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How to Use Worms to Make Organic Compost

Itaya has been an online writer for over four years. She is an artist, graphic designer, writer, gardener, and crafter.

worm-farm-composting

How to Do Worm Farm Composting

Have you ever wondered how to do worm farm composting? It can be a very rewarding and organic way to add vital nutrients to your garden and houseplants, plus it is much easier than you might think!

I have long been an advocate of composting our leftover vegetable and fruit scraps along with chopped leaves in our big composter in our backyard. The process of decomposition is amazing to me. If you have a working composter in your yard, more than likely you will have a healthy colony of earthworms that are happily leaving behind worm castings while decomposing the contents into organic compost. The earthworm can produce its weight daily in amazing and very nutrient rich castings. These little guys live to eat, procreate, and convert your waste products into what is commonly referred to as black gold!

In this article, we will look at some things you will need to consider to get started with worm farming and I'll share some great resources as well for you to do further research.

Red-Wiggler-Worms

Red-Wiggler-Worms

Vermiculture

Vermiculture is the raising of different types of earthworms and the production of their by-products known as castings.

The red wiggler earthworm is the type of worm most commonly used in vermicomposting. You can find red wigglers in bait shops or order online from gardening supply companies, Amazon, and even eBay. I've listed links further down to help you find some online.

The earthworms you find crawling around in your yard are not the same kind of worms as composting worms. They have different tasks to accomplish than the red wiggler.

Just How Many Worms Do You Need?

Red wiggler worms propagate very quickly. The babies reach sexual maturity in as little as four to six weeks! Technically you could start with a few dozen and in six months to a year you could have a box full of worms.

To determine just how many to invest in, you will need to consider how much kitchen and garden waste you need converted into black gold. Since you want them to consume most or all of your waste, you can start with two pounds of worms for each pound of garbage you will put in your worm box on a daily basis.

If you average about seven pounds of compostable garbage a week, then that averages to about one pound a day. You would need to start with about two pounds of worms.

Each pound of worms needs three or four cubic feet of bedding. Or, one cubic foot of worm bin can digest about one pound of kitchen waste a week without going stinky on you. There will be about 1000 mature breeders to the pound. Some stores only sell larger and more mature sizes of red worms and in that case there would only be about 600 to 700 to the pound.

DIY Worm Farm

DIY Worm Farm

How to Make Your Own Worm Bin

You can purchase many different types of bins for your worm farm which can range from the frugal to the elaborate. Of course the size of the system will depend on how deeply you want to get into vermiculture.

Many people fall in love with the whole process and start a business selling their red wigglers to other worm farmers. I love learning how to make my own with most projects I undertake.

You can read more about how to make your own worm farm in this great article. This site is a great resource with many useful links.

Shredded paper bedding

Shredded paper bedding

Bedding for Your Worm Factory

If you simply wish to create a small worm farm in your home or office, here are some ingredients to consider using when making the bedding.

  • Shredded papers from newspapers, junk mail, office paper, etc. are all good. This is a great way to recycle and dispose of your sensitive and personal documents! I recently went through our mail and shredded old statements and such from the past years and got a huge bag of bedding for our composter.
  • Keep the print as black and white as possible as the worms do not care as much for the dyes in colored print and ads.
  • Each layer needs to be slightly moist with water and can be sprayed with a mister. Worms like things to be moist as in damp but not soaking wet, as they won't be able to breathe.
  • Your layers need to be 'fluffy' and not compact. You will need to add a few handfuls of garden soil mixed with crushed eggshells and mix this in with your layers of dry bedding.
Red Worms Composting

Red Worms Composting

Feeding Your Wiggly Workers

The best thing to keep in mind is to balance what you feed your wiggly worms.

  • They love shredded paper, vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and eggshells.
  • Remember to put a balance of ingredients versus one or two items. Too much coffee grounds for instance will make the whole batch too acidic. You can put very small amounts of starchy foods but keep this to a minimum.
  • Make sure to never put meat, dairy products, or salty foods like chips in your bin, as these food items tend to rot and cause odors. If you are growing your worms outside, these last items also draw rodents.
  • If you will be using an outdoor composter, consider layering in chopped leaves and grass clippings. These layers add a nice healthy 'brown' balance to the vegetables and fruits and help hold down on odors.
  • Also, keep in mind that your little worm workers will eat their body weight in compost each day! If you have a thousand red wigglers or so to feed, they can go through the food quickly if you have a well balanced composting bin.
Rich Composted Soil

Rich Composted Soil

Other Things to Consider

  • When worm farm composting, your little guys require oxygen so make sure the lid to your bin is either slightly ajar or you have breathing holes.
  • You will also need to turn the composting ingredients from time to time to keep things nice and aerated. If you don't want to have to turn your compost, consider using a Tumbler Composting System.
  • Thriving temperatures are between 40 and 85 degrees F so most indoor temperatures will be comfortable.
  • Red worms will reproduce often so take care that their home is big enough to accommodate them. If you find you have too many for your bin size, consider sharing with neighbors and friends. Or, you can set up another bin!
Worm Bin

Worm Bin

Uses For Your Compost

You can use your compost pretty much as you would any mulch or soil amendment. Here are a few suggestions to help you think of some uses for your black gold.

  • Soil Amendment - Mix in some of your compost a few inches down around your established plants with your potting soil. This will help any plant growing to thrive.
  • Mulch - Layer your compost around your plants in a nice even layer to help hold in moisture as well as allow the nutrients to slowly seep down to the roots of the plant for nourishment.
  • Use on House Plants - I like mixing in a big scoop of my compost when I take out my houseplants to repot them. They love it!
  • Use on Garden, Herb, or Flower Plants in the Yard - Once my plants start to burst forth, I like to put some compost around them as a mulch and/or soil amendment.
  • Spread on Your Lawn - You can use a spreader or shovel to add a nice rich layer of compost. Usually one to three inches will suffice. Take a rake and spread around more evenly if needed. Water and watch your lawn be very grateful.
  • Make Compost Tea - Put a shovel full of compost in a five-gallon bucket and fill with water. Let it steep for a few days and then you can pour the whole 'tea' onto and around your plants. You may also use burlap, cotton, cheesecloth or any other fabric to put the compost in to keep it separate from the liquid.
Worm Farm Composting

Worm Farm Composting

Worm Farm Composting Helpful Information - Worm Farming Links

  • Compost Critters: Vermicomposting Made Easy
    Don't let the name (or the worms) scare you. Vermicomposting is easy and creates nutrient rich organic matter for all your gardening endeavors. Here's how.
  • Setting Up A Small Scale Worm Farm
    Has several good tips and resources on this site. There is a very helpful partial list of food items on which worms thrive.
  • Vermiculture Info
    Lots of useful videos and info at this site about vermiculture.
  • Cheat Sheet for Composting
    This site gives several instances of green matter and brown matter that you can add to your composter. It also explains the phases that the average compost bin goes through while breaking down matter into usable compost.

What are your thoughts about worm composting?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Do You Think You Will Be Worm Farm Composting Soon?

Shailesh Badgujar on July 19, 2019:

we have 60+ Cow's. and would like to make black gold.

TapIn2U on July 28, 2014:

Interesting lens! Sundae ;-)

burntchestnut on March 17, 2014:

It's a great way to use kitchen scraps. I won't be doing composting for a while, but I will some day.

Itaya Lightbourne (author) from Topeka, KS on February 03, 2014:

@anonymous: Thank you! Hope it was helpful to you. :)

anonymous on February 03, 2014:

nice lens!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on February 01, 2014:

Unlikely, as I noted in the first comment field above, though I'd certainly like to. i once worked for a fellow who kept a worm farm in his office. Everyone brought their leftovers and coffee grounds to him. It was great fun to see the work the worms could do. Btw, kids LOVE worm farms. They really get into it, and it is a good project for classrooms doing any kind of ecological studies.

sierradawn lm on August 21, 2013:

Worm Farm Composting is the ONLY way to go! Been doing it since a kid. I even did many science projects in school about it. Loved visiting here! I felt right at home!

Maurice Glaude from Mobile, AL on May 29, 2013:

We use a compost for good soil for our Seven Sisters roses. Thanks for creating this great lens to show people how.

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 06, 2013:

Sound like something everyone should do to recycle. It is very useful material for gardening.

CrazyHomemaker on April 07, 2013:

This is a really informative lens! This just took the mystique out of worm farming for me. I especially liked the 'how to' video. That helped me a lot. I think I'll be starting one soon. I have some stuff that the chickens don't get that I could feed to the worms.

Judith Nazarewicz from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on April 05, 2013:

I love gardening and your worm farm composting article is loaded with helpful information. I just bought a new house at the lake and I can't wait to try this. I big on composting but I've never tried worm farm composting. So I'm sure I will be back to visit this page many times. :-)

anonymous on March 10, 2013:

I'm in the process now. I've had an influx of white worms, which I later found out were from the excess coffee grinds (they love acidic soil). I'm down to about 15 worms in 2 separate containers and possibly 2 red worms out of the whole batch. It's so exciting to observe all of this taking place!

Itaya Lightbourne (author) from Topeka, KS on February 27, 2013:

@Snakesmum: Thanks Snakesmum! It's a worm's favorite home I think, living in the compost bin. :)

Snakesmum on February 27, 2013:

Haven't actually got a worm farm, but discovered the worms have found my compost bin, and have moved in en masse! Nice lens

rattie lm on February 11, 2013:

Terrific lens. I love my worm farm.

justramblin on February 04, 2013:

Oh I love this idea. I adore gardening. Right now it's wintertime and your story has gotten me so excited about this coming spring. This is something I can do right now to get ready. Well done. thanks

Fox Music on January 28, 2013:

Thank you for this enjoyable lens, "Worm Farm Composting, How To Make Organic Compost"

Rose Jones on January 24, 2013:

Another absolutely useful lens, as I hope to become a Master Gardener someday. Blessed.

Aunt-Mollie on January 12, 2013:

I've always used worms in gardening. I remember one time I ordered through the mail and the worms had started eating through the packaging when my order was delivered! God created worms to make topsoil!

Snakesmum on December 02, 2012:

We have an old washing machine outer shell, which we use as a compost bin come worm farm. It works really well. Nice lens.

ggpalms lm on November 27, 2012:

I use several worm Factory 360 bins. Love them and my worms are great just like this awesome lens!!!

anonymous on November 27, 2012:

I hope so.

GardenIdeasHub LM on October 31, 2012:

I was very interested in worm farm composting and will be back to read more. Thanks for the tips!

srsddn lm on October 23, 2012:

It may not be practicable at the moment as I am out of my hometown for a couple of years. But when I reach back home it wll be a considered actively.

Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on October 05, 2012:

Very thorough! Thanks for all the terrific info and I fully appreciate my naturally grown worms and what they do for me! I will feature your lens on my Walk in a Fall Garden ~ I like the natural aspects of gardening that you present! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

anonymous on September 19, 2012:

I have thought about it for several years now, I don't know if I ever will farm worms. I know they are very beneficial for the soil. And, this is an informative lens. :)

Rosaquid on September 19, 2012:

Not soon, but it's on my list now for sure!

WriterJanis2 on September 08, 2012:

Hadn't thought of this. Great idea.

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on September 05, 2012:

an exhaustively research lens - so much information - you've done a fantastic job here!

John Dyhouse from UK on August 31, 2012:

A mine of information, I did not know about the worms when I started composting but they sure found my composter very quickly.

Chazz from New York on August 21, 2012:

Very thorough and interesting lens. Blessed and featured on "Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo"

Thankfultw on August 13, 2012:

This takes me back to the 80's and one of the antique shops not far from ours. They sold worm tea. It was very rich and good for the plants. They also gave lessons on building worm farms. Thanks for the reminder. Great lens, packed with info.

createpink on July 09, 2012:

I think everyone should do it! just preventing food waste from being in the landfill is a great reason!

zigpop lm on June 18, 2012:

Just got started with our new bin. I hope all goes well with it. Thanks for sharing this great lens!

anonymous on June 13, 2012:

Wow. Very thorough. Thanks for sharing this information.

ForestBear LM on June 12, 2012:

Great information, think I would give it a go.

anonymous on June 05, 2012:

Great info

anonymous on May 01, 2012:

We plan on starting soon. Your article will be a good start for us.

KReneeC on May 01, 2012:

I just started my compost pile and will be getting some worms to go along with it!

peggygallyot on April 26, 2012:

Very useful tips as I have started a small compost bin in my small yard

Natalie W Schorr on April 24, 2012:

Fantastic advice and ideas!

falling lakes on April 07, 2012:

I`m so sad about not having my own garden! But I do think a lot about it! Maybe one day...

lclchors on March 31, 2012:

maybe

JoshK47 on March 26, 2012:

Great information here!

amazonnottadog on March 23, 2012:

I have added worms for years, but your article says I should be putting considerably more in. I usually just bury the kitchen scraps in the garden and let the worms find it. I have no idea how many worms are in there now. Thanks for the article.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 15, 2012:

I definitely need to consider all composting options. This article was very helpful. Thanks for teaching me about worm composting. I always appreciate the high quality of the information you share.

Einar A on March 03, 2012:

Great information on how--and why--to get started with worm farming!

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

It's worth looking into!

lizmilton on February 26, 2012:

Great article - very informative. Growing houseplants in compost the worms have made gives wonderful results!

PaulWinter on February 25, 2012:

Thanks for the information about worm farming. It looks like a great way of dealing with organic waste.

TheArtLibrarian on February 16, 2012:

Another great lens on the topic of gardening!

Brandi from Maryland on February 15, 2012:

I've heard of worm composting, but never gave it a try. Maybe this year! I'm always looking for fun new projects I can do with the kids...they would love this! ;)

anonymous on February 15, 2012:

I've always been interested in worm farm composting, thank you for all the great information!

flicker lm on February 10, 2012:

Thanks for the useful info.

MintySea on November 12, 2011:

good lens