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How to Set Up a Simple, Homemade Vermicomposting Bin


Vermicomposting is the scientific term for the homely art of harnessing the power of earthworms to increase the speed, ease, and efficiency of composting. In contrast to traditional composting methods, vermicomposting requires very little effort: after the compostable materials have been introduced into the bin, the worms do all the work. In fact, vermicomposting is so efficient and odorless that it makes a fine indoor hobby. 


The end product, vermicompost, AKA worm castings, has passed through earthworms' digestive systems. Vermicompost is extremely lively: it contains more than 100 times as many beneficial bacteria and fungi as can be found in the surrounding soil. It also contains plant growth factors and B vitamins, as well as high levels of soluble calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Vermicompost is Nature's most perfect fertilizer. 


Red Wriggler composting worms, Eisenia fetida, are quite easy to keep in captivity. They make no noise and possess neither teeth nor hair to inflict bites or cause wheezing. They are entirely innocent of eyes, limbs, or ears, and are susceptible to fatal dehydration when in the open air, so they are generally loathe to run away. Even the most timid and allergic among us should have no trouble in keeping their composting worms under control. 


A 20 gallon or larger plastic bin or wooden box, approximately 20 inches high. Drill a single half inch diameter hole in the bottom, near the front edge of the bin. 

A 2-foot length of synthetic rope, cord or heavy yarn. Thread the rope through the hole in the bin, and tie a knot in the end that is big enough to keep the rope from pulling through the hole. This rope will serve as a wick to guide the flow of effluent (worm juice) out of the bin and into a milk jug that is set below the bin. 

A table, stand or blocks to set the bin up off the ground. 

Enough peat moss, finished compost, or coffee grounds to form a minimum 4-inch deep starting bed for the composting system. Peat moss is somewhat hydrophobic: dampen it in water and squeeze out the excess moisture before putting it in the bin. If the coffee grounds or compost are dry, water them down. 

Pour a cupful of fine sand over the peat moss at the bottom of the bin. Worms, having no teeth, are dependent upon the grinding action provided by sand in their gizzards. 

Put at least a pound (more is better) of Red Wriggler worms on top of the damp peat moss or compost in the bin. They will dive to get away from the light. 

Put at least a 2-inch deep layer of dry leaves on top of the worm filled peat moss or compost. These dry leaves will hereinafter be referred to as “bedding.” 

Cut a piece of black plastic sheeting or out of a heavy duty leaf bag to fit the top of the bin. Lay the sheeting on top of the bedding layer to keep the worm compost moist so the worms will stay happy, healthy and home. 


Do feed: fruit and vegetable detritus, whole wheat products, dry leaves, plant trimmings 

Don't feed: white flour products; salty foods (unless they are rinsed off); foods that contain preservatives; hay; straw; grass clippings; NEVER PUT NEWSPAPER IN A WORM BIN!!!! 


A worm bin should be fed in rotation, one section per week, so that it takes a minimum of a month to return to the first section that was fed. 

Brush the bedding leaves aside, and use your hands to scoop a hole out of the compost — metal implements kill worms — and put the displaced compost in a bucket. 

Fill the hole with kitchen scraps. Pour the set-aside compost from the bucket onto the kitchen scraps. Smooth the compost over the scraps and make sure that the scraps are completely buried under at least 2 inches of clean compost. 

Add dry leaves until the bedding layer is at least 2 inches deep. 

Cover with the black plastic sheeting. 


Worm compost is extremely concentrated. Use it very sparingly. It is a fertilizer, not a soil amendment. 

Water worm juice down: one part worm juice to twenty parts water. Use it to fertilize plants. 

Courtesy of Laverme’s WormsLaverme's Handbook of Indoor Worm Composting is now available as a Kindle book on

april noyce
4/5/2013 3:30:13 AM

What about egg shells, coffee grounds and avocado skins? Can these be added?

10/30/2012 8:08:45 PM

I have to disagree on the comment regarding vermicompost "not a soil amendment". Actually, it IS a good soil amendment. The vermicompost mixed with your garden soil will hold water longer thus less watering of your lawn. Also, I've read from many people who have done worm composting that ANY kind of breads should be avoided in the worm bin. Other than that, I have to agree with you! Happy composting!

ellen sandbeck
10/25/2012 7:13:31 PM

The clay that is added to the newspaper in order to prevent the ink from spreading when the newspaper is printed, can build up in the bin and then the clayey compost can get infested with fruit flies. My bins never get emptied out completely and then started over, so a buildup of clay is a very bad thing.If your method is working for you, keep doing what you're doing, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! As for the access to leaves, I harvest leaves in the fall and then use them all year long.

rocky pedaline
7/5/2012 6:18:03 PM

I agree Stan...I been using shreaded newspaper for years...It's 1/4 of my bedding...I use equal parts newspaper, leaf mould, cardboard, and coco coir and my guys are happy...I have well over 40,000 healthy EF's...

stan slaughter
7/5/2012 3:19:21 PM

I've put non-slick newspapers in my bins for eighteen years. The're sterile, very absorbent of excess moisture and provide an easily liftable layer that I can use to cover my working surface. Why not newspapers? Most homeowners don't have access to dry leaves all year.