If you’re reading about worm bins it’s likely that you’re already sold on the benefits of producing your own compost. There are so many good reasons to compost your food waste, from lessening the amount of garbage that goes to landfill, to the savings made from growing your own food and feeding it with your own scraps from the kitchen.
If you’re a little squeamish, it might be reassuring to know that worm bins do not smell bad, that composting worms are real easy to take care of (so low-maintenance!) and that you can keep your wormery indoors if you don’t have access to a yard or garden.
Are you wondering if it’s worth it if you live alone? Hell, yes. You can buy a two- or three-tray enclosed worm bin which fits in your kitchen and turns your food waste into a worm tea that’ll make your windowsill herbs grow like crazy.
What if you have a big family? Well, then, your leftovers could be turned into fertilizer for meals later in the year. Best of all, vermicomposting can be done all year round.
Are you worried that it’s going to be complicated? After all, you’re dealing with real live creatures here. Also, there seems to be a huge choice of worm bins out there to choose from. Thankfully, most of them come with detailed instructions not just for their initial assembly and setup, but also for their healthy, low-effort maintenance.
To make the choice easier for you, we’ve reviewed the best sellers and the most highly rated bins, checking out each bin’s value for money, and whether the bins pass muster with gardening experts.
In a hurry? Here’s our top picks
OUR TOP PICK
VermiHut’s Plus model for the five-tray design doesn’t just improve upon the previous generation design but also comes with a range of features not seen among the other worm bin design specs.
As per the earlier, popular Vermihut 5-tray model, the base features a spigot and collection tray for the leachate produced during the composting process, and the five 17” square trays (each 5” high), made of BPA-free recycled plastic, provide the worms with a good surface area in which to flourish.
So what gives the Plus model a spot on our top five list, given the many five-star ratings of its predecessor?
A lot of work has been put into improving internal air flow. Vermihut have introduced an M-board between the base saver tray and the lowest feeding tray, which replaces the former drain cloth supplied. The drain cloth had acted as a worm-saving layer to keep them dropping from the bottom tray into the leachate in the base.
A further design tweak is the construction of the lid, which now features a ‘V’-board and layer of coconut mat. The addition of these added features has two significant benefits. Firstly, it maintains a healthy moisture level to keep your worms happy. Secondly, it minimizes the opportunities for fruit flies to occupy your composting space. This is a definite plus for folks who are cultivating their worm bin inside an apartment.
If you’ve found or created the perfect outdoor spot for your bin, then you’ll be pleased to know that this unit comes with a set of ant-trappers. VermiHut takes great pride in creating a safe environment in which worms can flourish.
This unit comes with an instruction manual and is easy to set up. If you want your first experience of vermicomposting to be a low-hassle adventure, then this is a good bin for you.
If the ant- and fruit fly-repelling VermiHut is the gated community of worm bin homes, then this model of the Worm Factory 360 is the sprawling mansion. This kit comes with a standard 4 trays, but you can order and stack up to eight trays in this structure, making it one of the largest organic volume producers on the market.
What’s fabulous about this kit is the generous supply of accessories that come with it. Yes, you need to bring your own worms to the party. However, for a beginner, this product is fantastic. The installation instructions come with a DVD, so that you can watch the build in practice, and there’s a detailed 80-page guide to vermicomposting.
Instead of scouting around for the best bedding materials, you can get going straight away with the supply of volcanic pumice, the package of salt-free coir (coconut hair), and the collection of processed paper and cardboard, which is not just bedding but good food for red wrigglers.
The design is robust and the lid has been designed to serve as a stand for trays while you gently harvest the compost from the lower levels.
This one of the more basic worm bins packages. It’s good to keep in mind as a quick and easy overflow bin.
The trays are sixteen inches square and stackable up to seven layers. The product description on Amazon somewhat undersells this Worm Factory model.
For example, the bin comes with a lid, a scraper, and coir bedding, but you wouldn’t know it from the pictures (which feature a red bin) or the product description. It also comes with an instruction manual and DVD which are reported to be very clear and thorough.
It’s exceptionally easy to assemble and it’s one of the less expensive options on the market. It’s also widely remarked that there are no odor issues with this bin, making it a great indoor option. You will need to provide your own bedding with this model.
It might be to your advantage to order the worms a few days after you’ve got the bin environment set up so that you’re ready to roll as soon as your wriggly inhabitants arrive.
The Worm Café by Rein Garden is a simple 3-tier structure with a ventilated liquid collector tray and tap for drainage. For those of us who don’t enjoy fighting with paper instructions during assembly, the instructions engraved beneath the lid are a welcome stress-buster.
The kit comes with an instruction manual and a block of bedding.
The collector tray has been designed on a slope with a non-drip tap to keep interior floors and surfaces clean. If using outside, you may be pleased to know that this model features ant caps on its legs to prevent them from climbing.
The hinged lid is also fly-proof, allowing your worms to munch away on your kitchen waste, happily safe from competitive garden pests.
Ventilation is a crucial selling point of this particular make and model. The last thing you want is for the worms to suffer a lack of oxygen, or for your worm tea to turn anaerobic. That will do your plants no good at all. Assembled, the unit is side-ventilated and cross-ventilated.
Although the plastic and the leg shape may appear to be a little fragile for the weight that the castings and worms will add over time, this model is said to be both sturdy and easy to assemble.
This Worm Factory 360 kit is Amazon’s choice and it’s another fabulous starter kit designed to fill a novice worm bin owner with confidence.
It’s one of the more expensive sets on the market, but you do get a lot for your money.
The trays are 18” square and easily stackable up to eight trays. It is a spacious yet compact bin, featuring the same liquid collection base and spigot that appear on other Worm Factory models.
Like the model sold by Nature’s Footprint (number 2 on this list), there is a generous supply of bedding, very comprehensive instructions (both written and on DVD), and the little bottle of rock dust. Also included is a handy fridge magnet to remind you which foods can and cannot be placed in the trays while you’re clearing up food waste from cooking, or after meals.
This model goes one further than the excellent preparation supplies by providing an accessory kit, including a hand rake, a thermometer, and a scraper. This isn’t just an excellent educational kit—it’s also a comprehensive bundle for people living in climates which may not be worm-friendly. Vermicomposting works best in temperatures between 60º and 85º.
As a bonus there’s a worm ladder which fits inside the very bottom, where the moisture collects and the spigot is fixed. It helps any worms to return to the bottom tray if they’ve dropped through.
Before your purchase, it might be useful to spend a few days weighing the food scraps which will go into the worm bin each day. Gardening experts suggest that red wrigglers, for example, can consume half their body weight in scraps every day. In other words, you need to be putting a good half pound of waste into the bin daily to keep a pound of worms happy.
Estimating your optimal worm population by the likely size of the food supply is a less stressful way of calculating how many pounds of worms you’re likely to need. There is the option of calculating your worm population by estimating a pound of worms (around a thousand) per square foot of surface area, but this does not take into account the gleeful tendency of red wrigglers to multiply quickly in good feeding conditions. Buying more worms is always more straightforward than trying to deal with an overpopulation problem.
If you live in a particularly cold or hot climate, then you will need to do a little preparation work to create space for your chosen worm bin. Because they do not smell (contrary to popular assumption), many of them are compact enough to live in a kitchen, perhaps even tucked into a cupboard. If this is a no-go, then you will need to figure out how to provide shade or keep it in the sun, depending upon your location. Other factors to consider are whether it will be accessible to curious animals like squirrels or cats. Enclosed gardens are safer for wormeries than shared yards, for example.
Decide how much time you want to spend learning about vermicomposting in detail and then invest accordingly. The more expensive kits tend to come with the most expansive education packages. The advantage of these is that you will have more expertise to improvise a homemade wormery if your first bin is so successful that you end up needing an overflow home.
It’s certainly not compulsory. You can add a handful of commercial compost or just plain soil in amongst the bedding and food scraps to get your wormery up and running.
The bioactivators that come with commercial compost contain all the microorganisms you need to help the composting process. Your worms, of course, will be doing most of the work by excreting the nutrient-rich castings.
Waste items you should avoid are: spicy, citrus or allium foods (uncooked onion, leeks garlic etc); meat or dairy, because the fatty content attracts other insects; woody fibres, which are hard to digest, or anything overly processed. When hydrating your worms, avoid using water which has been chlorinated or which has a heavy metal content.
Finally, make sure your worms get a good variety of scraps. While not fussy creatures, they are no better at living on grapes or carrots than we humans are.
No, you need to buy those separately. Check out Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm as a reliable retailer of red wrigglers in volumes of 250, 500 (half a pound), 1000, or 2000 worms. Homegrownworms.com also have good ratings for reliability and price.
Because you need to be able to put them straight into their habitat as soon as they arrive, which you can’t do if you need to set up your bin first. The less long those worms spend in their package after transit, the better they will settle into their new environment.
Depending upon the size of your worm bin, it can take between three and six months before you’re ready to start harvesting the compost from the bottom layer upwards.
While you can’t really speed the worms up (they’re strangely impervious to instruction) you can: