Eating well can be challenging. Family life gets busy, work seems never ending. At the end of the day, sometimes we just cave in for the not so healthy meal. Would you be surprised to think that sometimes those habits get passed along to our worms?
By the end of this article, I would like you to be asking yourself these 2 questions regularly:
- Am I feeding my worms what is easy?
- Am I feeding my worms what they require to thrive?
We are raising worms for the fertilizer they create, so we should feed our worms to provide them with ALL the vitamins, minerals, and nutrition they need to produce the best castings.
"Good food is very often, even most often, Simple food." - Anthony Bourdain
The first source of food for my worms is in the bedding. I use leaf compost and wood chips. Other than the nutrients that are abundant in my bedding, I only feed my worms on the surface. Certain foods tend to heat up as they decompose. I want the heat to be able to escape on the top, and also allow the worms space to retreat deeper into the bedding if they need to.
I do not typically feed shredded cardboard to my worms. Though we have to find ways to recycle cardboard - it seems to have much less nutrition than leaves and wood chips. We don't know the contamination that is in cardboard or how many factories and machines it went through. Just like processed foods are less healthy for humans... perhaps it is the same for worms.
My Worm food changes with the seasons. As you have seen in some of my Youtube videos, I feed my worms almost everything: kitchen scraps, garden clippings, specially made worm chow, home grown wheatgrass pads & much more!
With just my wife and I left at home these days (6 boys, significant others and grandkids stopping by occasionally), I dont typically have much kitchen scraps leftover for the worms. But FYI, you can throw most all of your kitchen scraps into the worm bins. This will include: fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grinds, bread, potatoes, pasta, cereal, corn cobs & husks, tea bags, etc.
- I avoid meat, fish, & dairy products - the worms would likely do fine with them, but they will start to smell and also attract lots of unwanted critters.
- Fruit flys come in on produce. I sometimes freeze produce scraps before slightly burying in the bedding to avoid flies as much as possible.
- Avoid salty food - Worms breathe through their skin and need to stay moist. Salt will pull moisture from their bodies and possibly kill them.
- Excess quantities of citrus can create an imbalance of PH in the worm bin and harm the worms. Test in small quantities.
Try to maintain a balance of BROWN (Carbon/Carbohydrates) & GREENS (Nitrogen/Proteins) in the food. If you are unsure whether the food is Brown or Green. Imagine that food wet and a couple of days old, Would it smell? If yes, it is most likely a Green. If it would not smell, It is most likly a Brown.
Feeding kitchen scraps may be enough if you have a small worm farm. With millions of hungry worms, I have to create more food for them.
"One mans trash is another worms treasure" - Captain Matt
In optimal conditions, a compost worm is able to consume their body weight in food every day! I have found that the most effecient ratio for me starting out is about 1lb of food for 1-2lbs of worms. This can be hard to continually monitor though because the worms are constantly multiplying.
Because leftover food can attract other critters & bugs, I don't try to maximize my worms consumption limits. However, during the summer, there is an abundance of worm food all around us to be taken advantage of! All of my garden scraps and leaf clippings will be broken down as much as possible and added to the worm bin. Just make sure you are not using clippings from somewhere that had pesticides or chemical fertilizers used recently.
Captain Matt's Worm Chow
Most commonly I am feeding the worms my Worm Chow. It is a blend of:
- Chicken Crumbles [check price]
- Chicken Mash (crushed chicken crumbles or pellets)
- De-Clorinated water
- Small amount of unsulfurated Molasses [check price]
- "Treat of the week" currently puree sweet potatoes :)
💰 I suggest checking your local feed/agriculture stores for best pricing
I mix all of that together really well till it has a paste like texture. Worms don't have teeth or "bite" their food, They suck their food. So the softer I can make my chow, the more they will be able to consume. And the more they consume, the more castings I harvest! Sometimes I add stone dust or agricultural lime... but those are for environmental factors, not nutrition.
Homegrown Wheat Grass Pads
The worms need a treat in the winter time too! For me & my familys health, we have grown and juiced wheatgrass pads for decades. Naturally the pad itself went to our compost pile. One day I had the idea to give the worms a shot at it. I flipped it upside down on the top of the worm bin. When I came back in a few days, WOW, was I suprised by the response from the worms! They devoured the pad. In the winter time when there are no more garden clippings to harvest, I grow wheat grass pads specifically for my worms.
*Check your local feed/agriculture store for wheat berries to get you started. You can also view my youtube video for more details.
A Challenge for You
I want to challenge you to think about what you are feeding your worms, and for what reasons you are feeding your worms those things? Are you afraid of feeding them the wrong thing? Over the years I have been told many things "to feed" or "not to feed" my worms, many of which have just been quite foolish or unnecessary. So if there is something you are unsure about, try it out in a small amount and let the worms tell you what it true! We are all still students in one way shape or form. It's OK to feed your worms the "wrong" thing sometimes, it's OK to make mistakes in the search for the truth.
Mistakes + Reflection + Sharing Results = Progress for the Worm People :)
🥂 Here's to your worm success! (even if there are a few mistakes along the way)
What is your experience with feeding your worms? Share with your thoughts, ideas, or questions with the Worm People in the discussion forum.