Clemson Extension School and Community Garden Program

Worm Composting Might Be Your Favorite New Hobby

Worm composting is a great hobby that enhances the beauty of your garden while helping the environment. If you love to cook and garden, worm composting might be your new favorite hobby!

Why worm compost? Composting is beneficial in many ways, but the two big ones are reducing food waste going to the landfill and creating nutrient-rich soil amendment for your garden.

Our family chooses produce that has minimal or no packaging to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill.  However, we still have food scraps, and sometimes our food goes bad before we can eat it.

Rather than sending it to the landfill, we feed it to our worms! In return, the worms give us compost to use in our vegetable and herb gardens. We get healthier plants and more productive gardens, while saving money on compost and fertilizer.

 worm composter in the garden Starting a compost bin. There are dozens of brands and styles of worm compost bins on the market, you can even build your own.  We chose the Hungry Bin because we have two nosy dogs, and wanted an outdoor worm composting bin.

We liked that it is on wheels because we have multiple raised bed gardens throughout the yard.  We also liked the larger sized bin because of the large quantity of food scraps our vegetarian family produces.

To start a worm bin:

  1. Find a good location for your worm bin. Worms like cool and moist soil; they do not like sunlight. Your compost bin will have a lid that should be on it at all times, so sunlight won’t be an issue except for the few minutes you take the lid off to add more food. However, your worms will die if they overheat. The bin is made to control temperature to some degree, but if you live in a region that gets hot in the summer like here in South Carolina, try to place your outdoor bin somewhere slightly shaded. Indoor composters can be placed almost anywhere, as the temperature will be controlled. Just make sure it’s not in a place where pets or toddlers could get into your worms!
  2. Create bedding for your worms. Once your worm bin is set up in its location, it’s time to add bedding for your worms.  Materials such as ripped up cardboard, shredded paper, newspaper, aged compost, peat moss, straw and hay, and leaves may be used as bedding. Beware of using highly acidic bedding (such as oak leaves) because worms don’t like high acid environments. For the Hungry Bin, I filled it ¾ of the way up with:
  • old soil from empty flower pots
  • lawn clippings and leaves (not too many)
  • shredded paper
  • cut up cardboard

3. Add the worms.  This is undoubtedly the most exciting part of worm composting! Once your bin is prepared, order and add the worms right away. Mail ordering worms is the simplest way to purchase enough of the right type of worm for composting i.e. red wigglers aka compost worms. There are many reputable dealers online, we used Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm for our set up.

Be sure to schedule delivery at time you will be home so your new friends don’t die because they were in the shipping container too long, overheated, or starved.

If you are not going to set up your worm bin right away, or are going to do these steps over time, wait to buy the worms until you are ready. We started with 2,000 worms in the Hungry Bin based on the manufacturer recommendation.

4. Feed your worms.  Give your new worms a week or two to adjust to their new home and consume some of the bedding before adding scraps to the bin. Since we have 2,000 worms in the Hungry Bin, I waited two weeks before I fed them any food scraps.

Use the time your worms are acclimating to their new home to collect food scraps. I keep anything compostable in container in the freezer – this way it doesn’t smell or start to go bad, and I can keep it as long as necessary.

Here are a few suggestions of what foods worms enjoy and what to avoid:

  • Fruits (grape stems, apple cores, strawberry caps, rotten blueberries or grapes, mango peels, banana peels, cherry pits, date pits, melon rinds).  Citrus is okay in moderation, but remember, worms don’t like acidic environments, so take it easy with the citrus!
  • Veggies (zucchini and squash ends and peels, tomato cores, sweet potato skins, broccoli stalks, asparagus ends, carrot tops and skin, kale stems, avocado pits and skin, pepper seeds and steps).  Onion and garlic are okay, but they can start to smell so maybe avoid these for indoor bins.
  • Moldy bread, tortillas, and oatmeal;
  • Coffee grounds and used tea bags;
  • Egg shells and paper egg cartons;
  • Nuts and seeds;
  • Paper towels without cleaning product residue;
  • Greens that have gone bad, fruits and veggies too bruised to eat, or shriveled potatoes can all be composted.
  • Foods to avoid include dairy products, meat and fish products, and oils.

To begin feeding your worms, start small with about 1 pound of food. Cover the food scraps with a layer of newspaper or paper towels to help reduce any odors.

In a few weeks we will harvest our first batch of compost and add it to the summer garden. We will keep you posted on our progress!

Megan Shearer, Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening Program Assistant


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *