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DIY Worm Compost Bin
I shared this post originally in May 2012 – but it’s one my most popular posts and I wanted to bring it back for those of you who haven’t seen it.
Worms creep me out. Sorry, it’s true. But I do have a four-year-old boy, so for better or worse, they have become a part of my reality as of late. I can’t touch them or even look at them too closely without getting the heebie-jeebies. But nobody can deny it – worms are good for eating food. Worms are good for composting! Worms are just generally helpful fellas – so I’m making a worm composting bin – and I’m going to show you how!
Believe it or not, my husband and I used to have a worm bin back when we were first married – it was a wedding gift from one of my bridesmaids (I have the coolest friends!). But for whatever reason that worm bin, made out of a rubbermaid tote, only lasted us a couple years before it turned into storage for our halloween decorations. So we’re bringing it back and I’m going to show you how to make a Rubbermaid Worm Composting Bin!
What’s so great about worm composting? Worm composting is a fabulous way to take your family’s food waste and turn it into nutrient rich fertilizer for your garden or lawn. If you have a lot of space you could skip this whole worm composting thing and just create a big ole compost pile in your backyard. But compost piles aren’t for everyone – especially if you’re short on space. A worm compost bin can be a great way to take care of your food waste – but do it in a contained, mess-free, smell-free, easy-to-maintain system – that in-turn gives you rich soil amendments for your garden or yard.
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- Red worms – about one pound
- Two (2) 8-10 gallon Rubbermaid totes
- Power Drill
- A couple good size rocks or wood pieces for spacing
- Newspaper and cardboard
1.) Get your worms, preferably Red Worms
I asked on the Queen Bee Facebook page – and all my Facebook friends recommended I order my worms from the Olympia Worm Guy – Wiser Worm Farm. Being local – this option made great sense to me and I promptly ordered one pound of Red Worms for $27. They came in the mail less than 24 hours later (don’t you love the the Worm Wide Web?) You might be thinking I could have easily went digging in my backyard – but I want Red Worms, not your typical earthworm. From what I read earthworms will eventually die if added to a compost bin. And besides, since I’m a little squeamish I’d rather just pay $27 and have a box of worms arrive on my front porch. So that’s what I did. Besides, you get about 500 Red Worms per pound – so I figure that’s only $0.05 cents each! What a deal, heehee
I also discovered Amazon carries worms, did you know this? Seriously is there anything they don’t sell?
- Red Wiggler Composting Worms 2lb Pack - $34.95 (price subject to change) – plus about $10 shipping
- Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms - $27.95 + $4.95 shipping
You might be able to worm your way out of out of paying them – and I welcome you to share those ideas in the comment section below! Either way – the end result is - you need worms. Preferably a hungry batch of Red Worms.
2.) Get your bins
As with most things you can buy a fancy composting bin from Amazon or you can make your own using a couple $5 Rubbermaid tote. I ended up using bins I already had in my garage! You want two (2) dark plastic (not see through) Rubbermaid totes that are between eight to 10 gallons. I’ll call these bin #1 and bin #2. Bin #1 is going to hold the worms and compost. Bin #2 is basically just a drainage bin, for when the bin gets too wet. I don’t think it’s even entirely necessarily to have a second bin – as long as you watch the moisture level.
3.) Drill holes in sides of Bin #1
Along the top edge of Bin #1 you’re going to want to drill holes. These will be above your compost line and will allow for ventilation – essential to the happiness of your worms. I’m using the bin that was given to us many years ago – and it happens to have large holes. If you don’t have a large drill bit, you can drill many, many smaller holes. Another option I’ve seen is you can cut out a portion of the top lid and replace with mesh screen – not a bad idea, but I’d worry about rainwater leaking and this is a bit more time intensive.
4.) Drill holes in bottom of Bin #1
Using a 1/8 drill bit (small) you will drill holes in the bottom of your worm bin. Preferably drill them in the recessed or lowest parts of the bottom of the bin – because that’s where water would sit and ultimately drain. Don’t worry – you’re worms won’t try to climb out of these holes – as long as they have a happy environment with plenty of food, they don’t try to venture out.
5.) One your bin has holes, shred up some newspapers (not your coupons!) and add it to the bin. Then add some dirt (for grit, helps with digestion), add your food scraps, sprinkle with water. You don’t want it too wet – and a good way to know is if you squeeze your “bedding” and if it drips, it’s too wet.
6.) Add your worms. My worms came with an ample supply of dirt and newspaper – so I dumped it all in. Then I gave them a little bit of water to freshen them up. Not too much!
7.) Cover with another layer of newspaper and a wet piece of cardboard. This does two things – it keeps any fruit flies away and it keeps your worms happy because they love both wet cardboard and darkness.
8.) Place Bin #1 inside Bin #2 – Bin #2 is going to have a couple rocks in it, the same size – to hold bin #1 up a bit above the other – to keep your ventilation holes free flowing. You could also use pieces of wood or gravel – anything to elevate your worm bin (Bin #1) inside your drainage bin (Bin #2). I actually used a bigger Bin #1 – this helps as well.
9.) Placement - Keep bin in a relatively cool place. No colder than 35 degrees and no hotter than 80 degrees. This means in the heat of summer you should move it to the cool garage. Also, don’t put near vibrations, like a washer or dryer, worms don’t like shaking. If you have it outside, make sure it won’t fill with rain water – you’ll drown your poor worms. A garage, shed or covered patio would be perfect! Many people keep them in their homes – you don’t have to worry, as long as the worms are happy they won’t escape!
10.) Maintain! Add food waste as you have it. You are in business! Now just add food to your bin as it’s available. Keep an eye on your food levels and if it’s getting a little high – take a few days off. But red worms can eat their weight in food a day – so if you have a pound of worms, you can compost about a pound of food a day!
As far as harvesting your nutrient rich worm poop/compost – I’d say give it at least a couple months – then you can dump the bin out onto a tarp and harvest your good soil. It’s very concentrated stuff, so a little bit goes a long way – mix with water to make worm poop tea and use as a soil amendment!
FEEDING YOUR WORMS
- Worms love: Breads or other grains, coffee grounds and the filter, tea bags, fruits, vegetables, egg shells (they love these!)
- Worms do not like: Dairy (this means cheeses, milks, yogurt), fatty foods, meats, oils
That’s it! It really is that easy. As long as your worms are fed, they have plenty of ventilation and things are kept moist – you really can’t go wrong. Good luck!
If you set it up right it shouldn’t smell, the worms shouldn’t try to escape, you shouldn’t have fruit flies and it should require very little maintenance. If you are having some of these problems – here’s what you need to likely fix:
- Worms are trying to escape or they are dying – your bin is probably too wet, too dry or needs more bedding. If you squeeze the bedding and it “drips” it’s probably too wet.
- Smelly bin – Too much food, your bin needs more ventilation or your bin is too wet. You can stop adding food for a couple weeks so the worms can catch up. Drill additional holes for ventilation. Replace very wet bedding with just “damp” bedding.
- Fruit flies – Not enough bedding. Keep your food covered with a layer of shredded newspaper at all times.
Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System (Amazon, currently $10.09)
And of course, the best resource of all on worms – a 4-year-old boy.
He’s awfully proud of his “tutorial” so check it out!
If you don’t see the video – you can view it here: 4-year-old give worm bin tutorial
My disclaimer: I’m not a worm compost expert, although I have done a ton of research and I really did create this worm composting bin for our home use, but I’m not really the worm expert.
If you prefer to buy one ready to go, Amazon has this Worm Factory DS3GT 3-Tray Worm Composter, Green and a bunch of other designs. You can get a complete set up for about $60-$100, and some much fancier than that.
I’d love to hear from you - do you have a worm compost bin? Do you think you’ll start one? Do you have questions about worm composting?