The following is a step-by-step process in building and maintaining your own worm compost system.
Step 1: Getting Started
Two plastic bins, one with lid.
(You should assess how much compost you will generate on a monthly basis to determine capacity. We’ve used 15 gallon Rubbermaid bins in anticipation of expanding our system.
One tray (to place under stacked bins as liquid catchment)
*Third bin or lid can be substituted for tray
Drill and 3/8” hole bit
Two food containers i.e:) yogurt or cottage cheese containers
Approximately one quart of dried leaves or mulch from yard
Few sheets of newspaper (no color ink)
Approximately one quart of soil
Couple dozen red wigglers (Eisenia foetida)
Step 2: Drilling Bottom Bin
With 3/8” drill bit, drill several holes in bottom of the first bin. This will act as drainage for the liquid that is naturally created by the worm’s work. This is the bin that will be placed upon the tray.
Step 3: Drilling Top/Second Bin
With 3/8 drill bit, repeat step two in the bottom of the remaining bin. These holes will serve as passageways for your worms to travel from the bottom bin (once the compost is satisfactorily decomposed) into the top to repeat the process.
Step 4: Drill a Few Air Holes
Drill 3/8” holes at very top of second bin on sides (not lid.) These holes will promote air circulation and prevent anaerobic conditions. Make sure that they are located on the top of the bins where the lid will prevent any water from getting in and making things too wet. If it is your intention to keep your bins inside, which is easily done, than you need not worry about the rain factor and can place your air holes wherever you like on the top bin.
Step 5: Set Up Containers for Support
In bottom of first bin set up a few kitchen containers to hold the weight of the upper bin.
Step 6: Tear Recycled Newspaper
Tear up a little recycled newspaper for bedding in the bottom of the bin (approximately 2” deep not packed, or one open full sheet.)
Step 7: Spread Leaves As Second Layer
Spread a few handfuls of local leaf mulch on top of your newspaper. If you do not have access to either newspaper or leaves, one or the other will suffice.
Step 8: Spread Soil As Thrid Layer
On top of newspaper and mulch layer sprinkle a little soil. These three elements (newspaper, leaves, soil) will act as the bed for your new composting worms.
Step 9: Introduce Red Wigglers
Introduce your red wigglers to their new home and sprinkle a little more soil on top of the worms. The cumulative depth of all these layers should be less deep than the height of your kitchen containers supporting the upper bin. The distance between the topsoil layer and the top of your containers will be where you place your kitchen scraps.
Step 10: Assemble, and Voila!
Place second bin on top of the first bin that you’ve filled with mulch and worms. The holes you drilled in the topside of this bin should be above the top of the bin that it is sitting in. Place lid on top bin, and bottom bin on tray.
To start, the top bin will remain empty and just serve as a lid for the bottom. However, once the bottom bin’s material has been broken down, you should begin placing your kitchen scraps directly in the bottom of the second, or upper bin. Then you will want to cover this layer with soil and or mulch again to prevent the attraction of bugs and the release of unpleasant odors. The worms will naturally travel up through the holes you’ve drilled in the bottom of the bin toward the fresh food, leaving the first layer completed and worm free, ready to be used.