How to Build a Worm Composter

How to Build a Worm Composter image by Photo courtesy of net_efekt's Flickr page:


Dark, fluffy worm compost is a rich soil amendment. However, only certain types of worms (small red worms) specialize in decomposing plant waste. That can make worm compost difficult to find or expensive. The easiest way to get a hold of the best compost is to create it yourself with a worm composter. Fortunately, making one out of a wooden bin or plastic garbage can is easy.

Step 1

Drill at least four ½-inch holes 4 to 6 inches from the bottom of the plastic garbage can. Space the holes around the garbage can. Next drill a similar number of holes 3 to 4 inches below the rim. This creates a good air circulation system that allows oxygen to enter and moisture to exit.

Step 2

Fill the bottom 6 inches of the can with gravel. This stabilizes the container so it does not tip over. It also creates a drainage area so the worms do not drown in the moisture created by the decomposing materials.

Step 3

Cut a piece of plywood so it fits in the container atop the gravel. Drill several holes in the plywood to allow moisture to seep into the gravel.

Step 4

Add 6 to 12 inches of damp bedding material. Worm bedding can be strips of newspaper, shredded cardboard, old compost or leaf mold. Do not add raw, uncomposted material to this layer.

Step 5

Add the red worms to the top of the bedding layer.

Step 6

Apply a thin layer of worm food (five to seven pints) over half the surface. Their food can include many food scraps, such as vegetable peelings, eggshells, fruit peelings, shredded paper, coffee grounds, tea leaves, onion skins, and egg cartons. Avoid dairy products and meat because of the odor. Place the next layer of worm food on the half you did not use the first time. Repeat the process every time you add food. Keep lid closed when not adding food or bedding.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep the worm composter out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will create enough internal heat to cook the worms. Do not use common worms or earthworms. They are not suitable and do not recycle the materials that would be put in the composter.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • 30-gallon Plastic Garbage Can
  • Gravel
  • Plywood
  • Bedding Material
  • Worms
  • Worm Food
  • Newspaper


  • Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Pauline Pears, 2005

Who Can Help

  • Garden Worms
Keywords: worm, compost, gardening, recycling

About this Author

Karen Carter spent three years as a technology specialist in the public school system and her writing has appeared in the "Willapa Harbor Herald" and the "Rogue College Byline." She has an Associate of Arts from Rogue Community College with a certificate in computer information systems.

Photo by: Photo courtesy of net_efekt's Flickr page: