Make Your Own Worm Composting Bin

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Worm composting, or Vermicomposting, is a good way to recycle the organic waste you produce into a soil conditioner. Worm composting can be done indoors and outdoors and is great way for apartment dwellers to participate in composting.

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Yesterday, at a gardening event, I came across this demonstration of a worm composting bin by the U of I Extension. You can build your own worm composting bin or you can purchase a plastic storage container like they did.

Choose a bin
If building your own or using reclaimed materials isn’t to your liking then select a plastic container 8-12 inches deep. Drill about 12 holes in the bottom for ventilation and drainage, between 1/4 -1/2 inch wide. Drill at least four holes of the same size on each side of the plastic bin about halfway between the top and the bottom.

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The lid of your worm composting bin also needs holes for ventilation. I like how they covered the larger openings in the lid by gluing plastic screen to the underside of the lid. This keeps out larger bugs and pests while providing good airflow.

Your worms will need a damp bedding to live in and for to you bury the kitchen scraps that you’ll be feeding them. Shredded cardboard, newspaper and leaves make good bedding. Make sure the bedding is only damp and not soaking wet or your worm bin may be too soggy and continuously leak.

What Kind of Worms
Eisenia fetida is the scientific name for “red wrigglers” which are the compost worms you want. These worms are different from earthworms and nightcrawlers which you can find in your garden. You can purchase red wrigglers online from various outlets. I’d recommend buying them locally from a community gardening group like the one called God’s Gang, 773-264-2652, and I’m told the bait vendor at Montrose harbor is a also a good source.

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What to feed your Worms
Last winter I was watching Law & Order and in the opening scene the police find a dead woman in a community garden. One of the police officers turned to the other and told him he was sure the killer wasn’t a gardener because everyone knows the first rule of compost is no meat. Besides meat; don’t add oily foods and dairy products to your worm compost bin, unless you like unpleasant odors and pests. Do feed your worms the peels from your vegetables and fruits, coffee grounds and pulverized egg shells.

Where to place your Worm Composting Bin
A good place for your worm composting bin would be under your kitchen sink where you’ll have it at arm’s length when you’re preparing food and can dispose of your scraps. Closets, porches, basements and garages would also be good places during the winter. In the spring and summer you can keep your worm bin outdoors in your yard, porch or patio where it is protected from hot sun and heavy rains.

For more information on worm composting and composting in general check out these local resources:

Master Composter Training Program
Offered every fall by University of Illinois Extension, Contact Nancy Kreith (she’s the one holding the young worms in photo above), 773-233-0476.

Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N Central Park Ave., 773-638-1766,

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3807 W 111th Street 773-233-0476

Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N Sacramento Blvd., 312-746-9642


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  • I compost outdoors, but have been tempted to make a worm bin so I don't have tromp outside with kitchen scraps in the winter.

  • I also compost outside (with a smaller bin next to my back door for winter convenience), but a friend had done vermicomposting and it worked out quite well.

  • SSGardenGirl & GardenFaerie,

    Been thinking about an outdoor system ever since we saw the one at the Bayless garden. Probably couldn't get the same amount of compost out of it like he does, but I could try.

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