Every gardener knows that worms in your soil is a mark of a healthy happy ecosystem. We love them! They aerate the soil, add nutrients, and so much more. But we can harness these worms to do so much more!
Types of Composting Worms
When it comes to composting worms there are two main powerhouses, Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers.
Red Wigglers process compost QUICKLY, which means you need to feed, Feed, FEED! They eat so quickly that you must be prepared to keep giving them food or they just might haul off and wiggle away if they find out that your worm bin just doesn’t have enough food for them.
European Nightcrawlers are also excellent for processing compost, but are a hair slower, PLUS they are much LARGER worms, making them useful for things like FISHING.
I, for one, look for things with dual or multiple use or purpose. That is why we chose to go with European Nightcrawlers for our worm bin. Like so many other people we bought ours from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
Best Worm Composting Bin
There are, without a doubt, dozens of options when selecting a worm composting bin. From kitchen-sized worm composter models to homemade DIY outdoor compost bins made from old bathtubs, and everything in between.
Which is the best? As always the answer is based on which one fits your needs and space the best! The end result is the same – fresh worm castings (worm poop! the beloved vermicompost!) and leachate (the liquid that has passed through the castings and compost). So, don’t get too hung up on what is the biggest, or what has the potential of making the most compost – focus instead on which on YOU can actually keep up with so that your worms stay happy and healthy!
DIY Worm Compost Bin
We happened to make our own. We did this because our neighbor, who loves to pile up scrap stuff on his property, had a few old bathtubs and he was willing to let us have one. Free! Can’t beat it!
We then used scrap wood from old projects to make a frame to hold the tub up off the ground? Why off the ground? So you can get the leachate out of the tub! Worms like it moist, but if the soil is too wet they will leave the area too. Plus, that leachate is just SO FULL of excellent nutrients for plants – and that’s the stuff we want!
So ours was measured to make sure the pipe coming out of the bottom of the bathtub was just high enough to let a 5 gallon bucket sit under the pipe – easy peasy.
How to Build a Worm Bin
What if you decide to build, rather than buy, your worm bin? How you go about building it and what materials you use are, really, up to you. But there are some basics you’ll want to follow:
- A water-tight container that has a loose lid or a lid that otherwise provides air holes (such as small holes drilled into a tight fitting lid)
- A drain to let the leachate out (this is the water your using to keep the soil most that flows through the system, along with worm pee)
That’s it! Simple, right?
You can make it as complicated as you want from there. Maybe you use a few stacking plastic tubs, maybe you use an old bathtub, maybe even a smaller trash can. Whatever!
Some key points:
- Make sure the water can drain! (Am I over-emphasizing this?) The worms don’t want to be damp, and you WANT that water that’s been through their compost – it’s good plant food!
- Make sure air can get in – worms breath too and it helps keep the compost healthy as well.
What to Feed Worms
If you’ve ever made compost, you know how to feed worms (here is a useful fridge magnet to help you remember). It’s a mixture of “brown” and “green” items. This list from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is very useful. Here’s a summery:
- Newspaper, or newspaper-like junk mail
- Shredded paper (may need to use caution – stick with white paper and black ink, or brown cardboard, generally)
- Cleaned crushed egg shells (yolk and white remnants attract unwanted pests)
- Dried Leaves
- Vegetable Scraps
- Starch Scraps (Pasta, Oatmeal, Bread)
- Coffee Grounds and Filters, Tea and Teabags
But HOW MUCH do you feed them?! Come on, I can’t answer that! It will depend on how many worms you have working the bin and how happy and healthy they are to know how much food they will process for you. YOU have to watch and learn how much they eat and get a feel for what it takes to keep them fed.
There are, however, a few things to avoid:
- Too much citrus
- Excessive salt
- Any meats
These items attract unwanted pests and can cause your worm bin to develop a right foul smell before your worms are able to process the food, as it spoils too quickly.
We keep a small compost pail in our kitchen and put our scraps into it and occasionally (perhaps every few days) take that out to our worm bin and spread it out evenly across the worms. You’ll get into the habit quite quickly!
Give it a try and tell us in the comments below how it worked for you! Or are you already composting with worms, let us know!
We’d love to share more of our vermicomposting experience with you, so be sure to Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to make sure you catch it!