Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Worm Composting Bin aka Vermicompost

For Christmas, my husband was gifted with 1,000 worms. Now that they have settled into their new home, allow me to share some details about worm husbandry. :-)

How much space is needed?
Our worm bin requires about two square feet of space and when fully operational will be about three feet high. We kept it on our counter for the first week, but I wanted my counter space back, so we evicted them to the garage. We still keep a container to hold unprepared kitchen scraps and a food chopper on the counter, though. (Worms prefer food to be broken quite a bit before they get it.)

Where do you keep them? Do they smell?
When our worms were in the house, they emitted no odor except for an earthy smell when the cover was lifted to add new food. If we didn't have a toddler, I would have kept it in the corner of the kitchen, but I don't really want to find them strewn about the house some day! Instead, we are keeping them in the corner where the two interior garage walls meet. (We have an attached garage that shares two walls with our house.) The door is insulated, but the exterior wall is not. Worms are fine in temperatures down to 40F. Even with night-time temperatures of close to zero, our worms have not asked for extra blankets.

No, the worms don't smell. He's just being weird. :-)

What do they eat?
Worms will eat any plant matter other than citrus (fruit or peels). This includes kitchen and plant waste, coffee grounds, and even shredded paper. In fact, they prefer about half kitchen scraps and half fiber. Fiber includes junk mail, dryer lint, vacuum dust, tea bags (no staples!), and coffee filters with grounds. Worms appreciate egg shells and the occasional grain (bread, cereal), but do NOT want dairy or meat.

How much can they compost?

A pound of worms (~1000) will eat about 1/2lb food each day. This isn't very much. You certainly would not be able to compost your yard waste in a worm bin! At present, we have found that eating bananas and avocados regularly almost overwhelms our worms just from the peels. As our worms continue to raise families, they will be able to handle more food.

How many worms do you need?
To get started, at least 500 worms are needed with 1000 being recommended. Every three months, your worm population will double. Adding new trays allows you to keep enough food and space for all your worms as well as allowing the bottom trays to compost completely.

What do you do with worm tea?
The "worm tea" (also called leachate) can be used on outdoor plants at full strength. For house plants, it is recommended that it be diluted with equal parts of water and "tea". The composted dirt is good for any plant!

Do worms need a sitter during vacation?
Once your worms are mature enough to not answer the phone and stay away from the stove (or after their first couple weeks), they can be left alone for up to a month. If you live in a hot climate, make sure your worms are somewhere that will be cool and moist enough for them.

Anything else?
Yes. A quote from our worm manual. "Worms can become stressed during shipment. They may take a week or so to adapt to their new environment. Leave a light on at night to encourage them to burrow into their new home." That's right. Just like Motel 6.


  1. I love this. I'm looking forward to more wormy adventures! I think you should start naming them. Do you think there are enough Saints to cover all 1000? :)

    1. Haha, I'm sure there are at least 1000 saints! The problem is getting the worms to wear name tags...