Casting Call: Just Add Worms for Great Compost

Create some killer compost with your friends the red wrigglers.
Related To:
Add Kitchen Scraps to a Worm Bin for Rich Compost

Add Kitchen Scraps to a Worm Bin for Rich Compost

Kitchen scraps and newspaper can be turned into rich compost when you get worms involved.

Kitchen scraps and newspaper can be turned into rich compost when you get worms involved.

Q: Do you know anyone who can help me get started with vermiculture, and who sells the right types of worms for various gardens? And do you recommend worms in raised beds and/or container gardens?


While a lot of folks may not even know what vermiculture is, I can’t imagine growing anything without earthworms, which are the subterranean workhorses of the garden! In fact, everything I do for my soil is aimed towards keeping my earthworms healthy, and in turn they make my garden soil grow the best plants. 

By using shredded leaves and bark mulch, and sticking with natural fertilizers, I am helping the earthworms help my plants. After eating the leaves and mulch, they spread their nutrient-rich manure (called “castings”) throughout the soil. And their burrows create perfect pathways for water, air, nutrients and new roots.   

Worms in the Compost     

As I add new material to my compost bin, I always throw a shovelful or two of old compost into the mix, which adds not only the beneficial bacteria that get things started by breaking stuff down, but also a few worms which finish the job by churning it all up. 

I also add a light dusting of cottonseed meal, which is a safe, organic cotton processing byproduct used in many foods, and as a cattle feed supplement, because of its high protein content. It’s perfect for compost piles because it is very high in natural nitrogen, which helps the compost bacteria work faster, as well as providing the protein that bulks up my earthworms to work better. Cottonseed meal can be found through organic gardening suppliers.     

Hardcore Worm Farming

This is creepy to some folks, but you can also “grow” worms and make compost indoors in a covered box filled with moist, shredded newspaper and small amounts of kitchen scraps. The worms eat it all and turn it into some of the richest fertilizer on earth. If you do it right, there should be no odor at all, other than the smell of wet paper. 

There are special vermicompost boxes available, with screens and a drain for the excess liquid (which in itself is super for using on potted plants). But I grow my worms in a big, inexpensive plastic sweater box with a tight fitting lid that has had some small air vents cut in the top and upper sides. 

A Little How-To

Most indoor vermicomposters use “red wriggler” worms (Eisenia fetida). These small tropical worms are much better suited for indoor temperatures, and consume more and produce faster than larger, slower outdoor earthworms. You can buy red wriggler worms by the pound from many suppliers; find them through a simple Internet search.

The regular black and white sections of newspapers (most of which use a harmless soy-based ink, safe for worms and compost) can be torn top to bottom into narrow strips. Soak them in water for a few minutes and let them drain before adding to your bin. Then bury a handful or two of chopped vegetable and fruit scraps, plus a small amount of coffee grounds if you have them, and add your worms. The kitchen scraps add additional moisture to the mix.

Add the worms, and feed them additional kitchen scraps a little at a time. If the bin gets too wet, drain out the excess moisture and use as a fertilizer “tea” for potted plants. And be sure to keep the bin covered or worms may crawl out at night when the lights are off.  

One special addition: Worms need “grit” for digestion, and calcium for laying egg cocoons. Help them on both counts by adding some finely-chopped eggshells. Putting them in a blender with a little water makes this job easier. 

Harvest the vermicompost by exposing it and shining a bright light on it, which drives the worms deep so you can scoop off a layer at a time.  

Again, this is creepy to some folks, but it is an interesting, ecologically correct, and highly productive hobby to many gardeners who appreciate how worms can eat their garbage and turn it into super rich compost and fertilizer.

Get more growing advice from gardening expert and certified with Felder Rushing at

Keep Reading

Next Up

Decay Already! Get With the Composting Program

Composting can be one of the simplest, most natural garden practices.

How to Compost With Worms

Check out these tips for creating your own army of little gardeners.

Composting Essentials

Composting conveniently disposes of your garden cuttings and trimmings while also creating a wonderful soil improver. It can be as simple as throwing all your waste into a pile, but you'll get better results if you follow a few guidelines.

Making Compost

This crumbly, soil-like material improves soil texture by increasing the drainage of heavy clay soils and the water and nutrient retention of light, sandy soils.

Make a Composting Bin

A homemade composting bin is just as good as a bought one, and you can make it whatever size and shape best suits your garden and the quantity of material you want to compost.

Create Compost With a Wormery

Inside a wormery, worms break down kitchen waste and turn it into rich compost. They can even cope with scraps, such as cooked food. Wormeries are available from specialist suppliers.

How to Brew Compost Tea

Follow these simple step-by-step instructions to brew your own compost tea, ideal for nourishing plants.

How to Compost Kitchen Waste

Although it's becoming easier to recycle food and beverage packaging, most of our domestic waste still goes into the trash. Reduce the amount of garbage you throw away by composting your kitchen food waste.

How to Make a Garden Compost

Save money and the environment with these simple steps for creating a natural fertilizer.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.