How to Start a Compost Bug Pile


Vermicomposting, or composting with compost worms, is a great way to compost if your live in an apartment or other small space and have no room to house a large bin. The small bugs or worms responsible for composting in these piles essentially do all the work. Once you add material to the pile, you don't even have to turn it. As the worms eat their body weight in compost daily, they turn, aerate and decompose at the same time.

Step 1

Determine what size vermicompost bin you will need. Weigh the amount of vegan household food scraps (no animal products, oils or cheeses---eggshells are OK) your family produces in one week. You will need one square foot of bin surface area per pound of food.

Step 2

Wash your compost bin and lid with soap and water. Then rinse it clean for at least 30 seconds.

Step 3

Drill six to eight half-inch drainage holes in the bottom of your vermicompost bin (if it does not come equipped with them or if you are recycling or repurposing another container).

Step 4

Raise the bottom of the vermicompost bin off of the ground by placing the blocks of wood beneath it. Place a drip tray underneath the bin to catch any draining fluid (this fluid can be poured on your garden bed as organic fertilizer, or "compost tea").

Step 5

Shred bedding material to fill the bottom 2/3 to 3/4 of the compost pile. Use a variety of materials that are absorbent and high in cellulose. Corrugated cardboard is ideal, shredded paper or newsprint works well but is less absorbent, and commercial worm bedding works well but is expensive.

Step 6

Submerge the shredded material in a container filled with water and allow it to absorb water until it is saturated. Then wring it out so that it is damp, not soaking. Keep the bedding damp by spraying it with water periodically if it is dry to the touch.

Step 7

Add the bedding to the vermicompost bin and fluff it with your hands so that there is plenty of air space between individual pieces.

Step 8

Add 500 worms to your pile per cubic foot of bin space available. Spread them over the top of the bedding. They will burrow their way inside in a few minutes.

Step 9

Add vegan food scraps and yard waste to the bin gradually. Put all material to be vermicomposted through a food processor or finely chop it before adding it to the pile. Start by adding a very thin layer of scattered food material to the surface of the pile accompanied by a tablespoon of coffee grounds, sand or other gritty material to aid in the vermicompost worms' digestion. Gradually add more food to the pile as it matures. Use your nose as a guide. If the pile starts to stink, hold back on food for a week to give the worms time to eat what's there. Each time you add the food, place it in a different section of the pile. Bury it under different layers of the bedding so that you don't get large piles of food.

Step 10

Keep the lid placed loosely on the vermicompost bin to keep flies and other insects out.

Tips and Warnings

  • You cannot compost with common garden earthworms.

Things You'll Need

  • Vermicompost bin
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch bit
  • 2 blocks of wood
  • Drip tray
  • Bedding material
  • Container
  • Spray bottle
  • Food processor
  • Knife
  • Brandling worms (Eisenia foetida) or red worms (Lumbricus
  • rubellus)


  • New Mexico State University: Vermicomposting
  • University of Nebraska: Vermicomposting
  • North Carolina Compost Council: Vermicomposting
Keywords: vermicompost, compost bugs, compost bin

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.