Archive for the Homesteading Category

Do I Need Batteries For My Solar Panel System?

Do I Need Batteries For My Solar Panel System?

Do I Need Batteries For My Solar Panel System

NAVIGATION

Imagine you’re in the middle of the biggest storm of the season and your whole neighborhood has lost power. Luckily, you’re still able to watch TV, heat up your dinner, and check in online, all thanks to your solar battery bank.

Whether or not you need batteries for your solar panel system is an extremely common question, especially for folks who are just getting started with solar. But this is a simple question with a complicated answer, so I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Living off the grid with solar has been my life for the last decade. I’ve learned a lot about this way of living and batteries are at the core of making that happen. Here’s what I’ve learned.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Do I Need Batteries For My Solar Panel System?

Do I Need Batteries For My Solar Panel System

Not all solar panel systems need a battery backup to work effectively, so how do you decipher if you need one? There are so many benefits to using a solar power battery bank, like grid independence, energy security, and lower electricity bills. However, this doesn’t mean batteries are required to go solar.

In my opinion, battery backups are the way to go. A solar battery bank can help you avoid pulling expensive electricity from the grid when your solar panel system isn’t generating enough power to meet your needs, which helps offset the initial cost of batteries, particularly if you have variable power rates with your energy provider.

Solar battery backups will likely reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your electricity bill, and help you gain energy security should the grid short circuit.

best solar panel system for my house

Are Solar Batteries Worth It?

Are Solar Batteries Worth It

Just because battery backups are great for me doesn’t mean they’re great for everyone. In order to decide if you need batteries for your solar panel systems, it is important to understand what battery backups actually do.

As a general rule of thumb, experts say that home batteries are financially “worth it” when any two or more of these conditions are met

  • You experience power outages
  • Your peak and off-peak utility power rates differ
  • You qualify for cash incentives for installing a battery
  • You are installing batteries alongside a home solar system
solar panels on a house roof

When it comes down to the numbers, you often have to make a decision about batteries based on financial realities. In some cases, the return on investment (ROI) is short and then you’re saving money every month after recouping your initial investment.

tiny-house-solar-panel-setupThe power company wanted to charge me $15,000 to run a power line to my home. Instead, I spent that same money on a solar array and batteries, which was an instant ROI, and I haven’t had a power bill since. Crunching the numbers, that’s $25,000 I didn’t have in power bills since I went solar!

In other cases, you might realize that instead of batteries, you could just buy more panels and sell the excess power back to the power company. Then you can use those credits when batteries would normally help, using “the grid” as a quasi-storage system.

For me, being off the grid, batteries were required since I didn’t have a grid to pull from. But even if I were grid tied, batteries would be a cost I’d shoulder because it makes life much more comfortable.

tiny house solar

Do Solar Panels Work During A Power Outage?

Do Solar Panels Work During A Power Outage

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve gotten a call from one of my neighbors asking if they could come charge their phones because the power had been out for a while and I had no idea! My air conditioning would be running, I was watching a movie and cooking dinner like nothing had happened.

The magic of the battery backup is that your power can be accessed even when the grid fails. When your home doesn’t need all the energy being produced by your panels, the excess energy is automatically stored in the battery bank to be tapped into at any time.

power outageIf your panels are connected to your local utility grid and it goes out, they are designed to stop funneling power so that the power doesn’t feed back into the grid. When the grid fails due to a natural disaster, overload, or maintenance work, your panels will stop producing energy in order to protect utility workers fixing the lines.

There are only two ways to continue to get power from your solar panels during a grid outage: using a battery or using an inverter with battery capacity. The only inverter type I know of with the capability to keep your lights on during an outage is the Enphase IQ8s.

When you add a solar battery backup to your solar PV system, you will still be able to access electricity in your home even when your neighborhood is suffering from a power outage. This is because the battery backups literally store energy for your home to access, independent of your city’s main grid.

10 reasons to live off-grid

How Do Solar Panels With Battery Storage Work?

How Do Solar Panels With Battery Storage Work

If solar battery banks are so magical, how do they actually work? A battery system regulates the flow of electricity during an outage, allowing your solar array to stay powered, and by storing excess energy when more is being generated than the demands of the home.

Your solar panels take in the solar energy from the sun and convert it to DC power. That DC power then flows to the charge controller, which regulates how much power is stored in your battery backups and how much goes to your inverter.

Your charge controller saves your battery backups from overcharging or over discharging electricity. When the energy is discharged, it goes to your inverter. Then, your inverter converts the DC power to AC power, which your house is able to use. This is the flow of power for systems with DC coupled batteries.

However, some systems are AC coupled or have their own inverter solution, in which case the DC power moves from your panels into a solar inverter, then a battery inverter, and then straight into your battery bank. From there, the power flows through another battery inverter, and is then discharged as useable energy in your home.

solar panel system parts list

Whether or not the battery bank is installed in the circuit before or after the inversion to AC is dependent on the type of battery and inverter that you use. Both setups certainly have their own pros and cons.

Is Solar Power Battery Backup Right For Me?

Is Solar Power Battery Backup Right For Me

One thing I wish I knew before going solar is that the decision to do so is actually made up of many smaller decisions. There’s the decision of going on or off grid, backing up with batteries or a generator, type of inverter, charge controller, and batteries you’ll use, how many batteries to buy, and much more.

I’ve ground mounted 15 panels on my property that are backed up with flooded lead acid batteries, but I didn’t come to that decision overnight. I did a ton of research to understand what method would be best for me.

These decisions are often navigated more easily with the help of a local solar provider. They understand a lot of these details, are familiar with your local codes, and can help you make the right decisions.

best solar panel system batteries

Grid Tied Solar Vs Off-Grid Solar

Grid Tied Solar Vs Off-Grid Solar

It’s a common misconception that using solar panels means you’ve gone off grid. In actuality, you can use solar panels both on and off the utility grid.

With the off-grid method, battery banks are required to store solar energy. However, batteries are still an option with the grid-tied method if you want to reduce your dependency on the grid without disconnecting fully.

solar panel off grid setupThe primary difference between grid-tied solar and off-grid solar is where your solar panels store their energy. With the grid-tied method, the energy your solar panels create is fed into the utility grid and is used to generate electricity for homes in your area.

In return for feeding your solar energy into the main grid, you’ll receive credit that you can access anytime. This is how you “store” energy to use when your panels are no longer getting sun in the middle or the night or on an especially cloudy day.

The main setback with grid-tied solar panels is that you’ll be affected by power outages. If the main grid goes down, your grid-tied system will shut off in order to prevent energy from feeding into the system and potentially harming utility workers. However, many folks find this easier than having to invest in and keep track of battery backups.

The more common method for storing solar energy is going entirely off grid, but make sure you’re ready to take this leap before deciding to disconnect. In some cases, you may be required to remain on the grid by local authorities.

With off-grid solar, you aren’t using grid connection to store extra energy, so backup batteries are required. The main reasons I see friends lean toward the off-grid route are avoiding power outages, lowering electricity prices, and having less involvement from code enforcement. For me, the off-grid method was really the only way to go because of where my house was located.

Backup Generators Vs Solar Battery Backup

Backup Generators Vs Solar Battery Backup

Another core decision when installing solar is what method you want to use to back up your home electricity for those moments when your main system fails. Backup methods are highly recommended to produce greater energy independence and generally be prepared for power outages or solar panel failure.

There are two main ways that people tend to back up their electricity: a whole-home generator and a solar battery backup system. I used a portable backup generator for the first two years I used solar panels. Later I opted to upgrade my system because portable generators require more maintenance that I cared for.

solar panel batteries pro tip

“We recommend battery backups over a generator. Battery will instantaneously kick on and supply the critical loads for the home. Gas or oil burning generators often take some time to turn on.”

– Matt C., EnergyPal

Backup generators provide electricity by burning a fossil fuel like natural gas or propane. Some backup generators turn on automatically when an outage is detected, while others are turned on manually. Some higher end inverters will have an automatic start for generators when your batteries get below a certain threshold.

Depending on your setup and budget, it can go either way. I honestly prefer the solar battery backup method over a backup generator, but a combination of the two is even better.

Benefits Of A Backup Generator

  • Backup power on demand
  • Can utilize existing gas line
  • Low installation costs
  • Can be added to any home

Disadvantages Of A Generator

  • Noise
  • Will incur gas costs
  • Maintenance
  • Burns fossil fuels

The solar battery backup method is totally different and is what I tend to recommend for those going solar. Batteries will store and disperse the renewable electricity generated by your solar panels.

Solar battery storage makes sure that your house uses as much of the renewable electricity coming from your solar panels as it needs. They can be used when your panels have low solar output, like at night or on an especially cloudy day.

Pros Of Solar Battery Backup

  • Low maintenance
  • Detects power outages
  • Decreases your carbon footprint
  • Qualifies for solar tax credit
  • Quiet operation

Cons Of Solar Battery Backup

  • Higher cost
  • Less predictable
  • Battery lifespan ends
  • Installation costs
  • Poorer charge retention

Choosing The Right Inverter To Work With Battery Backups

How To Choose The Right Inverter To Work With Battery Backups

Whether you choose to go on or off grid with your solar system, it is vital that you have a high-quality inverter. Your inverter is the apparatus that’s in charge of creating power that you can actually use in your house. It does this by transferring the high voltage DC power from your panels into AC power that is safe and useable in your home.

So, how do you make sure you’ve chosen the best inverter for your panels?

Inverters come in size ratings, measured in watts. As a very basic rule of thumb, you want your inverter to roughly match your solar panel wattage. This means if you have a 2000-watt solar panel system, you’ll need at least a 2000-watt inverter to successfully convert your DC power to AC power.

It’s also a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room incase you want to add some more panels later. If you’re choosing a good quality inverter from any of the name brands, you’re going to have a “smart” inverter, meaning it will be able to dynamically adjust as needed up to a certain level.

Inverters typically have a typical load rating that it can handle constantly and then a spike/peak rating that can handle higher wattage for short periods if there are any surges.

simple electrical for tiny houses

Once you know the wattage needed for your inverter, you can look into which type of inverter to invest in. Inverters for solar panel systems can be broken down into three basic types. A string or single inverter will need enough wattage to cover all of your panels, while a microinverter system only needs enough wattage for the panel it’s connected with.

Inverter Types:

  • Micro-inverters (Grid tied)
  • String inverters (Grid tied)
  • Hybrid inverters (Off grid)

What Are Microinverters?

What Are Microinverters

A microinverter is, as can be inferred from the title, the smallest kind of inverter. A microinverter is about the size of a DVD player and can handle energy conversion of one to two solar panels (about 120/230V, 60Hz of AC power).

They’re called microinverters due to the fact that the conversion from DC to AC power is done by several small inverters as opposed to one large inverter handling the entire load. There are many advantages to choosing this route as your solar inverter of choice.

solar panel systems pro tip

“We recommend microinverters, as they allow maximum energy production during the times of partial shade, have great warranties, and are proven in the residential space.”

– Matt C., EnergyPal

Microinverters have many advantages in any size home. For one, micro-inverters are easily grid-tied, so you don’t have to disconnect from the grid to use them.

Another plus is that if one inverter in your micro-inverter fails, it will not disrupt your entire system and will continue to power your home, which would not be the case with a string inverter.

What Are String Inverters Or Central Inverters?

What Are String Inverters Or Central Inverters

Grid-tied string inverters, also called central inverters, are the most popular type of inverter for a solar panel system. Many folks like this inverter type because of the way it streamlines clean AC power straight to the electricity grid.

Additionally, grid-tied string inverters allow self-consumption of your solar electricity in your panels. They’re about the size of a bread box and are mounted to your wall. String inverters are also connected to the utility grid and to the house power circuit, so you don’t have to go off grid if you don’t want to.

Another reason many people like this option is the price. String inverters tend to be the most affordable option when you take all elements into consideration. Smaller solar panel systems may find a more expensive microinverter to be worth the increase in price, but for medium-sized or larger homes, a string inverter is the way to go.

While string inverters are good for many applications, I still often suggest people make the leap to the third type of inverter.

What Are Hybrid Inverters?

What Are Hybrid Inverters

The third type of inverter is the hybrid inverter, which is the type I use (Schneider SW 4024 Inverter). Hybrids are strategically designed to deliver AC power off the grid and protect your home from electricity loss or power outages. Hybrid inverters always require a battery for electricity storage, as it doesn’t store any power in the utility grid.

solar power battery managementHybrid inverters are the most intelligent type of inverter out there, because they’re designed with the ability to regulate the charge and discharge current of the battery on its own. Just like with a grid-tied inverter, hybrids take DC electricity from your solar panels and convert it to AC power.

However, hybrid inverters go a step farther. They have their own magic touch, as they’re able to feed DC power into the battery during charging.

This means that if your panels are not getting enough energy from the sun, the inverter picks up on that and automatically pulls extra DC electricity from the battery, converting it into AC power your house can use.
Many of these inverters also have the ability to start up a whole house generator when your batteries get too low. They can handle a wide range of setups and, in my opinion, are worth the investment.

It’s important to note that you can’t just swap a string inverter with a hybrid inverter, as they require different wiring. However, if you can swing the extra cost, hybrid inverters can end up being worth your while. They provide power backups when the electricity grid fails and solve issues stemming from renewable energy variability.

Does Solar With Battery Storage Use Charge Controllers?

Do Solar Panels With Battery Storage Use Charge Controllers

When I first made the decision to go solar in my own tiny house, I was confused as to whether or not I actually needed a charge controller. Not all panel systems need them.

soalr panel charge controllerThe distinction is this: If you have batteries, you’ll need to have one because a charge controller manages them.
I liken a charge controller to an amusement park ride operator for your solar panel system. A ride operator regulates how many people can board the ride before it reaches max capacity. Similarly, a charge controller regulates how much energy can be safely stored in your battery backups and how much can be fed to your home through an inverter.

If you aren’t relying on battery backups, a charge controller isn’t necessary. They’re best used with battery backups such as for van life or a small, off-grid tiny home.

Choosing The Right Charge Controller For Solar Panel Batteries

Choosing The Right Charge Controller For Solar Panel Batteries

If you are using a solar power battery bank for home, you’ll want to choose a charge controller that can give your batteries as long a life as possible by preventing them from overcharging or discharging too much power.

There are two types of charge controllers:

  • Pulse width modulation (PWM)
  • Maximum power point tracking (MPPT)

The PWM is an older style and costs less, but it’s not as efficient the MPPT. MPPT charge controllers are the most common these days and can gain you up to 30% more power than the PWM controllers, so I would recommend going with the MPPT.

At the end of the day, both will work fine with your solar panel batteries, but the MPPT is worth the investment. Once you decide between the PWM and the MPPT, you’ll need to figure out the amperage needed for your charge controller.

Calculate Amperage With:

  • The wattage of the solar array
  • The battery bank voltage

Use this formula to calculate the amperage

Watts / Volts = Amps

Take the total watts of the solar array divided by the voltage of the battery bank. This will give you the output current of the charge controller that you need.

pro tip for solar batteries

“Always make sure you have a charge controller that is large enough to handle the amount of power and current produced by your panels.”

– Matt C., EnergyPal

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own, you can typically find a sizing tool on the manufacturing website to make sure you’re on the right track. You can also call the company if you don’t see the info online or want to speak to a real person.

After you figure the type and size you’ll need, it just comes down to brand. There are so many makes and models of charge controllers out there.

I use the Schneider MPPT 60 Charge Controller for my panels. I found it to be super easy to install and it was part of the same product line as my inverter so it just .worked out of the box without any fuss. However, there are a ton of great brands out there that can give you the results you’re seeking.

How Much Do Solar Batteries Cost?

How Much Do Solar Batteries Cost

Your solar battery cost is going to depend on which type of batteries you choose, how many you buy, and what it costs to install the type you roll with.

solar panel system pro tip

“Government incentives, special battery program rebates, and additional savings from rate arbitrage allow the solar battery to quickly pay for itself.”

– Matt C., EnergyPal

The average cost of solar batteries ranges from about $5,000 to $7,000, not including installation costs. However, don’t just consider the upfront costs when deciding if you want battery backups.

Consider the gross price, the price per relative capacity, the installation costs, the cost for any additional equipment, and the longevity of the battery when factoring the overall solar battery cost.

How Many Solar Batteries Are Needed To Power A House?

How Many Solar Batteries Are Needed To Power A House

Understanding how many batteries you’ll need to power your home will also factor into your solar battery cost. The number you’ll need will depend on the size of your home and your specific electricity needs. One battery usually won’t cut it — you’re going to need a whole series of them in most cases.

batteries for solar powered houseThe number of batteries comes down to what you want to power when the power is out. Anything that deals with heating and cooling, or cooking are going to be very intensive power loads. Practically speaking I’d suggest not trying to power them from batteries, but have an on-demand generator.

Your fridge, freezer, ceiling fans and lights (if they’re LED), modern TVs, and mobile electronics (phone, laptops, tablets) will be a moderate load and can reasonably be powered with a larger battery set. This setup is a really practical approach to battery backs because it keeps your food cold, a fan going and entertainment and communications ups when the power goes out.

If you want to go off-grid completely and rely on your batteries as your main energy source, I would say you’ll need anywhere from eight to 15 batteries. As an off-grider who lives in a tiny house, my system uses 12 batteries as my main source of energy and I have been satisfied with that.

How Long Do Solar Panel Batteries Last?

How Long Do Solar Panel Batteries Last

Generally, solar batteries last anywhere between five and 15 years. However, different battery types are going to have different lifespans.

Lithium-ion batteries will last the longest, typically 10 or more years. Flooded lead acid batteries can have a lifespan anywhere from three years all the way up to 12 years, depending on the manufacturing process. AGM batteries have the shortest lifespan at about three to five years.

best solar panel sytem for my house

Solar Battery Types: Choosing The Best Solar Battery

Choosing The Best Solar Battery Type

Once you decide to back up your solar panels with batteries, next up is determining which type of batteries to use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type, but these are the basics I believe you should know about each type when trying to make your choice.

Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are typically used in laptops and cellphones, but they’ve been used more and more lately as solar power battery banks. Lithium-ion batteries are one of the more expensive kinds out there, but the advantages tend to justify the higher price tag, particularly as their prices come down.

The drawback with using lithium-ion batteries is that they require a special charging process which will need to be followed exactly if you are using a solar panel to charge it. On the other hand, lithium batteries can handle deeper discharges, so you need less overall capacity than you would with a comparable lead-acid battery bank.

The biggest draw for me is that they are a sealed battery, so you don’t have to worry about topping off with water like I do with my lead acid batteries.

Lithium Battery Advantages

  • Longer lifespan
  • Faster charge
  • No maintenance
  • Efficient power usage
  • Deeper discharges
  • No off-gassing/ventilation
lithium ion battery for solar panel systems
solar panel power battery pro tip

“We recommend Lithium-ion batteries for home storage. There are a couple different lithium-ion chemistries, but the chemistry that has emerged as the best mix of price, reliability, safety and ability to cycle is lithium iron phosphate.”

– Matt C., EnergyPal

Flooded Lead Acid Batteries

Flooded Lead Acid Batteries

Flooded Lead Acid batteries (FLA) are the most common batteries used for off-grid solar setups. These batteries are designed to handle daily charge cycling and work well for folks who like to be hands on with their system.

Back when I bought my batteries, lead acid batteries were the way to go with solar panels. At that time, lithium-ion was very expensive, so lead acid was the only reasonable option. I use twelve Trojan L-16 6v 370 AH Flooded Lead Acid Batteries in my setup.

They do require a little bit of extra maintenance, but for me, the low price and high efficiency is worth the extra work. I tend to like being hands on with my house maintenance because I know I can do it and like to have that autonomy, but if that’s not you, some of the other options may be the better move.

Lead Acid Battery Advantages

  • Most affordable
  • Recyclable
  • Easy to dispose of
  • Highly reliable
  • Prevents overcharging
Flooded Lead Acid Batteries

One main thing to note with flooded lead is that the plates of every cell in the battery must be submerged in water in order to keep working (this is where the “flooded” part of the name comes from).

You’ll need to add water at least every three or so months to keep the plates submerged, but I would recommend checking on them once a month to make sure they are doing their thing.

AGM Batteries

AGM Batteries

AGM stands for absorbent glass mat batteries. The glass mat technology is what allows this type of battery to be spill proof. The biggest difference between AGM batteries and standard lead acid batteries is the level of maintenance they require.

AGM batteries are completely sealed, and you’ll never have to check water levels or deal with expelled gas like you do if you choose to use the lead acid route. AGM is a great option is you don’t want to spend a ton of money and also don’t want to constantly check in on your panel system.

AGM Battery Advantages

  • Inexpensive
  • Light weight
  • Spill proof
  • Non hazardous
  • Self-contained
  • Handles temperature changes
agm battery for solar

Tesla Power Wall

Tesla Power Wall

The Tesla Power Wall is kind of in its own category when it comes to solar battery backups. It’s not just a battery, but an integrated battery system that stores your solar energy and protects your power when the grid goes down, as any battery backup can do.

It’s an extremely popular choice because the system is so intricate and tends to be fail proof. There are many reasons people love this battery brand; it’s all the rage in the modern solar energy world.

One of the main reasons people choose to go the Powerwall route is that it has one of the highest efficiencies and reliability as far as solar battery systems go. The major downside? It’s expensive.

Users argue whether or not the Powerwall is worth the investment in the long run. When you break it down, you’ll net $358 in annual savings and pay off the Powerwall in 31 years. This means it would likely take four times the warranty period for the Powerwall to actually pay itself off.

For some, the high quality is worth the expense. For me, I went with a more affordable option that still gave me good battery life, charge, and efficiency for my solar panel system.

Tesla Power Wall Advantages

  • Saves money over time
  • Increases panel efficiency
  • Supports larger loads of power
  • High efficiency
Tesla Power Wall

Another drawback with Tesla is that there are often long wait times with the supply chain, and it’s not yet available in every area. If you’re in no hurry, this isn’t a concern, but if you’re trying to get your system ready fast, you may want to go another route.

Check out these brands if you’re looking for a similar integrated battery system, but don’t want to wait as long as you would for Tesla’s installation:


Your Turn!

  • Do you want battery storage for your solar panel system?
  • How many batteries will you need in your solar battery backup?

Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

homesteading book review

The practice of homesteading can find its way into one’s life in many different ways. For some, being a homesteader looks like producing your own food, making your own clothes, managing a small hobby farm, or generating your own power. For others, the journey towards self-sufficiency might be as simple as adding a vertical garden of climbing peas to your apartment balcony.

I started out by adding chickens next to my small raised bed, then integrated other versions of homesteading into my life gradually. The process was a slow one, but that made it fun and manageable.

Start small. Take baby steps to start your homestead. Pick a skill you’re wanting to learn and engage with a book from that list, then see what happens. Happy reading!

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Homesteading can be life changing if you give it the chance, but, like anything, the first step is to learn. I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are the most helpful books for those looking to get into homesteading, and sorted them by category.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading entails many different areas of work and varieties of DIYing, which can all seem a little overwhelming to a beginner. This booklist includes guides that are broken down simply, ideal for someone who wants to start a self-sufficient life but is looking for some guidance on how to get started.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

by Carla Emery

If I had a friend who was getting into homesteading and asked for my advice, this is likely the first read I’d recommend. Carla’s encyclopedia includes detailed instructions for a plethora of important homesteader skillsets, including canning and preserving food, gardening, growing your own food, beekeeping, cooking on a wood stove, raising livestock, milling flour, tapping maple trees, and much more.


New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

by John Seymour

With the newest version published in 2019, John’s Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency is full of comprehensive information about life as a homesteader. The guide also includes detailed instructions for various elements of the lifestyle, like how to create an urban organic garden or how to harness natural energy.


The Homesteading Handbook

The Homesteading Handbook

by Abigail Gehring

I know firsthand that life can quickly become noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming. This read delves deeper than the mere process of minimization — it’s about what that process can do for you.

Dana elaborates on the reasons why decluttering can often feel difficult. She writes about the ways our emotions get in the way of creating a clutter-free life for ourselves, and ways to combat these mental roadblocks.


Mini Farming On Quarter An Acre

Mini Farming On ¼ An Acre

by Brett Markham

If the self-sufficient lifestyle of homesteading is appealing to you, but you don’t have a ton of land to work off of, this book is for you. Brett walks you through ways that having less land doesn’t have to limit you when it comes to homesteading.

Even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers what’s essential for beginners to know, like buying and saving seeds, crop rotation, farm planning, seasonal gardening, crop rotation, and many other basic farming need to knows.


The Backyard Homestead

The Backyard Homestead

by Carleen Madigan

With several different editions including an all-inclusive guide to raising livestock, growing your own food, kitchen know-how, building projects, and a seasonal planner, Carleen’s The Backyard Homestead series is one of the best guides for beginner homesteaders. Each guide includes step-by-step instructions for the topic it covers, along with pictures and diagrams for you to follow.

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Owning, managing, tending to, and working off of your land is the first step to becoming a successful homesteader. Without your own land, it’s hard to maintain a self-sufficient life. These homesteading books will help you locate quality farmland and gain tips for keeping it up on your own.

Finding Good Farmland

Finding Good Farmland

Larkin Hansen

Finding Good Farmland covers every aspect you should consider before buying your own farmland, including government regulations, residential concerns from the surrounding area where you’re searching, soil conditions, and ways to budget. This read is a great self-checker if you’re looking for quality farmland and want to ensure you’ve thought through the basics and the details.


Five Acres and Independence

Five Acres and Independence

by Maurice Grenville Kains

Maurice provides an easy-to-understand view of what small-scale farming entails practically. This read helps you evaluate land economically and agriculturally, guiding you in making an informed purchase. You’ll learn suggestions for land management like draining the land or improving soil quality, suggestions for when to grow seasonal crops, tips for raising goats, chickens, and bees on a small-scale farm, as well as marketing tips for farmers.


Land Buying Tips From the Pros

Land Buying Tips From the Pros

by Pat Porter

Pat’s book will give you specific information about different types of land and what to watch for when thinking about investing. No two types of land are the same, and purchasing a plot comes with a lot of need-to-knows about that specific land type.

The bulk of this book is a compilation of tips from experts on budgeting for rural land based on phone calls Pat had with these eight different experts.

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Growing your own produce from a garden is a huge aspect of homesteading. For me, working in my yard and garden is super cathartic, but it’s also a huge undertaking. Wisdom from expert authors about the best times to plant each crop, tilling and fertilizing methods, tips for crop rotation, and much more will be extremely helpful when creating your first garden.

Organic Gardening For Beginners

Organic Gardening For Beginners

by Lisa Lombardo

Organic Gardening For Beginners opens with an overview of the most popular types of organic gardening, as well as the benefits and setbacks to each. This section is helpful for beginner gardeners to decide which method works in their space.

Lisa also provides explanations to several natural growth methods like controlling pests without chemicals, and a crop-by-crop inventory that tells beginners what they need to know about each plant and vegetable to start growing.


Growing Vegetables The First Time Gardeners Guide

Growing Vegetables:

The First Time Gardeners Guide

by Jessica Sowards

Jessica’s YouTube Channel, Roots and Refuge Farm, is filled with wisdom for the first-time gardener, and so is her book. I would recommend this quick read to anyone who is looking for the most basic information when it comes to growing your own food in a garden. Conversational in style, Jessica delves into common questions like where to put your garden, how to prep your soil, and how to keep pests and critters out of your home garden.


The Flower Gardeners Bible

The Flower Gardener’s Bible

by The Flower Gardener’s Bible

The ultimate flower gardener’s handbook, Lewis walks readers through everything from what to think about when choosing your growing site to increasing the lifespan of your flowers. The books includes many helpful tips on how to improve soil, fight off pests, make informed decisions about seasonal planting, and specific information about each type of flower.


Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

by Derek Fell

Don’t let space limit you from becoming a homesteader. Derek’s book on vertical gardening is made for those who want to start a garden but don’t have a ton of space. The growing up and not out method is not dependent on having land to plant on, anyone can do it! With over 100 colorful pictures and diagrams to help with the process, Vertical Gardening showcases ways to grow perennials, shrubs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits no matter where you live.


A Seasonal Gardeners Handbook

A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook

by Donna L. Long

The biggest key to knowing when to plant each crop without wasting seeds is to pay attention to seasonal crop patterns. Take it from Donna, knowing when to plant what is an intricate process. Her guide will have you creating your own seasonal gardening calendar and planting by the natural signs of the Earth in no time.

She teaches you everything you could ever want to know about seasonal gardening, including when and when not to prune, creating a simple compost pile, hardening off, tips for plant’s chilling hours, planting by the phases of the Moon, and when to plant each type of annual.

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving, canning, cooking for yourself, managing your food storage – these are all key aspects of the homesteader’s life. These books will take you through what you need to know to bake, save, and store all your own food stuffs.

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

by Angie Schneider

Angie’s ultimate guide gives readers access to charts, colorful pictures, and step-by-step instructions for all kinds of preservation methods like canning & pickling, fermenting, freezing, and dehydrating food. It’s a very helpful book for beginners because the instructions are highly detailed.

Her book also includes many of Angie’s family recipes to try on your homestead, like canned dilly asparagus, fermented corn salsa, dried scalloped potatoes, and dried pumpkin pie.


The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

by Ball Test Kitchen

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving is a classic for homesteading and food preservation. It shows up frequently on best of lists when it comes to food prep. Why? It includes over 350 recipes for the beginner to the experienced homesteader, ranging from jams, fruits, butter, jellies, jerkies, pickles, and salsas.

The instructional section of the guide covers water bath and pressure canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, dehydrating, and smoking with detailed instructions and step-by-step photos to make the process simple and efficient.


The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

by Diane Devereaux

Pressure canning is one of the most popular methods for preserving cooked meals. Diane’s The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning is a step by step resource to teach you the art of pressure canning, so you can preserve your favorite low acid foods for you and your family.

Covering everything from soups and stews, jar meals, broths and beans, and game and other meats, this guide will introduce you to everything you need to know about canning through colorful pictures and diagrams.


A Year Without the Grocery Store

A Year Without the Grocery Store

by Karen Morris

This book is geared towards food preservation to prepare for times when grocery stores may not be accessible. Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency, and these tips from Karen will teach you what you need to know to have enough food for you and your family at the ready, no matter what.

Complete with tips for economically storing food your family wants to eat, simple recipes for baking basic comfort foods from scratch, how to safely store and use water, and common mistakes homesteaders make when storing food with ways to do better.

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Becoming self-sufficient with your energy sources is freeing because it cuts out the middle man. Plus, using alternative energy is great for the environment. Many homesteaders go off grid entirely, so let’s take a look at some books that can educate you on how to make off grid living a reality for you.

Off Grid Living 2022-2023

Off Grid Living:

Back to Basics Guide To Become Self Sufficient

by Small Footprint Press

This updated, 30-day guide to go from energy dependance to an entirely off grid life is extremely worthwhile for the new off gridder who wants to adopt the lifestyle as quickly as possible. This guide includes information on living off the grid without giving up any of your luxuries, how to use solar, wind, and geothermal sources, how to install different types of water systems in your home, the best US states for living off grid, and more.


Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

by Nick Seghers

The most popular method of alternative energy on the homestead is solar power. Many people have asked me about putting solar panels on my own tiny house because I’m one of the few out there that is totally off the grid. Let me be the first to say the process isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn!

Nick is an electrical engineer who specializes in solar power design, so his tips are definitely backed by experiences. This manual delves into things like a comprehensive tool list for installing your own panels, tilting, cleaning, optimizing solar input, types of photovoltaics, and much more.


Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

by Paul Gipe

Not as popular as the solar power method but still accessible for the average homesteader, wind turbines are another way to access alternative energy off the grid. Paul’s Wind Energy for the Rest of Us moves through many different methods for harnessing wind energy on your own homestead, including small and large turbines, water-pumping windmills, and multimegawatt wind turbines.


The Complete Guide to Water Storage

The Complete Guide to Water Storage

by Julie Fryer

Learning to store water is a vital for the life of a homesteader. But properly storing your water so its genuinely useable is a learned process, and this read is a great guide for getting started. Using tanks, ponds, and other means of water storage to maintain a safe and viable source of drinking water has become popularized in prepper and homesteader circles. Other water-saving techniques such as rainwater harvesting and gray water collection are also valuable and are explained throughout this guide.


Wood Stoves How to Make and Use Them

Wood Stoves:

How to Make and Use Them

by Ole Wik

Ever considered cooking with a wood stove? This quick read goes over everything you need to know about using and tending to a wood stove, including information about types of wood and stovepipes, how to actually use the wood stove once its going, how to cook with a wood stove, and general safety tips to consider when using an open flame in your own home.

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Homesteading For A Living: Books On The Business Side

Homesteading For A Living

Homesteading goes beyond self-sufficiency – it can also be a business, that, when maintained well, can bring you abundant rewards and financial freedom. Agricultural financing isn’t easy, but with a little guidance you can create the space to sell your tomato harvest, goat cheese, or homemade bar soap and make a substantial profit.

How to Make Money Homesteading

How to Make Money Homesteading

by Tim Young

This simple guide examines an array of skills that are crucial for turning your homestead into a business. Follow along with Tim and learn how to insulate yourself from financial collapse by monitoring which risks you take, manage your finances as you sell your crop, plan for retirement on the farm, and generate livable income from your own homestead. This book features interviews with 18 homesteaders and farmers who share intimate stories of their own journeys toward a fulfilling and financially freeing life on their homestead.


Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business

Starting Your Own Small Farm Business

by Sarah Beth Aubrey

Another great source for those who want to start homesteading but don’t have a ton of space to work with. Sarah Beth’s Starting And Running Your Own Small Farm Business is chalk full of savvy skills to help you get started, like planning your budget, web design to self-promote, and food service wholesalers.


The Organic Farmers Business Handbook

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook

by Richard Wiswall

After working for twenty-seven years at Cate Farm in Vermont, Richard knows the ins and outs of running a farm like a business. In his book, Richard shares advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient, manage your employees, create a budget, and turn a livable profit on your homestead.


The Future Is Rural

The Future Is Rural

by Jason Bradford

You might want to give yourself a minute to take this one in. Written by Jason the biologist and farmer, this book gives a very meta-assessment of what we know about our modern world and why that analysis can benefit the rural community.

Jason explains why, sociologically as well as economically, the decline of rural areas and dependence on fossil fuels will reverse entirely in the coming decade. This will greatly elevate the importance of self-reliance. If you’re looking for a high brow evaluation of why turning your homestead into a business and independently oiled machine is worth it, this is the book for you.


Farm Record Keeping Book

Farm Record Keeping Book

by Exocet Journals

Staying organized is crucial for running a successful farming business. Writing everything down in an all-inclusive journal can help with that. This record keeping journal is one smart way to log your daily farm routine, livestock care, seasonal crop rotations, repair operations, budget, and more – all kept in one place.

Books On Homesteading Skills, Tools and Supplies

Books On Homesteading Skills Tools and Supplies

Repairs, updates, and maintenance work is required for maintaining a successful homestead. Knowing which tools get the job done and understanding how to perform basic repairs can help you keep your farm in tip top shape and keep you from having to call for backup.

The Tool Book

The Tool Book:

A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tool

by Phil Davey

Phil’s tool book is basically an encyclopedia for common household tools. Leaf through this guide to find pictures of common tools from every imaginable angle, detailed patent drawings, zoomed in diagrams, and step-by-step illustrations of each tool being used with expert advice on how to use each tool best. The book covers different types of hammers, spades, chisels, and more.


Woodworking The Complete Step-by-Step Manual

Woodworking: The Complete Manual

by DK

This step-by-step carpenter’s manual includes guidance for a wide range of skillsets. New carpenters will learn the ins and outs of basic design techniques, how to use essential tools, and basic carpentry techniques like woodturning, furniture restoration, and wood joints.

More experienced carpenters can use their skills and follow the steps in the 28 different DIY woodworking projects the book provides. There’s something here for everybody wanting to learn more about woodworking.


Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

by Max Alth

Another essential skill to get good at is plumbing, especially if you aren’t wanting to hire out on your homestead. This DIY guide includes over 500 photos, diagrams, and drawings to teach how to fix leaky faucets, balky toilets, clogged drains and traps, and even how to install hot-water and steam-heating system on your own.


Farm and Workshop Welding

Farm and Workshop Welding

by John Seymour

With over 400 step by step photos and tons of tips and suggestions for beginner to experienced welders, this comprehensive welding guide has it all. Learning to cut and shape metal will help you keep your homestead up to par and give you the freedom to create endless projects on your own.

Flip through Andrew’s comprehensive guide for detailed descriptions of specific types of welds like arc, MIG, gas, TIG, and plasma cutting. It also includes advice that extends into the wider workshop with advice on drill use, cutting threads, and blacksmithing.


Tools A Tool-by-Tool Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials

Tools:

Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials

by Steve Dodds

Knowing which tools to use and how to use them is the first step in keeping up with repairs around your homestead. This quick read chronicles 150 power and hand tools with explanations on how to use them.

Steve informs readers in three clear cut sections. The first covers where you can go to find quality tools and what specifically to look for to ensure years of dependable use. The second section explains how to use eight basic tool kits, and the third section is a tool-by-tool inventory of virtually every power and hand tool you could need.

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

A homestead isn’t complete without livestock. If the goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, producing your own food with as few outside sources as possible, raising animals is the best way to make that happen. This booklist will provide you with all the know-hows you need to reduce your dependance on big agriculture and learn to produce your own dairy and poultry.

Raising Chickens and Goats

Raising Chickens and Goats

by Jason Howard

Chickens and goats are the most popular choices for raising animals on a homestead, especially if you’re getting into agriculture for the first time. Jason goes over how to know if your chickens and goats are healthy when you purchase them, how to keep them from getting sick, and ways to protect your livestock from predators.

For chickens, he talks about how to build a chicken coop, tips to raise robust chickens, and how to choose the best chicken breed on a budget, and more. For goats, he goes over the best places to buy a healthy goat, common mistakes homesteaders make when raising goats, tips to keep your goats from getting diseases, and more.


The Homesteaders Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

by Amy Fewell

Pretty much anything you’d want to know about raising chickens is likely found in the little guide. Amy provides detailed explanations of everything from understanding why chickens do what they do, creating your very own poultry or egg business, preventing and treating ailments with herbal remedies, setting up your property, coop, and brooder, and hatching new chicks.


Keeping A Family Cow

Keeping A Family Cow

by Joann S. Grohman

Keeping A Family Cow was originally published in the early 1970s as The Cow Economy, and has been reprinted many times with updates and edits. If you’re wondering if you should get a cow but aren’t sure where to begin, this is the book for you. Joann goes over cow knowledge essentials, like the health benefits of untreated milk, how to easily milk your cow, details on calving and breeding, and the ins and outs of making butter, yogurt, and cheese.


Raising Pigs

Raising Pigs:

The Ultimate Guide to Pig Raising on Your Homestead

by Dion Rosser

Learn the ins and outs of raising pigs with detailed instructions in Raising Pigs: The Ultimate Guide To Pig Raising. Dion’s ultimate guide covers how to choose the type of pig that will best suit your needs, how to build proper housing and fencing for your pigs, how to properly care for your swine, how to feed your pigs well, and tips for pig reproduction and breeding.

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Beekeeping is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance. There are extensive benefits that come with adding beekeeping into your self-reliance skills on your family’s homestead.

The importance of bees often gets overlooked, but they are actually one of the most necessary creatures to sustaining humankind. Their role as pollinators is essential to our food chain and the longevity of society.

By beekeeping, you can do your part to help keep bees from going extinct. And the honey is a major plus! Check out this booklist to kickstart your journey as a beekeeper.

Beekeeping For Beginners

Beekeeping For Beginner’s

by Amber Bradshaw

If you’re new to beekeeping completely, I’d definitely recommend this read. Follow along with Amy, a homesteader and experienced beekeeper, to learn the basic fundamentals of modern beekeeping. This book will walk you through picking the right hive, bringing your bees home for the first time, surviving winters with your bees, the basics of collecting honey, and more.


Beekeepers Problem Solver

Beekeeper’s Problem Solver:

100 Common Problems Explored and Explained

by James E. Tew

It’s easy for things to go wrong when learning the art of keeping bees. This book explores 100 common problems for all beekeepers, from the beginner to experienced level. Then, it provides several methods to solve those problems directly. Each issue is addressed in detail with photographs and diagrams and tangible solutions from highly experienced beekeepers.


Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

by Dewey M. Caron with Lawrence John Connor

This extensive and heavily researched beekeeper’s guide is for those curious about the science and history behind the art of beekeeping. This deep dive into beekeeping concentrates on the why, how, and when of beekeeping both today and in the past. Dewey and Lawrence explain bee basics in a manner meaningful to people who lack an intensive background in biology, covering colony management, basic bee biology, and more.

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

The practice of permaculture is all about managing your land and life in a way that is harmonious with the natural world. Getting started with permaculture begins with your thoughts then moves into your habits and lifestyle.

It means designing your land in a way that does not harm the earth, using your resources with environmental caution, decreasing your waste and your consumption, and creating an ecologically sound life on your homestead.

Permaculture A Beginners Guide

Permaculture: A Beginners Guide

by Graham Burnett

This is a valuable read if you’re entirely new to the lifestyle and mindset of permaculture. It’s a generalized beginner’s guide, so I don’t go this route if you aren’t actually a beginner – you might be frustrated by the level of simplicity! However, if you’re looking to learn the very basics of what permaculture is and how you can take baby steps to adopt the lifestyle, this is your book.


Earth User's Guide to Permaculture

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture

by Rosemary Morrow

This is a slightly more detailed and extensive guide to permaculture than the one above. Rosemary talks a lot about the principles behind living a life built around permaculture: to care for people and the earth wherever possible.

Practically, she also provides detailed tips and instructions for the following practices: seed-saving, integrated pest management, domestic and rural water usage, dealing with weeds and wildlife in an ecologically friendly manner, and designing land to withstand natural disasters.


Permaculture Design a Step by Step Guide

Permaculture Design

by Aranya

This book is specifically geared toward land design and management under the umbrella of permaculture. Aranya explains the design process in extensive detail from beginning to end, covering designing frameworks, site surveying and mapmaking, placement and integration, and working with clients. There is an abundant use of flowcharts and diagrams throughout to help you learn the practice.

Prepping And Survival Skills

Prepping And Survival Skills

A prepper is an individual who focuses on training themselves in both urban and bushcraft survival skills to be prepared for all situations. Learning prepping and survival skills is a great way to prepare for all circumstances and make sure you have everything you need on your own homestead, should you be disconnected from civilization. These books go over basic and advanced survival skills for preppers and homesteaders alike.

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

by Jim Cobb

This step-by-step survivalist guide is full of advice, techniques, strategies, and skills to learn from the perspective of a lifelong prepping expert. Jim gives insight on preparing for the worst with skills like water collection for drinking and hygiene, storing water, growing food, hunting game, foraging in the woods, first aid and home remedies, and tactics for fortifying and defending your home.


SAS Survival Handbook

SAS Survival Handbook:

How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate

by John Lofty Wiseman

John’s handbook specifically addresses ways to survive unforeseen situations as they arise. John provides strategies and tactics for surviving in any type of situation, from accidents and escape procedures to adapting to various climates like polar, tropical, or desert, to identifying edible plants, to creating fire. The is an all-inclusive how to for surviving anything, complete with detailed descriptions, illustrations, instructions, and diagrams.

Natural Medicine And Remedies

Natural Medicine And Remedies

For some, being entirely self-sufficient without using outside sources includes medicine. Many homesteaders engage with herbal remedies like tinctures, teas, syrups, and salves to calm anxiety, heal wounds, or help with ailments like headaches or the common cold. These easy reads will give you some basic advice for beginning the world of herbal medicine.

The Homesteaders Herbal Companion

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion

by Amy Fewell

This book is the go-to guide for those wishing to start their journey with home remedies. Amy covers everything from incorporating herbs and essential oils around your home, the basics of herbalism, and how to properly use each type of herb around your homestead. Whether you are new to homesteading and herbal medicine or you know the basics already, there is much to gain from this comprehensive guide.


Medicinal Herbs A Beginners Guide

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

by Rosemary Gladstar

In this beginner’s guide, Rosemary goes over 33 common healing plants and their uses. She also includes advice on growing, harvesting, and preparing each plant along with tips for using herbs in healing tinctures, oils, and creams. This is a valuable read if you’re looking for an in-depth inventory of useful medicinal herbs with pictures and tips for usage.


Be Your Own Doctor

Be Your Own Doctor

by Rachel Weaver

This book is specifically geared toward creating safe, high quality, in-home medical care. Rachel divides her book into sections: essential household remedies with which includes remedies for common issues, first aid, and immunity boosters, then health hormones and pregnancy, and, lastly, planning ahead and getting supplies. I would recommend this one to anyone thinking about trying herbal medicine in their homestead.

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How To Compost With Worms: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

How To Compost With Worms: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

how to compost with worms

NAVIGATION

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I first started worm composting, I remember adding in a whole watermelon’s worth of rinds, thinking it would take weeks or maybe even months to break down. The next week, I couldn’t find them in the bin, my worms broke down them all!ryan mitchell simple living expert

When people think of composting, they usually picture throwing all of their food waste in a pile that they turn every once in a while. But what if I told you there is an entirely different form of composting you can try? Composting with worms!

With vermicomposting, you rely on an abundance of tiny worms to help decompose your scraps, and boy do they know how to get the job done. It’s the same process the worms would perform in the natural world, but when you give these little guys the perfect conditions, they go crazy.

What Is Worm Composting And Why Should I Start?

what is worm composting

Composting with worms, also called vermicomposting, is a composting method that uses earthworms to do the bulk of the hard work for you — sounds like a pretty sweet deal right?

worm compostIn a general sense, compost turns to soil by taking in water and oxygen and producing carbon dioxide and heat. The decomposition process is caused by various bacteria and microbes breaking down your scraps. Worms can do the same thing, but faster.

When you add worms to your compost bin, the worms expedite the process by helping the bacteria and microbes do their job. The vermicomposting method is regarded by composting pros as the easiest and most successful method for composting, especially if you’re just starting out.

How To Compost With Worms: Pros and Cons of Vermicomposting

Pros and Cons of Vermicomposting

I chatted with Nick Shaw about all things worm composting. Nick is a composting enthusiast and owner of Apex Organix Compost, a commercial composting service in Fairfax, Virginia. Throughout our conversation, he gave me insightful advice on why vermicomposting is a wise method for composting newcomers.

worm composting pro tip “Vermicomposting is much less work than building a compost bin, making sure it gets hot enough, turning it, and trying to sift out finished compost. And if you’re in a small apartment, it’s something you can still do!” – Nick from Apex Organix

Worm composting has benefits, but it also has its downsides. When choosing a compost method, it’s important to consider where you want to keep your bin, how quickly you want the process to go, and the type of environment you can provide. I’ve created this chart of the pros and cons for composting with worms to help inform your choice of composting method.

PROS

  • Easy to manage
  • Less prone to odors
  • Worm compost has more nutrients
  • Faster than traditional composting

CONS

  • Worms cannot decompose proteins
  • Requires specific worm species
  • Easy to overfeed worms
  • Smaller volume

PRO: Worm Compost Is Easy To Manage

When it comes to maintaining and keeping up with your compost bin, vermicomposting gets a lot of points for being user friendly.

Composting with worms takes up less space than a traditional compost bin, so you can easily adapt this method to a small studio apartment or the corner of your living room. You do not have to turn a worm compost bin as often as you do other types of compost.

PRO: Vermicompost Is Odorless

Vermicompost is the least likely to give off a smell when compared to other methods. If your nose is bothered by your worm compost bin, something is wrong.

Saying that worm compost is entirely odorless might be a bit of a stretch, as all compost does tend to emit a slightly earthy aroma. However, the odor coming from your worm compost should be pleasing to the senses. More points for the earthworms — especially if you’re composting indoors.

PRO: Worm Compost Has More Nutrients

Vermicompost is richer in nutrients than traditional compost. It is jam packed with more phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, all of which are extremely beneficial in aiding the growth of your plants.

Vermicompost also holds nutrients for a longer time than traditional compost, so it can supply these high levels of healthy nutrients to your plants for even longer.

PRO: Vermicomposting Is Faster Than Traditional Composting

Vermicomposting is quick. This is because your earthworms are working overtime to do the bulk of the work it would usually take the bacteria and microorganisms many months to complete.

Traditional composting methods can take anywhere from eight to 15 weeks to produce results, but vermicompost gets the job done at two to five times that rate!

indoor compost bin

CON: Worms Cannot Decompose Proteins

Proteins, dairy products, meats, and cheeses are compostable when it comes to traditional compost methods. Experts certainly have varied opinions on whether or not you should compost these items though, as they can attract more pests and can also harbor pathogens.

However, when it comes to vermicompost, composting dairy and proteins isn’t an option at all. Earthworms have strong mouths but don’t have teeth, so thick products like meat and cheese are too difficult for them to digest. Stick with fruits and vegetables to keep your wrigglers happy!

CON: You Have To Tend To The Needs Of Your Worm Species

When going the vermicomposting route, it’s wise to tend towards buying species that are tolerant of the climate you’re in. When you add worms to your compost, temperature matters.

Location and climate are important considerations when buying worms. For example, African Nightcrawlers need warmer temperatures to survive while European Nightcrawlers enjoy cooler temperatures.

CON: You Can Easily Overfeed Your Worms

When composting with worms, the quantity of your scraps is vital. While the success of traditional composting methods is dependent on the way you layer your scraps, you can have as many or as few scraps as you like. That’s not the case with vermicompost.

Overfeeding worms can cause many problems with your compost like odors, acidity, excess moisture, pests, and sick worms, which you want to avoid.

CON: Vermicompost Needs A Shallower Container

Vermicompost works best in a fairly shallow container because it makes it easier for the redworms to feed in the upper layers of the bedding. You want the depth of the container to be between 8 and 12 inches.

how to start a compost pile

How Do I Maintain My Worm Bin?

How Do I Maintain My Worm Bin

Once you’ve made the decision to go the vermicomposting route, you’re going to need advice on how to maintain your bin. When I first started out, I had tons of questions, from what scraps worms prefer to what to do if my worms were eating too much to how often I should turn my worm bin.

What Should I Compost In My Worm Bin?

What Should I Compost In My Worm Bin

You can compost almost anything you would use in traditional compost in your worm bin, including:

  • Most fruits
  • Most vegetables
  • Roots and bulbs
  • Husks, skins, or peels
  • Eggshells
  • Dry leaves
  • Green leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Natural fibers
  • Non-glossy paper
  • Tea leaves or bags
  • Coffee grinds
  • Coffee filters
  • Wood ash
  • Sawdust

worm composting advice“They love watermelon. They go crazy for watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pumpkin. But if you really want to see them process material, give them some watermelon, wait about six hours, and they’ll go to town.” – Nick from Apex Organix

What Shouldn’t I Compost In My Worm Bin?

What Not To Compost In My Worm Bin

These materials can be harmful to the worms in your bin and are best to avoid:

  • Meat products
  • Dairy products
  • Citrus fruits
  • Onions or garlic
  • Cooking spices
  • Fats or grease
  • Bones
  • Breads & crackers
  • Pastries
  • Coated paper
  • Stickers
  • Envelope stamps
  • Cat or dog feces
  • Diseased plants
  • Pesticide treated plants
  • Treated wood products

Where Beginners Go Wrong Composting With Worms?

advice for worm composting beginners

When I first started out composting with worms, I didn’t want to make any rookie mistakes with my scraps, my worms, or my compost bin. Here are three example problems that keep composting beginners from reaching their best possible vermicomposting results.

1. Overfeeding Your Worms

Overfeeding Your Worms

I talked about this a little bit already, but this is a common misstep for vermicompost newbies. When you have a ton of kitchen scraps that you’re excited to start composting, it can be tempting to want to just throw them all on top of your pile and let the games begin. This can be harmful or even deadly to your worms.

pro advice on worm composting“When you overfeed, you can run into all kinds of problems that just aren’t good for the worms, especially if you keep the worms inside. The bedding material can become too acidic because, if you add too much food material, you are adding too much nitrogen to the soil, so add more carbon.” – Nick from Apex Organix

2. Putting Your Worms In A Compost Tumbler

Putting Your Worms In A Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is not an ideal habitat for composting with worms. Earthworms are going to do much better in a traditional outdoor bin or, if you want to compost indoors, a plastic storage bin or bucket with a lid.

For one thing, tumblers are designed to be rotated, but earthworms need a habitat that’s not being actively disturbed. Another issue is that compost tumblers are designed to heat up, so not only will you stress the worms out with excess movement, but there’s also a decent chance you’d end up killing them in the tumbler due to ammonia release.

do not use a compost tumbler for worm composting

3. Trying To Compost Perfectly On Your First Try

Trying To Compost Perfectly On Your First Try

Just like with anything else we try for the first time, it’s easy to be discouraged when things go wrong. Composting is a slow process without an exact recipe, and it takes a lot of guess and check to get right. Beginners tend to go wrong by letting their desire to get the perfect pile and soil on the first try keep them from trying vermicomposting out at all.

pro tip about worm composting“People get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there — they let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Just get started.” – Nick from Apex Organix


What Is Wrong With My Worm Compost Bin? Troubleshooting Your Vermicompost

Troubleshooting Your Vermicompost

Being a beginner vermicomposter can come with an array of challenges, and it’s easy for these challenges to make it feel like you’re failing.

However, many of these obstacles come with simple fixes. Below, I’ve compiled a list of common problem spots paired with helpful solutions for those starting out.

My Worms Are Sick Or Dying

My Worms Are Sick Or Dying

If you start to notice dead worms in your worm bin, you need to take immediate action to save your remaining sick worms. It doesn’t take much to keep earthworms happy, but sometimes things go wrong.

Here are some ideas of what might be wrong with your bin if you see dead worms, with quick tips on how to fix the problem:

Temperature of worm bin

Worms are not successful in a bin that is extremely hot or extremely cold. Use a thermometer to check that your bin is between 55º and 70ºF.

If your bin is too hot, feed the worms fewer scraps and rely on their natural ability to sustain themselves until your compost pile starts to cool off. If that doesn’t help, you can add ice cubes to the top of your pile.

If you bin is too cold, make sure you keep a lid on the bin to trap in heat. If your bin does not have a lid, use a black tarp to cover your worm bin. You can also try adding hay or straw to insulate your bin.

gardening 101

Moisture in worm bin

Worms don’t like it when the bin is too wet or too dry. To check this, think of the top of your compost pile like a wrung-out sponge. It should feel moist to the touch but it should not be holding water, dripping, or have any standing water.

If your bin is too wet, try soaking up the excess water with cloth or paper, or insert small rolls of newspaper in several holes throughout the bin.

If your bin is too dry, just add some more water to the top of the pile with a watering can or a hose. Be careful not to do this too quickly or you’ll suffocate your living worms.

Air flow in worm compost

Your worms need to be able to breathe! Make sure your bin has good holes for aeration and that the layers of your bin are not so compacted that they restrict air flow between layers and scraps.

Amount of light in vermicompost

Worms are used to living in a severely dark environment. Too much sunlight can be deadly for earthworms. The best way to make sure your worms stay happy is to keep the lid on your worm bin when you aren’t turning, checking on, or managing the pile.

Under or overfeeding your worms

Your worms could be dying off from a lack of food or overfeeding. If your worms do not have enough food, they will begin to eat their own castings. It’s common for composting beginners to be surprised by how quickly their worms eat away at their scraps, so check to see when you need to add more food.

It’s also common for people to make their worms sick by overfeeding them. If you see large amounts of food leftover after one to two weeks, you are probably overfeeding. I recommend you play it safe by feeding your worms an amount they can handle every two or three days.

basics of homestead gardens

Amount of space in your worm bin

Make sure your bin isn’t overly full of scraps, bedding, or even earthworms. Your worms prefer a nice full bin of food, but they can feel overcrowded if your scraps and materials are too compact. If you feel like the hatchlings are making the bin too full, you can take out some of the fully grown worms and move them to a new bin so all of your worms have enough space to move freely and feed as they please.

Type of water used in vermicompost

It is crucial that you use dechlorinated water to moisten your worm bin. Tap water often contains chlorine, which can be deadly to your worms. You can buy dechlorinated water at your local grocery or hardware store, or you can dechlorinate your tap water by boiling it.

Check the pH levels of your worm bin

Your worm bin should not be too acidic or too alkaline or it will harm your worms. You can check the pH levels of your bin with a pH probe. The goal is to have a neutral pH of 7.

If your worm bin is too alkaline, add some acidic foods like citrus fruit peels, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, or peppers — but be careful not to add too much and swing the pendulum the other way. Too much acidity can hurt worms more easily than a bin that is too alkaline.

If your worm bin is too acidic, make sure none of those acidic kinds of food are in your pile.

The Worms In My Compost Bin Are Not Having Babies

The Worms In My Compost Bin Are Not Having Babies

A healthy vermicompost pile produces hatchlings as your happy earthworms start to mate. It can take a few weeks for worms to hatch, so be sure to account for that time when considering the health of your worms. If there aren’t any mating earthworms, egg capsules, or tiny hatchlings in your worm beds, it is likely due to one of these two reasons:

Your worm compost bedding is unhealthy

It is possible that your worm bedding is too wet, too dry, too acidic, or just needs changing out so the worms have a comfortable environment to reproduce in. After your worms are initially added, your bedding should be kept moist but not too wet. The top 6 to 8 inches of the bedding should be turned every seven to 10 days. About every six to nine months, the old bedding should be replaced with brand new bedding. Use straw or hay, newspaper, coco coir, or shredded cardboard to do this.

Your worm compost bin is too cold

If your bin gets colder than 60 degrees, your earthworms will not breed or produce hatchlings. See above for tips on how to heat up a vermicompost bin that is too cold.

My Worm Compost Is Bringing In Pests And Fruit Flies

My Worm Compost Is Bringing In Pests And Fruit Flies

Pests and fruit flies in your worm bin are not ideal, especially if you are keeping your bin inside your house. Here are a few suggestions for getting rid of unwanted bugs in your vermicompost bin:

Add newspaper to your worm bin

Layer a sheet of newspaper on top of your worm bedding to help keep flies out of your
bin. If the flies start congregating on the paper, change it more frequently to see if this helps eliminate them. If the flies won’t leave, you may need to change out your worm bedding completely to destroy fruit fly eggs and larvae.

Build a moat in your worm bin

You can keep smaller bugs like ants or mites out of your worm bin by surrounding it with a water moat that the bugs cannot cross. Be careful with this trick though, as you don’t want the moat to leak over into your bin and completely soak your compost.

Use a bread slice to get rid of bugs in vermicompost

Another trick for small insects is to place a slice of bread on the surface of the bedding. Then remove the bread slice when it’s covered in tiny bugs and discard of the bread and the little pests.

My Worms Are Escaping From My Compost Bin

My Worms Are Escaping From My Compost Bin

When you first add worms to your compost bin, the little guys may try to escape, as they haven’t yet gotten used to their new environment. They can also react to barometric pressure, causing them to try to escape in the case of a storm.

One tip to control those more free-spirited earthworms is to keep a light on near the bin. Worms avoid bright spaces, so they will not try to crawl out towards the light if they are confined to the darkness of an enclosed bin.

My Worm Compost Bin Smells Bad

My Worm Compost Bin Smells Bad

One of the most common complaints for composting beginners is odor. However, vermicompost tends to be the most odorless form of compost. Your worm bin should barely smell, or, if it does, the smell should be earthy and satisfying.

If there is a gross smell coming from your worm bin, that’s a very clear warning sign that something is seriously wrong. Here’s what to do if your vermicompost stinks:

Try adding more oxygen to your worm bin

To do this, gently lift up the layers of food waste and bedding, enabling air to enter into your compost pile.

Try to scout out if the odor is coming from one specific source. If you track down the culprit, [BOLD]remove the moldy kitchen scrap from your vermicompost bin.

If you can’t find one specific smelly element in your worm compost bin, [BOLD]add a layer of shredded paper, hay and straw, or cardboard strips to the top of the bin, and gently work some of this bedding into the lower layers. The extra carbon you add will help to balance out any of the extra nitrogen that’s making your worm bin pungent.

Types Of Worms Used For Vermicomposting

Types Of Worms Used For Vermicomposting

You may feel like all earthworms are similar, but different species actually require different climates and can be good for vermicompost for different reasons. Check out the most common worms used in vermicompost and the specific ways to care for each species:

Vermicomposting With Red Wrigglers

Vermicomposting With Red Wrigglers

red wrigglers composting worms

Red wrigglers are the most common earthworms used for vermicomposting. The scientific name for red wrigglers is Lumbricus Rubellus. Wrigglers are one of the easiest worm species to take care of with the least number of problems for composters.

They can survive within a wide range of temperatures from 55° to 95°F (13° to 35°C) and are also one of the cheapest species to buy in bulk. You can anticipate receiving about 800 to 1,000 worms per pound when purchasing these red earthworms.

Cost: $30–$35 per pound


Vermicomposting With European Nightcrawlers

Vermicomposting With European Nightcrawlers

european nightcrawlers worms

Another earthworm species that is fairly easy to manage is the European nightcrawler, also known as Einsenia Hortensis. Think of these guys like the larger cousin of the red wrigglers who are a tad bit higher maintenance. These nightcrawlers like cooler temperatures, so make sure to be considerate of that when going this route.

Another thing to note with European nightcrawlers is they will birth hatchlings at a slower rate than other species, so you won’t have as many worm babies right away. Since these guys are larger, you should expect about 300 to 400 worms per pound when you buy them.

Cost: $35–$40 per pound


Vermicomposting With African Nightcrawlers

Vermicomposting With African Nightcrawlers

African Nightcrawler worms

African nightcrawlers are high-quality worms to use for vermicompost, as they are known for having better looking worm castings (as good looking as one could call worm poop), but they are also far more difficult to care for.

While their castings make them a popular option, African nightcrawlers require extremely hot temperatures in order to stay alive. They can begin dying off at 60°F (16°C), making them a poor choice for those who live in colder climates. Anticipate about 300 to 400 worms per pound.

Cost: $35 per pound


Vermicomposting With Indian Blue Earthworms

Vermicomposting With Indian Blue Earthworms

Indian Blue Earthworms

It is highly common for the Indian blue earthworms to be confused for red wrigglers due to how similar the species’ look. The Indian blue worm prefers warmer, tropical climates as opposed to colder, frigid climates.

One downside of using these guys in your compost is that they are highly sensitive to barometric pressure, so they commonly try to (and successfully) escape their worm bin with weather changes like hurricanes or thunderstorms. Indian blues are also harder to find and not as common in the U.S. If you can get your hands on them, expect 800 to 1,000 worms per pound.

Cost: $40–$50 per pound


Where Can I Buy Composting Worms?

Where Can I Buy Composting Worms

So where can you buy composting worms? There are several ways to get your hands on vermicompost worms in bulk. You can order earthworms online or purchase them for a local retailer or worm farm.

Many worm farmers and retailers ship their worms, but you can also purchase them on site. Here are a few sources for purchasing your vermicomposting worms:

planet natural

Planet Natural – Planetnatural.com

Planet Natural sells red wrigglers in bulk and will ship them directly to you. Your shipment will arrive in a cloth bag ready for you to use in your own worm composting bin. Planet Natural recommends that you use about 1,000 worms for areas up to 250 square feet and sells worms in groups of 250 to 4,000. You can order red wrigglers directly from their website.

Price: $35–$135 depending on quantity


uncle jims worm farm

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm – Unclejimswormfarm.com

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm sells several packages of vermicompost worms in bulk. They sell red wrigglers, European nightcrawlers, and mixed bags of composting worms in quantities from a mere 100 up to 2,000 worms. Each order is shipped and delivered straight to your door. You can purchase Uncle Jim’s vermicomposting worms on their website.

Price: $25–$70 depending on quantity


pet store

Local Pet or Hardware Stores

If you don’t want to order online, you can also purchase vermicomposting worms at your local pet or hardware stores.

You can buy common earthworm species like red wrigglers at these stores, however, it’s likely that they will come in smaller quantities than if you buy the vermicompost worms online and have them shipped to you in bulk.

Pet stores like Petco sell earthworms in groups of 45, while hardware stores like Cabela’s, Home Depot, or the Garden Center of Walmart typically sell them by the ounce.

If you buy your vermicomposting worms from a pet or hardware store as opposed to a worm farm, make sure the species is the right type for composting. These stores sell worms for many other purposes like fishing or feeding rodents, and not all earthworms are great for compost.

Price: $3.50–$5 per ounce


How To Build Your Own Worm Composting Bin

How To Build Your Own Worm Composting Bin

You can use most of the same materials and techniques when building a worm composting bin that you would use to build a traditional compost bin, but there are some specific elements to add when building a worm bin that are better for the health of your earthworms.

Features To Add To A Worm Bin

  • Build a 12- to 20-gallon bin
  • The bin should be dark
  • Give your worm bin a lid
  • Build a drainage mechanism
  • Give your worm bin aeration holes
  • Add 1-inch legs to your worm bin
  • Add a tray underneath your worm bin
  • Add bedding material
build a bin for worm composting

Read detailed instructions on how to assemble your very own DIY compost bin here.

how to build a compost bin


Your Turn!

  • How will you build the best environment for your vermicompost?
  • What type of earthworms will you add to your compost bin?

How To Start A Compost Pile For Beginners

How To Start A Compost Pile For Beginners

how to start a compost pile

NAVIGATION

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I first started composting on my own, I had tons of questions. I got hung up on what I was doing wrong instead of what I was doing right. Composting is a science and an art, so you’re not going to nail it on your first try. There is a lot to learn and it’s okay to fail when you first start.
ryan mitchell simple living expert

In a society obsessed with instant gratification, it’s hard for us to let good things take time. Composting is a slow process that takes diligence, patience, and keen attention, but the process brings abundant rewards. Composting reminds us that we aren’t meant to be blind consumers of what the earth has to offer, and that our ecological footprint is important.

What Is Composting? Compost Defined

What Is Composting

what is compostIn the simplest terms, composting is the decomposition process of organic matter to create a smooth, dirt-like material that can be used to nourish plants and trees as well as fertilize soil.

There are several different types of composting which I’ll outline later, but all types serve the same purpose: turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.

How Does Composting Work?

How Does Composting Work

As your carbon-filled kitchen scraps begin to rot, microorganisms from the soil will break it down. This leaves you with humus, a thick black and brown substance full of a fiber, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that can nourish plants and trees.

The microorganisms are able to break the material down by taking in water and oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide and heat. And then, like magic, last week’s banana peel has decomposed to become fibrous soil!

how compost is made

Benefits Of Composting

Benefits Of Composting

Composting has many benefits, but here are just a few to convince you to start composting on your own:

Composting Gives Your Waste Purpose.

Organics make up 1/3 of the garbage that is sitting in our landfills. Throwing organic material away adds waste to landfills that could have been used for greener purposes.

Compost Prevents Plant Diseases.

Using compost causes your plants and trees to be more resistant to diseases and harmful insects because of the healthy nutrients in the compost.

Compost helps to conserve and clean water.

Adding compost to soil can reduce the amount of water needed for crops. Additionally, compost’s ability to filter water as it penetrates the ground actually cleans the water flowing into the ocean.

Compost improves air quality.

The composting process sucks carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it back into the ground.

Composting helps the economy.

Composting plants have been proven to create more jobs than other disposal facilities, such as landfill sites.

Composting lowers your personal carbon footprint.

Composting minimizes greenhouse g