Getting Started

The purpose of this page is provide you with an overview of worm composting. Be assured that I will also be providing many other articles and blog posts that explore the various aspects of vermicomposting in much greater detail.

Here is a video I made some time ago that discusses the “fundamentals” of worm composting. If you are looking for a quick and dirty overview of this topic you may want to check it out:

Below is a more detailed description of some of the more important components you’ll likely want to consider before starting up your first vermicomposting system (keep in mind that this section was actually written LONG before I made the fundamentals video).

When it comes to starting up your vermicomposting system there are four main components to consider: 1) Container (worm bin), 2) Bedding, 3) Waste material, and of course 4) Composting worms.

Once you have read through those sections you should be well on your way towards being able to set up your own worm composting system. I have also included a section on building & setting up a worm bin, where I’ve included some YouTube videos I made.


Rubbermaid Roughneck

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing the type of worm bin you want to set up. If you are the handy type you may want to build your own creation, OR if you don’t mind spending the money perhaps you will opt for purchasing a complete worm bin system (which may come with bin, bedding and worms).

For anyone interested in simply trying out vermicomposting (or if you want to save some money), I would recommend heading to your local hardware store and grabbing yourself a standard Rubbermaid tub (with lid) or something similar.

Some things to keep in mind when you choose your vessel – 1) Light penetration, 2) Surface area vs depth. An ideal bin will be opaque (ie not allowing in light) and will be relatively shallow.

Red worms (and earth worms in general) are very sensitive to direct light – it can lead to considerable stress and even death if they unable to escape from it.

As far as depth goes, you don’t need to worry too much about exact dimensions but you definitely do want to put more emphasis on the surface area – this allows for greater oxygenation of the bin and also allows the worms to spread out more.
In other words, a Rubbermaid tub will be much better than a bucket.

Something I would recommend is either setting up multiple small bins OR one decent sized bin. The larger the system the more buffering capacity it will have. For example, I have a very large outdoor bin (5X3X3 feet). All worm composting experience aside, the sheer size of this system makes it very worry free. Even if there are unfavorable conditions in one section of the bin, the worms can easily move into many other favorable zones.
Similarly, I tend to keep 2 or 3 small indoor bins at one time, plus an “overflow” bucket (for excess food waste), thus making it much easier to ensure that balanced conditions prevail.

All that being said, there is nothing wrong with a single worm bin in the size range of a typical ‘blue box’ recycling container. This size of bin should be large enough to provide both buffering capacity and waste-processing potential for a typical household (especially if you use an overflow bucket and/or an outdoor composting heap as well).

Another important thing to mention is aeration. If you are using a typical Rubbermaid type of bin its not a bad idea to drill some holes in the lid and along the sides prior to adding your bedding/worms etc. This allows for more air flow in and out of the bin. If you have your bin sitting on some sort of tray you may even desire to drill a few holes in the bottom of the bin – a great way to ensure bin contents don’t get too waterlogged.


Cardboard & Paper Bedding Options

Composting worms not only need food, but also some sort of habitat to live in – bedding materials provide both. Ideal worm living conditions can be created initially by adding lots of bedding material with a decent amount of waste material (and likely some water to ensure adequate moisture conditions).

People often refer to the ideal composting moisture content as being similar to that of a wrung-out sponge. Higher moisture levels do tend to work better for worm composting, but this is definitely a good guideline to start with (especially when using a water-tight bin).

Some great materials for bedding include shredded cardboard (my favorite), shredded newspaper, aged straw, coconut coir, fall leaves and peat moss (although I prefer not to use this material since it is not harvested in a sustainable or environmentally-friendly manner). Worms seem to absolutely love rotting leaves, so definitely don’t be so quick to kick those bags to the curb in the fall. The downside of using leaves (aside from seasonality) is the fact that they don’t really absorb much water – this is why my ideal bedding will consist of a mix of leaves and brown cardboard (another material worms seem to have a real affinity for).

Bedding materials will typically need to be moistened before worms are added. In fact, a practice I highly recommend when starting a new bin is mixing bedding with a decent amount of moist food waste, then simply letting the mixture sit in a closed bin for a week or so before adding worms. This way you are creating a very friendly environment for your worms to live in. Aside from activating the important microbial community, this also allows for moisture to makes its way throughout the bin materials.

Waste Materials (ie Worm Food)

Ideal Worm Bin Fodder

Usually people set up their own worm bin at home so they can compost their food scraps and leftovers. Unfortunately not all waste materials are created equal from a worm’s standpoint (or a human health standpoint for that matter), so we should talk a little about what should and should not be added to an indoor worm bin.


  • Vegetable & fruit waste (citrus fruit should be added in moderation when using smaller bins)
  • Starchy materials – bread, pasta, rice, potatoes – all in moderation (beginners may want to avoid these altogether initially)
  • Aged animal manures (careful with rabbit and poultry – need lots of bedding to balance)
  • Shredded newspaper, used paper towels (common sense applies here), cardboard (great idea to add these carbon rich materials at the same time you add any wet food waste)
  • Egg shells (best if ground up and in moderation)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags


  • Human/pet waste
  • Non biodegradable materials
  • Dairy/meat
  • Oils/grease
  • Harsh chemicals

These are fairly basic guidelines and of course there are exceptions under certain circumstances. I will definitely be going into much more detail in later articles.

Something I alluded to in the previous section was the fact that letting your waste material sit for a period of time is better than adding it right away. Often people assume that the worms feed directly on the waste materials themselves. In a sense they do, but more specifically they are slurping up the microbial soup that forms on rotting materials. If you throw in a bunch of fresh carrot peelings the worms won’t be able to start processing the material until sufficient microbial colonization has occured.

As I mentioned above, a fantastic way to ensure that your new bin takes off successfully is to mix a decent quantity of waste material in with your fresh bedding, then simply letting the bin sit for a week or so before adding the worms. I know this can be a challenge for those people anxious to get started, but it will go a long way in terms of ensuring your success.

Should you choose not to wait (obviously if you get your worms at the same time you get your bin it doesn’t make sense to wait) I would highly recommend that you at least try to add some partially rotting materials so that the worms have something to feed on.

I like to keep food waste in an old milk carton that sits under my sink. Aside from the convenience of not needing to take it down to the basement (where my indoor bins are located) or outside (to my outdoor bin) multiple times per day, this also allows time for microbial colonization of the materials – and don’t worry, you won’t have a stinky mess in your container if you do it properly (I’ll definitely write more about that in another article).

Composting Worms

Red Worms | Eisenia fetida

One of the common misconceptions amongst vermicomposting beginners is that any earthworm can be used for worm composting, or kept in an indoor bin in general.

I can still remember the disappointment of discovering (during my teenage years) that I could not keep a population of soil dwelling worms in a bucket. Before becoming interested in worm composting I was an avid aquarium hobbyist, always looking for ways to raise live food for my fish. Having heard that people were able to keep thriving “worm bins” in their house I naturally assumed they were raising the same kind I found in my garden.

Eventually I learned that most of my yard worms were of the “anecic” type – that is to say they were soil dwelling worms that create burrows and tend to lead a somewhat solitary existence (they need their space). The worms ideally suited for composting on the other hand are referred to as “epigeic”. This group tends to live in rich organic material (not soil), and are adapted to crowding and warmer temperatures. So its not difficult to see why epigeic worms would do much better in an indoor composting bin than their soil dwelling cousins.

By far, the most common variety of composting worm is Eisenia fetida – also known as the red worm or red wiggler (see the “Quick Facts” section for other names). If you are looking to start up your own worm composting bin this is definitely the worm for you. There are other species of composting worm, but we can deal with them in future articles.

So where does on get ahold of some of these worms??

Well there are various options. The easiest (but most expensive) is to simply buy them. There are a wide variety of online merchants who will sell them to you, OR you may be able to track down a local supplier (I will be eventually setting up a comprehensive supplier directory to help people find merchants in their area). If you need some recommendations simply drop me an email.

In general worms are pretty expensive (typically running somewhere between $25 and $40/lb USD, although decent discounts tend to be given on larger orders), but it’s amazing how fast you can build a large thriving population starting with only a pound of worms.

Another option is to track down someone else with a worm bin in your area and ask them to share. Over the years I’ve been given worms on multiple occasions and now happily ‘pay it forward’ on occasion myself. Getting in touch with your local gardening clubs or municiple waste management division should prove helpful.

Composting worms (E. fetida) don’t typically occur in “nature”, but there IS a decent chance of finding some on a local farm if they keep aged manure piles. I can still remember the very first time I saw a population of red wiggler worms. I was working at a horse farm and happened to dig into a pile of manure sitting behind the barn. It was absolutely LOADED with red worms! I had never seen so many worms in one place ever (nor have I since then). If I had been into worm composting at the time this would have been like hitting the jackpot.

When it comes to adding worms to a new system, I like to err on the side of caution. I prefer to build my population up to the ideal level, rather than using standard guidelines. A widely accepted recommendation is to add 1lb of worms for each sq ft of bin surface area you have. So if your bin is 1.5 X 2 ft (width x length) it should be able to handle 3 lbs of worms. I would personally rather add 1lb of worms to a bin this size and let the population reach an population equilibrium on it’s own. Red worms reproduce very rapidly under favorable conditions so it shouldn’t take too long.

Building & Setting up a Worm Composting Bin

Here are three Youtube videos I made, demonstrating how to build and set up several types of worm composting bins (the third video only shows the building process, but you can certainly apply the same methods shown in the first two videos).

Setting up a Basic Worm Composting Bin

This is a basic as it comes – the simple Rubbermaid tub worm bin. For anyone just getting started, and looking for a very easy-to-build and inexpensive worm composting system, this is a great option. Just remember – you should always use a tub that is opaque, especially if you are going to keep the bin in a brightly lit location! Light can stress out or even harm the worms.

Setting up a “Deluxe” Worm Bin

This is a slightly more advanced system than the “basic” shown above. One of the limitations of enclosed plastic bins is that they can become “swampy” over time due to water accumulation in the bottom. By creating a system with a drainage reservoir you can help to eliminate this issue, and create some better quality worm compost in the process. I don’t actually use this type of system myself anymore, simply due to the fact that I used mostly open systems (which takes care of the excess moisture concern) and I just generally like to keep things as simple as possible. But don’t let that stop you from using this type of bin (lots of people seem happy with this approach!

The “Mini” Vented Worm Bin

This was originally a system I created to sell as part of a worm bin kit for those who didn’t feel like making their own bin. I later decided to stop offering the systems (didn’t really enjoy mass producing them), and instead have put more focus on providing DIY guidance.

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    • Ally
    • December 5, 2009

    My worms are trying to escape!!! I just placed them in their container a rubbermaid with holes inside of a rubbermaid without holes) a week ago exactly with some newspaper bedding, sweet potato shavings, leaves and soil from their original compost bin. Some of them are wriggling up to the top of the container! What can I do to make my worms happy???

    • norah
    • December 9, 2009

    Sounds like they have a problem!
    My guess would be:

    1. Not enough moisture/too wet – most likely not enough, should be damp like a wrung out sponge. You can use a spray bottle and spritz on top.

    2. Temperature, too cold/too hot – do you have a thermometer and are you in a cold area, need to keep track in the wimter. I have a light bulb on in mine in the garage as it is below zero here at the moment.

    3. Not enough food/ too much – try blending some food scraps, also are you feeding on top or burying it?

    4. not enough ventilation/too much – make sure none of the holes are blocked.

    You need a happy medium with everything
    Hope this helps, ask if you have more questions.
    Good luck!

    • norah
    • December 9, 2009

    Can the posts be turned around so the most recent is at the top?!!

    • Bentley
    • December 11, 2009

    Norah – thanks very much for chiming in and helping out!

    You have posed an interesting question! This comment thread IS getting pretty crazy, eh?

    I’ve seen WordPress blogs (what this is) with comments listed in that manner so it must be possible – I’ll look into it.
    Thanks for the suggestion

    • tylah
    • December 16, 2009

    hay bentely ,do u have to buy worms or can u get them 2 come 2 the worm farm?i seen a thing on better homes and gardens that said u could but i dont know how 2 do it now

    • Bentley
    • December 16, 2009

    Hi Tyla,
    It all depends on your location. In some cases there may happen to be some composting worms in the area (in which case you can certainly attract them to your own worm composting bed), but in other cases you will only attract soil worms. If people on my own block set up compost bins for example, I suspect that many of them would end up with a population of Red Worms due to the close proximity to my large outdoor population.

    Try starting up a regular compost heap and see what happens. Even if there aren’t Red Worms in the area, perhaps you can find someone locally who would be willing to give you a little bit of material/worms from their own system (that’s all you need to get a population started).

    Hope this helps!


  1. Grant,

    If you need some help getting started I would be willing to send you some worms and help you get started as well. I am more than happy to share what I do to keep my worms happy and growing and breeding. I have helped guys in PA so to help someone further is not an issue…Former PEI resident :o)

    • Brian
    • December 18, 2009

    This is great thanks! but I was wondering if the guidelines are the same for night crawlers, because I have decided recently to make a colony to sustain my herps (lizards, snakes and the such).

    • Andrea
    • January 7, 2010

    Hi, I’m looking to start up a worm bin, and just wondering how long I can leave it without feeding the worms. Do they need a sitter if I go on holidays?

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2010

    Haha – not unless you are going on holidays for many months, Andrea!
    If you set up the bin with a decent amount of food and LOTS of bedding (shredded cardboard etc), they should be totally fine for a long time. It would take ages to actually starve them to death.
    Careful about overfeeding though – I suspect more people kill their worms during holidays by feeding them too much before they leave, than by not feeding them at all!

    • nancy
    • January 11, 2010

    Hi there! i’m new to all of this, but i am ready to take it on! i purchased a ceramic small compost pot with a black carbon thing under the lid (for smell?) so i put some veggie cuttings. coffee & tea grounds and some shredded paper in there. Its all under my sink. I will let it sit for a week or so while i gather my rubber neck containers. My question in, while this is under my sink for a few weeks, will i develop mold and maggots or something? There are holes on the lid…so if i do somehow get maggot worms…i don’t want them crawling out! yipes! also, i won’t get any other “critters” in there will i? i have never seen any other critters under my sink, so i think i’m good. I haven’t heard any mention of molding/rotten/maggots developing in the compost bin. Does it happen?
    thanks so much!

  2. Hi Nancy,
    Hopefully it will mold! I put 10 pounds of “hairy” pumpkin in my big bin and it was gone in no time. The vermicompost bin is a small eco-system.
    If my bin smells bad, that is a sign of something WRONG. Please refer to my OSCR posts if you would like, that is over 500 pounds of trash in my garage being processed by red worms in 12 weeks. My garage smells like the forest after it rains. There are other bugs in my bin and they are welcomed in moderation. If the bin is over run with bugs, that may be an indication of something wrong.
    The bin in my garage is an evolution of a rubbermaid bin (or a cry for help due to job related stress. I am not sure) and not for the novice simply because of the $$$ involved. I do have a 25 gallon working bin in my house with no smell and it is covered with a piece of burlap.
    Good Luck

    • Bentley
    • January 19, 2010

    Hi Nancy – in order for maggots to be produced, you would need some sort of fly to be present in your house (since maggots are fly larvae), and these flies would need to be able to get into your holder. Outside in the summer, there is a FAR great chance of this happening – although even then, in my experience it is actually still pretty rare to end up with actual fly maggots (they tend to prefer pretty foul stuff).
    I suppose you might end up with fruit flies if they had laid eggs in the peels of some fruit, and you put these in the holder – but again, this probably isn’t all that likely.

    As for mold, it can certainly grow on food wastes that are simply sitting in a container like that. I wouldn’t worry TOO much about it though. I always include shredded cardboard in my holding containers (at the bottom, and sometimes mixed with the wastes as well) since this helps to soak up excess moisture, thus helping to prevent stinky conditions from developing. If you mix the materials around (with a garden hand fork etc) every so often you should help to limit mold development.

    Hope this helps

    • Pam
    • January 22, 2010

    Hi Bently, Thanks for allowing us to ask questions. I’m taking notes and will soon get my bin together. My question is if I start in the next few weeks and I get my bin going, what do I do with the castings until spring when I start my garden? Do we remove the worms and start a new bin and keep the castings in the original bins until we’re ready to use them? Or, as soon as castings are ready do I put in in my garden area now, during winter?

    I’m in Georgia where it can get warm in March/April


    • Bentley
    • January 22, 2010

    Hi Pam,
    It doesn’t hurt to let the vermicompost age for a bit before using it, although I’m not sure I would just leave it in the bin (not sure how you were planning to get the worms out). Have you checked out “David’s Tub Harvesting Method” (see harvesting section on “Hot Topics” page)? If you did something similar to this, then let the material sit in an open tub (with you periodically mixing the material), you could probably then just let it sit in a closed tub (one that will still allow some air flow) until you want to use it. The key is to get it fairly dry (dry enough that it won’t add condensation on the underside of the lid) but not so dry as to kill off most of the life in it.
    Hope this helps!

    • Pam
    • January 24, 2010

    Thanks Bently,

    Now that you mention it, I have no idea how I would get the worms out. Once the compost is ready what does happen to the worms? I thought I read somewhere that the worms should not go in the garden.

    I apologize in advance if you’ve already answered this.

    • Bentley
    • January 26, 2010

    Hi Pam,
    You are right – Red Worms shouldn’t be added straight into garden soil since that’s not a habitat they can thrive in. If you have worm beds of some sort associated with your gardens this shouldn’t be a problem though since the worms will very likely just migrate over to the beds. As long as there is a decent concentration of rich organic matter in the area they should stay put.
    Generally, when the compost is ready it is time to start up a new worm bin where you can add the worms that get separated from the compost.

    Hope this helps

    • Olga
    • January 28, 2010

    Hi Bentley,

    I am very new to vermicomposting, just got my worms yesterday. THe day before I set up the bedding according to the direcions included with my worm bin. THat is, wet coir, shreded paper, dark garden soil. It also asked for some sand and/or egg shells. Since i didn’t have many eggshells, I went to the near by beach and got some sand there trying not to get any shells. after i mixed it in in the bedding ( about a cup of soil+sand together), i read in a “worm book” that beach sand is not a good idea as it might be to coarse and too salty…. That said, worms arrived and I dumped them in the bedding anyway. They look a lot thinner than I expected and now i really worry will they die from the sand? shouldI redo the bedding? These worms are really expensive and it would be sad to loose them. What would you do?
    THank you so much for your comment.

  3. Hi,

    about half a year ago I started my own vermicompost bin with Eisenia foetida. At that time I didn’t know anything about those small creatures, so I just reconstructed the first picture I found on the internet and created a temporary bin. Then I added some sliced potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and bananas. Ever since then the colony has grown by thousands of percents consuming several kilograms of food scraps/week.
    What I didn’t do in the initial construction and what still isn’t present in the bin is bedding. The worm population seems to be thriving even without it. Have you ever tried the vermiculture without bedding? Is there a difference? I might be building a new large bin sometime soon, so any advice in this matter would be very much appreciated. Does a bedding help speed up the entire process by so much?

    Off topic: This site is excellent, I’ve found here so many information already and there are few articles I still haven’t read. Amazing work!

    • Lonna Gardiner
    • February 7, 2010

    Hello everyone,

    I recently started a fairly large outdoor bin. I’ve been using newspaper put through a paper shredder as bedding, and it’s working just fine. I also come about a large amount of brown corrugated cardboard on a regular basis that I’d like to use, but I don’t know how small it should be shredded because of its thickness. It’s too thick to put to my paper shredder. Should I cut it with scissors into 1/4″ or so long strips? Or can I just shred with my hands where the pieces would be a few inches square? What’s about the smallest and the largest you want your shredded cardboard to be?

    Would appreciate any input anyone has to give on this subject. I’m sorry if this has been asked before, but I’ve read through most of this thread a few times and haven’t found an answer yet. I really, really don’t want to upset my well working system.


    • Bentley
    • February 9, 2010

    Olga – really sorry for the delay responding. I take it this sand was from an ocean beach (not a lake)? You may be ok with a cup of it. If the worms are looking rough, you may have other issues to worry about more serious than some sand in the system. Be sure not to add too much food initially and see if your worms start to perk up a bit
    Tibor – some sort of bedding is VERY important, especially as the worm bin starts to mature. It helps to balance the C:N ratio, provides the worms with a more neutral habitat, helps to soak up excess moisture, and helps to increase air flow. I am amazed you have done as well as you have without ANY bedding being added!

    Thanks for the kind words about the site – it is certainly a “labor of love”
    Lonna – don’t worry too much about making your shredded cardboard pieces a specific size – just ripping it up by hand is totally fine. All you are really trying to do is avoid having sheets of cardboard (these just get pushed together, decreasing air flow etc). Obviously, the smaller the pieces, the more surface area, the more readily colonized by microbes – but pieces that are a few inches across or even somewhat larger will be totally fine.

    • Olga
    • February 11, 2010

    Bently, thank you for your response. My worms seem to be doing fine. I will not add any more sand, and yes, it is from an ocean beach.

    Thank you for keeping this site and answering questions – what a great resourse for all us beginners!

    • Jody Newell
    • February 22, 2010

    I am a bit confused about the over feeding part. We have a commercial compost bin, about 4 ‘ x 3’, it is about half full of kitchen scraps and leaves, it has been going for nearly a year so some of it is it various stages of decompostion. I was thinking of just putting some red worms in. Now I am worried that might not work because there would be too much food. It is outdoors obviously but stays moist and winters are very mild where we live.
    Thanks for a very informative website, the best I have ran across in my research.

    • Bentley
    • February 23, 2010

    Hi Jody – it sounds to me like you have the ‘ultimate’ system to add worms to. For starters, size of system is a very important consideration. BIG worm beds are able to provide a lot more buffer zone where the worms can hide-out should things get nasty with the food waste (unlike in a small plastic worm bin, for example). Not sure what sort of air flow you have in your system, but that is another major factor. I have a big outdoor wooden worm box. I can get away with adding a LOT of food waste to it because of 1) the size, and 2) the excellent air flow (there are spaces between the boards).
    If you want to be absolutely safe, just stop adding new material to your system for a week or so before adding the worms!

    • Jody Newell
    • February 23, 2010

    Hi Bentley,
    Thanks much for the reply. I think the air flow system is good, it is called an Earth Machine and has 12 vents and a pull out tray at the bottom. We eat a lot of raw veggies so it gets lots of scraps, plus coffee grounds, tea bags and some paper towels and shredded paper. One of my worries is I turn it every few days with a pitch fork and then cover the top with leaves. With worms in there I don’t see how I could turn it without poking a worm. Is there an alternative way of turning short of sticking your arms in and turning by hand?

    One of my thoughts is starting a second compost station without worms then occasionally moving some of the decomposed matter from it over to the existing compost station with worms. Right now the existing one 4’x3′ is about half full after a year which amazes me, it gets a lot of scraps but it just shrinks which I guess is what it is suppose to do 😉

    Thanks, jody

    • Bentley
    • February 26, 2010

    Hi Jody,
    I don’t really turn my vermicomposting systems, but I DO dig around a fair bit to see how things are doing. I highly recommend the use of a basic garden hand fork. Since it is more of a prying/pulling action than a jabbing, I think there is a lot less likelihood of accidentally harming any worms.

    Just my 2 cents!

    • fIDEL
    • March 15, 2010

    I was going over your article but when I got to the part where you are describing a video but the sapce on the lower part did’nt have the supposed video. Can you tell me how I can access the said video.
    Further, you have a very enlioghtening website. Wonderful and you’re doing a lot in greening Mother Earth. God Bless!

    • Bentley
    • March 15, 2010

    Hi fIDEL,
    You may need to install flash on your computer, or enable video viewing in some other manner. The videos are definitely embedded on the page. Are you able to see videos on my “VIDEOS” page (see the upper navigation on the site)? On YouTube?

    • Philip
    • March 16, 2010

    You might have mentioned it, but about a source for worms to get started. Can I just buy some different kinds of worms from the local bait store? Will they multiply over time given the proper conditions? Thanks much

    • Bentley
    • March 21, 2010

    Hi Phillip – you will want to look for a supplier of composting worms (“Red Worms”, aka “Red Wigglers” are probably your best bet and the easiest to get a hold of). Some bait shops carry Red Wigglers (might be called “Trout Worms”), but they deal in pretty small quantities.
    There are LOTS of suppliers who can ship you composting worms very easily (including my suppliers – nudge nudge, wink wink).
    Composting species will reproduce very readily (unlike soil worms), assuming you provide them with decent living conditions. (not hard)

    • Ingrid
    • March 24, 2010

    About 7 yrs ago I bought a somewhat large plastic composting bin at Costco, it never produced much compost, very unsatisfactory.
    For several months now I have added mainly food waste and discovered – to my delight – quite a few red worms and also sow bugs in the bin. Looks like I am now an
    “accidental” worm composter.
    Now my question, should I just continue in this big bin, or scoop out the worms and put them in a “proper” bin?
    Also, the sow bugs seem to multiply at a rapid pace, probably much more so than the worms, is this o.k.?
    Would appreciate any insights and suggestions, thank you.

    • Tim
    • March 26, 2010

    I think I understand what you’re saying about not using any-ole’ earthworm as a composting worm, but what about the other way around? Specifically, I want to add earthworms to my raised-bed garden. It measures 3′ wide x 30′ long x 2′ high. I’ve added good quality soil, manure, and compost to the raised bed, and want to continue to improve the soil quality. I live in the desert southwest, so soil quality is of utmost importance to improving my garden. I’d like to be able to throw some worms in the raised bed, continue to add more manure and food scraps and let them do their business. I’m assuming that because of the soil quality & moisture INSIDE the bed is better than the dry sand OUTSIDE the bed, that they’ll stay inside the bed to eat the most good stuff. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    • JD
    • March 27, 2010

    Bentley & Team,
    First of all let me commend you for all the excellent information on this site. I’ve learned so much valuable information, and I would say, that what’s on this site rivals any book on the subject.
    So I made a bin (two actually) using your design with the little vents, to prevent gnats, which I’ve had some issues with in the past. I couldn’t find those fancy little vents, but I found these pvc type plastic drains that seem to work great, are pretty cheap, and best of all they’re readily available at our Lowe’s and Home Depot.
    My question relates to moisture. I’m guessing that with experience I’ll know how wet the bedding should be, but right now I’m pretty clueless. I’m using a coir based bedding and I wouldn’t have worried, but when I put in my new worms I had a lot of escape attempts, and since then (about 2 weeks) I still have an occasional unhappy customer trickling up the side of the bin. The worms in the bedding seem good, and I’ve even seen some eggs, but the moisture thing still worries me.

    Thanks for everything!

    • liz
    • March 27, 2010

    I was going to ask you, me and my husband are trying to start selling worms for our area and I was wondering how many lbs of worms would be good for a large bathtub. we bought 1000, and I know they reproduce, but I was just wondering if you have any suggestions.

  4. Reading down through the comments, I have some ideas for various people:

    1. Got a bin but it’s clear? Slap on a quick coat of paint or wrap the outside in an old sheet. (You’re going to want to have a light on nearby to encourage your little wormies to stay deep in the bin and not go exploring in your basement.)

    2. Those pesky fruit flies and gnats–argh! My hardware store gives me old screening whenever I ask for it. It helps keep the little buggers in the bins, where when they die off….my worms can eat them! Also, put a dollop of vinegar down any nearby drains. Turns out that flying pesky critters that can’t get back to the compost bin are actually living in the fluid in the “trap” of the drain. So make it un-liveable.

    3. For Seo, especially: You don’t have to produce all the organic waste yourself. Grocery stores have to throw away tons of veggies that aren’t quite perfect any more, so no one will buy them. I’ve never been told “no” when I’ve asked for some of the wasted fruits and vegetables. (Take a clean container or some very heavy trash bags.) My local coffee shop, Mars Cafe (a chain), has a policy of putting their coffee grounds and other compostables in a washtub near their front door (in smaller, more portable containers), for pickup by any composters in the neighborhood. See if your local coffee shop will do the same. (But be careful with those coffee grounds; they heat up a LOT in a bin, and it’s hard to tell when the worms have “finished” them. I just used some worm compost I thought was finished and it REAKED of spoiled coffee. Oh well.) Try those options. (I just shared some extra worms with my grocery-store veggie guy, who hates to see all the wasted veggies. He’s going to start worm composting them.)


  5. One more thing: My worms weren’t reproducing that well until I added shredded cardboard. I don’t use the corrugated kind because of all the glues used in the making. (And Bentley says his worms hide in the channels, making it hard to find everybody when you want to do a “count” or a check of the bin.)

    • Corrine Lunt
    • March 30, 2010

    Can I add worms to my composting bin? My compost (in progress) seems to be creating a lot of baby flies which, of course, means my house is inundated with flies. Will adding worms help with that problem? Actually, my very first job was managing a worm farm in our backyard in Chicago land (at the ripe old age of 8) and sold the reds to a local sport shop for bait. However, we certainly didn’t get $40/#. How can I find where to buy worms in Phoenix, AZ? Thanks for the help. Corrine

    • Lynnette
    • April 2, 2010

    I just started my worm farm. I thought I followed the directions to start. That was 2 weeks ago. Now every morning there are worms crawling out of the grid at the bottom or huddled into the corners. I added a second tray. They have not crawled up into it but are huddled in the corners of the first tray. I have also found five on the floor yesterday. Whenever I added my food, which has been several times, I mixed food together with damp cardboard and damp paper and also some peatmoss. I think I might have stressed the worms and they are trying to escape. How can I make them happy?

    • Lynnette
    • April 7, 2010

    Hey, I guess I scared you guys. No response. What I did was I started a new processing tray. Then I put the original processing tray on top to make it a feeding tray. I collected any worms who had migrated to the edges and put them on the dry paper which is now on the top of the new processing tray. Now a week later everything looks good. No worms are gathering or escaping. When I lift a try the contents seems to move showing that they are scattered throughout. Reading your blogs helped me to determine my solution. Thanks.

    • Margarita Browne
    • April 12, 2010

    Hi, judging from your responses to others. You wouldn’t reccomend purchasing the worms and putting them in an already started compost tumbler.

    • Bentley
    • April 12, 2010

    Hi Everyone,
    As you can probably tell, I am having a really hard time keeping up with all the comments that are being added to the website. I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from leaving comments – but if you are in a rush to get a response you are definitely better off to send me an email directly (although there can certainly be delays there as well).
    LYNNETTE – you definitely didn’t scare me off. I just haven’t had enough time to get to the comments as of late. Glad you were able to find a solution – and thanks for sharing that here!
    MARGARITA – Compost tumblers are not ideal habitats for composting worms. If you kept it well-shaded, didn’t add too much material at once, and only turned it once in awhile, I’m sure it would be fine – but the way I see it, tumblers are much better suited as tools for pre-composting wates before feeding to worms in another system.

    • Bentley
    • April 12, 2010

    Corrine – not sure what sort of “composting bin” you might be referring to if it is inside. As long it isn’t one of the ones that heats up the material, and as long as it has good air flow, I’d say go for it. Worms can compete against these other critters, but they more than likely won’t help you get rid of the flies altogether. If they are fruit flies I would recommend cider vinegar traps and vacuuming up the adults on a daily basis (sounds funny, I know, but it does work quite well).

    • Bentley
    • April 13, 2010

    **IMPORTANT UPDATE** – I have decided to shut down comments on this particular page (and will likely do so on some of the other older pages as well) since it’s becoming more difficult to respond to all these various comments on the site, and I’d rather direct question-askers elsewhere.
    One thing I really enjoy doing is responding to questions on the blog since this helps others, it helps add more content to the site, and it also puts the questions in a more prominent location – SO, please don’t hesitate to send me an email anytime! Of course, if you really don’t want me to respond to your question publicly (FYI, I only use first names, but can also just say “a reader”), simply let me know in your email and I’ll be sure to reply directly instead (and there are plenty of cases where I’ll do this anyway).



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