5 Worm Feeding Rules to Successful Vermicomposting
Worm farming isn’t hard. Feed worms, harvest castings, and repeat. And we have five golden rules for feeding your worms to follow. We will explain how and what to feed worms to ensure you keep them happy and thriving.
- Rotting food can disrupt a neutral pH environment in your vermicompost
- Incorrect foods can impact your worms’ health
- The quantity of food can also impact the delicate balance in your worm farm.
Even though we consider worm farms a low-maintenance form of composting, it is still an intricate ecosystem that requires monitoring and care.
Understanding how to balance your vermicomposting system is critical to succeeding in this rewarding endeavor. This includes knowing when and what to feed your worms.
By following our five simple rules, you’ll be a master worm farmer in no time, with more worms and castings than you’ll know what to do with.
5 Feeding Rules to Successful Worm Farming
If we had a $1 for each time, we were asked one of the below questions by our friends and family; we’d be some seriously wealthy worm farmers.
“Can this go in your worm farm?“, or
“Do your worms eat _______?“, or even
“How much do your worms eat?“
So to help you remember how and what to feed your worms, we’ve compiled five rules to memorize.
Rule #1. Quality – Know Your Worms Diet
Red Wriggler worms are vegetarians and survive on fruits and vegetables.
One of the best ways to succeed with vermicomposting is by getting up close and personal with your worms.
This means understanding the type of worms you have in your farm and becoming intimate with their dietary requirements. What do they gravitate towards, and what foods do they stay away from?
Red Wriggler Worms
They are the most common species of worm used in vermicomposting (and will be our focus throughout this article). Red Wriggler worms largely survive on a vegetarian diet, favoring organic kitchen scraps like vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
A good rule of thumb for Red Wriggler Worms is if you maintain a healthy diet at home with plenty of vegetables and staples, your worms will be happy.
You can also include other kitchen scraps such as coffee grounds (and coffee filters), tea bags including tea leaves, and ground-up egg shells.
There are some vegetables and fruits to avoid, such as onion and garlic or anything from the Amaryllidaceae family. We also do not recommend acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and citrus peels. These foods can cause an imbalance in your worm farm’s environment, leading to other issues.
Other foods to AVOID include meat, dairy products, food cooked with oil and grease, or anything rotten (including vegetables and fruits).
We dive deeper into WHAT NOT TO FEED WORMS in this article HERE.
Another type of worm used for composting purposes is Nightcrawler Worms.
Now, nightcrawlers have a very different diet from red wriggler worms. They specifically seek out the decomposing matter and are not bothered if it is rotting or moldy.
They will also eat organic materials like fruits and vegetables and paper products. But their appetite is generally smaller than their red cousins. Which means they take longer to grow and reproduce. It also means they are not as productive in producing worm castings.
Because of these dietary requirements, it is critical that you know the type of worms you have in your worm farm.
Rule #2. Frequency – Don’t Feed Too Often!
Feed your worms only once ALL THE FOOD has been consumed from the previous feed
One of the biggest mistakes novice vermicomposters makes is feeding their worms too frequently.
And we completely understand why!
It is easy to become overzealous and concerned about your worms. After all, they are contained in a box and rely entirely on you for their food. So, the only natural thing to do is to give them plenty of food, often.
Unfortunately, this usually results in the all too familiar phrase in the gardening community of “loving them to death.”
We like the feeding rule we established at the beginning versus scheduled feeds based on time because it ensures the worms have had time to process the vegetable waste.
If you feed worms on a schedule based on time, you risk food building up and beginning to rot and turning acidic.
Rule #3. Quantity – Don’t Feed Too Much!
Monitoring food consumption is the best way to determine how much food to feed.
This rule is interrelated with the previous one, but another common feeding mistake is giving your worms too much food at a single feeding.
There are benchmark rules like feeding a third to a half of your worm’s weight (such as a pound of worms), which is fine when you initially introduce them to your farm. It is easy to measure their weight when they are outside of the compost.
However, how can you know how much your worms weigh once they have established themselves in your worm farm?
This is why we recommend feeding your worms with a small number of vegetable scraps and monitoring the consumption rate. By monitoring your worm farm, you will soon become familiar with their eating habits and know instinctively when they need a top-up.
Rule #4. Monitor – Check Your Farm’s Vitals
Keeping on top of your farm’s vitals will help you get ahead of any issues that may develop.
At first glance, we wouldn’t blame you for questioning what this rule has to do with what to feed worms in your worm composting farm.
However, your farm’s vitals are more closely related to your feeding habits than you think.
The key vitals you need to monitor for your farm are:
- moisture, and
- pH level.
Let’s take a quick look at how often and what you feed your worms impacts your farm.
Moisture in Your Worm Farm
Did you know worms breathe through their skin?
But to do so, they need just the right amount of moisture to be present in their surrounding environment. It is a bit of a Goldilocks scenario, where the soil cannot be too dry or too wet. It just needs to be…just right.
And the types of food and bedding material (more on that in the next section) you put into your worm farm will directly impact the moisture levels.
The ideal consistency you want for your worm farm is moist material that has cookie dough consistency. Wet enough to hold together but not a sloppy mess.
Foods with high water content, such as melon rinds and cucumbers, will add moisture to your farm. While adding paper products like newspaper and cardboard will absorb moisture from the soil.
Keeping an eye on the worm farm contents will help determine what types of food to include in your next feed.
Worm Farm pH Levels
Keeping your composting worms in neutral pH levels (6.8 – 7.2) is critical to ensuring a healthy and thriving farm. Worms won’t survive for very long in environments that are too acidic or alkaline.
When food begins to rot without properly decomposing by worms, it becomes acidic. Rotting food can alter the pH levels of worm bins quickly.
This is why; if you see any rotten or moldy food, we recommend removing immediately from your worm farm.
This is particularly relevant to those farmers who are guilty of overfeeding their worms (Rule #3).
Rule #5. Added Worm Bin Bedding
Extra bedding material helps to insulate your farm from light and temperature swings. As well as providing a variety of organic waste for your worms to munch on.
The last and most important rule we recommend for what to feed worms is adding worm-friendly bedding material.
Materials such as shredded newspaper, paper towels, egg cartons, and different types of moss (such as sphagnum or coconut coir) perfectly complement the kitchen scraps you feed your worm farm.
Not only do they help with the moisture levels and retention that facilitate your worm’s respiratory system. They help protect your compost worms from temperature swings outside of the farm and shield them against any light that may be penetrating the walls of your farm.
Plus, adding extra bedding to your worm’s surface helps prevent pests like fruit flies from smelling the food scraps.
- Earthworm. (2023, January 18). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthworm