Mother Earth Living

7 Tips for Setting Up a Worm Bin

Use these helpful pointers for starting a worm bin.
By Mary Appelhof
January/February 2013
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Use these tips to help set up a successful worm bin.
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Here are seven tips for getting your worm bin set up properly.

For more information on vermicomposting read Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System.

1. Put your bin in the location you’ve chosen, taking care that it is not in direct sun.

2. Make sure it has plenty of mesh-covered air holes around the sides, the top and, if you put a pan underneath to catch excess water, the bottom. Plastic bins require more holes than permeable wood bins.

3. Place half of your bedding material in the bin, and water it until everything is damp but not soggy. Use slightly less water in plastic bins, which retain water, and slightly more in wood bins.

4. Add a couple handfuls of grit material (soil, rock dust or limestone), followed by aged manure, if using. Then add remaining bedding and more water. If you use manure, keep in mind that it adds its own moisture.

5. Add worms, spreading them out over the top. If indoors, leave the light on for a while, which will cause the worms to burrow down into the material.

6. Begin burying kitchen waste in the bin, and cover it each time with some of the bedding material.

7. If you have a lidded container, close the lid. If you have an open container, cover the top with carpet, burlap or black plastic to keep light out and moisture in.

What Can I Compost in a Worm Bin?

• Any vegetable waste (peels, rinds, outer leaves, chopped ends)
• Plate scrapings and spoiled foods including vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy
• Coffee grounds, tea leaves, tea bags and coffee filters
• Crushed eggshells 

• Too much citrus, vinegar or other acidic items all at once
• Meat or bones (the worms can handle some, but too much will cause unwanted odors and pests)
• Pet feces

Harvested vermicompost varies in consistency depending upon how long the bin has been going, how much and what kind of garbage was buried, and how much decomposition has occurred. Recognizable food waste can simply be added back to the fresh bin. You may have more kitchen waste at some times (during holidays or after parties) than others. Take care not to overload the bin or it can develop the anaerobic conditions that lead to smells. To prevent odors, aerate the bin by turning materials often. Your nose is the best guide to when the bin’s limit has been exceeded.

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