If you aren’t familiar with worm composting — sometimes called vermiculture — it is the practice of using worms to “convert” your table scraps into a potent organic fertilizer. Yeah, folks, its worm poop. And it is black gold.

Interested in starting a worm bin at home? Follow along…

I started by drilling quarter-inch holes along the sides and bottom of a plastic bin, and then added shredded newspaper.

Drill quarter-inch holes along the sides and bottom of the plastic bin. It is important to put about six or seven holes in the bottom of a bin this size, to help drain excess moisture.

Drill quarter-inch holes along the sides and bottom of the plastic bin. It is important to put about six or seven holes in the bottom of a bin this size, to help drain excess moisture.

It is important to use only the regular newsprint paper -- not the glossy stuff that the ads are printed on.

It is important to use only the regular newsprint paper — not the glossy stuff that the ads are printed on.

Next, I added a cup full of garden soil. The worms need a little bit of grit in their gizzards to properly digest the paper bedding and food scraps.

Add garden soil.

Then I added some water. I added enough so the newspaper had the same moisture level as a wrung out towel. Wet, but not too wet. It isn’t an exact science. And if you add too much? Just add some more paper. No big deal. Make sure to distribute the water evenly.

Add water and distribute evenly.

Now for the fun part…the worms! I ordered these through the mail. It is a pound of worms, which I think was about 500 worms. It is important to use red worms (a.k.a. reg wigglers) because they move through the soil by ingesting it, rather than pushing it aside, as other species of worms do. This ingestion is what creates the potent worm castings which you can use for fertilizer.

Red worms

I ordered these red worms through the mail.

Add them to the prepared bin,  and cover with a bit more damp newspaper. Then cover the whole works with a piece of cardboard to help keep the moisture in.

Cover with cardboard

Cover with cardboard to keep in moisture.

That’s it! This took me about 15 minutes to prepare, once I had all of the material compiled.

The next step involves waiting. You need to give the worms about two weeks to become adjusted to their new environment before you begin adding food scraps. And even after that initial two week period, you should only add about a cup of scraps every four or five days, so that you don’t overwhelm the bin. After the initial ramp-up period, you should add food scraps in increasingly larger amounts.

Now this isn’t a garbage can, you do have to be selective about what you feed to the worms. Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, tea bags, cereals and grains, and plain shredded paper are all good additions. But you definitely want to stay away from adding any type of meat, poultry, fish or dairy products. Also chips, candy and oils aren’t a good idea, neither are citrus fruits as these are toxic to the worms.

We keep a covered plastic pail under our kitchen sink where we dispose of worm-worthy table scraps and empty it into the worm bin about once a week. After a while of doing this, the worms will begin to reproduce in the bin. The baby worms (worm pups??) will look like little white threads an inch or so long. And if this starts happening, congratulations! You have cultivated a very healthy worm composting environment. I read somewhere that adding eggshells to the bin is a very important factor in helping worms reproduce. I have no idea if this is true, but we have added them just in case!

Harvesting the worm castings will be a completely separate post on its own. There are a lot of ways to do it, and I will be showing you a few as our bin matures.

I hope you have found this useful and I would love to hear from any of you who have more experience worm composting!