How To Set Up A Worm Bin

Worm bin vermicomposter in kitchen

The worm bin’s cozy home under the kitchen table.

Under our kitchen table in a black box live worms. Many, possibly thousands, of worms.

In April of this year, I ordered a vermicompost bin and worms from Gardens Alive, an online and mail order garden supply retailer. They offer coupons every so often for $25 off of $100 purchase or $50 off of $150 purchase that made the worms free, so once I made my decision, I waited for another coupon to come out. Three days later, there it was in my inbox.

So for less than $100, I was the proud owner of one vermicompost bin and 1,000 worms. The bin was delivered very quickly. I of course paid no attention the instructions telling me to set up the bin completely now, before my worms arrive. Because I was going camping with two young kids and in the middle of packing hell.

Worm bin and worms arrive in the mail

The bin, worms in their little box, and the directions.

Unfortunately, it was a warm weekend and when we arrived home on Monday afternoon in 92 degree heat, we found this box wedged between our storm and main doors.

Box containing worms

This is the box in which the worms were delivered.

Because it was a holiday weekend, that meant they had been there since Saturday–through two and a half very hot and humid days, and touching a metal and glass door. I was a little concerned they would all be dead. I quickly checked them and it looked like everybody was alive. Yay for thorough packaging!

Step #1: Lay the Foundation

The first thing I needed to do (after assembling the bin) was wet several pieces of newspaper and lay them on the bottom of the tray. This keeps the worms from falling through into the drain tray below.

There are no pictures of the wet newspaper step because Jason, despite his serious aversion to all things that slither and wiggle, ran to get the camera, change its batteries, etc. at about this time in order to document the process (thank you, Jason!)

Step #2: Go To Bed

Next came the bedding layer. I took a cup or so of compost from our outdoor composter and put that in a large bowl. To it I added half of a block of coir that was included with the instructions and several handfuls of shredded newspaper. Then I moved it all into a much larger bowl. And then I stirred and moistened it all slightly.

Worm bin set up

The silver bowl is so huge that we could easily bathe a six month-old in it. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

I then added this mix to the bin, spread out on top of the wet newspaper. It looked a little thin, so I shredded some more newspaper and mixed it in. the picture below shows me throwing it on, before the paper is mixed in.

Worm bin second layer

This is the bedding layer. Exciting, right?

Step #3: Keep It Dry

Then I layered dry, shredded newspaper on top of the bedding layer. I actually moistened this at some point, forgetting that I was supposed to leave it dry. Don’t do what I did.

Worm Bin shredded newspaper

Third layer of shredded newspaper, just barely moistened.

Step #4: Last Layer

Finally I prepared a fairly thick layer of wet newspaper  to lay on top of the shredded newspaper. This helps keep the light out, keeps the humidity up, and encourages the worms to remain in the bin. Not that they’ll try to escape except in extreme circumstances–they don’t like light, so they want to stay in the bin where it’s dark.

Last worm bin layer

Applying the final layer of wet newspaper on top of the bedding.

Step #5: Welcome Home

Finally, I was ready to add the worms. Inside the mailing box was lots of shredded paper packed tightly. Inside of that was a paper bag, slightly moist, and inside of that, this white bag.

Opening the worm bag

They’re in there!

I tried to dump them gently into their new home, hoping that most had survived the heat of the weekend.

Adding worms to the vermicomposter

I’m concentrating super hard.

I realized later that I should have added the worms on top of the bedding layer, then topped with the dry, shredded newspaper layer. Oh well. Again, don’t do what I did.

Adding worms to the worm bin

So exciting!

Jason moved pretty close to the big pile of 1,000 worms for the photo below. At this point, because they were stressed, they were massed together pretty tightly.

Red Wiggler vermicompost worms

Do they look happy to you?

Step #6: Settling In

Not pictured, for some reason. Add a handful of food to one corner of the bin below the bedding layer. Chop it as finely as possible, and even cook it a little to make vegetables softer and more palatable. Did I just say palatable in relation to worm food? Yup, I did.

Pop the lid on and put them somewhere a little dark and a little quiet.

Set up of worm bin

Putting the lid on our new pets.

We completed this project after the kids went to bed, so in the morning, I introduced J and P to their new pets. They both are enjoying the worms.

Our worm bin lives under our kitchen table. In another post, I’ll post a longer update on how the worms are doing, and mostly it’s positive. I can’t forget about them since I see them every day, and they seem to be pretty comfortable most of the time.


If you compost, do you have your composter outside, inside, or both? 


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Read the first post, How To Set Up a Worm Bin, here. […]

  2. […] used to like to mop at least every two weeks. Our kitchen is small and we have two young kids (and added a few thousand worms to it recently). Two days after mopping it, it is visibly dirty […]

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