How to Care for Compost Worms

Overview

Composting with worms is an efficient way to transform kitchen waste into a useful soil amendment. Worm composting can be done in small spaces, making it ideal for apartment dwellers or anyone for whom a backyard compost bin is impractical. Worms consume kitchen scraps and transform them into nutrient-rich worm castings, which can be used to fertilize houseplants or spread on the lawn. Worms don't make noise and a properly maintained worm compost bin doesn't smell. Caring for the worms is easy.

Step 1

Provide a proper home for your worms. Worms should be in an opaque container deep enough for them to get away from the light, but shallow enough that they have easy access to food, since the red wriggler worms used for worm composting feed near the surface. A plastic storage container or old wooden dresser drawer can make a good home for worms.

Step 2

Fill the container with shredded newspaper and/or cardboard. This will provide bedding for the worms. The bedding needs to hold moisture but also allow for air, so it needs to be fairly light.

Step 3

Cover the bin loosely with a piece of cardboard of burlap. This keeps out light, holds in moisture and helps limit pests.

Step 4

Give the worms enough food but not too much. For example, 1 lb. of red worms can consume about 1/2 lb. of garbage a day, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service. Too much food will result in a soggy, smell bin.

Step 5

Keep the worm bin moist but not too moist. Worms need moisture, but the bedding shouldn't be soggy. Drain holes in the bin will keep water from pooling at the bottom and causing problems.

Step 6

Avoid the addition of too much acid material such as citrus peels. This upsets the pH of the bin and can cause the worms to die.

Step 7

Divide the worms as they multiply. After six months to a year, remove about half the worms from the bin and start another one, or give these to a friend to start her own worm composting system.

Things You'll Need

  • Worm bin
  • Newspaper or cardboard
  • Burlap
  • Kitchen scraps

References

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Vermicomposting
  • University of Florida: Online Composting Center

Who Can Help

  • Washington State University: Composting With Worms
Keywords: care for compost worms, worm composting system, worm bin

About this Author

Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.