~Feeding the worms - Diet~
Aallonharja's recommendations for trouble free wormy diet
Plant-sourced material only. Wastes from fruit, vegetables,
berries, tea bags, paper/cardboard/tissues. Not only do these contain a
lot of nutrients like P and K, but it seems to me that worm castings
made with this kind of feed make for sweet vivid taste and high
Know your limits! Experiment with 'new' foods.
Do earthworms need a complete diet, or can they survive (and be
productive) on a single unbalanced source of food, very high in N, P,
I think that composting earthworms can survive on a single
food source, BUT that food source must contain at least minute amounts
of the minerals they need.
For example, only paper or only cardboard would support a worm
population very well. But they do need a bunch of minerals just as we
do to survive. I'm guessing nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
would be the most important ones just as they are for us.
Earthworms do not actually eat the food materials themselves, but
the BACTERIA that are feeding on the materials. These bacteria do the
work of extracting the minerals and making more complex organic
compunds for the wormies, like amino acids and vitamines and what not.
What foods need to be avoided?
Salt. Salt kills worms. Do not add any foods with high salt content
into the bins. Often breads and processed foods contain high salt.
Cat and dog manure. Humanure. These can act as a vectors for human
diseases, such as toxoplasma, the brain cell parasite, and thus may not
contribute positively to your health in the long term. Manure from
livestock should be safe to use (ie. horse/cow/sheep/poultry manure).
Generally it is thought that worms can process ANY organic
material, given enough time to adjust. From pH 2 wineyard waste to
actively 'hot' decomposing horse manure - but they will need time to
adjust to the conditions, and the worm farmer will need to create
suitable conditions. Experiment carefully.
Does the material have to be partially decomposed already?
Not at all. While in commercial operations the waste material is
often 'pre-decomposed' or 'pre-composted', it is perfectly ok to add
undecomposed organic waste such as fresh vegetable peels in a worm bin.
One just has to watch out not to create a thermophilic compost that
heats up and cooks the worms.
While the earthworms can only 'eat' material that has already
started decomposing, usually adding fresh veggie waste, for instance,
poses no problems whatsoever, especially if buried in the bedding.
My question is should I run my kitchen waste through a blender
before adding it to the bin, or can I just chop it finely with a knife.
If you run the kitchen waste through a blender it will be consumed
much faster - but chopping with knife would work quite well. I think
blending the waste might halve the time required for decomposing.
I dont process my veggie waste, just throw them in there. I have 3
main bins with 8 month cycles, 6+ months of feeding and 2 months or
less of settling. Once the cycle is through, the worm caste is dark
brown muddy pudding that sticks to everything.
Whatabout adding sand? My kitchen waste contains no sand!
Sand - and grit - important, but also not a absolute must in my
humble opinion. It helps the worms digestion, and it helps breaking
down the organic matter.
For sand one can, in my opinion, substitute eggshells, perlite or
dolomite lime. Sand is basically broken down inert, hard, rock-like
material, so I suppose anything inert and hard would work. Do not use
metals or plastics.
One doesn't need that much grit, and note that sand will
concentrate on the bottom of the bin due to weight, so the top layer
wouldn't have that much sand. I would say that sand content of one
percent would be just fine.
There are all kinds of critters in there!? Can I harvest or should I wait?
A worm bin or a worm farm may support many kinds of creatures,
mostly useful ones. But the fact that you can see that other
decomposers are present usually means that the feed/waste has not yet
decomposed very well, and needs some more time to become worm castings
(unless worm compost is what you are after).
Usually critters like mites, springtails or tiny white Enchytraeid
'potworms' are feeding directly on the foods present. Unlike composting
worms, they cannot survive by eating the bacteria present in the worm
castings, and thus they will die off as soon as the foods have been
Could I possibly add my soil fertilizers like kelp, alfalfa, and
guano to the worm bin to up it's NPK. That way, my worm shit would be
the only thing I needed to use for fertilizing, make a tea for every
watering. - Bobby digital
Yes, very much so. But with some ingredients its best to only use
them for the final soil-mix because of their cost or composition. Kelp
and guanos are both very very costly to be used as worm food.
As to using worm bins to process different food-wastes into
different nutriens like veg or bloom nutrients, it works quite well,
but often nitrogen and magnesium supplementation seems to be a
Worms like alfalfa meal, but one must not use too much at once as
the high nitrogen content might cause heat-composting or even
I think perlite that has spent some months in a worm bin would have
lively bacterial cultures on its surface - yet another benefit..