It doesn’t matter if you’re a simple backyard gardener or you’re running a full-scale permaculture farm – starting a worm farm is fun and pays itself off over and over again. Worm farming (also known as vermicomposting / vermiculture) allows you to turn food scraps and recycling into worm castings using a simple worm bin.
What are worm castings? Well, put simply – it’s worm poop. Perhaps you’re wondering ‘Why on earth you would want to cultivate and harvest worm poop?’. It’s a valid question. The reason is because worm castings are one of the best organic plant fertilizers that you could possibly use. Worm castings are very expensive if you buy them at the store.
You can also harvest the worms to use for fishing, feeding pet birds, or for expanding your worm farm.
This article will cover a variety of topics surrounding vermicomposting. First, we’ll need to discuss the worm bin itself. Choosing the right worm bin is an important first step. In the next sections we’ll be giving our worm bin recommendations and reviews.
Table of Contents
We’ve packed a lot of information into this guide. We hope you can read the whole thing, but if you want to skip around to something specific you can use the links below to jump around the page.
- Our Picks for Best Worm Farms
- Worm Bin Reviews
- Types of Composting Worms
- Types of Bedding
- What to Feed Your Worms
- Harvesting Castings
- Making Worm Tea
We don’t want to build up a bunch of suspense so we’re just going to go ahead and tell you which worm farms we think are the best. More detailed reviews directly follow our picks.
We took a look at 5 of the most popular worm farms on the market. Each one is different so it’s really a matter of figuring out which worm bin is the most practical for your unique situation. We’ve listed the worm bins in order of our most favorite to our least favorite.
#1 Hungry Bin Flow-Through Worm Farm Review
It’s our top pick thanks to its innovative design making it one of the most low maintenance worm composting bins on the market. In addition to providing functionality, we believe the design of the Hungry Bin is visually appealing as well. Your worm farm will fit in perfectly next to your recycling and waste bins.
- Flow-Through Design – This is one of the most exciting features of this worm bin. The bottom pan is removable so you can harvest the castings and ‘worm tea’ from the bottom. This way, you don’t need to worry about lifting heavy trays. Food goes in the top and castings come out the bottom.
- Durable Construction – The Hungry Bin is made of a thick and durable plastic designed to withstand outdoor elements. This bin will stand up to years of temperature changes, UV degradation, and other challenges.
- Easy to Move – The wheels and handle make moving this a snap. This is helpful especially if you live in a climate that might require you to bring your bin into a shed or garage during harsh seasons.
- Higher Price – This is really the only downside to this worm bin, but it’s a pretty significant difference. This unit can cost 2x-3x more than the other models we looked at, but it’s worth the price if you’re looking for the best.
The Hungry Bin is a terrific worm bin for people at any stage (beginner – expert) who are in a position to spend a little extra on their worm bin. If you have the money then you won’t be disappointed. BUT, if you’re looking for cheaper solutions then don’t worry – we found great options in all price ranges.
#2 VermiHut Worm Composting Bin Review
The VermiHut is a great system at a terrific price. It uses a tray system which is quite different from the flow-through system used by the Hungry Bin. The tray system has benefits and drawbacks which are outlined below.
If you aren’t quite ready to invest in the Hungry Bin then the VermiHut is our second recommendation for sure.
Note: The front is not actually see-through as shown in the photo. It is solid all the way around.
- Lowest Price – This is the least expensive out of all the worm farms we look at in this class (see link below for current pricing).
- 3-Year Warranty – The manufacturers believe in their product and they’re not afraid to prove it. Having a warranty ensures you’re getting a vermicomposting system that is going to last.
- Minimum Odor – VermiHut is designed to create little to no odor making it a great choice if it needs to be placed in high traffic areas.
- Built-in ‘Worm Tea’ Collector – The VermiHut has a built-in reservoir that dispenses worm tea at the bottom of the unit. To collect, just place a container under the spout and press to release.
- Trays Require Lifting – Unlike flow-through systems, the tray system does require a little lifting. If you have a problem lifting objects then you will need assistance when it comes time to harvest your castings.
- Maintenance – While the VermiHut isn’t to time consuming, it will take more maintenance than the flow-through system used by the Hungry Bin.
This is a great system for anyone who is looking to learn more about vermiculture (beginner – intermediate). Be sure that you can either lift the trays yourself or have someone who can help you harvest the castings.
#3 Urbalive Indoor Worm Farm Review
This worm bin can be used indoors, but it also looks great on a porch or deck.
The Urbalive uses a stacking tray system similar to the Vermihut except you only have 2 trays instead of 5.
- Year-Round Indoor Use – This unit is designed not only to look great indoors, but it’s also low to no odor. Some users put it directly in their kitchen without issues.
- Modern Design – The design is so unique that no one is even going to know it’s a worm farm unless you tell them.
- Color Options – The Urbalive comes in 2 different colors – Anthracite (Pictured Above) and Green. The green is super bright – pretty much neon green.
- Maintenance – Some users have stated that this unit can be difficult to clean due to the cloth filter.
- Cloth Filter – In addition to difficulty cleaning, some users have complained that their worms have actually eaten the cloth handles that allow you to remove the cloth filter.
If you plan on using your worm bin inside then this is your best option. Of course, it also works well outside which is why it’s our number 3 recommendation. It does cost a little bit more than the VermiHut so if visual appeal isn’t a concern then I would recommend going with the VermiHut.
#4 Worm Farm 360 Composting Bin Review
The Worm Farm 360 is a very popular worm bin. It is a tried and true product that has been around for a while. It’s a perfectly viable solution, however, we feel like there are better options when price is considered.
This worm bin is very similar to VermiHut Composting Bin, but there are several differences which are elaborated on below.
- Expandable – The tray system allows you to expand your worm farm giving this bin one of largest capacities in its class. It comes with 4 trays and you can buy additional trays allowing the system to expand up to 8 trays high.
- Built-in ‘Worm Tea’ Collector – The Worm Farm 360 has a built-in reservoir that collects the worm tea at the bottom of the unit. To collect, just place a container under the spout and press to release.
- Trays Require Lifting – Just like the VermiHut, this system requires you to lift tray which may get moderately heavy. If you have a problem lifting objects then you’ll need assistance harvesting the castings.
- Maintenance – The Worm Farm 360 requires moderate maintenance. Like the VermiHut system, it takes more time to clean the tray system than it would with a flow-through system like the Hungry Bin.
- Material Quality – Some users have complained about warped and otherwise ill-fitting parts. These appear to be a manufacturer defect and should be eligible for an exchange or refund.
For most people, we would recommend purchasing the VermiHut instead of the Worm Farm 360. The reason is simple – the two systems are very similar, but the Worm Farm 360 is a bit more expensive. One area that the Worm Farm does excel is its ability to expand by purchasing single trays. If you’re looking for higher capacity without operating multiple bins then the extra money may be totally worth it. It’s really all about what works for your situation.
#5 Kids Worm Farm Observation Kit Review
Unfortunately, we found this product to contain a few fundamental flaws. These flaws are discussed below.
- Small Size – This is by far the smallest worm farm on the list. It’s the perfect size to put on a desk or shelf. Unfortunately, doing so is not good for your worms due to light. This is discussed further in the cons section.
- Includes Live Worms – Every Kid’s Worm Farm comes with live worms. No other worm bins on the list offer this.
- Clear Plastic – Worms do not like light – pure and simple. Of course, a little bit of light won’t hurt especially when they have plenty of dirt to dig down into. Since the Kids Worm Farm is clear all the way around it doesn’t provide your worms with the darkness that they so desire. This also causes the worms to burrow into the middle as much as possible. This allows them to avoid light, leaving little activity to be observed. Several users reported little activity that didn’t engage their kids. So, if you do get this worm farm it is best to keep it in a dark place such as a closet which kind of defeats it’s purpose.
- Small Size – This one falls on both the pros and the cons list. In theory, it’s a pro, but I think it’s really a con in the end. This unit is too small in our opinion. The thin wall doesn’t provide adequate room for worms to move and dig naturally.
- Produces Very Little Castings – Because it’s so small, the Kids Worm Bin isn’t going to hold many worms meaning you will get very little castings. Getting castings isn’t the point of this product. It’s more for observing. We believe that harvesting nutrient rich fertilizer is one of the best parts to show a kid who is interested in worm farms.
Honestly, we don’t really recommend this product. Like we said earlier, it’s great in theory, but we don’t think it’s practical when actually put to use. Consider getting a full-size worm bin instead. Your kid(s) will learn so much more from a real worm composting system than they would from a small observation kit.
Guide to Starting Your Worm Farm
Now that you’ve chosen a worm bin you’ll need to know more in order to get your worm farm going. No worries. We’ve put together a quick start guide that will get you going in no time. Everything from what worm to get to harvesting techniques – we cover it all.
None of the recommended worm bins include worms so you’re going to have to get those separately. Fortunately, they’re inexpensive and easy to order. So, the question is – what type of worm should you buy?
For most people, the answer is going to be red wigglers (Eisenia Fetida). These have become the most popular worm species for several reasons:
- They are excellent composters. They swarm food and are able to process it into castings much faster than any other species.
- They live well in compost. Many species won’t take to this environment.
- They can adapt to a larger climate range. Many species would freeze under the same conditions that are just fine for red wiggler. They can also handle warmer climates better than many other worms.
- They reproduce quickly and often.
- The worms are great for fishing. Really, any worm is great for fishing. If, however, your main objective is to breed worms for fishing them you may want to check out the next breed of worm.
The European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis) is a composting worm that is growing in popularity. Most still believe it falls short of the Red Wiggler in terms of compost production and rate of reproduction. But, if you’re looking for a larger worm for fishing then it may be worth the compromise.
Other Worm Breeds
There are many other worm breeds out there, but many aren’t suitable for farming. If you live in the tropics then you could perhaps look into raising some African Nightcrawlers, but most people should just get Red Wigglers – especially if you’re just starting out.
So I Can’t Just Use Worms From My Yard?
Well, we really don’t like to use the word can’t, but we don’t recommend it if you’re really trying to do some composting – most worms aren’t up to the task. On the other hand, if you just feel like experimenting then there’s no harm in giving it a shot. Just don’t be surprised if they don’t take to your worm bin like they did.
Where to Buy Composting Worms
Now that you know which worms to get you’re probably wondering where to get them. There are two ways. The first way is to pick them up from your local worm farmer. This is prohibitive for many people so most people go with the second way, which is to order them online.
If you’re going to order worms then we highly recommend buying them from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
They guarantee a live delivery and with thousands of satisfied customers they’ve proven that they have a great product and service to back it up.
The amount of worms you start with is going to vary based on the size of your bin, but 500 count is a good number for most worm bins. Refer to your worm bin instructions for more details.
Also, purchase your worm bin before you purchase your worms – not at the same time. You don’t want your worms to show up before the bin and not have a proper place to store them. They are only going to survive in the packaging for so long. You want to be able to transfer them to their new home right away.
Now that we’ve discussed the various worm farms and types of worms it’s time to go over the materials that your new little worm buddies are going to be living in.
Some worm bins are going to include bedding material with the unit. In this case, you’re good to go. Just use what they sent and you should have no problems. On the other hand, only some bins include this so many of you are going to need your own bedding material. No worries – we’ve got you covered.
There are lots of things you can use as a bedding. Our top recommendation is a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and recycled newspaper. These materials provide an excellent base that is breathable, has a neutral Ph Balance, and retains moisture well.
Make sure you are only using the black and white newsprint. The slick paper that most of the ads are made of are harmful to your worms.
You won’t need that much peat moss so just get a small bag. Be sure to dampen the materials but don’t soak them.
Other Bedding Materials
Of course, there are lots of other materials you can use instead:
- Shredded Brown Cardboard – Avoid any cardboard with printed graphics.
- Shredded Leaves – This one can be slightly tricky. You have to be sure there aren’t any mites or other little pests on your leaves.
- Wood Chips – Ideally the wood should be chipped in finely. Big chunks will take longer for your worms to break down.
- Manure – Cow manure is most popular but one study shows that pig manure can also be used. You cannot use fresh manure for this. One reason is because the heat produced is not good for the worms environment. Fresh manure releases a variety of gasses including methane, among others. If you can grab up some well-aged manure then it’s great to mix in with some of the other bedding materials mentioned above.
- VermiCast – One study suggests it makes the best bedding. Unfortunately, VermiCast is rather expensive making it impractical for most worm farmers. Plus, VermiCast is just worm castings so it kinda defeats the purpose to start with castings.
Again, make sure no matter which bedding material you choose that you dampen it before introducing you new worms. In addition to their bedding materials, your worms are going to need some food to eat.
Worms eat a variety of materials, but not everything. It’s very important to make sure your worms maintain a proper diet. Here’s a list of items your little wigglers will love:
- Fruits and Vegetable – Table scraps can now turn into worm food. Avoid citrus or other acidic fruits.
- Paper / Cardboard – Newspaper works great. Make sure not to use any bleached paper. Stay away from color printing. Paper egg cartons are also great worm food.
- Coffee – Worms love coffee grounds. They love them so much that they’ll even eat the filter.
- Bread / Pasta – Make sure there isn’t anything mixed in or on top of these such as pasta with meat sauce.
- Manure – Must be aged as discussed in the bedding section.
- Leaves / Yard Scraps – Make sure no pests tag along for the trip to your worm bin.
You want to provide your worms with a balanced diet so try to feed them a mixture of the items above. If you notice your worms aren’t eating a particular food then adjust accordingly. The best part is you shouldn’t have to go out and buy any food. They pretty much eat trash.
What Not to Feed Your Worms
Here’s a list of items that your worms are not going to like. Avoid adding the following items to your worm bin:
- Onions / Garlic
- Oil – No salad dressing or greasy foods
- Salty Food
- Spicy Food
- Processed Foods Containing Preservatives
- Meat / Fats – Especially avoid meat. This will attract flies and other pests. It will also cause your worm bin to smell.
- Dairy – Avoid this for the same reasons as meat.
- Anything not biodegradable such as plastic or metal
How Much / How Often You Should Feed Your Worms
The quick rule of thumb is a worm is going to eat roughly half it’s body weight in worms. So, when you’re starting out use that as a guide. You can put add more than one day’s food at a time.
If you are starting with half a pound of worms then we suggest starting with half a pound of food. After two days check to see how much has been eaten. If there is a lot of leftover food then they may need more time or you may need to change what food you’re feeding them.
Once you know your worms are eating well you can feed them a week’s worth or even more food at a time. Just make sure to keep an eye on your worm farm to make sure everything is being eaten and no pests have invaded.
Over time you’ll get a feel for exactly how much your worms eat, but half body weight is a solid starting point. As your worms reproduce you’ll need to add more food accordingly.
So, you’ve got a worm bin, worms, bedding, and you’ve fed them. Over time it’s all going to pay off when it comes time to harvest your castings and worms.
Flow Through Harvesting vs. Tray Harvesting
The method of harvesting is going to vary Depending on which worm bin you choose.
If you’ve decided to use a worm bin with a flow through option, like the Hungry Bin, then you will harvest your casting from the bottom. The fine castings will fall through the bottom and you can continue to place food on top.
The tray method used by the VermiHut require you to remove all top trays. The bottom tray is then removed. This bottom tray is going to be mostly castings. Once you remove the castings you can rinse out the tray and place it back on top so you have a rotating system.
At this point your worm casting are good to go. Sprinkle on top of the soil around plants and watch nature’s intended fertylizer do its work.
If you want to go one step further then you might want to get a sifter as well.
Worm Casting Sifters
When you harvest your worm castings you will most likely get some debris that hasn’t been broken down by the worms. This stuff isn’t harmful, but if you’re looking for the purest worm castings then you’ll need to filter it down to the smaller particles.
Another benefit of sifting your casting is you can separate your eggs to make sure they get put back in the worm bin to go on and become great composters.
You may want to play around with different sizes, but starting out 1/4″ mesh is usually a good starting point. You can make one by stapling wire to a wooden frame. Alternatively, you can buy a premade screen that’s ready to sort your worm poop right out of the box.
Finely sifted castings are best suited for worm tea. What’s worm tea? It’s a way to turn your castings into a liquid fertilizer which is rich in both nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.
Supplies You’ll Need:
- Castings – You’ll need 2 cups for this recipe. As noted earlier, it is highly preferable to use finely sifted casting to produce the best worm tea.
- 5 Gallon Bucket – These are those big plastic paint buckets
- Water – Don’t use water fresh from the tap. It contains chlorine and other chemicals that will kill your microbes. If you use tap water you need to let it sit out for 24 hours to allow those chemicals to evaporate. Alternatively, you can use rain water.
- Molasses – You’ll need 2 tablespoons. This is food for your microbes.
- Aerator (air pump) – This is essential for activating the microbes.
- Cheese Cloth – The way we recommend uses cheese cloth, but we’ll also give you a way to use pantyhose.
It holds 3 gallons at a time and had a handy no-drip dispensing nozzle on the front.
Worm Tea Instructions – Step by Step
- Fill your 5-gallon bucket about 3/4 full of water.
- Add your molasses.
- Add your casting in loosely with the mix. Alternatively, you can place your castings in extra large tea bags or use one leg from a pair of pantyhose. We feel the castings receive better aeration if they are loose, but this is a debatable topic. Either way will work. Loose castings have to be sifted with cheese cloth if being used in a sprayer.
- Add air pump and allow to aerate for 24 hours.
- Your worm tea is not ready to use. It’s best if used soon. If your worm tea sits around for a while then aerate again before use. If you’re using a sprayer use the cheese cloth to filter out the particles.
So, what are you waiting for? Starting a worm farm is easy, fun, and beneficial for any gardener, fisher, homesteader, or nature lover. If you’ve made it this far then you probably have the passion. Now it’s just time to pick up your supplies. Click here to pick out your perfect worm bin and get started.