This is the fourth article in our recently published Worm Farm Series.
Click the links below to check out the rest of the series:
So you’ve got your worm farm set up, you’ve made it nice and comfortable for your new pets, and they’ve moved in.
Now it’s time to get down to the business of feeding your worms so they can start creating all those lovely castings and plenty of worm tea for your garden.
What To Feed Your Worms
Feeding your worms isn’t difficult, and once you know a few basic ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ you’ll barely have to think about it again. It’ll just be a part of your routine.
Compost worms will eat a lot of different foods and other organic matter. They like a good balanced diet but there are some foods and organic matter that they don’t do as well with.
- Most fruit scraps
- Most vegetable scraps
- Coffee grinds and tea leaves
- Scraps from your juicer
- Vacuum cleaner dust
- Dryer lint
- Tissues, paper towels, old egg cartons, toilet roll inners and paper food wrap
- Shredded newspaper
- Withered flowers from indoor arrangements
- Torn up cardboard
- Shredded bills, receipts etc
- Small amounts of lawn clippings (as long as they are spray free)
- Dirt, leaves, small soft prunings
- Wood ash (as long as only dry untreated wood has been burned)
- Weeds (again, as long as they are spray free)
Note: adding large amounts of fresh lawn clippings can cause a problem as they heat up and may cook your worms. Add them in small quantities only and if you want to make sure they won’t generate any heat, let them brown off first.
Worms Don’t Like These Things As Much
- Too much citrus or acidic fruit waste
- Too much strong flavoured vegetable waste like onions, garlic, leeks, chillies etc
- Meat – will attract pests in open systems
- Too many diary products – will also attract pests in open systems
- Pineapple – it can actually kill your worms!
- Too much bread, pasta or processed wheat products
- Heavily printed or glossed paper
- Fats or oils
- Heavy or dense amounts of garden waste
General care should also be taken to avoid adding any waste that has chemicals, medications, toxins or preservatives which might harm your worms and also taint your vermicast or worm tea.
How To Feed Your Worms
Worms will eat the foods they like the best, first, and only go to the foods that they like the least when resources are low. This means the less desirable food will likely rot in your bin, so mix everything up when you add it to the bin to increase the chances of it either being eaten, or rotting evenly through the bin and not in one big heap.
The smaller your worm food is, the easier it is for them to eat. Cut large food scraps into smaller pieces, add garden waste that is small in size and shred paper and card into strips. Some people like to put their scraps through a blender or use what I call a blitz stick to chop it all up but this really isn’t necessary unless you particularly want to go to the trouble.
Your worms should happily receive a good bucket of waste every week, as long as your farm is healthy and thriving.
Don’t wait for your waste bucket to be full though, as some foods will begin to go slimy and rancid and your worms prefer their food as it is starting to break down, but not completely rotten. Aim to empty your bin, and feed your worms, once a week.
Make sure you’re not just filling your bin with food that is not being eaten though. If your worms aren’t processing the waste quick enough you need to either increase the number of worms you have, or start another bin to deal with the extra waste. Only increase the amount of food you add, as your worm population increases.
A good way to measure what’s going on with food levels is to check if you have castings approximately 10cms below the newly added, uneaten food. If not, then you’re adding new food too quickly and your worms aren’t getting through their current load. Again, either add more worms if you think your population is low, or start another farm to deal with the additional food.
The great thing about your worms is that they’re not like your other pets. If you’re going away for the weekend, or even on a longer holiday for a few weeks or more, they won’t suffer. You don’t have to feed your worms by a schedule. If you’re going to be away for more than a few weeks, just feed your worms as normal and then put a good layer of damp newspaper over the food. Once the worms have eaten all the food, they will tackle the newspaper and be happy until you get home.
If you’re staying away for longer you’ll need to think about having your worms fed for you. Don’t hesitate to get your neighbours involved. Just give them a list of what your worms will and won’t eat, and let them put their waste in your worm bin. They’ll be helping you out, and you’ll be getting rid of their waste for them.
Balancing Out Acid Levels
If you’ve fed your worms more acidic foods, like tomatoes, kiwifruit or even citrus that you put in before reading this, you can balance the acidity out by adding the following to your worm farm:
- Agricultural Lime granules
- Egg shells
If you have a worm bin used purely for dealing with animal waste, make sure you’re not adding waste from animals that have recently been wormed. The medicine used to kill worms in your pet, will also kill worms in your farm.
Wait for a good 2-3 weeks before adding pet waste to your farm again, to give the medicine a chance to get out of their system.
And remember, if you’re using your vermicast or worm tea on edible crops, don’t add any pet waste to your main worm bin at all! Keep a separate worm farm for pet waste, and use the by-products on non edible gardens only.
Ok, so now you know what to feed your worms, and what to avoid feeding them. You should also have a good idea of how much food to give them, and how often. In the next post we’ll cover general maintenance tips to help you keep a healthy, productive worm farm going. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up below to get the next installment of the Worm Farm series directly in your inbox.