So, my daughter said to me over the weekend, “Mommy, what can I feed my worms?” hmmm…what CAN I feed my worms… Of course, I thought I had a pretty good idea – kitchen scraps, right? How do you know what to feed worms?
Well, that depends. From all of my research, I’m going to outline the most commonly held beliefs when it comes to what you should and shouldn’t put into your worm composter for your worm pets. However, some readers have let me know that once your worms are healthy and happy in their new home (or a very well-established home…) they can tolerate small amounts of just about anything. Plus, really experienced worm owners are so tuned-in to the health and behavior of their worms, that they can notice subtle differences in their behavior and productivity that they can then attribute to a change in diet, and make adjustments that they deem fit.
But for me, a beginner vermicomposter, I will stick to the most commonly held beliefs to play it safe and be sure I don’t mess-up our new worm pets.
So, with that said, I think it will be easier if I tell you what not to feed your worms first:
THINGS NOT TO GIVE TO YOUR WORM
DON’T FEED YOUR WORMS CITRUS
Worms do not like an acidic environment. Avoid citrus and other overly-acidic items.
DON’T FEED YOUR WORMS ONIONS AND GARLIC
These are two of my favorite foods! I actually have my first crop of garlic in the garden right now- I got 9 different varieties from a garlic grower near Toronto and planted them last fall and am anxiously awaiting their sprouting this spring… but I digress. Most people have a love or hate relationship with the allium family, to which garlic and all onions belong. Your worms are on the hate side. Don’t feed these strong smelling and tasting foods to your worms.
DON’T FEED YOUR WORMS HOT PEPPERS
This kind of goes along the lines of the onions and garlic. Hot peppers have a very strong taste and smell, so don’t feed them to your worms. From what I’ve read, sweet peppers are fine to put into your worm composter, though.
DON’T FEED YOUR WORMS DAIRY PRODUCTS
You may like them, and I might like them, but your worms won’t enjoy dairy products. Plus, they could REALLY make your bin smell.
DON’T FEED YOUR WORMS EGGS AND MEATS
Ok, I haven’t had breakfast yet and this looks really good… Look at that cute bacon smiley-face! BUT NOT FOR YOUR WORMS! Keep the proteins out of your bin. Your worms will be happier and your bin won’t smell. (egg SHELLS, though, are a different story. I will talk about why your worms need them later on in this blog.)
GRAINS…hmm…in all of my hunting for information about this, I can’t state an absolute truth on this one. Some “experts” say it is perfectly fine to give your worms some grains in their diet, while others are completely opposed to feeding worms grains. I am going to err on the side of caution and stick to veggies and fruit, but when I experiment with my next type of composter, I may give them a small amount of grains to see how they react.
BUT, WHAT CAN I FEED MY WORMS?
Ok, so now you know what not to feed your worms. Here are the foods that your worms will LOVE and will thrive on.
Remember, happy worms are productive worms!
FEED YOUR WORMS VEGETABLES
The compost you put in your garden after your worms have eaten this stuff will help you to grow more of the same. Organic is even better.
FEED YOUR WORMS FRUITS
From what I’ve read, worms absolutely LOVE melon of any kind. I’m going to give them some of this when they get here as a sort of, “Welcome Home” present!
I know some of you are saying, “hey, pumpkin isn’t a fruit!” Actually, pumpkin is a fruit. (it has an internal packet of seeds) Now, I have read that giving your worms too much from the squash family won’t keep them happy, so just go easy. Think of it yourself…if you could have a variety of fruits or just pumpkin, what would you rather eat? I know, not the greatest comparison, considering how far removed we are from worms genetically, but variety is the spice of life, and this also applies to worms and their fruit. (just don’t forget, no citrus.)
A WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT FRUITS: Fruits (and veggies too, but not usually to the same extent) can harbour a LOT of fruit fly eggs. I have found that by freezing and thawing your fruit peels/rinds before feeding them to your worms will help you to avoid this problem. Also, remember that the skins of fruits and veggies are where most pesticide residue is found. I know we can’t always eat organic, but organic fruit peels will harbour the least amount of toxic chemicals.
FEED YOUR WORMS COFFEE GROUNDS
So, I started saving my coffee grounds last summer to add to my garden soil this spring. Now, it is going to get used by my worms first before it makes it into the garden. And I’m ok with that. Do you think worms are affected by caffeine? Let me know in the comments section.
FEED YOUR WORMS SOME “GRIT”
Ok, here’s the dirt on “grit”…ha ha. Because worms don’t have teeth to break apart their food, they need to ingest something to help their bodies break their food down so that they can digest it. You can buy specially made grit that includes calcium carbonate to add in small amounts to your bin every time you feed your worms, but here are really easy ways to give your worms “grit”:
Last summer, I started saving my egg shells to simply add to my garden soil in the spring. I rinse them immediately after cracking and then sit them in the kitchen window to dry. Once they are dry, I throw them into a big zip-lock bag and roll them with a rolling pin. This is what they look like afterwards:
Keep in mind I saved these over quite a period of time. You don’t need to add a lot to your bin. I’m hoping that these pieces will be of use to my worms and that they don’t need them to be smaller. I have thought about putting them in the blender to make “eggshell powder”, but I’m not sure my blender blades (or my family members who need the blender to make smoothies each morning) would like that!
I’ve also read that a lot of people sprinkle some fine sand on top of the food after they feed their worms. Once again, variety is the spice of life. Sand can be a bit hard to come by here in the winter time, but maybe I’ll keep a bit lying around over next winter so my worms get a bit of both commonly used grits.
This is what the worms live in, on, around and through. But they also eat it. There are conflicting opinions on what you should and shouldn’t use for bedding, so I have discussed each one here in their order of what I consider “purity of bedding”:
- A few experience vermicomposters say to NEVER use newspaper for bedding–their bedding should only be dry leaves. (difficult to do in the winter time if you get snow unless you stockpile a bunch of dry leaves in your house in the fall before the snow flies…But I will “leaf” that up to you.)
- More say that using shredded newspaper for bedding is fine as long as you don’t use any newspaper with coloured inks
- most commercial farmers use a combination of shredded newspaper, plain cardboard, including cardboard egg cartons, and other “brown” matter. They avoid glossy paper, though.
- a few commercial farmers I investigated said that a small amount of shredded fine paper (the white or coloured stuff you photocopy on) will be fine if it is mixed in with the shredded newspaper.
I have decided to go somewhere in the middle of “purity” with my worm bedding choice. I will be using shredded newspaper with no coloured inks, cut up pieces of cardboard egg cartons, and soft cardboard that is free from too much glue. I’m sure my worms would not appreciate a gluey dessert after their wonderfully yummy organic fruits and veggies.
Please feel free to add your expertise or experience to anything I’ve commented on here by leaving me a message in the comments below.
Have a wormy day!