How to Set Up an Indoor Worm Bin
All you need is a plastic bin and some holes in it for worm composting
If you're serious about getting into vermicomposting, you'll be glad to know that it takes only a few simple steps to get started. And only two steps require much thought: choosing a bin and finding the best worms. With those elements in place, the rest requires gathering household supplies, including daily food scraps, and setting up the worm bin. The great thing about worm composting is there's no foul odor when it's done right; instead, it has an earthy smell that should be fine inside or outside your home.
Before Getting Started
The first thing you need to do is get your hands on a bin. You can purchase inexpensive pre-made worm bins online or via mail or make your own out of a plastic storage box, wooden crate, or five-gallon buckets. No matter which types you go with, keep in mind that its size should correlate to how much food waste your household generates:
- If you generate 1/2 pound of food waste per day (typical for a family of two), your worm bin should measure at least 4 feet in surface area (a 2 x 2-foot bin) and fill it with 1 pound of worms.
- If you generate 1 pound of food waste per day (typical for a family of 4), either go with two 2-foot by 2-foot bins, each with 1 pound of worms or find or make a bin that is at least 3 feet by 3 feet and fill it with 2 pounds of worms.
Keep in mind that the bin does not need to be very deep. Red worms live and eat in the top 6 to 8 inches of material.
What to Put in Worm Bins
Worms prefer moist, soft, "brown" and "green" foods. Brown foods include pasta, bread, grains, coffee grounds, tea bags, paper, egg cartons, cardboard, and dry leaves.
Greens foods sound like what they are, such as salad greens, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits, including food scraps like rinds, peels, carrot tops, and lettuce cores. Other worm-compostable items include hair, grass clippings, and herbivore animal manure, like from pet guinea pigs, hamsters, or rabbit cages.
It takes about three to six months to create a whole bucket of compost, but it can go faster, depending on the number of worms you have and the type of "food" you use to fill the bin.
Items to avoid are lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus peels and juice. Highly acidic foods will make the compost acidic, which might not be suitable for all gardening situations. Also, to keep the smell indoors tolerable, do not compost onions and garlic, which will get stinky. Also, rotting meat and other meat products, including butter, lard, and broths, will become foul-smelling and may invite pest problems.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Water jugs or pitchers
- Vermicomposting bin
- Composting worms
- Newspaper, cardboard, or coir
Choose Worms for Your Bin
You may have seen all of those lovely earthworms out in the garden, and you may know that they're doing a great job aerating the soil, breaking down organic matter, and leaving rich castings behind, so it seems that they would be perfect for a vermicompost bin. While you can try working with these types of worms, your level of success will be much higher if you use one of the two varieties of worms specifically raised for vermicomposting.
Eisenia fetida and Lumbricus rubellus are used successfully in vermicomposting, and these are the worms you receive when you order vermicomposting kits. The difference between composting worms and earthworms is that composting worms do a fast job of breaking down organic matter from beginning to end. Earthworms are much more effective at further breaking down organic matter that has already decomposed somewhat. Go with redworms, or red wigglers, as they are also known, for a successful worm bin.
Select and Prepare the Bedding Material
The most commonly used bedding material is newspaper, mainly because it is readily available. If you use newspaper, shred about 50 sheets into thin (1-inch-wide) strips. Cardboard and coir are also suitable bedding materials. If you are using cardboard, tear it up into pretty small pieces.
Moisten the Bedding
It is best to use dechlorinated water for your worms. Worms will not survive in a dry environment, so moisten the bedding materials to get them off to a healthy start. Place your bedding material into a clean bucket or tub and add water.
Add the material to a clean bucket or tub to moisten the bedding and pour water in. Mix the water into the bedding well, adding a little at a time.
The bedding material should feel like a wrung-out sponge. A couple of drops of water should be released from the bedding; if more water drips out, add more dry bedding to get the moisture level right. Dump the bedding into the bin, and fluff it up a bit. The worms should be able to wriggle easily through the bedding. Break up any large clumps of bedding.
Add a shovelful of garden soil or finished compost to your bedding if possible. It will provide grit for the worms and introduce microorganisms that will help the contents of your worm bin break down faster.
Add the Worms
Once you've moistened the bedding and placed it into your bin, your worm bin is ready for the worms. Scatter them gently onto the bedding, and cover up the container.
Find a Home for Your Worm Bin
Where you place your bin is significant. It should be kept in an area between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures outside this range can harm the worms and slow production in the bin.
Worms do not like vibration and may try to escape the bin. Do not place the container near washing machines, clothes dryers, or dishwashers.
Place the bin in a convenient spot. You want the bin to be where adding food waste will be easy and where you will frequently be reminded to check conditions in the bin to ensure that your worms are happy. Every household is different, but prime spots include kitchen cabinets, mudrooms, and basements.