Setting Up a New Worm Bin

In my last post I discussed dumping out my ‘Coffee Cup Challenge” bin due to excess moisture levels in the bottom of the bin. That same day I started preparing the empty bin for my next round of worm composting

Lots of choices for bedding

As always, I started the process by focusing on bedding. I had plenty of options here since I tend to stockpile lots of cardboard and paper for this very purpose.

My favourite type of cardboard for worm bins is the kind used for egg cartons and drink holders (from fast food restaurants and coffee shops), but I also like to mix things up a little and add a variety of different cardboard/paper types. In this case, aside from egg carton cardboard, I also added corrugated and toilet paper (and paper towel) roll cardboard, along with a couple different types of paper (I tend to stay away from bleached paper as a bedding material, by the way).

Next, I added some food waste. In this case it was some cantaloupe rinds (a wormy favourite) along with the contents of my kitchen scrap holder – aged coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit scraps and cardboard.

For good measure I decided to spray down the upper layer of cardboard with water. I often won’t bother to do this, but since most of the cardboard in the bin was very dry and I didn’t add a lot of water-rich scraps, I thought it might not be a bad idea.

I then simply closed up the bin and left it to sit for a full week. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this allows for the development of large microbial population (food source for worms) and also helps to balance moisture levels throughout the bin.
The amount of time you leave the bin to sit is totally up to you, but it should be for at least a few days (without worms)

Spraying the cardboard for good measure

Truth be told, the only reason I ended up deciding to add new worms when I did was because I needed to harvest some vermicompost from my other small bin for a plant growth experiment I’ve started (Terracycle Challenge – more details soon).

Initially I tried using the standard “light harvesting method”, which involved dumping the worm compost (with worms in it) onto a garbage bag out in the sun, then slowly removing worm compost from the top. As layers are removed, worms continue to burrow down away from the sunlight and hot/dry conditions. This method has never worked all that well for me because I tend to keep my bin contents very moist.

After leaving the pile in the sun for the better part of two days, I decided to take a different approach. I poked a bunch of small holes in the garbage bag plastic and laid this in over top of the aged contents of my new bin. I then simply poured in the compost & worms and left it to sit for a few days.
Low-tech vermicompost harvesting system

I was amazed by how well it worked! Even a few hours later when I lifted up the plastic to look into the bin I could see many worms already in the new bin or in the process of making the transition. Within a couple days I could only find one or two small worms left in the original material. There were however quite a few worm eggs, but unfortunately there isn’t much I can do about that.

Aside from providing a great way to separate your worms from compost, this method also gives you the opportunity to get rid of some of the fertile seeds in the mix. I noticed lots of little sprouts popping up – these can easily then be removed by hand.

My new bin seems to be doing very well. I’ve added some more dry cardboard and some watermelon and sweet potato. It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly I can build up the population in this bin!

Speaking of which, I’ve thought of a fun new experiment to try (I’m in experiment mode these days it seems)!
I’m going to set up a bin, let it age for a week or so, then add only 2 adult worms. I want to see firsthand how quickly I can build up the population. It’s going to be a royal pain when I have to count them, but that’s ok – the findings should be very interesting!

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Coffee Cup Challenge – Day 75: It’s a Wrap!

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Coffee Cup Challenge – Day 36


    • Alison
    • June 30, 2007

    Hi Bentley, this article is great.It is good to see as well as read how to set up a bin and I like the idea of the two worm experiment.I will watch out for the results and I might even try one myself.If I do one I will do it in an ice-cream container as I really like the very small bins.I won’t start until I get back from the North Island though because for a start with the ice-cream containers the worms tried to escape.I had the food too smelly and I could avoid that this time but I would worry about them as no one might notice to put them back.I put the ice-cream container inside a big clear plastic bag and I keep it puffed up with air and shut with a rubber band.It has saved my worms a few times.You were right in one of your comments to me about my kind of worms doing runners,they sure do.Your new set up doesn’t appear to have air holes drilled in it, is that right?All the best with it.

    • Sara
    • August 8, 2007

    I just set up a worm tower I bought. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Oz Castro-Poveda
    • September 21, 2007

    Thanks for teaching about worm farming. I am starting out and making lots of mistakes. Ants killing me. will continue to read your letters and trying.

    • Bentley
    • September 23, 2007

    Hi Oz,
    You are very welcome – I love helping people get into vermicomposting!
    Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have along the way.

    Ants can be a challenge, especially in warmer regions (where there are more troublesome species). One thing to test is the moisture levels in your beds. Worms definitely like it a LOT wetter than ants (but definitely be careful if you don’t have adequate drainage). You might also try luring them into (non-toxic) traps located close to your worm beds.


    • Marco
    • October 12, 2007


    can I mix different kinds of worms? If so, what’s the best mix? Thanks a lot ,


    • Bentley
    • October 13, 2007

    Hi Marco,
    There is no real advantage to mixing worms, since typically the dominant species will just end up outcompeting the lesser species over time. This is also definitely not a good idea if you have any plans to sell the worms.


    • Kevin
    • October 17, 2007


    Awesome article! I am actually looking to start up a redworm culture to feed my fish but I assume it will be a by product of setting up an indoor vermicomposter. The worm culture I got contains redworms and grindal worms. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out but I have seen other articles online that talk about these two species cohabitating.
    I could never figure out what to put in as worm bedding then came across your article, great pictures too! Where would I find your followup to the worm couple and their offspring?


    Northern Kentucky

    • Bentley
    • October 17, 2007

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for the kind words!
    I actually did a couple more bin set ups today and will be compiling all the photos into a video presentation (with naration) – hopefully even more valuable for learning how to set up a bin.
    That will be an interesting experiment having reds and grindals in the same bin. Not sure how the grindal worms will like the type of bedding (cardboard) I talked about in the article. You may want to include a decent amount of potting soil as well. Based on my understanding, grindals and white worms (which are quite closely related I believe) really like starchy materials like bread, oatmeal etc. Redworms on the other hand will be more interested in rotting fruits and vegetables.
    Anyway, I’d be interested to hear how you make out!

    As for my proposed “worm couple” experiment, I have yet to start it! I think I may do so with one of the new bins I set up today, once it is well aged.


    • Petrik
    • March 8, 2009

    What happened to your two worm bin experiment?

    • Bentley
    • March 9, 2009

    Hi Petrik,
    That idea ended up evolving into the “Four Worm Reproduction Experiment”. You can find the experimental wrap-up post here:

  1. Pingback: Garden Cincinnati! » Separating Worms from Castings in Your Worm Bin | Cincinnati Enquirer | Cincinnati.Com

  2. I just started worm composting a few weeks ago. I am finding it fascinating and cant stop web searching new information on my new hobby.

    I thought I’d mention that I am using unused newspaper for our bedding. Our local paper printer sells the leftover end-rolls of newspaper from their printing press for $1 each (my moms home town gives them away) and there is usually a lot of paper left on the roll. Hope that helps out someone who has a hard time generating bedding paper.

    • Craig
    • September 25, 2014

    Interesting was to transfer the worms from one bin to another. MY method is to dump a tray from my bins into a plastic planting tray (large). I leave it there for about a week or two, I keep my bins very moist. Also, I have the bins in the basement. I find that this gives the cocoons a chance to hatch. I then sit down for about an hour and a half and sort through by hand to find all the worms possible. At the same time, all the cocoons that haven’t hatched get picked out also.

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