Give Some Worms a Home and They’ll Eat Your Trash (with slideshow)

Make a DIY Indoor/Apartment Worm Bin

My worms came Friday!

They were actually supposed to come Wednesday or Thursday and I was extremely concerned when the mailman delivered only circulars. My husband and I were scheduled to leave at 11 a.m. Friday for a leadership convention for our community building business but I could not leave before the worms came; the worms wouldn’t likely survive a weekend on my porch and I would not be responsible for the death of 500 of God’s creatures. Luckily the mailman came early Friday, around 11 a.m., and our trip was delayed only one hour as we finished constructing our red wigglers’ new home.

This is how we did it.

Home and Apartment Composting – Constructing an Indoor Worm Bin


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  1. Choose a container for your worm bin.
    • Your container should be longer than it is wide, such as a 10-gallon plastic storage bin shaped like the one in the picture, because composting worms are surface dwellers. I chose an 18-gallon bin which we already owned, meaning I shouldn’t fill it proportionally as full.
    • It also should be opaque; worms don’t like the bright light.
  2. Create aeration holes. Have you ever taken to long to take your trash to the dumpster and it began to smell foul? Aerated garbage is decomposed by aerobic bacteria, but when air cannot get to the garbage anaerobic bacteria begin decomposing the food scraps. These anaerobic bacteria in the nearly-sealed trashcan create terrible odors, and this is known as the trashcan effect.
    • To avoid the scraps in your worm bin from smelling you’re need to drill several holes in the sides of the bin to let in air.
    • Drill a few holes on the bottom, too, to let water drain if things accidentally become to wet in the bin.
    • Setting your finished bin on a tray will keep any excess liquid off your table or floor.
    • The holes don’t need to look special, straight or non-straight lines do just fine. I got a little creative, though, and used a dry-erase marker to trace a design on my bin before I drilled holes.
    • The worms won’t want to leave your bin, either, because a dark, moist place with a constant supply of food is heaven to them. For extra insurance make sure you use a small bit. The smaller the bit, though, the more holes you’ll need. Use your best judgement; though not ideal you can always add more later if needed.
  3. Worms need (1) bedding, (2) moisture, (3) air, and (4) food. Before populating the bin you’ll need to create an ideal environment for them by making them appropriate bedding.
    • Find something light, fluffy, and made of organic materials to use as bedding such as shredded newspaper or junk mail, shredded paper cups, or used paper towels. I used old newspaper and a partial bag of unused small animal bedding to which our newest pet rat was allergic.
    • Wet the bedding in a bucket of water and then squeeze all the excess water from the material so that the bedding is damp like a wrung-out sponge. Alternatively, use a spray bottle to thoroughly moisten all bedding. It’s important the bedding is moist because worms are mostly water and need to stay moist. The water also helps the worms stay cool as heat is produced from the decomposition process.
    • Place the moist bedding in the bottom of the bin while separating the shreds of paper/animal bedding. This keeps the bedding light and breathable rather than compact and suffocating.
    • Top the bedding with at least 2 inches of organic soil or soil from your yard. (Buy soil if bringing in garden pests concerns you.)
  4. Populate your bin. You’ll want to buy composting wormsor get some from a friend who already composts with worms. Carefully remove the worms and place them in your bin.
    • Any packing materials made of organic material can go right in the bin with them.
  5. Add dry bedding on top. Use more shredded newspaper or junk mail to create several inches of cover for the worms.
    • Top bedding will also cover food scraps, thereby discouraging fruit flies and absorbing and blocking odors.
  6. Feed your worms! Keep food scraps from the compressed environment of the landfill by feeding them to your worms!
    • Move the top bedding to one side, put in your food scraps (such as the salad mix I didn’t eat fast enough, pictured), and recover the scraps with the bedding! (To ensure smells stay at bay cover them with a thin layer of soil.)
    • If your family consists of only one or two people I recommend only adding food to one side of the bin at a time to make composting easier. If your family is larger you’ll want to start a second bin while the worms finish eating the food scraps from Bin 1. (Take out some of the worms from Bin 1 and place them in Bin 2.) When everything looks composted in Bin 1, hand-harvest the compost and move the worms into Bin 2.

Things to keep in mind

Troubleshooting: If things get smelly your bin either needs more air, things are too wet, or you’ve put too much food in the bin too fast. Stop feeding the worms for a while to remedy the food and moisture pileup. If things stay smelly add a few more air holes. Troubleshooting is easy, so just experiment!

It’s so easy to create a worm bin and even easier to maintain it. I am so glad I have a way to keep more of my garbage out of the landfill and even happier that I’ll soon have a nutrient-rich worm casting compost in which to plant my seedlings! (My mother is happy, too, because I promised some of it to her for her sick yard!)

Worm castings make some of the most prized compost, and any compost you don’t need would make a very thoughtful gift for your gardener friends and neighbors. Still have compost leftover? Sprinkle it in a community yard or around some trees. The plants will appreciate the nutritious treat!

Buy Here

Suggested Resources

Book: The Urban/Suburban Composter: The Complete Guide to Backyard, Balcony and Apartment Composting

Video: Apartment Composting 101: Vermicompost with Barb Finnin

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