Copyright © Sheryl Williams - Yardfanatic 2016. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

House Worms

Composting with worms is both fun and rewarding.  Most importantly, it doesn’t have to be outside in the heat of Central Texas, you can keep your worms in the house.

Done correctly, worm composting is odorless, insect-free, and a great way to compost your kitchen’s vegetable scraps.  Your reward is years of fun, worms for your friends, and most importantly, rich worm castings to add to your plants.

The worms used for home composting are Red Wigglers.  These are a smaller variety than the earthworms in your yard and are better suited for living in shallow soil.  If you can’t find worms locally, you can always mail order them.  I got mine from

There are several great resources for bin plans made from a variety of materials. I opted to make mine out of three 10-gallon heavy-duty, lidded plastic totes.  I chose this size because it will hold about 2,000 worms and it’s not too heavy for me to pick up when filled.  You can use smaller or larger bins depending on your situation.

The bottom bin is to catch excess moisture called “chelate”.  This is the moisture that drips down from the worm bedding and can be used as compost tea.

The next two bins are to hold the worms.  The first sits right on top of the bottom bin.  The third bin isn’t used until your original bin fills and will be used to start a new colony.

Chelate aeration holes
Start by drilling ¼” holes in the first bin about 2 ½” to 4” apart and 2 ½” from the bottom.  These holes are to provide aeration for the chelate and keeps away odor.  You may never generate excess moisture, but if you do, you can drain it out and use it directly on your plants.  It should smell very earthy.  If it stinks like rotting garbage, throw it away because that means that you have bacteria instead of healthy microbes.  Rinse out the bottom bin before placing your second worm bin back on top.

Drill holes bottom of 2nd bin
The second bin will be your first home for the worms.  Using a ¼” bit, drill holes on the bottom about 2 ½” apart to allow excess moisture to escape.  Drill another line of holes at the very top of the bin along each side.  These holes are important for aeration.  Repeat this pattern on the third bin.

Bin 1 and 2 with holes.
Place shredded paper into one of the bins with holes on the bottom.  Moisten with water then add your worms.
Moisten the paper

Add worms.
Top them with vegetable matter and more shredded newspaper.  Now stack this bin on the first one you made and put on the lid.  Done!
Add scraps and more paper to top it off.

Once this bin get’s about 6” of finished castings and compost, you’ll want to move your worms to a new container.  Add shredded paper and vegetable scraps to the third bin that you made.  Stack this bin on top of the other two.
Worm bin with all 3 stacks.
The worms will migrate to the third bin on their own in search of the fresh food, thus eliminating the need to screen or dig around to move them manually.

Here is what I have learned to be a successful worm farmer.
1. Place the bin in a cool area away from sunlight.  Under the sink or against an interior wall are examples.  I have mine in the dining room against the wall.
2. Refrain from adding new scraps until they have consumed the previous meal.  Excess feeding will cause the vegetable scraps to rot and smell.
3. Only use raw vegetable scraps.  Do not add oils, meat or dairy.  Try not to add too many citrus peels as the acid makes it hard for the worms to digest and could cause a harmful build-up.  I only add them occasionally and only if all other citrus has been digested.  I also don’t add eggshells because they also don’t break down fast enough.
4. When adding scraps, cover them with newspaper to prevent odors and fruit fly development.  If you find that you still get fruit flies, freeze your vegetable and fruit scraps to kill the fly eggs.  No need to thaw it before adding to your bin.  We eat a lot of fruit and I got so frustrated the first time I raised worms in the house I evicted them to my outside compost bin.  Freezing the peels restored harmony.
5. Worms usually only live for a year but lay eggs to replace themselves.  You can keep a worm bin going for years and rear generations of progeny.  Just think of it, your own worm dynasty!

I use the castings directly on my vegetable beds, container plants, and roses.  It’s great stuff and quite the conversation piece.  You will give a whole new meaning to “I have worms.”  Happy vermicomposting!

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I like your tip about freezing the peels to eliminate the fruit flies. What a good idea!