VERMI-COMPOSTING KIT INSTRUCTIONS
How to set up your Three Bin Compost System:
* 3 bin systems are better than 2 bin systems because they compost material faster and are more efficient.
1. With your 3 bins at the ready, take one bin and lid and set it aside at the base. This been will collect liquid fertilizer from the compost.
2. In the other 2 bins, drill 5 small holes down, and 9 small holes across. On the sides of these two bins drill, drill 2 small holes on each side, 2/3rds or higher up the bin from the bottom for ventilation. Too much oxygen in the system combined with exposed food scraps will result in fruit flies, so be sure not to overdo the ventilation.
3. Your system is now ready for bio integration, we can now add the organic material to the bins which we just drilled holes into.
4. Spread a 4 inch layer of damp compost mix (soil like material) on the bottom of the top bin and the middle bin (the bins with ventilation holes) The compost mix can be a mixture of approximately the following: 5/8 peat moss, 1/8 sand, 1/8 leaves and 1/8 coffee grounds. You should mix this together, get it wet, and then ring it out like a damp sponge. Avoid covering your ventilation holes with compost.
5. Gently add your worms to the mix in the middle bin! Notice how they dive out of the light for cover.
6. Next, add a 2 inch layer of bedding. Do this only after your worms have dived into the bin. The bedding should be a mix of any of the following: Dry autumn leaves, shredded coconut hulls, shredded unbleached paper towels, shredded un coated cardboard, sawdust or wood shavings (un treated wood only). Dampen slightly by sprinkle water – normally for an established system you do not need to dampen the bedding. Finally, sprinkled a handful of the cracked egg shells into the bin – this is needed for calcium for the worms.
7. Repeat #6 for the top bin. This bin will initially have no worms in it.
8. You are ready to go!
Managing your Bin:
1. You must keep your bin out of the sun, in the coolest, darkest indoor place you can find. Earth worms are very sensitive to light. Remember – Dark, Damp and and Dinner! The temperature should be between 70 and 80 degrees F. Keeping it stored at 60 Degrees F room temp will be adequate to maintain that internal temperature.
2. A few days after your bin is set up, add your first batch of food waste/scraps to the section with the worms! A brand new worm system needs to be closely monitored. Feed only small amount such as a cup or half a cup until the worm population grows and becomes healthy. This process may take weeks to become an established ecosystem.
3. Feed by burying you food near the top of the bin, no more than an inch from the surface. Be sure to recover the composting mix with fresh bedding to avoid exposed fruit.
4. As you worm population grows, bury food in both bins using the same methodology.
5. Watch the food disappear – some food will go faster than others. Feeding the worms regularly will ensure the best population growth. Eventually, after several months, you will be left with ready to go worm compost (vermin castings). Completely finished worm compost is dense and will look and feel like mud.
6. A month before you want to harvest and use your worm compost, begin to bury food in only the MIDDLE bin. The worms will transition into the MIDDLE, leaving the TOP bin empty and ready to harvest after a month. Harvest no more than ½ of an individual bin to ensure the ecosystem remains functioning. Resume feeding both bins and repeat when necessary.
7. Regularly harvest worm “juice”, or compost tea, that drains into the bottom of the bin and mix with water to water your household plants. This should be mixed with 20 parts water and 1 part compost tea.
8. A good potting soil recipe is 1 part worm compost material (from the middle and top bins) and 3 parts soil. Worm compost is best used moist, because it loses nutrients as it dries. In the garden, use it at root level, digging it into the soil.
9. Repeat and enjoy your new sustainable, earth saving system. You can eventually build your system up to process ALL of your food waste!
Here is what you can compost in your new bin:
Fruits and vegetables (cut into small pieces if new, cores and food scraps are fine)
Cut up bits of meat (cannot be sitting exposed or flies will hatch)
Do not put in:
Processed foods or foods with preservatives
Milk, Juice or Soft drinks
If you eat healthy, your worms will be healthy. Food that is not healthy for humans such as white flour, candy, fried food, and preservatives. You and your worms will thrive on a healthy, varied diet!
Worm bin troubleshooting:
Problems Causes Solutions
- Bin smells bad —-> Overfeeding Stop feeding for two weeks.
- Food scraps exposed —-> Bury food completely.
- Bin too wet —-> Mix in dry bedding; leave lid off.
- Not enough air —-> Fluff bedding; clear drainage holes.
- Bin attracts flies —-> Food scraps exposed Bury food completely.
- Rotten food —-> Cover with clean bedding.
- Too much food; esp. citrus —-> Don’t overfeed worms.
- Black soldier fly larvae —-> * Pick out larvae, add them to backyard compost pile; bury food completely; reduce acidic foods.
- Black soldier fly adults —-> * Release from bin.
- Bin attracts ants, centipedes —-> Remove centipedes; change bin location.
- Worms are dying Bin too wet —-> Mix in dry bedding; leave lid off.
- or crawling away Bin too dry —-> Thoroughly dampen bedding.
- Extreme temperatures —-> Move bin to 70–80˚F location.
- Not enough air —-> Fluff bedding, check for blocked vents.
- Not enough food —-> Add more bedding and more food scraps.
- Bin conditions not right —-> See above; leave lid off (worms will burrow into bedding).
- Excess mold —-> Conditions too acidic Cut back on acidic foods.
- Bedding drying out —-> Too much ventilation Dampen bedding; keep lid on.
- Extreme temperatures —-> Move bin to 70–80˚F location.
- Excess drainage Poor ventilation —-> Fluff bedding; add dry bedding.
- Too much water in food —-> Cut back on coffee grounds and watery scraps
● Worms are sensitive to light and should be kept in a dark environment.
● Generally, each square foot of bin can compost 1 pound of food per week. As the worm population grows, the amount of food that you can give them increases.
● Feed every couple of days, rather than every day. Worms can go a month without feeding.
● Worm bins may attract worm “friends” – beneficial smaller organisms that enhance the composting process. These could include springtails, mites, rove beetles, millipedes, and micro bacteria and fungi. However, centipedes are predators and should NOT be in your bin.
● Generally, 27 gallons of food scrap will produce 1 gallon of finished worm compost.
● You should track the date you started, when you feed the system and the amount of food waste you put in. This can give you some indication as to when the castings are ready.
Laverms Handbook of indoor composting, Laverme De la Terre with Ellen Sandbeck
Small scale vermin-composting, University of Hawaii