How to Raise Healthy Compost Worms


Vermicomposting uses red worms to turn organic kitchen waste into healthy soil and works well for those who have limited space, such as apartment dwellers, because the worm bin can be kept inside in a dark cabinet, spare room or garage with no odor or other unpleasantness. Worms have voracious appetites and require little care beyond being provided the basics. Raising healthy compost worms ensures your worm bin long life with few problems.

Step 1

Use a plastic 5-gallon storage bin or a purchased worm box with plenty of drainage holes. Create your own by drilling ¼-inch holes 2 inches apart around the bottom side edges and bottom panel of the box.

Step 2

Provide ventilation holes so the worms get oxygen: Drill 1/4-inch holes every 2 to 3 inches in rows on the lid of the box.

Step 3

Fill the box loosely with shredded newspaper. Mist with a spray bottle, squeezing the paper between each spray until it as as moist as a squeezed out sponge.

Step 4

Add one to two handfuls of healthy garden soil to the bedding whenever you add fresh bedding. Use any soil except pure compost; worms require the dirt as grit to aid digestion and compost doesn't suffice.

Step 5

Place 1 pound of worms in the bedding material (approximately 1,000). Use red worms, also called red wigglers, for vermicomposting due to their appetite and ability to live in a small bin. Purchase from fishing bait shops or garden centers.

Step 6

Feed the worms no more than three times a week and avoid going longer than two weeks without feeding. One pound of worms eats approximately 1/2 pound of food a day. Feed them only vegetable waste.

Step 7

Bury the food under the bedding and place in a different section of the box each time to encourage the worms to move around and keep one area from rotting. Avoid placing food in the same section twice until all the original food has been eaten from that area. Remove any items not eaten within one month.

Step 8

Check the newspaper for moisture content if the worms are dying or not feeding. If dry, add more moist paper. If water is collecting in the bottom of the bin, add dry newspaper: The worms may be drowning. If moisture levels are fine, remove all remaining food and start feeding with fresh food. Start with one feeding a week and add more food after the first feeding is gone. Acidic food such as citrus fruits and coffee grounds must be balanced with starches and vegetables.

Step 9

Harvest the compost once it is brown and crumbly, and most of the newspaper is gone--approximately two to three months. Stop feedings for one week prior to harvest. Move the compost to one end of the bin and place fresh newspaper bedding in the other end with a handful of dirt. Bury food in the fresh bedding. Wait one week for the worms to move into the new bedding then remove the compost from the bin. Fill rest of the bin with fresh bedding.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not place meats, dairy or oils in the box. This will sicken the worms and attract pests. Cease feeding if the food is not being consumed to give the worms a chance to catch up.

Things You'll Need

  • Worm box
  • Drill
  • Newspaper
  • Spray bottle
  • Soil
  • Food waste


  • Washington State University Extension
  • University of Illinois Extension
Keywords: vermicomposting care, raising compost worms, making garden soil

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.