This morning I revamped my worm composting bin, after clearing out a ridiculous amount of fruit & veggie scraps from a bag in our freezer. We eat a lot of veggies in this house and sometimes (read: most of the time) we are too lazy to bring it outside while we’re cooking, so instead we usually fill a brown paper bag in the freezer which, unlike a countertop bin, prevents fruit flies and obviously can sit without rotting for as long as my procrastinating little heart desires! Since I was already taking my bins apart and freshening them up a bit, I thought it would be a great opportunity to snap some pictures and show you my totally easy, cheap DIY worm compost bin.
One of my worm bins with some finished compost/worm castings!
First of all, let me just clarify what a worm compost (or vermicompost) bin is. Many people have asked me “Shouldn’t there be worms in all compost bins/piles?” and my answer to that is “No, not really. It depends.” Helpful, right? Okay so let me break it down (decomposer joke…get it?): Most compost piles and bins benefit from a healthy population of worms and other decomposers; however, there are methods of composting, such as the Berkley “hot compost” method, where the pile reaches temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore is not a suitable environment for our sweet little invertebrate friends. It is a damn party for bacteria though.
So, differing from other composting methods, a vermicompost bin is created specifically as a nice, suitable habitat for worms, where you give them a home and all your fruit & veggie scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, and brown paper, and in exchange they break it down quickly and give you their nitrogen rich poop, called worm castings.
Not all types of worms enjoy the conditions of a contained compost bin. The best choice for this DIY are red wigglers. I ordered 500 live red wiggler worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (also available on Amazon for anyone with Prime) and I highly recommend! As a gardener, this is an easy, cost effective way to not only make use of your food scraps (and keep them out of a landfill!) but also nourish your plants with premium, nitrogen-rich organic matter. It doesn’t smell (seriously, at all) and it’s also just fun to have a worm farm!
My worm bin (located to the right) sits on our screened in porch, directly outside of our kitchen door. This makes it easy to access and keeps it cool and shaded. You are less likely to visit a compost bin if it is all the way across your yard! Keep it close.
I don’t have pictures of my building process but they are not really necessary because this DIY is SO. EASY.
1. Buy three 8-10 gallon plastic bins with lids from a hardware store. Any color works, so long as they are not clear!
2. Put one container to the side. This will be your drainage bin and does not require any holes.
3. Take the other two bins and drill 1/4 inch holes all over the bottom “floor” of the bins. Then do the same around the top couple of inches of the “walls”, on all sides, right below where you will fasten the top. This is for ventilation. Don’t worry about the worms “getting out”. They’ll be happy to stay in their new little home.
4. Now, take one of the bins’ lids and drill holes all over it.
5. It’s time to prep the two bins (the ones with holes) for the worms. Shred newspaper or brown paper bags and get them slightly damp. This will be the worms’ bedding and can be placed along the floor of both bins.
6. Next, I added a little bit of dirt from my yard/garden, followed by my food scraps. Then it’s time to add your worms! I added half of my worms to one bin, and half to the other. Lastly, cover your food scraps with a “brown” layer: either dead leaves or more paper, or a mixture of both! You’re pretty much almost done, now you just have to put it all together.
A layer of fruit & veggie scraps will make for happy worms!
Always cover your layer of veggie scraps with a “brown” carbon layer to prevent a smell / fruit flies.
7. Grab the bin you put to the side (the one without any holes). You won’t need its top. This will be your bottom tier for collecting all of the fluid (which can be collected and diluted to apply to your soil but more on this later) that drains through your vermicompost bins. Place it where you want your worm farm, (make sure your chosen spot is shady and out of the sun!) and find a couple of bricks or something similar to place inside. This will provide a raised surface for the bin above it to drain.
Okay so those of you who are new to vermicomposting are probably looking at this picture and thinking “what in the fresh hell is this and why should I care about it?” Many gardeners call this “worm tea” and its simply the solution that drains through your bin. It is high in nitrogen and other nutrients. It can be added to a spray bottle, diluted slightly, and sprayed on the surface of your soil near plants roots for a much appreciated boost!
7. Place your first bin full of worms on top of the raised bricks and cover with the lid that has drilled holes. Stack your last and final bin of worms on top, and cover! This top bin doesn’t need holes in its lid. The ventilation holes along the top of the sides will suffice.
8. Voila! Now just keep an eye on your bin, ensuring it doesn’t become too dry. It might need a slight mist here and there. Just remember, every time you add food scraps, always add a brown layer on top! You’ll be amazed how quickly your worms will break down food waste, and when you apply this “black gold” to your garden, your plants will love you for it!
My veggie garden this morning after a fresh helping of worm castings. Happy plants!