DIY Vermicomposting With A Worm Bin
One of the challenges when it comes to gardening during cold weather and cooler temperatures is that it makes composting and vermicomposting outside very difficult, if not impossible.
Since your garden might be frozen, it can be hard to grow anything – here in Texas we don’t have that problem.
Instead of waiting for the cold season to end, you can be prepared for the coming months by composting with worms in a worm bin indoors!
Composting with worms and worm castings may slow down once the temperature drops below 57 degrees. If the temperature is below freezing, the worms in the outdoor composting bin might freeze, especially during the winter months. The ideal temperature range for your new worm bin is between about 55 and 80 degrees F.
So, I decided to start one to see how it goes. I have a closet in my office that is the perfect place for them.
Here’s my beginning adventure into the world of vermicomposting with a worm bin:
Using a worm bin for worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, is inexpensive and easy to maintain the process. It gives you a convenient way to dispose of organic waste and organic matter like paper, shredded newspaper, grass clippings, kitchen scraps such as vegetables, or fruit peelings like a banana peel for instance.
Just be sure not to put dairy products in your worm compost bin. It also saves space in the landfill, which is good for the environment.
It gives the worms a happy home where they can freely eat as much as they want. Plus, the added benefit of the organic materials gives you rich compost for your garden when all is said and done!
You can even purchase compost scrap containers to save your food scraps:
The worms in a worm bin eat food scraps and kitchen waste, which become finished compost as it passes through their bodies and they also make worm tea. To make things easier, I keep my bin by the kitchen sink.
The soil that the worms decompose is a great way to feed and nurture your plants. Not to mention it’s way cheaper than purchasing compost.
Setting up a composting bin is easy. Before creating your own worm bin, prepare a box, moist newspaper strips, and the worms.
The first thing to consider when starting a composting bin is what the worms need to live. The more you provide what the worms need, the more successful your composting will be.
Worms need air, moisture, food, and temps between 55 and 75 degrees. Making bedding out of newspaper or leaves can create moisture that is essential to worms. You can also purchase coco coir to make your bedding.
Make sure that your worm bin gets enough air. You can do this by putting air holes on the top of the bin.
Check out my video below for how I made my own vermicomposting worm bin:
Choosing The Right Size
When choosing a container for your worms, you need to keep in mind the amount of food scraps that you have to compost as well as the space you have to keep the worm bin in.
A good size bin is a 5 to 10-gallon box which is approximately 24” x 18” x 8”. It should be shallow, instead of too deep. Red wigglers are surface-dwellers and they prefer to live at least on the top 6” of the soil.
That’s what all the posts that I have read said – but, mine tend to live way down in the bottom of my worm bin.
Whatever size container you’re planning to use, make sure you give it a good cleaning before using.
If you have a wooden bin, line the bottom part with plastic like a plastic bag or a shower curtain. Cover your own worm bins with a loose fitting lid. The cover should allow air to circulate inside the bin.
As you saw in my vermicomposting with a worm bin video above I made holes all around the sides and lid for air. You want to make sure they have plenty of air.
Also some people don’t put a lid on theirs, at all. But, they keep a thick layer of dry newspaper on top of the soil to prevent worms from escaping. They need to keep their bodies moist, so, they don’t like dry paper.
However, I worry that the paper will suffocate them, so, I choose to use a lid. You can also buy systems that are already prepared for you to use. Or make it yourself as I did.
You might also like: How To Compost In The Winter
Feeding The Worms
Before we feed them, though, we need to have them! I bought my Red Wigglers from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (after I bought some to get started from a local bait and tackle shop) , you can also get them on Amazon. The Red Wigglers they say are the best for vermicomposting.
Collect different kinds of food scraps: fresh uncooked vegetable scraps, and leftover fruits, bread, coffee grounds, and tea bags.
Do not include any animal by-products like dairy, meat, bone, and waste. Cut these scraps into thinner and smaller pieces. I actually run them through the food processor which speeds up the work of the worms. They are able to easily eat the ground up food and process it faster.
You can use ground up egg shells and coffee grounds sparingly, but, do add them as they need the grit to help them digest the food. I add a tiny bit of one or the other each time I feed them.
But, make sure the coffee grounds are used grounds otherwise they are too acidic for the worms. Also, once you have ground up your eggshells put them in the microwave for a minute so it kills any contaminants.
Starting To Harvest
Suppose the environment is favorable for the worms. In that case, they will tirelessly eat all the food you provide them and their bedding and turn it all into compost. A great new bedding option is coconut coir.
You will notice less and less bedding materials and more and more compost in the bin over time.
After about 3 to 5 months, the container will be filled with compost. Once that happens it’s time to get ready to harvest and start a new bin!
- To prepare the worms for harvesting, stop adding new food and any bedding you’ve been adding to help keep the moisture in check to the bin for about two weeks.
- Push all the worm bin contents to the one side of the bin. Remove any large pieces of undecomposed food or bedding.
- Place a fresh bedding and food scraps on the empty side of the bin.
- Give your worms about 2 to three weeks and you will see they have started moving over to where the food is. This will leave the compost behind. Once you remove the compost, replace it with a fresh bedding. (I’ll have another post and video for you on that, soon).
Common Problems And Possible Solutions
Avoid these problems by burying the food scraps down in the bin and covering it with a bit of dry paper to soak up the excess water and not overloading the bin with too much food.
You can also place a plastic sheet, an old carpet or a sack on the surface of the compost bin. If there are still flies, consider moving the bin to a location where there are no fruit flies.
When vermicomposting with a worm bin indoors, you generally won’t have to worry about that.
Too much food sitting around will cause it to rot and produce a strong, unpleasant smell.
The solution? Stop adding food waste until the red wigglers have broken it all down completely. If you can still smell a strong door, stir the contents of your bin. This will allow more air in that will reduce the smell.
To prevent this, don’t overfeed them and make sure you are burying the food so that the smell is buried, too.
Worms Crawling Out
Sometimes you may find you have some worms trying to escape – now if it’s less than say 20 you’re probably fine – they’re just exploring the bin.
However if they are “gobbed up” on the corners then something is wrong. The bedding may be too acidic and is forcing the worms to migrate.
Your bin might contain acidic food scraps like orange peels. Reduce the amount of acidic contents you’re putting into the bin. You might also want to get a ph tester – I grabbed this ph tester on Amazon for under $10. It also tells you if it’s too wet, or too dry and you can use it for your outdoor or indoor plants, as well. It’s super handy and cheap!
Tips For Composting With A Worm Bin
Composting with a worm bin is a very simple system. However, there are some things that you need to keep in mind:
- Do not let the contents of the bin to get too wet. If this happens, you may add more fresh bedding that will absorb the moisture. If you grab a handful of bedding and squeeze out more than what a damp sponge would – say 2-3 drops – then it’s too wet.
- Allowing the contents to dry out is also harmful to the worms. This will cause their death. Keep the contents of the bin moist like a wrung-out sponge.
- When starting a new bin, add a handful of the original vermicompost to the new bin. This will introduce the worms, as well as the eggs, to the new bin. This will also help the beneficial microorganisms with the decomposition process.
- Keep your bin(s) in a temperature controlled, dark, quiet place.
- If your worms are coming up to the top of your bin in the beginning – they need to get used to their new environment. Just put a light directly on the bin – not one that will heat the bin – for 24-48 hours and they will bury down and stay down. It mimics sunlight and they run away from sunlight.
You might also like: 7 Ideas And Tips To Prepare Your Garden Soil!
Composting your food scraps can create a nutrient-rich fertilizer that is better for your garden. This process also reduces trash.
Composting with a worm bin is a good start if you want to create a more earth-friendly garden. For me personally, I like that I know what’s going IN my garden.
I have found many times that bugs have come with seedlings I have purchased or in soil I have purchased, as well. This compost I make myself, I know what’s in it.
You can use the compost in your garden when you’re planting, just add a bit to your potting mix, you can use it as mulch and then every time it’s watered it will release more “fertilizer” in the ground, you can make “compost tea” with it by adding rainwater and letting it sit a couple of days and then watering your plants with it.
It’s just so cheap, simple, and efficient anyone can do it!
Do you have other tips when it comes with vermicomposting with a worm bin? Share it with us!
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