5 ways to prep your worm food
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Want to find an easy way to prep and feed your compost worms? In the beginning, I watched food scraps go uneaten for weeks. I knew I wasn’t doing something right and decided to do some research and experiment.
I want to share what I’ve learned about feeding my worms over the past few years. First, I’ll share some information that helped me understand how worms eat. This information helped me understand ways to improve my worm’s diet and how I fed them. After implementing these changes, I watched my worm population explode; they eat more food than ever and produce excellent vermicompost that I use in my houseplants.
Let’s now jump into the digestion basics.
Red Worm Digestion Basics
Red worms consume food using their mouth. They do not have teeth. Instead, the food moves down their pharynx and is stored in their crop. After that, the food moves into the worm’s gizzard.
Worms have something like a lip that covers their mouth called a Peristomium.
The gizzard uses grit to help grind up its food. They act almost like the worm’s teeth. Breaking down the food to help the worm better absorb the nutrients.
Often it isn’t until mites, bacteria, and fungus break down these food bits into the sludge-like consistency that worms like to eat. Tiny food particles and a diverse bin ecosystem allow your worms to do their job more efficiently.
5 Ways To Prepare Red Wiggler Food
Add gritty items to each feeding.
As we just discussed in the digestion basics, worms use a gizzard to grind up their food. Therefore, you must add grit to their food. You can add many different items to the mix when you prep your worm food. Everyday gritty items include pulverized oyster shells, diatomaceous earth, sand, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
Eggshells are often the most available item for people composting at home. There needs to be a little note that you need to do some work to help your worms use the shells. You can’t simply crack the egg in the pan, then throw the shell in the bin. The pieces are too large, and there is still egg residue and possible bacteria in your bin.
How To Prep Your Eggshells:
After you crack your egg, your first step is to rinse out the egg residue. Put the shells in a bowl and fill it with lukewarm water. Use your thumb to remove any remaining egg. Rinse the eggs and place them on a towel to dry.
Once dry, put the shells in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and pulverize them as much as possible. Save the crushed shells in a sealed container.
Add at least one teaspoon of the ground eggshells (or other grit items) to every feeding.
Chop up food scraps
Worms don’t have teeth. That means they can not just bite off pieces of the compost you leave in the bin. When you throw whole worm scraps in the bin, your worms can’t eat them right away. Instead, they have to wait for the chunks to break down.
Depending on your goals, adding complete food scraps to your bin isn’t bad. This method will take a while for the food to break down, but it is a low-maintenance strategy. Not everyone is looking to optimize and maximize the system, and that’s okay.
However, if you want your worms to gobble your food waste, do them a favor and chop up the scraps. A few extra cuts add more surface area. Chopping or dicing your food scraps increases the surface area that mites and bacteria can break down. The bacteria and mites make it easier for your worms to convert the food waste into fertilizer.
Blend food scraps
To go one step further than the previous step to prep your worm food is to throw everything in a blender. Worms can consume an impressive amount of food if made into a slurry. We recommend you visit a local thrift shop and buy a blender dedicated to this purpose.
Save all your clean and dry eggshells and dry blend them in the blender by themselves. You can also use a coffee/ spice grinder for your eggshells. Both processes help you nearly pulverize the eggshells making them more available for your red wigglers.
Add all of your food scraps to a blender, and use rainwater or purified water to assist in blending. You can add your grit items in at this part of the process to ensure it gets distributed evenly. If you needed to add a good amount of water to your scraps for blending, you could strain the excess liquid. You could also use newspaper or cardboard to absorb the excess liquid.
Freeze food scraps
If you don’t want to clean out a blender full of worm slurry, freezing food scraps are even easier to prep your worm food. I still advocate giving all of your scraps a rough chop at the bare minimum. Place all of your chopped chunks in an old takeout container and put it in the freezer. Make sure you freeze it until completely frozen.
Freezing the food waste helps worms in a few ways. Most of the food you add is 80 to 90 percent water. When you freeze the food scraps, the water in the food expands, breaking down the plant matter’s cell walls. Upon thawing, the scraps are almost pre-digested for your worms.
Another benefit of freezing the scraps is that it can kill the eggs of pests. It is common (and natural) for products to carry insect eggs. Even if you give them a good wash, eggs can remain. By fully freezing your produce scraps, it prevents pests from getting a free ticket to your worm bin.
Store and freeze excess food in egg crates
In my opinion, freezing blended worm food in cardboard egg crates is just a clever tip. I read this tip on a message board years ago when I was starting. This tip increased my consistency in how often and how much I fed my worms.
First, I use a blender to prep all of my worm food. I then lightly strain and divide the blended material into the 12 cups of the egg crate. I usually fill a few egg crates, place them on a sheet pan, and place them in the freezer.
Once everything’s frozen, I rip each little egg cup apart and store them in a sealed container in my freezer. This has allowed me to save food in advance for my worms. It also allows me to measure how much my worms are eating. Plus, the worms love the natural cardboard egg containers.
A win, win, win!
How to feed frozen egg crates to your worms
Here is my process when I’m ready to feed my worms using the frozen egg cartons.
First, when I’m ready to feed my worms, I go to the freezer and pull out the right amount of cubes about a half hour to an hour before feeding. This allows the food nugget to warm up and start releasing some of the liquids.
After waiting for the nugget to thaw, dig a small pocket in one of the corners or sides of your worm bin. Before adding the food nugget, surround it with extra bedding items such as newspaper or brown corrugated cardboard. Cover the area with additional bedding.
Boom- you’re done feeding your worms.
Check that area over the next few days. Once all food is consumed, find a new corner of the bin and repeat the process.
This tip has saved me behind on my vacations when I ask friends to feed my worms. Many people find it gross, making the request a little easier for caregivers. I can tell them exactly how many cubes to give them and how often.
5 Ways To Prep Your Worm Food Summary
We hope you found these ways to prep your worm food helpful. One of the most challenging parts of maintaining your worm bin is feeding them. These tips helped us regularly offer a consistent variety of food, with grit and without bugs.
It is important to note that while these will help speed up how fast your worms can break down your food waste, you must not add too much food. Adding too much food before your worm population has grown enough to consume it can kill your bin. Experiment with strategies like the frozen egg carton nuggets to measure and track how much your worms are eating.
If you prep your worm food differently, please leave your method in the comments. I’d love to see what way works for you.