How to: Worm Composting Basics for Beginners

Backyard Spruce

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Are you tired of throwing away food scraps and yard waste without any purpose? Worm composting could be the solution you’ve been looking for! Not only does it help reduce waste, but it also creates nutrient-rich soil that can benefit your vegetable garden and flower beds.  Vermiculture uses worms to convert organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for plants.  It’s a win-win!

But where do you even begin with worm composting? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll give beginners an energetic introduction to the basics of worm composting. Get ready to turn your trash into treasured garden soil!

Setting Up Your DIY Worm Composting System

Setting up your worm composting system is easy and can be done in just a few steps. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Choose the right container for your worms. It should be made of plastic or wood, have a lid, and be at least 12 inches deep. Plastic bins used for storage are perfect for homemade worm farms.  Drill holes in the side of the container to allow the contents inside to breathe.  Also, make sure to drill holes in the bottom of the container to allow any excess moisture to drain out. With any worm composting bin design, the goal is good airflow ventilation, maximizing darkness, and condensation drainage.
  1. Add bedding to the bottom of your container. This can be made from shredded paper, cardboard, straw, or leaves.
  1. Add your first batch of composting worms on top of the bedding. You’ll want to use red wiggler worms (sometimes called red worms) specifically since they’re known for their ability to break down organic material quickly.  Try taking a look at a local bait shop for fishing for a cup of these worms.
  1. Finally, add food waste and yard waste on top of the bedding and watch as your new little workers get to work eating the food and breaking it all down into nutrient-rich soil!  This is known as vermicompost.  

Remember: worm composting requires time and patience! It may take several months for your compost to fully develop, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. So why not give worm composting a try? Not only will you reduce waste but you’ll also end up with some excellent soil that can improve plant growth around your home!

Buying a Worm Compost Bin System

Alternatively, if you have some wiggle room in your budget there are a multitude of worm compost bins that are available for purchase. These composting systems are designed and engineered to optimize the worm ecosystem to produce organic sustainable compost efficiently.

FCMP Outdoor Composter for worm composting.

There are many different systems and styles to choose from, but some popular options are Worm Factory 360, VermiHut Plus, and the FCMP Outdoor Composter for worm composting bins.

These are perfect starter bins for a novice vermicomposter!

Choosing the Best Worms for Your Compost

When it comes to worm composting, choosing the right type of worm for your setup is crucial. The most common species used in vermicompost are red wigglers (Eisenia fetida species), as they are efficient at breaking down organic matter and reproducing quickly.

Red Wriggler worms best for compost bins for vermicomposting.

You can buy worms from your local bait shop or even from many online companies that will ship worms in bags directly to your house.

Before purchasing worms, consider factors such as your climate zone and the size of your compost bin or pile.  For example, if you live in a colder region, you may want to consider setting up the worm compost bin inside to avoid the worms from getting too cold and dying.  Similarly, if you have a small bin or require a quick turnover of compost material, you’ll need worms with a high speed of reproduction and consumption.  Do your research beforehand to ensure that you’re selecting the best match for your needs.

Once you’ve acquired your worms, it’s important to provide them with proper care and feeding so that they can thrive in their new home. Keep the bedding moist but not waterlogged – around 70% moisture content is ideal – and provide plenty of food scraps to feed the worms, avoid adding meat or dairy products. With time and patience, you will soon reap the benefits of nutrient-rich castings from these hard-working little critters!

How Many Worms Should Be Used in a Vermicomposting Bin?

Typically, worms will eat half of their body weight every day. So a half pound of worms (roughly a large handful) will eat a quarter pound of food a day.

To properly start your worm composting ecosystem, it would be wise to start weighing your kitchen scraps beforehand to know exactly how many worms you should be buying. Using too little amount of worms can result in the compost bin ecosystem failing by having food waste rot allowing other pests such as flies to take over and compromise the bin’s production.

What to Feed Worms in Composting Bin

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, is a sustainable way of handling organic waste and turning it into vital nutrition for your vegetable garden. These busy little creatures transform food scraps, paper products, and yard waste into fertilizer that enriches the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

When feeding your worm compost pile, dig a hole in the top layer of the bedding and place broken-up scrap pieces in it. Then add any paper products on top too. While adding to the compost pile also scan for any uneaten scraps from previous feedings and remove them if the worms are not touching them. You want to prevent any excessive rotting of food in the compost bin.

Here are some foods that are safe to compost and some foods that should be avoided.

Safe Food for Worm CompostingWhat Food to Avoid for Worm Composting
Food, Fruit, and Vegetable ScrapsMeat, Fish, Bones
Grass, Leaves, and Yard ClippingsFats, Grease, Oils
Coffee Grounds (including Paper Filter)Dairy Products (Cheese, Milk, etc)
Paper Products (Newspaper, Cardboard, etc)Citrus (Orange, Lemon, Lime peels)
Crushed EggshellsTreated Paper (Magazines, Spam Mail, etc)
Treated Wood (Pressure, Painted, etc)
Hardy Aggressive Weeds
Herbicide Treated Plants
Animal Fecal Waste
Dryer Lint
Some foods that are safe to compost and some foods that should be avoided

If your vegetable garden is lacking in a certain nutrient you can target certain foods to feed your worms that will naturally and organically replenish when adding the compost soil to your garden beds.

For nitrogen-rich materials try focusing on feeding your worms more greens, such as scraps of lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and grass clippings.

For carbon-rich materials try focusing on feeding your worms more browns, such as yard scraps like dry leaves and twigs.

Some other good kitchen waste products to feed your worm compost pile are coffee grounds including paper filters, tea bags, napkins and paper towels that were not used with any chemical cleaning product, cardboard rolls from used toilet paper, and grocery paper bags. Every type of fruit and vegetable scrap can be fed to the worms too, but be sparing when throwing citrus scraps in like orange and lemon peels as this will deter worms from eating it over other items.

Avoid feeding the worms anything that derives from an animal, such as fats, bones, dairy, and meat. Worms will also have a difficult time breaking down thicker stems of pulled plants and yard trimmings. Any type of feces from wild animal droppings in the yard to your pets must be avoided too.

DIY Budget Worm Composting Bin: Save Money

If you’re looking for a way to save money and reduce waste, then DIY worm composting is the perfect solution for you! This simple but effective process can benefit both your wallet and the environment.

Don’t worry – it’s easier than you think to build a compost bin. You can make a bin out of just about anything – from plastic storage containers to wooden pallets. All you need are some air holes for the compost pile to breathe, bedding material like shredded newspaper or leaves, and of course, a lot of hungry worms!

DIY Vermicomposting bin using storage bins.
DIY storage bin worm composting. Double layer bins, the inner bin has drain holes into the outer bin for drainage.

We previously covered converting plastic storage bins into compost bins by drilling ventilation holes on the sides and drainage holes underneath. Keep the lid unaltered as you want to keep the inside as dark as possible to reduce anything from starting to grow inside.

Especially for an outdoor worm compost pile, using pallets is a great option on a budget. In most cases, you can find pallets for free locally from businesses. You should try and acquire 4 pallets. One for the floor and three for the sides of the bin. This leaves the front and top open for you to turn the compost and add scraps. You can drape clear plastic greenhouse film over the top and front to trap heat and moisture when not actively using the compost pile. This will ensure that the soil temperate is high enough for breaking down the food content while also keeping moisture up so that the soil doesn’t dry out for the worms.

DIY Vermicomposting using pallets to make the worm compost bin.
DIY pallet-style worm compost bin with separation wall for compost and worm castings storage.

These are just two examples of worm composting designs, feel free to research the web for other options if this doesn’t sound like it’s for you. As I also mentioned, you can buy ready-made plastic compost bins too.

Harvesting Worm Castings: How to Get the Most Out of Your Compost

Harvesting worm castings is a crucial step in the process of creating rich, nutrient-dense soil for your vegetable garden beds. But how do you get the most out of your compost? The key is to be patient and follow a few simple steps.

First, make sure that your worms have fully digested all of the scraps and bedding material in their bin. This can take anywhere from two to six months depending on factors like temperature, humidity, worm population, and types of food provided to them.

Once your worms have done their work, it’s time to extract the castings from the bin. You can use a special screen to filter out uneaten material or sift through by hand with gloves. The key is to separate any undigested matter from the finished product. Feel free to toss any scraps back into the compost bin.

Finally, store your worm castings in an air-tight container until ready for use. This nutrient-rich compost is great for fertilizing plants indoors or outdoors and will help ensure healthy vegetation growth throughout the growing season! So start composting today and watch as your garden blooms with vitality!

Managing Compost Bin Odor: Simple Solutions for a Stinky Situation

Managing compost bin odor is a common issue that many novice gardeners and worm composting beginners face. The stinky situation can be caused by several factors, including excessive moisture and lack of airflow. However, with simple solutions, you can eliminate the unpleasant smell and improve the overall health of your compost pile.

Outdoor pallet-style worm compost bin for a vegetable garden.

It comes down to simply balancing four factors of a compost bin – the scrap material, water, oxygen, and heat level.

One easy solution for managing compost bin odor is to add carbon-rich materials such as dry leaves, shredded paper, or cardboard into the mix. Carbon-rich ingredients help balance out the nitrogen-rich food scraps and prevent anaerobic conditions that lead to bad smells. You should aim to keep your compost pile moist but not too damp while ensuring there’s enough oxygen circulation through it.

I like to keep the ratio at 3:1 carbon sources to nitrogen sources. Carbon sources are paper products, dry leaves, and straw. Nitrogen sources would be your kitchen scraps and grass clippings.

Another effective way to combat funky odors is by adding coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, or citrus peels into your compost heap because they contain natural deodorizing properties. Regularly stirring or mixing up the contents will also encourage good bacteria growth which speeds up decomposition and inhibits any unpleasant odors from developing.

With a little effort and some trial-and-error experimentation – anyone can manage their wormy composting without having weird-smelling areas in their backyard! Follow the steps above and make sure your compost bin has adequate ventilation and you should be good to go without any bad odors to worry about!

Vermicomposting Troubleshooting: Common Problems and How to Fix Them

My worm compost bin has fruit flies everywhere!

Just like keeping banana peels or apple cores on your counter in the kitchen, eventually, a swarm of fruit flies will show up and be an annoyance to you. In a compost bin, prevention is key. Make sure all food waste is chopped up into small pieces and is covered underneath the bedding material when adding to the compost pile. Make sure to turn over layers once and awhile to introduce good bacteria spreading about, and make sure to remove any rotting material from the bin. Cover any visible items with additional dry materials like leaves or shredded paper.

My worm compost bin smells and stinks so bad!

One common problem is an ammonia smell, which can occur if the bedding becomes too wet or if there aren’t enough worms to handle the amount of food being added. To fix this issue, make sure you’re not over-watering the bedding, add more bedding material like shredded paper or leaves to soak up excess moisture, and consider adding more worms.

My worms are crawling out of the compost bin!

This is normal to a certain degree. You cannot force all worms to stay inside when you have the sides of the bin open for ventilation purposes. If you have quite a bit of escaping this could be a sign of an environmental issue like the bin being too moist and wet, temperature too high, or even an infestation of a pest. If too wet, add some more bedding material like paper products to soak up some moisture. Inspect for insect larvae or bugs to see if there is a pest problem. If the temperature seems too high try leaving the cover or door of the bin a little open for heat to escape.

I have a bug infestation in my compost bin!

Some pests love moist, hot, and dark environments for laying their eggs. If you notice insects or rodents running about your compost bin you can try sealing off any big ventilation holes and bungee tie the lids down for a week or two and see if total darkness and higher temperatures take care of the pests. Worst case, it may be worth harvesting any worm castings you can and take the opportunity to clean out the bin – remove any rotting food or old bedding material, and start over fresh. Not all good things can last forever!

Overall, while there may be some troubleshooting involved in worm composting for beginners, don’t let that deter you from giving it a try! With just a little bit of attention and care towards proper maintenance practices like regular feeding of food scraps in small quantities along with covering the pile will ensure happy wriggly friends; anyone needs for successful Vermicomposting experience..