What Should I Feed My Worms
If you are wondering what you should feed your composting worms, Red Wigglers, European Nightcrawlers, or African Nightcrawlers you've come to the right place. We are going to tell you what your worms love, what they like, what they can tolerate, and what not to feed them because it will harm them. Also, you will learn some tips on how to keep from feeding them too much, one of the biggest mistakes new worm farmers make, and what things you can do to make the food you do have for them even a little bit better.
Worm Bin Bedding-How important is it?
First, let’s talk about their bedding. Worm bin bedding is probably way more important than most people might think. If you do not use the right bedding or enough of the right bedding your worms will struggle, not thrive, and they may even die. It really is that important. Good bedding helps provide the proper moisture level and oxygen level in the bin. It helps with their freedom of movement and it makes managing their environment easier on you, the worm farmer. Because bedding is high in carbon and low in nitrogen, it helps absorb any offensive odors that may bother you, even if it doesn't bother the worms. Also, certain kinds of bedding even act as a mild buffer for the worm's environment if the food you feed them increases the acidity level more than they like. Bedding is also a food source for them, they eat the richer foods than they eat some bedding, kind of like our meat and potatoes. They need both. So don’t be skimpy on the bedding. I have often heard that you cannot have too much bedding, and the longer I work with these amazing composting worms, the more I believe it.
Great Bedding sources:
- Shredded Cardboard - probably one of their favorites and one of the best. Just make sure you remove any tape or glossy stickers and of course do not use cardboard with glossy paper on it.
- Shredded Newspaper- again, just don’t use any glossy paper. This one does sometimes get clumped up if it is all by itself.
- Shredded Leaves- nutritionally this is one of the best, but it's not the best for aeration or moisture retention until it gets aged a little. If you mix this one with shredded cardboard it’s awesome.
- Peat Moss- great moisture retention and decent aeration but it tends to be a bit acidic so you will need to use a buffer, like dolomite or garden lime.
- Coco-coir- many people like this one also, we have never used it in our operation here, but if you use it, don’t forget to rinse it very well first, it usually has a lot of salt in it which will kill the worms.
What do Worms Love to eat?
We will now talk about the food sources that don’t typically fall into the bedding category. Foods that typically have higher quantities of nitrogen.
- Fruits and Vegetables, especially banana peels and zucchini.
- Used Coffee grounds and tea bags(make sure and get any staples out of the tea bag strings)
- Farm (herbivore) manures - after all, they are called manure worms.
What do Worms like to eat?
Starchy foods like bread, grains, potatoes, etc. - these foods are best fed in moderation.
What can Worms tolerate?
Citrus Fruits and the peels and tomatoes, adding these on rare occasion will not cause a problem, but frequently adding these will cause a very acidic worm bin.
What you should never feed your worms.
All salty, spicy or oily foods. Never give them dairy foods or meat of any kind.
What can you do to make their food better?
If you chop up the food it will break down quicker and be more available to the worms sooner. Some people even blend up the food into a puree, it does not hurt to do this but I think it is unnecessary. Freezing food can also cause it to break down faster after it thaws. Again I think this will help foods break down faster but I think it is an unnecessary extra step on most foods, however on some foods that are more resistant to breaking down such as uncooked potatoes it will help some. Cooked food will break down fast also. Just make sure if you freeze or cook the food that you let it get back to room temperature before adding it unless you are purposely using it to help cool a bin on a hot day.
The best way to feed your worms is to add small amounts and do not add more until it is gone. I typically recommend that you feed, then check in 3 days, if it is not all gone, then you fed too much, leave it, but don't feed again until it is gone. For your next feeding reduce the amount. Some people pocket feed, which I highly recommend until you get used to how much to feed them. Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers can eat as much as ½ their weight daily in food and bedding, in a perfectly managed system, African Nightcrawlers can eat more but it is best to never feed until the previous food is gone to make sure you do not create a harsh environment for them with too much food.
Soon you will have an amazing material called Vermicompost which will contain a very high percentage of Worm Castings for your garden.