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Getting Kids Interested in Worms and Recycling: Make it Fun

I was recently thinking about how much enjoyable it is to see pictures of fellow vermicomposters getting their kids involved with worms.  It warms my heart and gives me hope for the future of our planet.  Believe me, I never envisioned myself to be an avid environmentalist.  I am still far from where I would like to be in my journey to the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly life possible, however my views are evolving and I have a much greater appreciation for how much I CAN have an impact by keeping my waste out of landfills.  That’s information worth sharing.

I see now, that every little bit helps.  It is not about cutting everything out at once, but the little steps.  I feel that I was behind the curve.  I was honestly in a world where I was ignorant to the waste problem in our country.  I was oblivious to the repercussions of big industry, poor water quality, and GMO’s being used in our agriculture.  I was brought up in suburban America, sheltered from the reality of the growing health concerns in our country.  All going back to the health of our planet.

I was raised in a house where we always recycled, but I never really understood why it was so important.  I had a superficial understanding but not nearly to the extent I do now.  I hope that children growing up today will be raised in homes, schools and neighborhoods that make learning about recycling, gardening and treating the planet right a top priority.

Testing the Waters

Lets not lie, I was a bit childish myself when I started worm composting.  I was naïve.   I was scared to no end to handle my worms even with gloves and the bugs flipped me out.  Boys tend to be more “rough-and-tumble” and typically are more open to playing in dirt, running in creeks and playing with bugs.  Girls on the otherhand– if they are anything like me, are little divas (I say that with love).  My entire life I have been afraid of getting dirty, hate bugs and am not a huge outdoorsy person.  I have grown to appreciate it at lot more as I grow up, but some habits never die.

If your kids are into the outdoors, into bugs and open to trying new things this may not be a struggle for you.  I can only imagine what my reaction would have been to playing with worms when I was six or seven.  I cried when I saw my friend eat an ant on a dare when we were ten but that’s a story for another day.  I was spoiled as hell.  I was an expert at dodging gardening work, raking leaves or doing anything that involved dirt and bugs (until the pile of leaves was high and I decided to go destroy the work my parents had put into raking them).

My Dream

I hope that we can get kids back to the outdoors, back to nature and playing outside.  I want them to enjoy the sun, the wildlife and beauty that is all around us.  I grew up playing lighting tag with the neighborhood kids.  I would catch crayfish and salamanders in the creek.  It took me awhile to get there, but I loved it so much: catching all the frogs and toads I could.  We would put them in a little “home” which was a glorified bucket and release them all at the end of the day.

I don’t have any kids yet, but I am surrounded by enough in my family and neighborhood that I think I have a decent grasp on how their little brains work.  Kids soak up knowledge so much better than we do as adults and the habits we begin teaching early, the more they will come to appreciate it and want to continue it in their own lives.

I want as many kids as possible to get to experience worm farming and composting in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.  I hope one day this is a mainstream process and less of a “hobby”.  It is not only a benefit to the earth, but to reducing our carbon footprint and being able to grow healthier plants in our own backyards. It can be something “fun” that is responsible and environmentally conscious at the same time.

Getting Started

Maybe you have worms already or maybe you are on the fence about beginning worm composting.  It can seem overwhelming at first and obviously there is a learning curve, but why not include your kids in the journey?

When I first started my totes, I was psyched about it.  My neighbors Grandson was outside swimming in the pool and came over when I took the worms outside to harvest some castings.  I asked him if he wanted to help.  He was hesitant at first, but I dumped the contents of the bin onto a tarp and starting using the sunlight to harvest.  He sat and watched for a good 15 minutes before saying “can I try?”.  We ended up sitting together outside on the lawn for over an hour “playing” in my compost.

A few weeks after this, I was putting in my first “real” vegetable garden.  I found that my neighbors Grandson was outside again and having dinner with his family.  When they were finished, he ran over and asked to help me plant.  We put in all the plants and in a few months time, he was coming over to grab tomatoes and peppers to eat with his parents.  I felt accomplished, I was able to teach him just a little bit about what I was doing and how you can reap the benefits of harvesting great food with the help of worm castings.

Long story, but one that really touched my heart.  I am sure his grasp of the situation was far less than I told him, but he was into it and continues to come over and ask me about my worms and grab food from the garden.

My Experiment

I think that the Rubbermaids are a great way to raise worms, but clear containers may be a much more efficient way to demonstrate what worms can do with kids.  Even if they don’t want to touch the worms, they can help add food and peek through the clear tote or whatever clear system you choose to use.  Think of it as an ant farm.  Ant farms would be pointless if we didn’t have the clear container to view their tunnels and activity taking the food around the little maze they build.

The Glass Vase Experiment: Watch Here

I just started an experiment using a glass vase.  I layered it with food and bedding.  I covered it with a light towel so when I am not working with it, the worms aren’t annoyed by the light.  When I peek in, I can see the worm activity all through the vase and see the decomposing matter as it turns dark and castings are forming.  A variation of anything similar to this would be an awesome way to show kids how composting works.

As they begin to learn and appreciate what you are doing, I have little doubt that they will be eagerly waiting until the next time they get to feed the worms.  I think that projects like this will help children develop a better understanding of recycling and how they can help make something that can be used in their own yards!  Plant some veggies, a butterfly bush, or some herbs.  Let your children help you and learn the benefits of vermicompost first-hand.

The Takeaway

Let us be honest, kids these days are more interested in their phones, tablets and video games than they are about going outside to play.  That’s fine, but lets get them involved in other activities as well.  The electronic world we live in has really pulled many of us in and we have lost that connection with the environment.

Try something out with your kids, grandchildren, at a school, or even with nieces, nephews or neighbors.  No step is to small.  If we pique just a little interest in worms, we may be surprised at what is possible and how we can shape some new understanding, new appreciation and new participation in helping rid our own environment of requiring ” quick fix” chemical-filled fertilizers.  We can eliminate waste from the already overflowing landfills.  We can get back to a more organic way of growing and a better way to handle our waste.  We can get children out fishing and enjoying what mother nature has to offer.

Tell me how you include kids in your own composting.  What gets them most excited?  I would love to hear your stories.  Follow my experiment on the YouTube channel and lets see if we can spread the fun to as many people as possible.

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8 Items I Can’t Live Without in my Vermicomposting Venture

The thought process behind vermicomposting is such that we want to minimize waste and eliminate chemicals from our own personal gardens.  That being said, there are very few items that I regularly purchase for my worms and composting.  However, there are several items that I consider pretty darn important in helping me to work this hobby with ease.  Do I think you need to purchase all of these yourself?  No, not at all necessary but I wanted to share some of my “must-haves” with you so that you can consider what items are most useful to you.  Maybe you have some items you would like to add to the list as well.

Most of these items are a one-time purchase and thus a small upfront cost when getting started.  Invest a tiny bit early on and it is doubtful that you will have to put much if any other money towards the hobby again.  These items make life much easier for me, so I decided to share them with you.  Without further rambling, here are my top 10 “must-have” worm composting items… in no particular order.

A Sifter Basket

This is what I use. The handles are super convenient.

 There are several sifting devices you can make for yourself or purchase cheaply at a home improvement store.  I have experimented with several different sifters over the last two years and I think that this storage basket is perfect.  I got the idea from a fellow vermicomposter, Lilia Kogan who has her own YouTube Channel as well.  You can watch her sifting process HERE.

The basket method works so well because it is easy to grip, sifts from all angles and easily catches cocoons so that you can ensure the growth of your worm population.  Even with relatively moist castings, I think this is by far the easiest and most inexpensive method out there.  Similar baskets can be found in home good and storage stores that most of us have relatively local.  Oh, and did I mention they are a breeze to clean out?  Take it in the backyard and spray with a hose (over the garden to leech that good stuff right into the soil) and BOOM done.  Back to sitting in my composting room with some supplies stored in it.

Gloves

If you rinse these gloves off, you can get many uses out of a single pair.


For me, gloves are not only about comfort and avoiding the slimy/squirmy madness, but also a health measure that cannot be ignored.  The nurse in me is all about maintaining safe practices when it comes to cooking and handling items that can potentially be hazardous.

Are worm bins hazardous?  Not exactly.  In the decomposition process however, bacteria can be abundant until the worms consume those bacteria making them safe for our gardens.  Why risk making yourself ill or getting icky, sticky castings under your fingernails?  Disposable gloves may not be the best option sustainably speaking, but I reuse mine many times before recycling them.  I find that these gloves are easier to grip with as compared to gardening gloves, but either one would work just fine.

Mortar Trays

Mortar trays serve many purposes and can be multi-functional in composting and other home projects.

I use mortar trays in multiple capacities in my indoor composting.  For one, they are excellent catch tray for underneath my CFT (continuous flow through) and ensure that any liquid runoff does not get on my floor and warp the hardwood.  Also, they are very helpful in harvesting.  Whether you sift, use a light method, or even horizontally migrate your bins, the trays are excellent for sorting, holding worms in, or even migrating them.

The shallow but large trays have multiple uses and have become a staple for me in my sorting efforts.  I am currently using one as a breeder bin as well.  The large surface area allows my worms lots of space to grow and reproduce for the fisherman in the family.  Hey, I might not love fishing as much as he does, but I definitely win some brownie points for getting bait ready so that we can eat fish year-round.

Rubbermaid Bins

Remember to always buy dark colored totes. The transparent totes allow in too much light and your worms won’t flourish as well.

Most of us running homemade bins use storage boxes/bins of some sort.  I have found that 10 gallon totes are the best.  Larger totes work great as well, but for me, space is limited and I move my bins around regularly.  I consider myself a pretty strong person, but these bins can get much heavier than you would imagine.

I drill holes in the sides and the lids of my Rubbermaids but the beauty is that if I am doing things right and maintain an appropriate moisture content, the holes in the lids aren’t completely necessary and I can stack the bins getting many more systems in a small space.  Using only 1/2 of a spare bedroom can be challenging, especially with 12+ systems running.  Being able to stack bins has made growth possible for me despite the tiny area.

Spray Bottles

Avoid using old spray bottles that had any sort of chemicals in them.

I use spray bottles to mist the surfaces of my bins.  In a few of my systems, I regularly leave the lids off for convenience and aeration.  This is all good and fine, but keeping the surface of these bins from drying out can be a little tricky.  Unless you have time to turn the bedding frequently or keep a cover of some sort over the top of the bin remaining moist, the top will dry out and feel like hard cement pieces.

For this reason, I keep a spray bottle next to my bins.  I fill it with tap water and allow the chlorine to evaporate off (jury is out on whether I think the chlorine actually will do any harm, but better safe than sorry) before using it to mist the surfaces of the bins that I keep uncovered.  This makes the process of wetting these bins down on a regular basis virtually fool-proof.  When using other methods to water down a bin, it can be easy to overdo it.  This is a simple 10-20 sprays across the surface of the bin and I can go about my business.

A Good Quality Micro-Shredder

This is the exact shredder I use. It isn’t the cheapest nor the most expensive but it does the trick!

This is an item that I would definitely say is entirely optional and will not by any means make or break your experience.  That being said, most of us keep shredders in the house regardless.  What else are we going to do with old bank statements and credit cards?  I sure as hell am not putting them into the regular recycling bin.  Too much identity fraud these days.

When I was just getting started worm composting (maybe 6 months in) my home shredder died on me.  I took advantage of the situation and invested in a 12 sheet micro-shredder.  This shredder can handle even double-thick (although I wouldn’t test this theory TOO much) cardboard with ease.  I easily use it three times a week or more to shred Amazon boxes.  The fine shredded goodness that comes out of this thing makes for super fluffy castings that retain moisture well and break down faster than hand-shredded pieces.

Diatomacious Earth

This bag will last you years! I still have mine from two years ago. Still more than halfway full.

This stuff is amazing.  Food Grade DE can be used in multiple organic uses.  It is even contained in certain toothpastes.  It has some trace minerals that are also great for the garden.  I like it for bug control.  If I haven’t mentioned it enough, I get completely wigged out by pests in the worm bin.  I sprinkle DE around the feet of my Worm Factory, by my backdoor where ants seem to love to come into the house and I even use it in my bins.

The beauty of DE is that it does not harm the worms in any way whatsoever.  It is said that it loses its ability to control pests when wet, but if sprinkled on the surface of your bin or on top of a piece of cardboard or newspaper on the top of the bin, it is very helpful in controlling the numbers of springtails, beetles, mites, and other creepy crawlers.

Rock Dust

A small sprinkling with each feeding, rock dust/azomite will last you forever!

 I use rock dust or garden lime in my bins every single week.  Your bin can run completely fine without rock dust, but it does serve several purposes in the bin.  As the name suggests, rock dust is simply pulverized rock and thus carries many minerals.  We can never have enough minerals in our bins or garden, right?  We want the healthiest, biggest and most nutrient-dense veggies on the block right?

In addition to the mineral content that the rock dust supplies, it is also a form of grit for the worm gizzard to help pulverize the bacteria and food that they ingest.  The rock dust helps neutralize the pH and is in my mind an all-around benefit to the bin.

The Takeaway

If you can get away with less, that is the ideal situation, right?  I continue to play guinea pig as I enjoy being able to bring you guys the products that I feel are worthwhile but I started out with nothing but a Worm Factory 360 and some worms.  The rest of the items were accumulated over time.  I did just fine without them when starting out and that should be noted.  As my worm population and my bin numbers continue to grow, some products that simplify the process and save me time are well worth the small investment for me because they save me lots of time!

I am a night-shift nurse and honestly I feel guilty saying that three days a week is full-time for me and yet I still feel short of time frequently.  I can only imagine how many of you nine to fivers with families get it all done!  Let me know what your essentials are.  Do you think my list was missing anything that is a glaring DUH to you?  I would love to hear your feedback.  Keep at the worm composting and see what a huge difference it will play in your life.  Happy Worming!

** This post contains ‘affiliate links’ to products that I use and love.  If you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission from your purchase.  Please do research on your own before purchasing anything online. **

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I Have to Crap and So Do My Worms: How to Optimize Your Feeding Habits for the Best Vermi-“Poop”

I am willing to bet that anyone who has a worm bin has had (at least) one time where they said, crap that was a bad choice.  Am I wrong here?  I have made many of these mistakes if I am being completely honest with you.  My whole theory and methodology is to experiment and learn through personal experience and this has had me on the wrong side of fate on more than one occasion.  Live and learn, right?

I have overfed my bins, put frozen food into the bin without thawing (yikes) it first and I have added food that was too water rich without adding adequate bedding. That is just naming a few!  These mistakes created quite a few “nightmarish” situations for me.  Think mass exodus, smelly bin, bugs, and flooding out of the bottom of my Worm Factory (stackable tray system).  It is okay though!  With a few principle practices you can nearly eliminate the guess-work on how to feed the worm bin.

Why is This Important?

When feeding your worms, you want to ensure that they will be healthy and able to compost in the most efficient manner.  This will give you the best worm crap that the world has ever seen! That “black gold” is what we all look forward to when we start composting.  That flaky, dark, and nutrient-dense goodness for our gardens.  To get the perfect compost, you need to know how to feed and manage the bin so that you don’t end up with a stinky bin, wet bin or even a sour bin which kill off your worms.  Happy worms make the best vermicompost, mine told me so.  So, let’s break the process down into some key practices that will make life easy and hassle-free!

The 5 Most Important Feeding “Rules” to Get the Most out of Your Worms

I am sure that there are more than 5 methods and practices to make feeding the worm bin as fool-proof as possible but I chose the practices that I personally have tried, experimented with and implemented in my own indoor systems.  I hope that through sharing these with you, perhaps you will see an improvement in your own composting experience and maybe even learn something new along the way.

1. Try the Pocket Feeding Method

Think of your bin as a grid.

I learned early on from a very successful and well-known vermicomposting “guru” (Brian Donaldson) that feeding your bin in sections can be the best way to ensure that you do not overfeed, it allows for areas of the bin to be an “escape route” or “safe haven” if the bin gets too hot, sour or unfavorable to the worms.  This is my interpretation of the process, but be sure to check out Brian’s (The Worm Man) YouTube channel HERE for his explanation of how it all works.

The concept of pocket feeding makes life super easy.  It takes the guesswork out of how much or how often to feed your bins.  The idea is to break your bin or system into sections.  I usually break mine into four, but for larger systems, six might be even better.  Do what works for you!

Take for example a square bin.  Split that into four sections.  You feed one section at a time in a clockwise fashion with a relatively small amount of food (always better to err on the side of underfeeding).  You start in one corner and rotate each week.  The idea is that when you get back to square one (see what I did there?)  no existing food from that first feeding will be left, therefore you know it is okay to start the cycle over again.

By splitting your bins into pockets or sections, you always rotate feeding areas and can easily learn how long it takes your worms to consume a given amount of food.  This allows you to adjust feedings appropriately without the risk of putting too much food waste into the bin at any given time.  I don’t follow this method precisely to Brian’s description but I do feed in sections and monitor my feedings accordingly.

2.  Increase the Surface Area of Your Food Waste Before Feeding the Bin

This sounds fancy and confusing at first, but I assure you it is quite easy.  Microbes begin the breakdown process of food waste well before the worms move in and the more surface area available to them, the faster they can get to work.  Imagine placing a whole banana in the bin.  This will take longer to break down because the microbes have to break through the skin and get to the flesh beneath before the worms can do much of anything with the banana itself.

Imagine the same banana cut into small pieces.  By cutting the banana up, not only is the sweet and fleshy goodness available to the microbes right away, but the amount of surface area they can get to work on is vastly greater because the banana has been processed into smaller pieces.

I have been running experiments on and off testing blended food versus whole food in a worm bin.  Let me tell you, it is immediately apparent that the blended food gets eaten much more quickly.  You can check out my most recent experiment on this topic on my “to blend or not to blend” experiment.  Video one of this playlist can be watched HERE.

3. Use “Grit” to Help the Worms Process Food More Efficiently

Okay, so this isn’t tried and true as far as I know however it is important to have grit regardless.  Worms have a gizzard, much like a chicken.  Even humans need “grit” for proper digestion.  For us humans, grit=fiber.  For worms, grit can be sand, crushed eggshell, or even oyster shell.  This grit allows the food/microbes consumed by the worms to pass through their digestive tract.  The grit helps grind up the food in a sense.  This helps to avoid a potential disaster known as protein poisoning or string-of-pearls disease that kills the worms.

Protein poisoning is usually the result of overfeeding but it is suggested that grit plays a role as well.  If the worms are happily eating away but have no grit to break down the food they struggle to digest it.  This results in the fermentation process in the worms gut which creates a massive amount of gas that the worms can’t excrete.  The result is a worm that looks like it has been cinched off in pieces, much like a pearl necklace.  This can kill a whole bin very quickly, so adding grit makes sense.  Due to this malady, you will hear most vermicomposters are adamant that you should never overfeed (err on the side of caution) and add plenty of bedding and some grit with every feeding.

4. Freeze Your Scraps Before Adding Them to the Bin

This is a practice that isn’t entirely necessary, but serves a few purposes and I have found it to be quite helpful in my own venture.  As I collect my scraps, I put them in large freezer bags and when they are full, I let them freeze for a good day or two before adding them to the bin.

Why the added step?  Let me explain.  When you freeze vegetable and fruit scraps, it breaks open the cell wall of the food and once thawed, it is much more readily available to the worms and microbes within your bin.  Root vegetables are a prime example.  Try putting a potato in the worm bin and see how long it takes to begin decomposing.  It is more likely to sprout and try to grow than it is to decompose.  When you freeze it first, it softens and allows the microbes to get at it more quickly and it won’t go sprouting on you.

I have found that cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are also nearly impossible to break down (it takes AGES) unless frozen first.  Not in a rush?  No problem, throw it in without freezing.  If you want to speed up the process, pop your scraps in the freezer first so that you don’t go grey waiting for the food to break down.

Another benefit of freezing is the reduction of bugs in the worm bin.  I recently added a pineapple slice to an experimental bin I am running on “forbidden worm bin foods”.  I didn’t freeze the pineapple first because I wanted to get the full effect it would have on my bin.  Checking in on it over the last two weeks I have tons of beetles (itty-bitty ones, but icky nonetheless) and fruit fly larvae.

No one wants to deal with flies or bugs, at least not in large numbers.  Once fruit flies move in, it can be a real pain in the backside to remedy.  Freezing food helps to kill off any fruit fly eggs that may be in the skin of our food waste, thus limiting the chance of an annoying outbreak!

5. Mix Up Your Food Options For the Worms to “Sweeten the Deal”

Okay, so this isn’t 100% necessary either, but it certainly helps.  If you want truly super-charged poop, don’t you want it to be as balanced as possible with multiple available nutrients for the garden?  I find that my worms prefer sweet and water-rich foods more than anything else.  I like to add fruit with almost every feeding because the microbes (and thus the worms as well) go nuts for sweet stuff.  Favorites of my worms include watermelon, cucumber, berries, bananas and oranges… yes, I recognize that citrus is considered a bad food that could acidify your bin or kill the worms, but I have found that in moderation there is absolutely nothing wrong with adding it to the worm diet and they actually enjoy it a lot.  More to come on the “Forbidden Foods” experiment.  Once it is complete, I will share the verdict on some highly controversial worm bin foods.

When feeding my worm bins I always take a look at what foods I have available and try to add a little something to satisfy their sweet-tooth and entice the ecosystem to get to work very quickly.  Keep in mind, if you don’t have anything sweet, that is totally fine however with a well-balanced diet, the castings will be richer and more potent in a wide array of nutrients.

The Takeaway

Implementing all of these methods may not be realistic for everyone.  You may be short on freezer space, you may be limited to certain foods based on your own diet or you may find that chopping the food up fine to create a larger surface area is a bit too time-consuming.  I get it!  This is simply a list of methods that I have tried that have helped my systems work quicker, better and with less problems than some other “standard” feeding methods.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not overfeeding.  Keep in mind if you try the chopping/blended method that it is easier to overfeed, so err on the side of caution and add lots of bedding and plenty of grit with every feeding for a good carbon/nitrogen (bedding to food) ratio.  If you try just one or two of these methods, I would love to hear what your experience is.  Happy composting and be sure to optimize that poop!  You will have your worms flying through the waste in no time.

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How to Make Your Own Worm Bin

There are many commercial worm bin/systems to buy, however many of these systems are pricey and often you may not want to spend that type of money.  If you are new to worm composting, making your own DIY bin can be a great option and is relatively cheap to do.  In this post I will share the steps to creating your very own tote-style worm bin on a budget, step by step.

  • Choosing the Type and Size of Tote
  • Preparing the Tote
  • Choosing a Bedding
  • Preparing the Bedding
  • Prepping the Bin for the Worms
  • Adding the Worms

Let’s get started.

1. Considering the Type and Size Bin to Use:

When it comes to DIY worm bins, you can use a variety of things that you may already have laying around the house.  Many people use Rubbermaid (or similar tote-style bins) to make their worm bin.  You can also use things such as mortar trays, plastic barrels, crates, or even something as simple as a grow bag.  For sake of this particular post, I am going to talk about Rubbermaid totes.

When purchasing or using a Rubbermaid tote, size definitely matters!  You want to take into account how many worms you will have in the bin and what your end-goal is.  Do you want the most possible castings, do you want to grow the biggest and fattest worms, or do you want to start small to experiment with the hobby on your own?

I made a tote for my African Night Crawlers.  African Night Crawlers reproduce quickly and are voracious eaters.  Because of this, I chose a larger 18 gallon tote.  I also plan to use these worms for bait as well, so a large bin will give the worms plenty of space to grow large and reproduce.  Keep in mind that a tote of this size will get very heavy as it fills with compost.  If you think you will be moving your tote around frequently or have limitations to how much you want to carry, you may decide that a smaller tote is more suited to your needs.

Your tote should be opaque as the worms like a dark environment.  Worms shy away from light and thus clear bins (although cool for kids to see through the bin) are not best suited for worm composting.  Keep in mind that roughly a pound of worms need at least 1 square foot of surface area living environment.  If you want them to reproduce, they will need even more.

2. Preparing the Tote:

Regardless of the type of bin you decide to make, you need to keep in mind that worms need an environment with plenty of aeration.  Some people choose to leave the lid off of their tote completely but others (as myself) chose to drill many holes in the sides and lid to provide the air-flow needed.

To drill the holes, I recommend using nothing smaller that 1/4 inch.  I used a drill bit and drilled approximately 18 holes on each side of my bin (in 2 rows along the upper portion of the bin below the lip.  I also drilled holes on either end in the same fashion.

I drilled holes covering the entire lid of my system as well.  This will ensure that the bin doesn’t get overly wet and that the worms have an environment suitable to their needs.  As worms breathe through their skin, they need moisture but also lots of air!

If you create a bin and find that your worms are crawling up the sides, oftentimes this is a sign that they need more oxygen.  There are other possible reasons as well, but start with adding more holes if this problem arises.

3. Bedding:

The next thing to consider after drilling holes in your tote is to decide what type of bedding (carbon material) you want to use in your bin.  If you want to use things you already have, this is a great way to recycle and turn your trash into beautiful worm castings for your plants and garden.

Bedding can consist of shredded newspaper or junk mail (avoid the glossy ads), egg crates, toilet paper/paper towel rolls, and cardboard.  These are all 100% free options that I use frequently in my own bins.

Other options for bedding include leaf litter, manure (aged), peat moss, dried grass clippings, garden waste or coconut coir.  Keep in mind that things such as manure, leaves and grass clippings have the potential to introduce bugs to your bin.  This may not be a problem if you are composting outdoors, but for indoor bins these may not be ideal.

4. Preparing the Bedding:


Once you have made your bin, providing adequate aeration and once you have decided on your bedding, you are ready to prepare the bedding and place it in the bin.

An ideal worm bedding should be moist like a wrung-out sponge.  I used egg crates, shredded cardboard, and coconut coir for my bin.  I soaked the bedding in water for about 20 minutes.  I then picked up a handful of bedding and squeezed it.  I added water until when I squeezed the bedding mixture I got 3-5 drops of water from it but no more.  If you over-moisten your bedding you can wring it out before adding it to your bin or you can add additional dry bedding to soak up the excess moisture.

Once you have the bedding moistened, add several inches to the bottom of your bin.  I try to fill my bin approximately halfway to provide lots of living space before adding my worms.

5. Prepping the Bin for the Worms:

Ideally, you will set up your worm bin prior to the arrival of your worms.  Allow the bedding to sit in the bin for several days with a small amount of food mixed in.  This will allow the bacteria and microbes to get to work before the worms arrive.  This creates an environment that allows the worms to get to work right away after being introduced to the bin.  If you order a pound of worms, simply start with a small amount of food (no more than 1/4 cup).  Make sure that all food in your bin is adequately covered with bedding material so that fruit flies or other pests don’t enter the bin.

If you didn’t prepare your bin in advance, don’t worry.  Simply introduce your worms and wait a few days before adding any food.

6. Adding the Worms:

Once you have finished preparing your bedding and allowed the bin to rest for a few days, it is time to add your worms.  If you ordered worms, keep in mind that the travel through the mail can have them quite stressed.  As mentioned earlier, worms shy away from light.  Simply dump your worms (gently) onto the surface of the bedding and allow them burrow down on their own.  Keeping the lid off and light on for a few days above the bin should minimize the risk of any adventurous worms trying to leave the bin.  After a few days if the worms seem to be doing well, you can place the lid on the bin if you desire.

Get Started:

You can easily set up a worm bin in an hour or less.  A simple Rubbermaid or Sterlite bin should run you no more than $15 to $20, often even cheaper.  Use a free source of bedding around the house and the only further expense may be the purchase of your worms.  An even better option is to reach out to local gardening clubs or farmers markets to see if you can get worms locally.  Many worm farmers are more than happy to share worms with newcomers, as mentioned before, worms multiply quickly!

Enjoy the fruits of your labor and feed your worms weekly.  Make sure that all of the previous feeding is (mostly) gone before adding more food.  Adjust to the worms needs according to how much they are eating.  Remember that bedding is also a food source for your worms.  Under-feeding is much better than overfeeding.  Worms are pretty forgiving and before long you will be cranking out compost like an old pro!