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Public Works

Composting With Worms

If you live in an apartment or other small space, have very limited outdoor space, or want to compost at work, then worm composting is for you. Composting with worms, or vermiculture, is a simple, natural way to create your own fertilizer using food waste, and it can be done indoors. To begin composting with worms, just follow these steps… (click each photo for larger views)

step 1 Step 1: Gather materials for your worm bin

  • A plastic bin with a top. Any bin with a volume of at least two cubic feet will work, but a bigger bin allows for more worms so that more food waste can be composted. If you plan to store the bin indoors, you'll need another slightly larger bin or a pan to place underneath the worm bin.
  • A window screen or other fine mesh screen of metal or plastic.
  • Red worms, also called red wigglers (regular earthworms won't work). These can be purchased from a fishing bait store.
  • Shredded newspaper.
  • Scissors and a drill.
  • Food scraps.

step 2 Step 2: Drill holes

  • (about 1/8-inch wide each) in the bottom and sides of the bin to allow for drainage and air circulation.

step 3 Step 3: Cover the bottom of the bin with window screen or fine mesh

  • This keeps the worms inside the bin.

step 4Step 4: Place 2 inches of shredded newspaper on top of the mesh for bedding

  • You will need to add new bedding every two to four months.

step 5Step 5: : Moisten the newspaper so that it is about as wet as a wrung out sponge

  • Worms need to keep their skin moist in order to breathe, but you don't want to drown them.

step 6Step 6: Add worms

  • How many worms depends on how quickly you want the garbage to disappear, but you don't necessarily need to start with a huge number. As a general rule, one pound of worms will eat one pound of garbage and produce one pound of castings in one day. Keep in mind that the worms will be reproducing as well as eating.

step 7Step 7: Place food scraps on top of the newspaper bedding and put your living garbage disposal to work

  • Start with a small amount of food, about equivalent to the weight of the worms you have, and add more as needed. As the worms multiply, the amount of food can be increased. Keep the bin covered to prevent flies from laying eggs on the food.

step 8Step 8: Store the bin in a place that will maintain a relatively constant temperature

  • You can place the worm bin indoors or out as long as it doesn't get too hot or too cold.

Step 9: Collect the worm castings (excrement)

  • Simply remove the lid and the worms will burrow down to escape the light (to make the worms move more quickly, you can shine a light directly into the bin). Carefully scoop out the castings, which look like dirt. Use the castings in all the ways you would use compost.

step 10Step 10: Change the newspaper bedding regularly

  • Employ regular maintenance by changing the newspaper bedding about every three months