squeeze it and it still crinkles then it’s too dry.
  • Fill the bin a third or half way with your bedding material (newspaper). Make sure you fluff it after you wet it down so the worms can easily crawl into it.
  • Top your bedding material with two cups of coffee grounds or fine sand.
  • Place your worms on top, and put the lid on the bin.
  • Don’t add any table scraps for one week; let the worms settle in.
  • After a week, you can add up to 4 cups of kitchen scraps. The more you mash it down or blend it, the faster your worms will be able to eat it.
  • During the first 3 weeks, wait 4 or 5 days between feedings, and never feed more than 4 cups of scraps at a time.
  • After the first month or so your worms will start to multiply, and will be able to handle daily kitchen scraps.

Vermicomposting Tips:

  • The Herb Gardner says that 1 lb. of red wiggler worms can process 1 lb. of food scraps per day.
  • According to Abundant Earth, worms can live up to 15 years. So, they’re definitely worth the investment!
  • Your vermicompost bin is specifically for kitchen scraps. Don’t put in leaves or other outside material, as this will upset the balance in the bin.
  • Your worms will double their population every 2-3 months. But, they won’t overbreed for their area. There will always be a perfect amount of worms for the space they’re living in.
  • Don’t feed your worms any food that is derived from animals (meat, bones, cheese, fat, etc.). They can handle crushed eggshells, however.
  • Your vermicompost bin will work best if it’s not exposed to extreme temperatures. Ideally, 75 degrees is the best temperature, which is why they work so well indoors.
  • Your wormies love moisture, so make sure the bedding material is very moist when you put your worms in.

Additional Wormy Resources

  • I found this awesome tutorial at LorenaKnack.com. She built her own vermicompost bin, and documented every step of the process. She took excellent pictures, and I highly recommend checking out her site.
  • That One Caveman also had an excellent list of instructions. His design is slightly different than the one the Herb Gardener just taught us how to make. I really like how his turned out

Last Word…

I’m feeling really good now about making my own vermicompost bin. Yay! I’ve got to go out and buy the right sized bins, as the ones I have around the house are all too big. But, this should only come to $10 or so. Everything else I already have on hand.

Once I have it built, I’ll order my worms. There are plenty of places to buy red wigglers online. I’ll probably just order mine from Amazon.

Are you into vermicomposting? Want to share your tips with me and other readers? Please chime in! I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Also, thanks again to Sara over at The Herb Gardener for her great list of instructions.

{ 5 trackbacks }

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison July 8, 2009 at 10:55 am

I’ve been vermicomposting for about 6 weeks and use a system very similar to what you’ve described. I did have a problem with flies and think I may have put too many scraps into the bin at once. I went out of town for a few days and the flies have largely disappeared. I have found it helpful to add shredded newspaper periodically. I also purchased a mini garden rake (99 cents) to help turn the scraps so that they’re not sitting on top of the pile, which I think attracted the flies.

heather July 8, 2009 at 11:01 am

Allison,

That’s awesome! Thanks a lot for the newspaper tip. I’ve heard that flies can sometimes be a problem if there’s too much food.

Ann Monroe July 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Another similar bin here: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/Easywormbin.htm. Using two bins and no screening makes harvesting the compost MUCH easier; just fill second bin with paper& food, put first on top, and let worms crawl through to the bottom one. I didn’t realize how important easy harvesting was till I tried to figure out what to do with a large bin of black, soggy compost full to bursting with worms.

heather July 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Ann,

Thanks so much for that link! That looks like a great design.

And the info down at the bottom was really helpful, especially that troubleshooting box. I’m sure I’ll be referring back to that! 🙂

Kristin July 9, 2009 at 12:59 am

Thanks for this post! I’ve been thinking about vermicomposting for a while now but can’t seem to justify buying a $100+ bin for worms. My alternative has been to just pitch stuff in the compost heap. What kind of maintenance do you have to do with the bin-cleaning, taking out castings?

heather July 9, 2009 at 6:11 am

Kristen,

I think vermicompost bins are low maintenance. I think you can take out castings every couple of months. As to cleaning, I’m clueless. I was going to see if my library had a book on vermicomposting today.

I did find this helpful article on common vermicomposting mistakes:

http://www.vermicompost.net/worm-composting/vermicomposting-mistakes.aspx

Perhaps some of the readers who are already vermicomposting could help here…I really have no idea if you need to clean the bin or not! I did a quick search on Google and couldn’t find anything conclusive.

RowdyKittens July 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Heather – I’m glad to hear you are going to start this project! How exciting!

I don’t think you need to buy a special bin. It’s really easy to make one on your own and very inexpensive. Logan and I started an indoor composting project about 6 months ago and the worms love their home. 🙂

If you have questions, let me know. Yay fun!

Ohhh and below are some posts you might find helpful.

This post links to a really helpful video: http://rowdykittens.com/2008/06/indoor-composting-project/

Update: Saturday Night Fun with Indoor Composting
http://rowdykittens.com/2008/06/update-saturday-night-fun-with-indoor-composting/

Composting Fun: Week 5
http://rowdykittens.com/2008/08/composting-fun-week-5/

Allison July 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I spent about $35 to get started vermicomposting – $10 for two bins and about $25 for worms so it’s definitely not necessary to spend a lot.

Thus far, I haven’t had to clean the bin. It seems pretty low-maintenance. My understanding is that it’s going to take at least a year to fill up my bin with casings. It’s a large (18 gallon, I think) Rubbermaid tote. Although I cook a lot, I live alone and travel a bit so I don’t have huge quantities of food scraps.

When I received the worms, I let them acclimate for a few days, then started giving small amounts of scraps. Now I put scraps in the bin 2-3 times per week. Occasionally, I mix up the scraps so the newest ones get mixed in. I also have a added some extra shredded newspaper. It really doesn’t need a lot of attention.

heather July 9, 2009 at 4:09 pm

@Rowdy- Thanks SO MUCH for those links! I’m definitely excited to get started. I’m going to try and make the bins this weekend. I’m going on vacation the first week in August though, so I’m wondering if I should wait until I get back to order the worms.

Any idea how long they can go without table scraps? I’d feel really awful if they got hungry or dry or something while I was away…

@Allison- Thanks so much for answering the cleaning question! I really wasn’t sure on that one. My gut was saying that cleaning would be bad; after all, no one cleans the dirt the worms live in outside! 🙂 But, it’s nice to know for sure.

RowdyKittens July 9, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Heather – I think you will be fine if you leave the worms and go on vaca. We usually throw food in their bin everyday. Just add in extra scraps before you leave for the week. They will be so so happy! 🙂

RenaissanceRonin July 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Okay Heather…

First you got me arrested for hanging Lavender upside down. (How was I supposed to know that she’d object?) Then…

I got attacked by a Muslim for trying to put him in a glass jar. Again… Heather’s idea.

FYI: Contrary to what anyone says, Lavender oil will not replace WD-40.

You wanted me to stop drinking beer or some such nonsense, to avoid the dreaded “6 pack plastic rings monster…” I foolishly told a friend. Guess what? Samuel Adams has put out a contract on me for becoming “a subversive.”

Now, you want me to grow worms in my house. Do tapeworms count? ‘Cuz I’m pretty sure I brought a few back from Japan, after I ate all that sushi… 🙂

Can’t you just see the look on the neighbor’s faces? Hmmm…

“That jerk Ronin lives in a shipping container. He makes his family go without AC, because he’s scared of something called “Carbon Footprints.” Now, he’s growing crawlies in his house, to make “good dirt.” Get the pitchforks and the burning brands!”

All kidding aside, I wonder if this can be done somewhere other than indoors? You see, I have a small and very inquisitive child who would delight in discovering, playing with, and then… eating the worms.

Is the indoors part of the program to stabilize temperature?
Or maintain relative humidity?

Can you do this in a garage, or a storage shed outside?

And, if you let them live for 15 years, do they taste tough and chewy when you deep fry them? They must be mostly protein, and beef is getting expensive… 🙂

Ronin

Tom July 13, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I am just getting started with vermicomposting. I don’t have much for kitchen scraps but I have 5 big maple trees that give me plenty of leaves. And my yard produces plenty of waste material. My question is, can the red wigglers survive and thrive and reproduce well enough on just yard waste?

Cindy July 23, 2009 at 7:40 am

Sooner or later I am going to try vermicomposting. I keep reading about it and it sounds like a quicker way to compost and we would have worms for fishing. I bet the grandboys would love a worm farm.

thewingedpalate October 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

Thank you Heather for the links you suggested. I also got my instructions from The Herb Gardener but with a little modification.

I just started my vermicomposting bin about a week ago and blogged about it. Head over to my blog at http://thewingedpalate.blogspot.com/ Comments and suggestions most welcome.

begonia/My Little Farm in Town November 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm

My neighbor has one of those worm bins that you lust after! It works well. I just use plastic boxes and bins drilled with holes. Check out my blog and the book Worms Eat My Garbage. Enjoyed your blog! Begonia

Jessica Bosari January 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

@RenaissanceRonin – Outside is fine during mild temperatures, but it must be protected from rain – maybe the garage or basement in summer and winter?

I’ve got a covered porch I am eyeballing for mine and I’ll do the basement in hot and cold months.

@Allison
Flies can be a problem if the food is exposed. I read that you should bury it in the bedding and that will keep down fruit flies. Another fruit fly trick I know: a bowel of apple cider vinegar with a small squirt of dish soap will trap and kill the fruit flies. Super effective!

@heather
Thanks for this post. I’m pumped to get started too after reading about 10 or 20 how-to’s. Another tip I came across: put some damp cardboard out on the lawn. The worms will crawl to it to feed. Lift up the cardboard and harvest them for free worms instead of buying them. You feed those initial worms lightly and they will multiply to the amount needed quickly. Of course, that one has to wait till spring. I might buy a box at the pet store to get started. A box of 10 is $3. Start small and be patient and you can have it up and running so cheaply!

sanjay singh March 22, 2011 at 3:17 am

i love to work with wormies.i feel very comfortable in my work,i wish to enlarge my vermy with my experince……….

sanjay singh March 22, 2011 at 3:20 am

i m very happy to work with wormies……..

Kristin June 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I just started my compost today and I am excited about it, my boss has one (an expensive one) and I used to take care of hers and I am ready for my own so I just made a cheap and Easy one and a few tips I have learned and done research on… As far as keeping the surroundings moist I like to use the recycled paper egg cartons I just soak them and give it a squeeze and then lay it on the top of the compost. Also instead of buying the worms online check your local bait and tackle shops. I got my worms for $3.75 for 100 worms. I saved money and there wasn’t a chance any harm to my worms! Well I just thought I’d share!

Kristin

vermicomposting November 18, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Nice information, adding worms to gardens will increase the soil fertility and increases the plant growth rate. I am also searching for best methods like vermicomposting to increase my plants growth.

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