Got a garden that’s not quite flush with healthy green veggies? So did we – so we created garden fertilizer with a worm compost bin!
And we now have a healthy, consistent source of fertilizer – totally free.
(This article is an excerpt from my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening which is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Organic Gardening! Grab a copy here!)
This is a fun activity (especially for kids who are into creepy crawlies) if you want to create compost for your garden, but don’t have room for (or aren’t allowed to have) a compost pile.
Back in the day, we enjoyed doing this in our condo before we got our homestead, and believe it or not, we were able to grow cherry tomatoes and cucumbers even though our only source of sunlight faced North.
Yes, worm poop is really that powerful. Here’s how to start a worm compost bin – you can keep it indoors or outdoors, whichever you prefer.
Where to source worms for your compost bin
The worms you want to use are red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida). You can either purchase them online, go digging for some, or if you have friends with green thumbs, see if they will let you adopt some worms.
How to build a worm compost bin
While you CAN do this in a pile outside, keeping your worms in a composting bin makes it easier to keep them in one place and to ensure contaminants or pests don’t invade your healthy garden fertilizer.
To start your composting bin, you will need two containers for your worms. We used food-safe plastic bins like these. Dark is better!
The idea is the worms eat kitchen scraps in one bin. When the first bin is full of healthy compost and worm castings, you allow them to travel to the second bin (positioned below the first bin) using holes you drilled into the bottom of each bin.
The process then starts over again as you use the compost in your garden.
- 2 small food-safe plastic bins with lids
- Drill with ¼-inch bit
- Newspaper torn into strips
- A handful of soil
- Kitchen scraps
- Red wrigglers (I like these)
First, drill several holes on the bottom of each bin. The worms will crawl through these holes once the bin is no longer habitable and it’s time to harvest the castings for your garden.
Next, layer strips of newspaper lightly until the bins are full. You can spray down the newspaper, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Be sure to toss a handful of dirt into one of the bins, as well as kitchen scraps. This will start the composting process and provide beneficial nutrients and microorganisms for each worm.
Good options are apples, carrots, tomatoes, and leafy greens. We noticed that citrus scraps weren’t a big hit. Test with your worms, but don’t be surprised if your orange peels need to find a different resting place.
Don’t use dairy or meat products in your worm bin; stick to vegetable, fruit, and egg kitchen scraps. The diary and meat will start to smell eventually, attract pests, and produce less-than-optimal fertilizer.
Finally, place your new worm friends in the bin, covering the with some of the newspaper scraps. They like the dark!
Stack the bins on top of each other.
Each worm will naturally start gravitating towards the food, consume it, and leave healthy castings and compost for you to use in your garden.
They will also start breeding, and soon your worm count will multiply.
How to feed red wigglers in your compost bin
Replace the kitchen scraps every few days, or when your worms have eaten them all. Keep a close eye on this – you don’t let them go without food, or you will have no compost!
Also be sure to not put TOO many food scraps in there – this will attract fruit flies and other pests. It’s a bit of a test, but if you look in the bin every other day or so, you’ll soon figure out when it’s time to give more food.
I’d like to hear from you!
Have you tried creating a worm compost bin? What’s your best advice? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.