Worm Composting FAQs

What kinds of worms are best for composting?

Red Wigglers are the most highly recommended composting worms. Other worms that you find in your garden may not survive in a bin.

How many worms should I start with?

Recommend you start with 1 pound, purchased from a reputable worm grower online or in person. It’s fine if there are baby worms and larger worms in the mix. You will wonder if you have enough worms in your bag.

How much do worms cost?

You can pay anywhere from $10 to $40 per pound (or thousand). There are great worm breeders out there that will sell you a pound for $15.

Where do I put the worms?

Set up the worms in a 5-star accommodations. No need for an expensive, commercial worm hotel. A regular plastic tub will work great. A recycled tub works even better!

What kind of tub?

A medium sized tub should do. Make sure the plastic tub is dark. Worms don’t like the light. Don’t torture your new “pets”!  A tub is better than a bucket. The worms like more horizontal surface area.

Do I modify the tub?

Yes, you must! Drill many air holes in the tub on the sides and the bottom so that the worms have oxygen to breathe. Cover the holes with circles of screening (optional), so that the worms won’t leave the bin if they don’t like their accommodations.  A wood burning tool will burn clean holes in plastic if you prefer. Use another tub cover under your new bin to catch any liquid that drips out.

Personally, we do not have a problem with extra moisture dripping from the bin. We keep the contents damp like a wrung out spong, not wet. If liquid drips, contrary to popular belief, it is NOT compost tea. Experts will tell you that this is called leachate and is not good for your plants. Compost tea doesn’t contain liquid from stuff in the process of rotting! Many folks may disagree, but technically it is not compost tea.

What do I put on the bottom of the tub?

Lay down 3 inches of shredded cardboard, newspaper or scrap paper on the floor of the bin. This bedding allows for great air circulation. You should dampen the bedding so it is as wet as a wrung out sponge – not dripping.

What goes on top of the bedding?

Spread out a cup or small handful of garden soil over the shredded paper. This help the worms digest the food. They need the grit, but not too much. It also helps get the microbes working.

When do I add the worms?

Add the worms on top of the damp shredded paper and soil.

Do I cover the worms?

Yes, add at least another 3″ of damp shredded paper over the worms to keep them cozy and cool. Your bin should be 3/4 full of bedding when you start.

How much do I feed them?

Start with a small handful of food and see if the worms consume it in a few days. If they do, gradually increase the amount of food. We’ve been told you can feed 1 pound of worms a half a pound of food a day. They can eat 50% of their body weight every 24 hours. BUT BE CAREFUL. You’re small worms won’t eat as much as you think. Don’t overfeed or you risk having bad odors and flies.

Where do I put the food?

Scatter the food under the first layer of shredded paper.  The worms will eventually get to it and start eating.

What do I feed my worms?

They love all kinds of food scraps including vegetable peels, tea bags, egg shells and coffee grounds. Fruit is good but limit citrus fruits because the material will become too acidic and this could kill your worms.

Also limit starchy foods like rice, pasta and bread. You have carbon for your compost already in the form of the bedding. They call this the “browns”. Now most of what you should be adding are “greens”. When you get a chance, check out the “Crazy Things You Can Compost” on this site as well as a witty cartoon about composting.

What do I keep out of the bin?

Heat, extreme cold, light, meat, dairy products, oily foods, plastic, metal or glass.

Where do I keep the bin?

Indoors is fine. Outside works too in a shady place. Do not place the tub in the sun. If they live outside, bring them in during the colder months.   If the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, relocate the worms inside.

Will the tub smell?

It shouldn’t stink if you cover the food scraps and keep the contents moist like a wrung out sponge.

How long does it take to make compost?

They will make compost everyday but to harvest the compost it might take a approximately 2.5 months. If you chop or grind the food the process will go quicker.

How do I know a batch of compost is done?

All of your original bedding will be almost gone. The contents will be dark and earthy. You’ll have rich, beautiful, earthy-smelling worm castings!

How do I separate the worms from the compost?

There are several methods that work. Some take longer than others.

Cone Method: Once all the bedding is dark and most of the food and bedding have been eaten, remove everything and form the castings and worms into a cone shaped pile. Expose the cone to sunlight and wait 10-20 minutes when the worms will burrow deeper into the pile. Then you skim off the top layer of castings and use them to feed your plants. When you start seeing worms, wait another 10-15 minutes and come back to skim off the top again. Repeat until you just have a nice pile of worms to start up again. Keep just a bit of existing castings to mix in with your new bin to make the worms feel at home.

Migration Method: You can keep everything in the bin. Move everything to one side of the bin. Prepare the empty side like you were starting a new bin. Add new bedding, a bit of soil and food with more bedding on top. The worms will gradually move over to the new side. Skim off the finished compost as needed.

The “I don’t have anything better to do!” OR “I just like playing with worms!” method: A more time consuming option is to pick through the castings and gently remove each worm. A lot of work but if you love hanging out with the wigglers and have the time, go for it. Add a handful of your fresh castings to a new bin if you are starting from scratch after you’ve picked through your worms.

Where do I put the compost and how much do I add?

Mix it with potting soil or put it directly in the garden. Generally speaking, 3 oz of the good stuff will fertilize a medium-sized potted plant.

What if my bin starts to smell or I get fruit flies?

If your bin smells imagine what kind of odor guests are experiencing!  You need more air circulation, or you’re putting too much food in the bin, or it’s too wet. Prevent fruit flies by making sure the food is buried and don’t overload.

How long do worms live and how do they reproduce?

Worms can live up to 10 years. Worms have both the female and male sex organs (hermaphroditic). They group together and make babies. The cocoons look like little lemon-shaped balls and hold up to 20 babies. If you see those, you are doing well.

More worm intel:

Best Food to Feed Red Wiggler Worms

VIDEO: How to Compost with Worms and Solve Common Problems

50 Homemade Fertilizers and Soil Amendments

5 Entertaining Facts About Red Worm Eggs