Raising Worms for Compost: Successful strategies

Create a healthy wormery that allows your composting worms to produce high quality vermicompost.

There are only 4 things you need to start worm composting. For the best success, obtain what you need in this order:

Worm Composting Bin

Worm composting bins like the Can-O-Worms, allow for a perfect worm habitat.

Worm Composting Bin

Your worms need a place to live and, let’s face it, you want them contained. Old dresser drawers and old bathtubs can even be used as makeshift worm composting bins. Worm bins can be made out of almost any type of container, but there is one rule that you need to be aware of. It’s not the depth of the worm bin that determines how many worms you can have, or how much composting you can do; it’s the surface area.

The depth of a worm bin should be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches. No more! If you go any deeper, you risk compaction of the bedding, food, and vermicompost which leads to anaerobic and smelly conditions. You don’t want that, and neither do your worms.

Composting worms are primarily surface dwellers. 8 to 12 inches in depth is perfect for them. So keep that in mind when selecting a worm bin.

» Need more help? View an in depth page on worm composting bins as well as plans for making an inexpensive Rubbermaid worm bin.

Fallen Leaves for worm bedding

Moist, fallen leaves are a perfect natural worm bedding material.

Worm Bedding

Worm bedding for composting worms is their entire environment. It surrounds them and keeps them moist. It is their home. It also gives our worms something else to munch on, along with the food scraps.

Worm bedding needs to be thoroughly moist, but not wet. This is especially true if you use some sort of plastic worm bin, where the worm bedding doesn’t have a chance to dry out at all. The moisture consistency that most people equate good worm bedding to is that of a wrung out sponge.

» More worm bedding information and tips for healthy worm bedding.

Worm Food

Old fruits and vegetables are perfect food for composting worms.

Food for worms to eat

Composting worms will eat all things that are non-living and organic. They actually feed on the bacteria that grow on the worm food.

Finding food for your worms usually isn’t a problem. After all, you’re probably looking to get composting worms because you don’t want your kitchen waste clogging up the landfill. Kitchen scraps are usually the best place to start. That left over apple core, banana peel, or spoiled salad greens sitting in your fridge are all great things to feed your composting worms.

It is good to know what you are going to feed your worms, before you actually get them though. Make sure you’ll have food for them to eat on a consistent basis.

» Review our tips on what worms eat for more information.

Composting Worms

Red Wigglers are the perfect composting worm. Start with 1 or 2 lbs.

Composting Worms

The two most common type of worms used for worm composting are the Eisenia hortensis (European Nightcrawler) and Eisenia foetida (Red Wiggler, Brandling Worm, or Manure Worm). Don’t worry about the Latin, just refer to them as Red Wigglers or European Nightcrawlers.

Both of these worms do terrific jobs at composting and are very similar, but they have some differences in their life cycle.

Start your worm composting bin with 1 to 2 pounds of composting worms. This equates to 1,000 to 2,000 worms. Remember the importance of surface areas. The worms need about 1 square foot of surface area for 1 lb or 1,000 worms.

Buy your worms from a reputable dealer and be sure you know what you’re getting. I’ve seen craigslist ads that advertise 1lb of worms, but you end up getting 1 lb of vermicompost and all the worms that are in it. As a point of reference, 1 lb of composting worms usually runs between $25 and $40.