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Vermiculture is a fancy name for worm farming.  Worm compost is a nutrient rich soil amendment that can be used in your garden.  Composting with worms is an easy way to dispose of kitchen scraps and small amounts of garden debris.  The secret to easy vermiculture is creating an environment perfectly suited to red worms and feeding them a diet that will keep them healthy and happy.

You can easily make a worm bin.  Make sure the bin is placed where it won't flood, and it should be placed in a spot that is shady for most of the day in summer.  For a family, a 2 x 4 foot bin is a good size.  The worms must be red worms (Eisenia foetida) because they are resistant to heat and cold, they stay in the bin, and they quickly break down organic matter leaving worm castings.  You'll need about a pound to get started.  Worms can be purchased from local nurseries for about $20-30. 

Materials needed:

  • One 2" x 12" board cut into two 4-foot long sections and two 2-foot long sections
  • Tough wire mesh no larger than 1/4" cut into 2-foot wide x 4-foot long
  • A piece of plywood at least 1/2" thick cut into 2-foot wide x 4-foot long
  • 2 brackets to attach the plywood to the wooden box
  • Rigid insulation at least 5/8" thick cut into 2-foot wide x 4-foot long

Dig a hole one foot deep by 2 feet wide and 4 feet long.  Nail together the boards to form a rectangular box.  Attach the wire mesh to the bottom to keep rodents and other predators out.  Cover the top with the piece of plywood attached to the box with the brackets.  Slip the bin into the hole in the ground and back-fill with dirt around the outside of the bin. 

Worms need bedding both under and over them.  Newspaper, office paper, and corrugated cardboard shredded into 1/4-inch to 1-inch wide strips are commonly used materials.  Immerse shredded strips in water, drain completely, then fluff them inside the bin.  Add a few handfuls of moist soil to the bedding to provide the worms with grit necessary for digesting their food.  Keep the bedding moist but never soggy.  Add worms and green waste (food scraps such as cereals, bread, soft fruits and vegetables, etc.) and then cover with the insulation. 

After feeding your worms soft foods for the first week or two, add crushed egg shells and tougher vegetables along with coffee grounds and other organic wastes.  Worms will also eat chopped leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and flower stalks.  Avoid feeding them meat products, dairy products, or oily products.

After 6-12 months, you will have nutrient-rich castings fertilizer to add to your garden bed!

Additional resources:

Putting Worms to Work and Keeping Them Happy



Vermiculture - Composting With Worms video series


Worm Bin