By Amy Grant, Gardening Know How
Photographs courtesy of Gardening Know How
Vermicomposting is an environmentally friendly way of reducing food scrap waste with the added boon of creating nutritious, rich compost for the garden. One pound of worms (about 1,000 worms) will eat about ½ to 1 pound of food scraps per day. It's important to know what to feed worms, the vermicomposting do's and don'ts, and how to feed composting worms.
Care and Feeding of Worms
Worms love to eat and spend most of their time doing so. Just like you and I, worms have culinary likes and dislikes. So what to feed worms and what should you avoid putting in the worm bin?
What to Feed Worms
Of the vermicomposting do's and don'ts, veggies and fruits are a resounding "DO." Worms will eat any of the following:
Left over corn cobs
Fruit and veggie detritus
However, it is best to avoid putting citrus, onions and garlic in the worm bin. Onions and garlic will eventually be broken down by worms, but the odor in the interim may be more than you can handle! Citrus pulp or any highly acidic fruit added to the worm bin in large quantities can kill off your worms, so be aware and only add small amounts or just add the citrus peels without the pulp.
When vermiculture feeding, basically go "green." Worms will eat most anything that you would put in a traditional compost bin such as coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, plant waste, and tea leaves. "Green" additions are nitrogen-based, but the worm bin also needs "browns" or carbon-based items such as shredded newspaper, copy paper, egg cartons and cardboard.
Some "DON'TS" in the feeding of worms are:
Do not add salty or oily foods
Do not add tomatoes or potatoes
Do not add meat or dairy products
Worms will eat tomatoes, but remove the seeds or you will likely have some tomato sprouts in the bin. No big deal however, as you can just pull them out. The same may occur with potatoes and their eyes sprouting before the potato is consumed. Meat and dairy are "don'ts," as they tend to smell quite rancid before they break down completely. Also, they attract pests such as fruit flies.
Don't feed the worms pet waste or any "hot" manure. "Hot" manure is uncomposted animal waste and its addition may result in heating the bin too much for the worms.
How to Feed Composting Worms
Be sure to chop larger pieces of fruit and vegetable into smaller pieces before vermiculture feeding. This aids in the decomposition process.
Depending on the size of your bin, feed the worms from once a week to every two days with about a cup of food. You may want to keep a journal regarding how quickly your worms consume certain things so you can adjust timings, amounts, and varieties. A stinky worm bin may be an indicator of overfeeding. Rotate the areas of feeding in the bin to ensure all worms are getting fed and tuck the food 3 to 4 inches under the bedding to thwart those pesky flies.
The best indicator of proper feeding is the condition of your worms and their increasing numbers. Proper care and feeding of the worms will reward you with rich soil for your garden, a smaller garbage can and a hand in reducing the amount of waste in our landfills.
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By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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