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Topic: Make Your Own Worm Hotel - Home Composting Tutorial!  (Read 28678 times)
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« on: August 29, 2005 07:57:59 PM »

My fiance and I have been looking for more ways to reduce/reuse/recycle.  We realized that throwing away our food scraps was not only wasteful, but made our (garbage disposal-less) apartment kind of smelly if we forgot to take it out.

Home composting to the rescue!  Here is complete tutorial for making your own vermicompost bin.

Materials (makes a bin big enough for the scraps of 1-2 people):

16 Gallon Plastic/wooden/whatever container:  $9.99 @ linens 'n things
Fiberglass Screen:  $5 @ Home Depot
1,000 Red Worms (1 lb):  $26 from http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/
16 quart Organic Potting Mix - I forget!  Cheap!
Leaf Mold - Free from worm lady
Hot Glue Gun
1 Gallon Water

Total Project Cost - about $45

Step One - Get a bin

Our bin is plastic because it's cheap, but I hear wood is much better/easier to maintain in terms of moisture content.  Get wood if you can!

Step Two - Drill holes

Drill small holes all the way around the top for ventilation

Step Three - Cut Slits

Worms need oxygen, too.  Use a knife to cut narrow slats

Pop out the pieces you cut

**Some people recommend to cut drainage holes in the bottom - if you don't, be extra careful when monitoring the moisture content of your bin.  You don't want worm soup.

Step Four - Screen over the holes

Make sure to sand the plastic to make sure your glue will stick!

Glue around the edges, allowing the glue to seep through the screen

We weren't sure the screen was fine enough, so I added a second layer at a 45 degree angle to decrease the hole size

Here's what it looks like from the outside

And the inside, all trimmed up

Don't forget to put some screen over the small holes, too

Here is the "finished" bin

Step Five - Decorate!

Who wants a boring bin in their apartment?

People might not believe there are actually worms in there, despite the art

Step Six - Prepare Bedding

This is the leaf mold we got for free from the woman who sold us the worms.  Websites SAY that you can use newspaper and a little soil, but Maggie Pipkins of Cape Cod Worm Farm told us that after 30+ years of experience, she would NEVER use newspaper.  Yes, the worms eat the newspaper, but there aren't any nutrients in it!  She suggests:

1/3 Leaf Mold
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Manure

If you find an organic, no nonsense potting soil you shouldn't need the peat and the manure because it's already in the mix!  Therefore, we used with Maggie's Approval

1/2 Leaf Mold (decomposed leaves)
1/2 Potting Mix

Fill your bin about 1/2 way full.  You should have at between 8" to 14" of bedding.  NO DEEPER otherwise you'll crush your worms.

Before you add your worms, you need to moisten your bedding.  We used about a gallon of water, but you should see how much your own mix needs.  How do you tell how much?  The soil should be about as wet as a rung-out sponge.  If you squeeze it, you should see the water but it shouldn't drip

Step Seven - Add worms

Don't just add any worm!  You need Red Worms, otherwise known as Red Wigglers or Compost Worms.  One pound of worms will eat the food scraps of 1-2 people.

Don't mix the worms into the soil - put them on top and the light will cause them to burrow.  If you're ordering worms online, they should come with care instructions.  If you want to find worms locally, check your nearby garden and bait stores, though we didn't have any luck with that here in Boston - we had to visit a worm farm!

Step Eight - Feed your friends

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on the web about what to feed (and what not to feed) composting worms.  The problem is this:  people assume that because worms DO eat some things, that means that they should.  Cardboard, newspaper, coffee grinds, tea bags, orange peels, lettuce, potatoes -- these are all things that your worms will eat but shouldn't.  You'll have malnourished worms and poor potting compost when their done.

Here is some advice on feeding your worms -  http://www.capecodwormfarm.com/te_food.asp

After about 6 months, you'll have beautiful compost and a lot more worms... remove the compost, get more bedding, and start again.

Happy Composting!
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012 09:13:18 AM by jungrrl - Reason: changed non-working image(s) to link(s) » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2005 08:10:10 PM »

Wow. that's intense, thanks for sharing.

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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2005 10:56:35 PM »

  I've seriously thought about doing this, but I live on the second floor in an apartment building and have a black thumb.  However, I am going to be studying up on gardening this fall, and I suggest this to everyone with lawn space or anyone who plants.  Now I have a tute to show people.  Thanks!

How's it been so far?
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2005 04:27:28 AM »

I've tried outdoor composting twice and it never worked, this looks like a fool-proof way to do it. Your tutorial is fantastic, I may have to give this a try.
(I love how you made it crafty by decorating the tub  Grin )

« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2005 08:25:09 AM »

Where I live, we have to buy trash tag stickers to put on our trash bags, otherwise the city won't pick it up.  It's good incentive to waste less, because you see your money being stuck right on the outside of the bag (in the form of a hot pink sticker, of course :-P)

Anyway, here's my question:  we don't have room in our apartment.  Could we keep the bin outside on the porch?  I live in Upstate NY and it gets nasty cold in the winter.  Would this make the wormies unhappy?
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2005 09:45:09 AM »

Like Homestar, I live in upstate NY also, and I'm wondering what to do with them in the winter/summer.  I'm assuming it's okay to have them outside in the summer if they're kept in a cool, shady place, but do you move them inside in the winter?

Also, when you harvest your compost, do you just, like, skim it off the top of the bin? Or just scoop it out, worms and all, and add it to your garden?

Just wondering.  Thanks for the tutorial!  Now I can show my hubby and ask him to help me out!

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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2005 10:52:23 AM »

archer*of*loaf, where ya from?

So I googled "vermicompost winter"...  and it looks like the little suckers (chompers?) won't be happy outside in the winter.  I kept reading "warm and moist" and that definitely doesn't describe upstate winters!!!

What to do?!?!?
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2005 11:04:31 AM »

I live about ten minutes outside of Albany.  How about you?

Yeah, I thought worms wouldn't be happy about being in one of those bins outside in the winter, but then again, what do they do in the winter while in the ground?  I'm not sure if this is one of those "Duhhh..., stupid question" questions, but I had to ask.


And hoping for an early death you swam so far you lost your breath, and struggling in the ebb and flow I took your hand, but you let go...
And now the ocean fills your lungs, and now you've got what you had come for, resting peaceful as you sink to drown under a sea of strangers.

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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2005 11:12:50 AM »

I'm in Ithaca...  I think that the worms aren't the typical "earth worm" species, so they might not do as well in earth-like conditions.

I might consider doing a bin inside...  but I don't know where I'd put it, I don't know how I'd keep it from smelling funny, and I don't know how I'd get the resulting compost/castings separated from the worms if I don't have some space to work.

Cornell Cooperative Extension must have info on vermicomposting, I know they do a lot with composting, so I might check with them and get back to you.
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2005 01:00:05 PM »

what do they do in the winter while in the ground?

I asked the worm lady, "What do your worms do in the winter?"  and she said, "Eat."  Then she said she discovered that putting down a decent amount of manure helps her worms survive the winter... when manure decomposes it creates heat, so I guess that make sense!

She said before she realized this she heated her pits with "wires" and I'm not sure what that means, but if you can figure out how to keep them above 40 they should be fine.  Maybe a heating pad, or even building a cold frame?

I'm keeping mine in my kitchen year-round (I'm on the third floor of an apartment complex) and technically there shouldn't be any smell problems so long as you cover the food you put in with bedding and aren't over feeding your worms.  We'll see if that's true!

Also, when you harvest your compost, do you just, like, skim it off the top of the bin? Or just scoop it out, worms and all, and add it to your garden?

There are a few ways to harvest your compost when the time comes, here are 5 different ways you can try:

1) Manual sort.  This might be a fun project if you have kids, but I'm definitely not going to do it this way
2) Start feeding your worms in just one side of the bin for week or so.  Then remove the castings from the other side and hopefully most of the worms will have moved out.
3) Push all your compost to one side, and then place fresh bedding/food on the other.  Wait about a month and harvest the hopefully worm-free castings on the one side of your bin
4) Take your bin outside and dump it all out on a sheet.  Make small piles of compost.  The worms, being light sensitive, will burrow under the piles.  Scoop off the top of each pile (exposing the worms and letting them burrow again) until all you have left are the worms.
5) You can scoop it out, worms and all, but then you won't have any worms left when you want to start again!

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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2005 11:54:10 PM »

we had worm compost when i was living in the yukon, and they definitely wouldn't have been happy outside! we kept ours in the basement where it was warm and pretty dark a lot of the time.

the smell wasn't bad, you don't notice it except when you're mixing it. and we were really careful to not put bitter or cirtusy stuff in it, so it stayed pretty healthy. and obviously, no meat or animal by products!

for more information, check out your city's recycling program. that's how we got set up in whitehorse, and i know that the recycling program in the city i grew up in did workshops on worm composting and stuff like that as well. it seems pretty common, though i have noticed that recycling doesn't seem as popular in the US, so maybe you won't be as lucky.

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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2005 05:46:39 PM »

One way to help them keep warm outside would be to dig a hole the size of your bin and sink the bin into the ground where the top was just above the ground surface. This is what a lot of people do with cold frames, because it is several degrees warmer underground than on the surface. I don't know if it would be warm enough in extreme cold, but it would help if you only have a mild winter.
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2005 04:46:06 AM »

Another tip for harvesting without having to manual-sort the worms out:
Get one of those plastic mesh bags that onions or oranges or such come in.
Put a piece of fruit in (worms like the sugary stuff - 1/2 a melon (or chunks) seems to be a favourite!
Then bury it in one corner. The wormies will all run/slither into the mesh for their treat and then you can just remove the mesh bag with the worms and get on with the harvest.

I don't have a bin right now, but I did when I lived in Vancouver, and I was able to keep them outdoors year-round. I just pushed the bin up against the sliding glass door (single paned - sigh) to keep them that much warmer.

There's some good info here: www.cityfarmer.org, and a Nat'l Geo story here:

Three cheers for vermiculture!
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2005 11:05:27 AM »

this is awesome! i was just tinkering around with the idea of vermicomposting!  i have bunches of earthworms in my garden as is and plan to use those. thanks for the tute!

"Don't you let nobody tell you that you can't do nothin. You can do whatevah you put your mind to!" - wise words from my Granny when I was 5 years old.
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2005 12:04:02 PM »

Someone jump in and correct me if I'm wrong...  but I don't think that earthworms are the best species for vermicomposting.

From what I've read, you should use red worms, not the ones from your garden.

Oh, and if anyone here lives in Vancouver, your city rocks my socks.
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2005 03:31:00 PM »

how funny. my boyfriend was just trying to convince me that composting with worms wouldn't stink up our apartment. i didn't believe him til i read your post. thanks for the tutorial!

« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2005 08:41:48 PM »

Thats great THANKS!

« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2006 05:30:13 AM »

heehee my family used to own a big worm farm.... our beds were actually brick, but they were also pretty permanently in the ground

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« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2006 03:31:10 PM »

Question, what happens in the winter? Do the worm hibernate or something?
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« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2006 06:12:57 AM »

You have to keep them above 40d or they die. You have to either heat the bin with a heating coil or keep it in a warmer place (inside?)

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« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2006 08:11:10 AM »

Sometimes I think that my compost area is the ugliest area of my home....and my dog always seem to get all the scraps out and eat them no matter how hard I try and cover them. This is something I really want to try and I thank you for the tute. My husband and I have tried using an old swimming pool for a "worm hotel" but  alas...my dog loves to dig.....swimming pool full of worms and dirt....how can you blame him...HE'S A DOG!
 I'm trying the "in-home" worm hotel for sure. I think I could use a bigger one because all my husband and I eat is fresh food, so theres TONS of food scraps daily, but being a crafter...I have MANY tubs, containers, what-have-you, just right for this job....I really don't even think I need to get ANYTHING!......... I have manure and compost, a big tub and lid, leaves...oh yea...worms is all I need! We have a bunch of pumpkins and squash growing out of our compost trying to detour our dog from wanting the scraps....I am really excited about not having to throw my food scraps right on top of my squash now!
I am doing this soon if not today!
Thank you so much...............COMPOST ON! Sustainable organic farming and living is the way to our (better) future!

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« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2007 04:09:09 PM »

yippee! my dh gave me a vermiposting book for Christmas and I have just finished studying it! i'm about to begin making my worm hotel!
thanks for the advice against the earthworms in my garden! i'll let you know how it works out!


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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2007 01:15:14 PM »

That is the most ingenious idea!  I might have to twist my husband's arm to do something similar!

« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2008 10:02:48 AM »

How hot is too hot for these little creatures?  I would like to make a worm hotel of my own but keep it out on my balcony.  I live in Southern GA, and it gets pretty warm during the mid afternoon.  (90's with high humidity).  I don't want to fry the little buggers, but I don't have room inside.

« Reply #24 on: August 30, 2008 12:31:01 AM »

Someone likes their worms too much...
« Reply #25 on: August 30, 2008 02:53:27 AM »

Thanks so much for the awesome tute and all of the information! My husband and I have been talking about digging a compost pit but he's been hedging it off. Now that I know it can be done on a relatively small scale, in such a compact way, and on a budget I'm super stoked to get it done. Thanks so much. This *ROCKS*
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« Reply #26 on: September 06, 2008 02:05:00 PM »

Thank-you SO much!  You are awesome.  Love your tute!

« Reply #27 on: September 22, 2008 05:44:20 PM »

I have been planning on doing a worm bin for some time. I just have to make time. I read in "Worms eat my garbage" that less depth and more surface area is a better way to go. The worms are less likely to borrow and more likely to eat the kitchen scraps. Avoid cheese and meat because these are what make the bins start to smell and it may attract flies (and pets or other pests).

« Reply #28 on: October 08, 2008 09:52:09 AM »

great tute. wish I knew about the screens when I tried this. My worms got a litle on the dry or wet side (still not sure) and found a way out. I was picking little worm carcasses out of the living room rug for months. I even found one carcass over a year later!

« Reply #29 on: October 08, 2008 12:55:18 PM »

Hee- I posted pics of my own worm bin on the other compost post:


I admit, I do put a little newspaper in there along with tea grounds.  I feel like as long as it is mixed in with a bunch of other vegetable goodness, the compost will be o.k.  Also, I read somewhere that you can add a couple of crushed egg shells for calcium!  (Not the yolk part though, I think that might be too fatty/protein-y). 

Still trying to figure out what I will do now that the cold is setting in.

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« Reply #30 on: May 05, 2009 06:55:24 PM »

Wow, your worms come from about 15 minutes away from my house, and I've never heard of a worm farm. Inspired!
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« Reply #31 on: May 06, 2009 12:02:08 PM »

Thanks for sharing that awesome Tutorial.

When we have proper bike storage I think we will acquire some worms.


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« Reply #32 on: May 06, 2009 05:17:43 PM »

Thank you so much for posting this! I've almost bought an indoor composter so many times, and for so much more money! We live in North Dakota, and 9 months out of the year, its way to cold for anything to compost and breakdown outside, this will be perfect.
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« Reply #33 on: May 06, 2009 08:03:35 PM »

Hurrah! We have composting worms and I love them! My son's friends (and their parents too for that matter) never believe me when I say "Do you know what's in there?" while pointing to our worm hotel.

I'll take the worms as pets over my son's stinky goldfish any day.

« Reply #34 on: June 14, 2009 08:01:43 AM »

Oh, vermicomposting looks very tempting and I think I will try to build my own worm farm now!

One question though: you don't seem to have drilled holes in the bottom of your worm hotel. Most commercial worm farms have a drain or something of that sort on the bottom to regulate the fluids that can accumulate in worm farms. What's your strategy when the bin gets too wet? Or, for that matter, how do you counteract your worms drowning in muck?

« Reply #35 on: June 25, 2009 05:17:02 PM »

That's what the cut out slats in the bottom were for, I thought?

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« Reply #36 on: July 05, 2009 04:21:51 PM »

Neat DIY project! We need one of these for when we go fishing. Especially when fishing worms are going for over $2.50 a dozen. Ouch!

« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2009 01:12:16 PM »

This is great! I've been storing my food scrapes in biodegradable trash bags to haul off to my parents' once a week (30 minutes away from where I live). It isn't a very efficient (or odorless) system. I think I'll try your tute and set up shop in my kitchen. Thanks for the link on worm nutrition, too. I've been dumping anything that Nature will break down in my bags (including lots and lots of tea bags), so I'll remember to be more picky. Thanks for sharing! Cheesy
« Reply #38 on: August 03, 2009 11:20:31 AM »

I was really interested in doing this along with other go green projects I had lined up but my family has been discouraging me so I thought I would ask some questions before I did this.
It seems very simple to do this but I just can't find the worms in my area to do this. I know I'm probably going to have to order them online but I live in Texas. Will they survive the trip? It's been 100 degrees almost everyday.
Once I do get them will I have to leave the box inside? Does it smell with all the food scraps in there? Does it attract bugs?
I really wanted to do this but I haven't gotten the encouragment that I was hoping for. I've already stopped using my dryer and taken advantage of the heat to use less electricity. This project and a garden box were next on my list. But now I'm stuck. Please help. Thanks! 

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« Reply #39 on: August 20, 2009 09:32:49 AM »

I feel like I wouldn't have enough food to justify having one...
its just my dad and I, and we're not the fresh-est eaters in the world.

Most of what I put in my (outdoor) compost pile is just waste from the garden; tomatoes that didn't make it, dead plants, etc.

I'm not quite sure what could go in a bin like this... would teabags be any good? Or coffee grounds?
« Reply #40 on: April 05, 2010 12:05:34 AM »

EXCELLENT tutorial!!  Thank you very much for posting it!  I have been wanting to start my own little worm colony for composting and eventually adding to my garden... now I shall!   Cheesy Cheesy

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