How often should I feed my worms?
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Many beginner vermicomposters search message boards asking, “How often should I feed my worms?” The answer depends on the number of worms you have, the conditions of your bin, and the time of year.
Let’s assume that you recently purchased 500 worms from your local red worm composting seller for the sake of this example.
Measuring how much your worms eat
When you add your worms to your bin, they will take time to get established. It is usual for your worms to explore their bin for the first week or two and not eat much food. For this reason, you will want only to add 1/4th of a cup of blended food at each feeding. Wait until this food has disappeared until you feed again.
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Here is a quick guide to help you maintain an excellent worm-feeding schedule. Overfeeding your worms can lead to disaster. This guide will help you remember the basic steps to making and feeding your worms.
As your worms get established in the bin, you will notice that the blended food disappears faster and faster. This is because your worms are getting settled, and a host of beneficial bacteria and microbes help your worms process their food.
In the beginning, you will want to 1/4th of a cup and observe how much your worms are eating. Once you know how much food they consume over 48 hours, you will get a reasonable estimate of the size of your worm population.
DO NOT OVERFEED YOUR WORMS. If you want to learn more about overfeeding, click here.
What to feed your worms
Good foods to feed your worms include most fruits or vegetables (click here for the complete list of foods). The key to providing these items is moderation of any time or variety.
For example, if you feed your worms predominantly fruit, you will likely notice an increase in fruit flies. If you provide your worms only potato and onion skins, your bin will reek of rotten produce. Moderation is key!
What should feed your worms
When feeding your worms, you want to mix greens, squashes, apple cores, banana peels, and root vegetables.
I make this work at home by saving a few days of vegetable and fruit scraps in the refrigerator. When I make my ‘worm smoothie,’ I pick through the leftovers to get the greatest variety. If I have an abundance of one type of food, I will place the excess scraps in the freezer in the future.
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This approach ensures your worms are getting a wide variety of foods whose nutrient value gets passed to the vermicompost you’ll later harvest. Diversity and variety also prevent the pH from quickly getting out of balance.
What shouldn’t give to your worms
You should avoid giving your worms garlic, citrus fruit, meat, cooked foods, oily foods (however, they love avocados), and feces. While in nature or a sizeable outdoor compost pile, you can add many items without worry.
Your worms can avoid these items while other composters take over.
Meat tends to attract composters like black soldier flies. Too much citrus can raise the pH, or fruit can attract mites and fruit flies. Feces can increase the bin’s temperature, cause an odor, or attract unwanted pests. Other insects aid in decomposition, but they are not something you want to attract to your in-home worm bin.
Do your best to avoid the items listed above. If a few scraps make their way into the bin, it should be okay. However, consider those items, okay to add on accident, but not include the worm’s daily diet.
How to prepare your worm food
How much your worms can eat depends on how you feed your little vermicomposters. This is because they don’t have teeth but instead have a gizzard. If you throw in whole produce without chopping or blending, it will take your composting worms significantly longer to consume the food.
When you throw in a whole piece of produce, it must first decompose enough for the worms to eat. If this is the only way you can get started vermicomposting – then it’s okay. It will result in slower growth of your worm bin and worm castings that you can use in your garden or houseplants. My motto is to encourage people to get started and figure out what works for them.
If you want to increase how much food your worms can eat, there are several things you can do. Let’s discuss some ways you can prepare and store your worm food.
If you want to compost more food scraps and use your worm castings in your garden, you’ll need to do some work.
That means chopping up the food scraps, adding grit, and freezing the food if possible.
Chopping up ingredients
The first step to increasing how many food scraps you can compost is chopping up the food. Even if you use your kitchen knife and make a few extra chops, it will help your worms. It will give them more surface area to munch on as the food decomposes in the bin.
However, if you want to take that further, you can use a blender. If you are headed to your local second-hand shop, a cheap blender can help you greatly increase the amount of food your worms can consume.
This is because you can essentially liquefy the food, and the worms do not need to wait for the food to decompose.
Add your food scraps to the blender. If you have it, add a little rainwater; otherwise, add filtered water and blend. You can use a measuring spoon to add a tablespoon of food and see how long it takes them to make it disappear.
If you want to increase how fast the worms can eat the blended material, you will need to add grit for the worms to use.
Items you can use for grit.
While we think of worms as soft, slimy items and grit being something that could hurt them, grit helps the worms eat and digest their food. Instead of teeth, worms have a gizzard, similar to chickens.
They intentionally swallow small pebbles and gritty items to save in their gizzard. Food passes through the gizzard, and those gritty items act as teeth and break up food bits even further.
A typical household item you can use to add grit is eggshells. You can use a mortar and pestle, a plastic bag and a hammer, and a blender to pulverize them as much as possible. You can add crushed shells to the food when you blend it or sprinkle them in the bedding.
If you do not eat eggs or want a pre-pulverized option, you can purchase crushed oyster shells or diatomaceous earth in many online retail stores. You can use both of these items the same way you would oyster shells.
Freezing your prepared worm food
In the beginning, you will likely have more scraps than you need on hand. After you’ve worked so hard to save various food scraps, you will want to keep them for future feedings. Use an ice cube tray or recyclable material to portion the food.
Freezing expands the cells in the frozen food. When you thaw and feed the cube to your worms, it is even easier o digest than the food before freezing.
I hope you found this guide helpful in determining how often to feed your worms. There is no 100% sure answer on how much and how often to feed your worms. Start by giving your worms a tablespoon of food and seeing how long it takes to disappear.
You can increase how much they consume with a bit of effort. Ideally, you can put enough food for your worms to finish in a week. Any more than that, you are likely to upset the worm’s ecosystem and cause more problems than it’s worth.
Until next time, thanks for reading, and happy composting!
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