Welcome to Domestic Badass Fridays – a new series on how to makes stuff. I am going to try to keep this going throughout the next couple of months, too, even though I’ll be in a sexy, sexy boot.

Today we are going to build a worm bin. YAY!

Why build a worm bin? Well, if you have limited space, and want to compost anyway, this is a great way to compost your fruit & veggie scraps without needing a huge compost bin. You can, in fact, keep it in your house and have no odor at all! Yay!

Also – worms are super resilient, and will eat almost anything. Plus? This is wicked easy.

So – #1. Get a giant plastic bin at your basic Fred Meyer or Target or something.

Drill 1,000,000 holes in it (not really, but you will need to drill a lot of holes for air circulation & drainage). Make sure you get the bottom and the lid, too!

Shred a bunch of paper (junk mail with no plastic windows will work, as will newspaper). Wet it down. You want the paper to be wet, but not dripping. This is the worm bedding. Bedding helps balance the air & moisture content of your bin and keeps the worms happy. (And who doesn’t want happy worms?)

Fill your bin between 1/3 & 1/2 of the way full with the wet, shredded paper.

Add something gritty. Worms (like many birds) need something in their stomachs to break down the food. Chickens have gizzards to digest food, and they ingest small bits of gravel to do so. Worms need similar help. Crushed egg shells (shout out, Ambitious Pis!) or coffee grounds work really well here.

Next, add your worms. Red wigglers are the most common type of worms for worm bins. Earthworms that you dig out of the garden will not work nearly as well. Red wigglers are surface dwellers, and so will keep migrating upwards to eat your scraps. Earthworms are bottom dwellers, and will hide at the bottom, sulking.

You can buy worms at local seed & feed stores; although it’s best to call ahead to make sure they have them in stock. Places I know for sure that have worms are: Pistils Nursery (N Mississippi), Urban Farm Store (SE Belmont), and Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply (SE Tacoma).  You will likely need between 1/2 & 1 pound of worms. They will run you about $30/lb, but you will never need to replenish. They reproduce like rabbits. In fact, if anyone in the Portland area is interested in starting their own worm bin next spring, let me know & I’ll divide my worms & give you half!

After adding the worms, you need to add the food. Generally, you will want to add the food in quandrants. For example, you will feed the worms once a week. Week 1, you will lift up their comforter and spread the food over 1/4 of the bin. The following week, you will do a different quarter, and rotate through each week.

My suggestion is, when you are discarding food scraps into your compost holder, cut the scraps into tiny pieces. You can also just throw all the scraps into a special bowl in the freezer, and take the bowl out once a week, let it thaw, and then put that directly into the bin (let me know if you need clarification). The worms like their food soft.

You can put any type of fruit or vegetable matter into the bins, but never meat, grains, or dairy. You’ll also want to avoid greasy foods (like potato chips). I’ve heard rumors that too much onion (or other alliums) can give the worms tiny upset stomachs, too. One more cautionary tale – citrus fruit & banana peels very often are COVERED with fruit fly eggs, and that can result in a fruit fly frenzy in your kitchen & worm bin. (Also – EWW!)

Next, make another layer of newspaper bedding, wet it down, and cover up the whole deal.

Your worms will create a great deal of compost in 3-6 months, at which point, you’ll need to harvest your compost, divide up the worms, and start again! You’ll notice that your bedding will slowly disappear – make sure you always keep the bin at least 3/4 full!

You shouldn’t have any odor issues, but if you keep your bin indoors, you’ll want to keep it in a tray (there will be some liquid that will drain out through the bottom holes).

If you keep it outdoors, make sure it’s protected from extreme temps (no direct sunlight – worms don’t need tans) and from the rain.

Once my bin is ready to harvest, I’ll do another post with photos on how to harvest, but in principal, it’s simple.

Dump everything out (on a tarp or something). Pick out the worms. What’s left over is your compost! Take the worms & start again.

This compost is much richer than your traditional compost, and shouldn’t be used in the same way. You need just a bit (a sprinkling) with your plants to have the same effect.

You can also make compost tea and use it to water houseplants AND your garden.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

Coming up in the next few weeks: Laundry Detergent! Salsa!

If you have any requests for Domestic Badass Lessons – let me know!

Much of the information regarding worm composting came from the Growing Gardens worm composting class I attended and the Metro worm bin basics brochure.


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