How to Make Your Own Worm Composter for Under $30

I’ve been vermicomposting (the fancy word for using worms to make compost) for many years but I’ve always used a commercial bin. The problem is that one little bin doesn’t make a lot of composter and I really want to ramp up my production.

I wanted a bigger bin and relatively inexpensive so decided to make my own. After some research, I pulled together this DIY worm composter, which is so far working great!

Why Worm Composting?

The presence of worms is a sign of excellent, nutrient rich soil. Worms not only aerate and mix the soil they also eat the organic matter in the soil and what they excrete is incredibly nutrient dense. So, it’s not surprising that someone, somewhere came up with the idea of concentrating this worm superpower into a controlled container with kitchen scraps.

That’s essentially what a vermicomposter is! A contained worm habitat you can throw your food scraps into. The resulting compost is not only high in the traditional fertilizer nutrients, N,P and K, it also contains good levels of other helpful micronutrients like Calcium, Chloride and Magnesium as well as beneficial microorganisms. It’s like regular compost on steroids!

Nothing’s THAT Perfect…

My problem with my vermicomposter is that it is slow (mostly my fault) and produces a fairly small amount. Basically, it produces enough to do a light top dressing on my potted plants maybe twice a year. I also frequently forget about it and have to scrounge for scraps to feed. Thankfully, I’ve only killed my worms once in 10ish years. Also, I tend to make a production of harvesting the compost because I’m disorganized. Harvesting and resetting the composter is really NOT that big of a deal.

My Composting Goals

For the garden, I need to up my compost production by a LOT. To be honest, I’ve never fully mastered composting and I want to start making enough compost at a fast enough clip to never have to buy any. Without major farm animals, this is going to be tricky, but I do have bunnies and will eventually have chickens at least.

Secondly, I’d like to sell compost! It is probably regulated by the USDA or something but if I can do it I’d like to, at least locally. I dream of combining my vermicompost with my bunny manure to make a super compost! Bunny droppings and vermicompost are two of the most nutrient dense organic fertilizers! This is way out of my expertise but we all need a dream! So what if mine involves poop and worms!

Before my fancies carry me away, I am doing a pilot year with a new DIY worm composter. I’m pleased with it so far, so thought it would be good to share here.

The New Composter

What you’ll need:

  • 2 opaque (not clear) storage bins at least 10 gallons in size with at least 1 lid
  • A drill with 5/16″ drill bit (this isn’t an exact since – you’ll want to make holes an average pen could slide through. A little bigger or smaller is fine).
  • Coconut Coir (this is my favorite as a base for the bedding but it does have cons and there are other options such as moistened cardboard, dried leaves, straw etc….)
  • Spacers to keep one bin sitting higher up in the other bin (Picture below) – I used jam jars.
  • Roughly 2 cups of dirt from the garden
  • About a cup of finished Compost
  • Paper, such as newspaper, moistened

Instructions

1.In one of the bins drill holes. You want to put a few in the bottom for drainage. If the bottom is ridged be sure to put holes in the deepest part of the ridging where the water will pool. You also want to put a ring of holes around the top of the bin just below the bin’s lip. These holes are to make sure some air gets into the bin.

2. In the bin that has had no holes drilled, aka the unholey bin, place your two spacer items and then set the holey bin into it. It should set up enough that the air holes can be seen above the rim of the bottom bin.

3. In the holey bin place enough coconut coir so that it is about 2″ deep. Then mix in the garden soil and finished compost.

4. Time to add the worms! I actually divided my worms out of my existing vermicomposter but if you are just starting, buy 1,000 red wigglers. I got my original worms online from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm which is pretty ubiquitous.

5. Place a layer of the moistened paper over the top of everything. The paper can be shredded or in sheets and just put enough of a layer to cover things and give the worms some privacy. You’ll need to keep this paper just slightly damp.

6. Pop on the bin lid. And you’re done!

7. But, wait…what about feeding. Don’t put scraps in right away. Give the worms a few days to acclimate to their new home. Then you can start adding food scraps to ONE SIDE of the bin. The smaller pieces the food scraps are in, the faster the worms can do their magic.

8. And what about harvesting the compost? I haven’t done this yet and will update once I have but the theory is this: You feed the worms consistently on one side or end of the bin. When you’ve got some good finished looking compost on that end or your ready to grab some, start putting all the food scraps on the other end of the bin. Do this for a couple of weeks at least. The worms should migrate from the old feeding end of the bin to the new. And then you can harvest the old side of the bin after most of the worms have cleared out. Back fill with new bedding.

Photos cause I no explain good

Bottom bin holes for drainage. Notice there are holes in lowest ridges of the bins bottom where moisture would collect.
Air holes along the top edge of the bin
Spacers or pedestals in the bottom of the unholey bin
Holey bin placed in unholey bin. Note air holes are above the rim.
Adding the worms. Look closely, there are lots of worms in that muck!
Finished composter. Notice I’ve left the lid kind of ajar. I want to make sure the buggers get plenty of air and thankfully they have not tried to make a break for it.

Hope this was clear?

This is my first time trying to explain how to do a DIY thing and I hope it wasn’t a complete muddle! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

Also, besides the coconut coir, I didn’t have to buy anything for this project. I had the bins on hand, and the worms etc…. The under $30 estimate is based on having to buy a couple of bins. The two I used, were bought for $5 a piece at Menards. The coconut coir was bought from Amazon for around $20 for 5 bricks. I used less then one brick to fill the bin. The biggest expense which isn’t included here is if you need to buy worms. From Uncle Jim’s, 1000 worms is sold for about $50.

Thanks and happy worm farming!


Book Recommendation

I love books and reading, so I can’t resist including a book recommendation with each post. The book will, in some way, correspond to the post.

The book I’d like to recommend today is about Wyrms, not worms but close enough:). Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron is a creative urban fantasy that takes place in a world where dragons can appear as human or as dragon and a few powerful dragon families run most of the world. Julius is the youngest and weakest member of Heartstriker dragon family and unlike his ruthless family members he enjoys being around humans and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He teams up with a magician to try and make his homicidal mother happy and get free of the family’s cutches. It’s such a cool world and has a fast-paced and fun plot.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Buying the book below from amazon will earn me a commission.  

If you want to know more about me and Keeper’s Croft, check out the ABOUT page.

2 Comments on “How to Make Your Own Worm Composter for Under $30

  1. I laughed for too long at the caption “photos cause I no explain good” (Jesse calls from the other room: “why do you keep chuckling?”). So, are there any rules about what type of food scraps to feed your worms?

    • It’s really hard to explain things with words! I now understand why video is the preferred medium for demonstrating DIY projects.

      Citrus, onions and meat products are no,nos for worms. The onions are a bummer because I always seem to have scraps of them!

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