Make Your Own: Worm Bin

>> Saturday, September 5, 2009

We set up our worm bin today! I'm not sure who was more excited - me or the boys!

The following are the steps I followed to set up my worm bin, and I'm too excited to wait to share them, but I'm adding a warning that you should probably wait to see if I kill off all my worms before trying this yourself.

STEP 1: Read Worms Eat My Garbage.

STEP 2: Obtain a container. I used an 18 gallon plastic container with a lid, but Mary Appelhof (author of Worms Eat My Garbage) says that a shallow container would be better. The size of container you will need depends on how much food waste your family produces a day. Appelhof recommends that you "plan on one square foot of surface for each pound of garbage per week."

STEP 3: Drill ventilation holes in the sides and lid. A friend of mine put this container together for me as part of a class for the Raleigh Community Gardens Meetup Group, and she used special grommets to fill in the holes, but you could also just use some wire mesh.

STEP 4: Obtain worms. You need red wigglers, which are available at bait shops. The goal is a worm to garbage ration of 2:1 (2 pounds of worms for every pound of food waste your household produces a day), but because worms multiply, you can start with less if the worms seem too pricey. We bought a pound of worms for $17. The sales clerk asked us if we were setting up a compost bin "because fishermen never ask for worms by the pound."

STEP 5: Prepare bedding. We used eight pounds of shredded newspaper for our size of container. You need three pounds of bedding per cubic foot volume of the bin. Appelhof implied that newspaper was the best type of bedding, though you could also use a mixture of newspaper, leaves, manure, and wood chips. Avoid newspaper with colored print.

STEP 6: Wet the bedding. For plastic containers, you need to add water equal to two times the weight of the bedding. So for our container, we added 16 pounds of water. If your container is made of another material besides plastic, add water equal to three times the weight of the bedding. (Plastic bins tend to accumulate more water over time.)

STEP 7: Add one or two handfuls of soil. Mix well.

STEP 8: Add the worms on top of the bedding. Leave the lights on in the room, and the worms will move into the bedding within an hour. If any are left on the surface, remove them.

STEP 9: Feed your worms by digging a hole big enough for the amount of food you're going to add. Put the food in the hole and cover with bedding. If you're using a plastic container, add dry shredded bedding to the surface every two or three weeks.

What can you feed your worms?

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • coffee grinds
  • tea leaves
  • pulvarized egg shells
Do not feed them too much citrus, meat, bones, feces, and preferably no dairy.

Cost: $10 for the bin + $17 for the worms + FREE newspaper obtained from friends = $27

I'm thinking we're going to need another bin or two for the amount of food waste we produce, but I'm going to experiment with this one for now and see how it goes. Wish us luck!

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Going Green Mama September 8, 2009 at 8:02 PM  

We're planning to vermicompost soon, and you can save money (and the environment) by reusing those annoying styrofoam coolers. I never knew what to do with them after insulin was shipped to me, now I know!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper September 8, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

@Going Green Mama - Interesting and very frugal idea. The worms don't eat the styrofoam?

Brenda Pike September 11, 2009 at 2:28 PM  

I like your bin! It looks a lot more professional than ours, which just has a bunch of tiny holes drilled around the top.

Are you weighing your food scraps? We haven't yet, but I'm interested in knowing exactly how much we're feeding the worms. I think they can eat a lot more than we're giving them.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper September 12, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

@Brenda - Do you have your holes covered with mesh or something? Just wondering because we've had some worms escape out of a couple holes in the handles of the bin that were there when we got it. But that was the first couple of nights and maybe we hadn't put enough food in yet.

We think we can feed them 2.5 lbs a week which is about five yogurt tubs of veggie scraps. Of course I know it's mostly about watching the worms to see if we're feeding them too much or too little.

Amy @ Thoughts of THAT Mom March 10, 2010 at 2:46 PM  

We didn't intend to have a worm compost in Michigan. Shortly after we started our compost, though (with a mix of leaves, compost (to start), & fruit/veggie scraps), we noticed we had visitors!

Be aware that if you have it outside (like we did) & put bananas in (we use them a LOT) that you'll attract banana slugs. We ended up covering the holes our bin (a trash can on wheels) with mesh to keep them from coming in.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 10, 2010 at 8:12 PM  

@Amy - Oh, man...I have all sorts of unwelcome guests. A month or so after we started, we got a huge infestation of black soldier fly larvae, and I got mixed information about whether it was good to have them in there, so I picked them all out. This angered my worms so much that they attempted a mass exodus that night. I went out to the porch for something, and there were worms everywhere! Finally, a "worm bin expert" on twitter told me to leave the soldier fly larvae alone.

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