We love this style of composting because it’s versatile and so easy. Worms are low-maintenance pets that eat your food waste. What’s not to love?

Setting up a Worm Bin

What you need:

Opaque shallow container with a cover

Newspaper, corrugated cardboard or coco coir

Bucket of water

1-2 handfuls of garden soil
(preferably organic compost)

1-2 pounds of red wiggler worms

Food scraps
(see What Worms Eat)

Spray bottle of water

Choose your worm bin. 

There are plenty of commercial worm bins on the market, but we recommend reusing a container that you already have. Choose one that is opaque and roughly 16”x 24”x8”. You can reuse an old dresser drawer or plastic container (such as a ten-gallon Rubbermaid bin). You can raise worms successfully in pretty much any container, as long as it’s not too deep (composting worms hang out in the top 6”-12” inches of soil, where there is plenty of decaying organic material) and there is very good ventilation (the more surface area, the better).  If you are using a plastic bin, you will need to drill ¼-inch holes on the top and sides. You can drill holes on the bottom for better drainage and place a tray underneath to collect leachate. 

Wooden Bins

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  • Wood is very porous and breathable, allowing for more oxygen. Good air flow is critical for healthy worms.
  • More environmentally friendly & aesthetically pleasing
  • Provides better insulation than plastic. This is important if you plan to keep your bin protected during the winter months in a cold climate.


  • Wood doesn’t hold up as long as plastic.
  • Treated wood can be harmful to worms.
  • Wood is heavier than plastic and may be challenging to move, once the bin is full.
  • Bedding can dry out more quickly, due to more airflow.

Plastic Bins

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  • Readily available and requires less time building/assembling.
  • Lighter than plastic, making it easier to move around.
  • Holds moisture better than wood, which can be beneficial in hot climates.


  • Plastic is not porous, so it doesn’t allow for optimal airflow as much as wood. Drilling holes is often necessary to increase oxygen. Drain holes or a spout might also be necessary if the bin holds too much liquid.
  • Plastic bins tend to heat up more in warmer months, which can present problems for your worms, since they prefer cool, moist environments.
  • Some plastics contain chemicals that are harmful to worms.

Place your worm bin in an appropriate place in your home. 

Red worms prefer a dark place, so avoid direct sunlight. They will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, however, the ideal temperature is between 55-77°F. Temperatures above 84°F are harmful, and sometimes fatal to red worm populations. They will slow down reproduction in colder temps and will probably not survive extended periods below 40°F. Worms are also sensitive to vibrations and may try to escape the bin if this is an issue. Do not place the bin near washing machines, clothes dryers, or dishwashers.

Order your worms from a designated worm farm.

Start small by ordering around 1-2 pounds of red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida), which is equivalent to 1000-2000 worms. A rule of thumb is that 1 square foot of bin surface area can support 1,000 worms. If your worms are shipped, make sure that you’re home when they arrive because you’ll need to get them out of their packaging as soon as you can.

Prep the worm bedding.

Good bedding material is vital for a successful worm bin.  It must retain moisture, allow for good air flow and have a neutral pH. Shred your bedding material into 1/2″ to 1″ strips or pieces. Use your bucket to dampen the bedding material. It should not be soaking wet, but damp like a wrung-out sponge. Be sure to fluff up the bedding periodically, to provide air for the worms. We suggest using a mixture of different materials, such as:  shredded brown cardboard, shredded paper (not bleached white office paper), shredded newspaper (not colored), aged compost, aged horse or cow manure, coco coir, peat moss, straw and hay, fall leaves  and wood chips.  Sprinkle 2-4 cups of soil or compost on the bedding to introduce beneficial microorganisms.  Now you are ready to add the worms.

Add your worms. 

Scatter them gently onto the bedding, and cover up the bin. Let it sit a few days without adding food so that the worms work their way down into the bedding and get acclimated to their new environment. If your worms are trying to escape, you can place a light over the bin and they will naturally move away from it.  After a few days, your worms will be ready to go to work.