Worm Bins
Which One Is Right For You?

There are so many different worm bins on the market; how will you ever know which one to choose? This decision can be quite overwhelming, but don't fret, we're here to help.

If you've got questions about worm compost bins, we hope that the information on this page can answer them. We've compiled the best worm compost bin tips, tricks, and advice from a variety of experts and now we're offering them to you.

Once you find, or make, your first bin, you'll be one step closer to being able to create free organic fertilizer for your gardens, houseplants, and lawn. Worm bins are also an incredible way to start composting indoors, and if you're anything like us, your bin will quickly become the topic of discussion when you're entertaining company. Lastly, vermiculture (i.e. composting with worms) is an excellent way to introduce composting to kids.

Worm Compost Bin Materials

Worm bins can be made of almost any material, however, wood and plastic are the most common. Below are several advantages and disadvantages to each material.

Wooden Bins

Advantages

  • Wood is very porous, so it allows a significant amount of oxygen into your bin. Oxygen is critical to your worm's survival
  • If built right, wooden bins can be quite eye-catching.
  • Wood is a better insulating material than plastic. This is a great feature if you plan to keep your bin in a cooler location during the winter months.

Disadvantages

  • Wood bins tend to deteriorate quite quickly (usually within 3-4 years).
  • These bins tend to weight quite a bit more than plastic bins, especially once they are full of bedding and worms
  • The bedding inside of a wooden bin tends to dry out more quickly than the bedding in a plastic bin. This is due to the increased oxygen and circulation within wooden bins (both a blessing and a curse).

Wooden Worm Bin


CAUTION - Never use pressure-treated lumber to build your worm bin. This lumber has been treated with a variety of chemicals that can become quite toxic to your worms.

Plastic Bins

Advantages

  • Plastic worm bins require very little work to build/assemble.
  • Plastic bins are readily available from a number of composting worm suppliers.
  • Plastic bins are very light in weight compared to wooden bins. This is definitely something to consider if your going to be using your worms to teach composting to your kids.

Disadvantages

  • Plastic is not porous, so it tends to hold moisture. This can have its advantages, however, most of the time you'll want to ensure a plastic bin also has some sort of drain, so it doesn't lead to anaerobic conditions in your bin. Worms enjoy moisture, but they're not very good swimmers. Please see the image below to see how one compost junkie overcame drainage issues in her homemade worm bin.

    Note - If you plan to use the liquid (worm leachate) that drains from your bin, please read the following information before using it on your plants.

  • You will need to drill more air holes into a plastic bin than you would a wooden bin, because plastic bins don't breathe as well.
  • Plastic bins tend to heat up more in warmer months, which can present problems for your worms, since they prefer cool, moist environments.

Update - March 2012

We no longer recommend using plastic bins for your worms. Find out why - Ixnay Your Plastic Worm Composting System


Plastic Worm Bin 1

Plastic Worm Bin 2

The Ideal Size for a Bin

Size is one of the main considerations when deciding which worm bin is right for you.

First of all, you have to consider where you are going to locate your bin. Please do not place your bin in direct sun, it will create far too much heat, and you risk killing your worms.

Second, you have to consider how much food waste your household generates. Are there vegetarians in your household? We have two in our house, so we produce a lot more worm waste than an average non-vegetarian household.

Below are two sets of guidelines for helping you determine the ideal size of your worm bin. We suggest you choose one and apply it to your living situation.

1. Your bin should have one square foot of surface area for each one pound of waste your household generates per week.

2. Your bin should have two square feet of surface area for each person in your household.

The Best Shape for a Bin

Composting worms (i.e. red wigglers) are a surface-dwelling species of worm. They enjoy eating thier food from underneath it. That is why when you feed your worms, you'll tuck your food scraps just underneath the surface of their bedding. Then your worms will come up from below it, and feast to their hearts content.

The greater the surface area for your worms to feed, the happier they will be and the faster you'll produce organic vermicastings, aka worm poop.

Ideally, your bin will be between 8-12" in depth. We recommend that your bin is no deeper than 18".

One of the great features offered by some commercial bins is that they have multiple levels. These multi-level designs create a huge amount of surface area, while still maintaining a small footprint overall.

Another benefit to shallow bins, with increased surface area, is that they allow for more oxygen exchange. This principle is quite similar to the one used when buying a fish aquarium. The greater the surface area of exposed water on top of the aquarium, the more oxygen exchange, and the better the environment for the fish.

Tips for Worm Bins

Tip #1

If your worm bin is too moist, you may need to add more bedding material, or consider adding a drain to your bin. This can be as easy as punching a few holes the bottom, and raising it off the ground.

Tip #2

If the materials in your bin are drying out too quickly, try pre-digesting the bedding materials before adding them to your bin. We like to use newspaper for our bedding materials, so we'll take a bunch of shredded paper, put it in a container, add a couple handfuls of finished compost or garden soil (to inoculate it), and then saturate it with water. We then allow this mixture to sit for a few days, while monitoring its moisture levels (you don't want it to be soaking wet, but at the same time, you don't want it to dry out). Then we add this pre-digested bedding to our bins.

Another option to try if your bin is drying out too quickly is to coat the inside of it with cooking oil. Just put some olive oil on a paper towel, and rub it into the inside of your bin.

Tip #3

If you're using a wooden bin, and find that it is rotting, try alternating between two different bins. This will allow one worm compost bin to completely dry out, while the other is in use, and vice versa.

Tip #4

If you're interested in placing your worm composting bin outdoors, you may want to reinforce it against rodents, and other pests. You can secure the lid by using a latch or weight, and you can secure the air holes by placing screens over top of them. We typically recommend using window screening, and stapling small pieces of it over all of the bin's holes.

Remember, avoid placing your worm bin in direct sunlight.

Here is a great story about one of our Tribe members and her incredible worm composting bins.

buy composting wormsBuy Worms!

Now that you've got your bin figured out, you're going to need to order your worms. The best place to buy worms for composting is online from compostjunkie.com. We work hard to bring you the healthiest worms at the best prices.

Click on the image of the worms to the right and it will take you to our store, where you'll be able to purchase your composting worms.