14 Reasons to Have Compost Worms

If you follow Your Gardening Friend on Facebook, then you know that about 7 weeks ago, I purchased my very first batch of red wiggler worms for vermicomposting.


“And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

What is Vermicomposting?

Vermis is latin for worms. Vermicomposting is composting through the use of compost worms.

You’ll usually hear of red wigglers/red worms when you hear someone talking about vermicomposting. These particular worms thrive off of bacteria in organic matter, such as rotten fruits and vegetables. The worm poo is called castings. The castings is/are(?) what vermicomposting is all about.

What About the Common Earthworm?

The common earthworm has some great uses (e.g., soil aeration, fish bait, breakfast for birds, and maybe a little composting), but it’s not able to provide the same garden benefits the red wiggler can provide. It’s like saying all sports are alike. If someone is a pro at basketball, well… they should be equally good at swimming, golfing, and ice-skating. After all, those are sports too, right? The common earthworm is a worm, but a very different type of worm, with a different skill set. ;)

14 Reasons to Have Compost Worms

I’ve come up with a list of 14 reasons why it’s a great idea to have compost worms. This list is a combination of things I’ve recently learned through my research, and additional reasons I think should be considered.

Compost worms will do the following:

  1. Eat kitchen garbage. This will reduce the amount of waste and weekly garbage pickup.
  2. Eat junk mail. Similarly, this will reduce the amount in landfills, trips to the recycle facility, or the need/cost for weekly paper recycle pick-ups. (Paper is also used for their bedding.)
  3. Require no additional expense for feed.
  4. Be virtually maintenance-free. Did you hear that, all you busy homesteaders?
  5. Produce nutrient-rich garden fertilizer (castings).
  6. Cause no foul smell with their poo. This is a very good thing, considering my worms sit next to the kitchen. :)
  7. Provide better manure than many/most animals. The worms add beneficial microbes in the castings, providing plants with a strong defense against diseases.
  8. Cause you to smile as you see the poo build up. That’s not something I can say about my three dogs’ poo.
  9. Reproduce at an incredible rate, providing you with more compost worms.
  10. Provide a possibility for earning extra money by selling offspring.
  11. Not wake up the neighbors with loud crowing, mooing, and whatever you call the noises made by horses, goats, and sheep. This means they’re perfect for those living in the suburbs.

    (I still hope to have chickens and goats (or cows) in the future. After all, I can’t get milk, chicken eggs, or meat from worms. And, let’s face it, worms are missing the cute factor.

  12. Take up VERY little space. They don’t require any land; and they don’t require a fenced area, barn, chicken coop, dog house, or any other outdoor building. My pound of worms is in a 4 gallon plastic container.
  13. Provide “preppers” with a valuable sustainable resource.
  14. Provide parents and homeschoolers with a plethora of teaching topics in the subjects of creation, biology, chemistry(?), mathematics, land stewardship, gardening, and sustainable living.

So, there you have it. Seems like a no-brainer. ;)

Future Posts on Compost Worms

With me being a novice at vermicomposting, this was an easy post I could offer some knowledge on. I hope to have more posts in the future about vermicomposting, as I learn more about these worms. For instance, how many pounds of worms does someone need to fertilize a 10’ x 20’ garden? There are a lot of good questions, like that, I hope to answer.

How many of you have compost worms?

Did I overlook any reasons to have compost worms?

If you don’t have compost worms, are you considering it? If so, what’s your reason?

This was shared on:
Camera Critters
Farmgirl Friday blog hop
Home and Garden Thursday
Homestead Barn Hop
Simple Living Wednesday

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59 comments to 14 Reasons to Have Compost Worms

  • When I was in high school I took an honors biology class, and we did vermicomposting (complete with forming a company, selling shares, and eventually the compost), who knew it would be such great knowledge for me now, when I actually want to compost! Great post for starting out!

    • Holly

      That is so cool! I went to a very small highschool so we didn’t do a lot of the “typical” frog and worm disecting, etc. It sounds like a very informative experience with all they had you do, and something you can use now.

      Thanks for stopping by!!

  • Composting worms are on my list. The only reason I’ve dragged my feet has been the cost…really the cost of shipping overnight. Where did you get yours from?

    And where in your house do you keep their home?

    Thanks for the info!

    • Holly

      I purchased the red wigglers from someone in central Indiana. John and I met the guy after work to pick them up. If you’re interested, I can give you his info.

      You might also check out a site I recently came across called Worms Etc. Here’s a few links to their site:

      Worms Etc. homepage: http://www.wormsetc.com/
      Worms Etc. store link: http://www.wormsetc.com/webstore/
      Worms Etc. shipping methods: http://www.wormsetc.com/webstore/privacy-policy (They’re shipping methods are such that it could allow the worms to live in-transit for a month – not that it takes a month!! It’s just that they have awesome shipping methods – apparently – so overnighting the worms is not necessary.)

      If you know of anyone (e.g., a school teacher, neighbor) who might be interested in owning some composting worms, you could split the cost.

      I keep my worms in the plastic container shown in the photos, and it’s next to my kitchen. That’s also why I like reason no. 6. :D

      Hope that helps. Thanks for commenting!

  • Melissa

    I am so glad you did this post. You can do another if you wish. We went to a composting class and found this very interesting. But what happens if you do this and totally forget that you have worms? What happens to them? Love the post.

    • Holly

      Thanks so much, Melissa. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      As far as forgetting you have worms, they can actually live a long time just on the paper bedding. So a little forgetfulness is okay, but I think you were joking anyway. But I’m thinking you were joking. :)

  • Thats very interesting, thanks for sharing! I have a compost just with common worms but they do what they can. And some slugs. Eating flowers and have absolutely no cute factor…

    • Holly

      Slugs… I’ve not heard of them being composters. (This is all new to me.) Very interesting!

      Yip, no cute factor! ;)

    • Wanda

      We found the best way to get rid of slugs is to put out alum pie pans with beer in them. They were killing my plants and our chickens werent eating them. A little 80 year old lady told us this one at church and she was spot on. lol

  • There are common worms in my compost bin too. I guess you must have to have a compost bin that the worms can’t escape from in order for this to work, not just an outdoors compost bin that they could escape from. Haha!Worms running rampant throughout the neighbourhood!

  • I have a compost bin off my kitchen, too, so I would add a #15 to your list: The look on houseguest’s faces as they are about to tip non-compostable garbage into your bin, when you say, “No!!! The worm’s can’t eat that!”

    I also use regualar earthworms. Nothing like coming home from work to find a bunch of dead red-wiggler escapees all over your kitchen floor.

  • Detailed and interesting article, thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Amber

    So you feed ‘em your scraps & junk mail? Intriguing!! As aways, I love your writing; especially, the sports analogy. :)

  • Worms eat junk mail? Love it! Now, if only there was a way to get them to eat my junk mail before it arrives :-)

    • Holly

      Ain’t THAT the truth!! Hmm… You might be onto something here. Maybe the post office should have another process in their mail sorting: a bin of red wigglers. If the worms can be taught to only eat “junk” mail, then only the uneaten mail gets delivered!! Brilliant!

  • Excellent post! You might want to check out my pick for the featured Barn Hop post this week. ;) Keep up the great work girl!

    • Holly

      Woo-hoo!!!! Thanks for picking this post as your featured Barn Hop post for the week, AND the encouragement! I’m honored.

  • Tammy R.

    Yes! I am very interested in getting compost worms. I’ve been telling my husband we need to get them so we have a different kind of compost for our garden boxes we started building last year. Do you have a post with step by step directions on how you did this? Everyone makes it sound easy. I’d like to get started with this asap.

    • Holly

      I don’t (yet) have a step-by-step process published, but I’ll be sure to start working on one though.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Karin C.

    I’ve just recently subscribed to your posts and this is a very timely post since my worms are in the mail as we speak! I ordered from Uncle Jim’s worm farm. He mails on Monday’s so they aren’t left in freight docks over the weekend, so they should be here this week-and the shipping was reasonable too!:
    And garden girl has a wonderful easy video how to set up a compost bin! So many people think it’s so hard to start and costs a lot of money to buy the one’s pre-made:
    We’re excited to add these worms to our farm and hopefully share them with others soon too! Thanks for your post!

    • Holly

      So glad to hear you’ve subscribed to receive post updates.

      In the mail, huh? Very exciting!

      Thanks for the link to Garden Girl’s video on this. I’m sure it will be helpful to others stopping by.

  • What great info! My kids have heartily dug up earthworms to add to the compost bucket but I had no idea they weren’t what was best. And how fortunate I feel now that the house I drive by every time I go to Walmart that has the sign out front saying “compost worms, worm compost” would suddenly be so convenient! :) Yay, you helped!

    • Holly

      Thanks, Carrie. It’s VERY encouraging to hear that the post was helpful!! Great feedback for a blogger. ;)

      Be sure to let us know what becomes of the worm compost adventure. I’ll be stopping by your site too. :)

  • Linda

    our first worm bed the moles ate through the bottom and had a feast. I had so many moles in our back yard. What I did is take an antique metal milk container with a metal lid and put my worms in that. No moles and my worms are doing great.

    • Holly

      Linda – It always feels great to figure out a solution. Glad to hear the worms are doing great. Be sure they’re getting enough air. :)

  • I am so new to composting, been at it a few weeks. But I JUST posted on FB, asking about using worms, and then someone else posted this article. Fantastic!

    My question is this… how and when do you go from a plastic bin full of worms to actually using this in your outdoor compost pile? Do you eventually separate the castings from your worms and add it to your compost pile? Add the worms and all?

    I’m assuming you don’t seal the lid on the container, right (this is my stupid question of the day)?

    Also, how many worms to get started? I appreciate all of the links to various worm sources. That was going to be my third question. Thanks!!

    • Hi, Andi — You can add worms to your outdoor compost pile, but the temps in a standard pile generally get too hot for worms, and it leaves them open to predators. If you want to harvest castings, you can either use the “light method” (dump out the bin onto a tarp and brush away castings a bit at a time — the worms will retreat and end up in a little ball in the very center of the pile) or “zone feeding” (only feed on one half of your bin — the worms will gravitate to the feed and leave the finished castings behind, ready to scoop out). Composting worms can’t survive in garden dirt like earthworms, so it’s not recommended that you throw them out in the garden with the castings.

      If you drill some air holes in the bin, you can use the snap-on lid, but the worms will migrate up to the condensation that forms on the lid at night and may end up falling out of the air holes — I have my bins covered with a towel; blocks the light, allows for good air circulation, keeps out gnats and fruit flies, keeps the worms in.

      As far as how many worms you need, you can do the math (save your scraps for a week and weigh them, then figure a pound of worms for every half-pound of scraps), but if you start with 1 lb. of worms for a standard 18-gal tote, that’s usually enough. They’ll double their population (under ideal conditions) about every 30-60 days, and they’ll adjust their population to meet food availability.

      Hope that helps!

    • Holly

      Andi – You’re really thinking through this! Great job, and those are great questions. It looks like Valerie got them all answered.

  • Carol Ann

    Great post! Can’t wait for you to tell us how you set it all up! Tried the Garden Girl link but it wouldn’t come up, will try again later. I’ve been wanting to try this for ages, but the store bought worm bins are so expensive here in the UK.

    • Holly

      Thanks, Carol! I’m working on a post now (to publish in a few weeks) explaining how someone can get started with compost worms. And DON’T spend a lot of money on a fancy shmansy worm bin. You can make one super cheap.

  • Alice

    I would like the answers to what Andi asked too.

  • Worms are good chicken food and bait for fishing as well.

  • Great article! I’ve been vermicomposting for quite some time now, and it’s actually turned into a business for me. A great go-to resource for all things wormy is also http://www.redwormcomposting.com — Bentley Christie runs the site and has answered just about every question you could possibly ask, plus some.

    In response to your question about how many pounds of worms for a 10×20′ garden; if you apply 1″ of vermicompost (VC) to 200 SF, it’s about 17 cubic feet; the typical family worm bin is about 3 cu.ft., so it would take about 6 bins, or 18-20 lbs (or more)… HOWEVER… if you make “compost tea” with the castings, they go a lot further. Just fill a 5-gal bucket with water, aerate with a small air pump and a couple of air stones (like for a fish tank), add some blackstrap molasses, suspend a mesh bag of VC into the bubbling brew for a couple of days, and it’ll be a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer that can be applied directly to the soil or diluted and used as a foliar spray/antifungal/bug repellent. My garden went nuts after just one application last year. (On a side note, the liquid that seeps from the bottom of the bin is not compost tea or worm tea — it’s leachate and doesn’t have the same benefits as the aerated tea.)

    Keep up the good work — vermicomposting is a great green resource and lots of fun!

    • Holly

      Valerie – Thanks for the very detailed answer to my question! I’ll be sure to check out the site you referenced also.

      Yes, it is fun!!! :)

  • What a great post! I have compost worms in my compost pile. I have thought about vermicomposting as well but just haven’t gotten around to it. I teach composting, and I am always getting worms from a co-presenter. They really help in the compost pile. Although I have been told that they will not live through the winter, they often do. I find them way down in the middle where it is warm. Do you find your vermicomposting container attracts bugs and other critters?

    • Holly

      Thanks, Michelle! I had no idea you taught composting. I imagine teaching composting is a lot of fun.

      As far as my worm bin attracting critters and bugs, since I keep it indoors (near the kitchen), I don’t have any issues with stray racoons and such scavenging through it. As far as bugs, the only problem I’ve had is with nats. I know what I’ll do differently with my next bin to prevent that from happening though.

  • I like this idea but have always hesitated because I can’t find the answer to this concern of mine… when your worms multiply beyond your need, assuming you don’t sell them, what do you do with the excess? Since you say these aren’t the same as the “wild” worms that find their way into my outdoor compost or that live in my garden beds, I figure red wrigglers must not be a native component of my local ecosystem (I have to assume… since I haven’t found an answer to that question either). It seems like a bad idea to import living animals and then just toss them into the ecosystem. I’m sorry if this sounds like an overly fussy concern but so many invasive organisms were released carelessly because they were assumed to be harmless. If you can speak to this concern, I’d be grateful!

    • Holly


      I think your concern for the ecosystem is a good concern, and these are good questions.

      I’m not an expert on these little critters, but from what I’ve learned through my little research is that tossing them out into the garden could potentially kill them, UNLESS you continue to provide them with, or they’re able to locate on their own, adequate organic decomposing matter. That’s why they’re not really considered dirt worms. I’ve heard about “garden trenches,” but haven’t looked into exactly what they are. You might do a word search on that. I’m thinking it will still involve some stewardship over the worms though.

      Another thing to know is that the worms monitor and regulate their own population. If food is short, or they’re not given larger bins, they’ll simply stop reproducing and will maintain status-quo. That’s fascinating to me!

      If you do decide to go ahead and get some red wigglers or other composting worms, and at some time down the road you decide you’re done with them, you could donate them to a science class at a local school. :)

      I hope that helped.

  • Aloa

    I have been reading your very interesting information on vermicomposting. I have been considering trying it. I compost
    the “regular” way and would like to try it with the worms.
    I know Walmart has red wigglers. Would they be ok to use?
    Thanks so much for all the great information.

    • Holly

      I didn’t know Walmart sold red wigglers. Sure, I think they’d be fine to use. Red wigglers are the kind I have, too.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the vermicomposting series, and I think you’ll enjoy this type of composting. :)

  • Jim

    What a great idea! I am going to have to get me some of those red wigglers. I am already composting everything, but this will make for a good natural fertilizer for maintenance

  • This is something I have yet to try.. compost worms would be great for my chickens also! I will have to think about doing it soon.

    • Holly

      Absolutely! They’d be a wonderful protein source for your chickens’ diet, and can help ya with your vegetable garden. :)

      I hope to have chickens some day. I’ve thought about my wiggly protein source I’d have easily and readibly available, but I think I’d feel sorry for the worms. LOL …

  • I have a worm tower and absolutely love it. I am able to put my kitchen scraps in there and let my 2,000+ worms take care of the rest.

    If you do not have worms turning your scraps into compost, you really should.

  • Tami

    I have two tubs of worms, I love them! Their ‘product’ is in high demand for the garden!

  • Ginelle

    Holly, Just to add a to Aloa’s question. The red wiggler worms sold at Wal-Mart are unfortunately not the same as the best red wigglers that are used for composting. We made that mistake when starting our little worm farm. The red wigglers at Wal-Mart are best for fishing. They multiply at only 1/2 the rate of the red wigglers that are for composting. Hope this info helps.

  • Very good information, Thanks for sharing. You can buy the most Breathable Worm Composting System from Thewormdude.com

  • Angie Outland

    I’ve composted for years, but I’ve never tried worm composting. I enjoy organic gardening and want to learn more about worm composting. This is so interesting! I need to do research on how to get started. Is it very expensive to get started?

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