You may ask what worms eat? Kitchen scraps is the main answer! But we have to clarify what kind of worms we are talking about and what kind of kitchen scraps. This discussion is about what composting worms eat. They are also known as red wigglers, red worms or eisenia fetida. This pictures is showing the worms that were eating the cantaloupe rind that was pulled back.
Years ago, when I started worm composting I threw all of our kitchen scraps into the worm bin. It gradually became a stinky, moldy, fruit-fly infested mess. Basically I was feeding them too much food. And food that they weren’t particularly fond of. I eventually had to throw out the whole contents of the worm bin. And being thoroughly disgusted and discouraged I did not try it again until years later.
For the last three years I have been worm composting again. Worms don’t need a tremendous amount of food to live well in newspaper bedding. In fact, in a mature worm bin (one that is almost fully composted) I have left my worms without feeding them for weeks and they continue to do fine. I am sure that at this point there are small bits of undigested food in the bin and they also live off of the newspaper.
One thing to remember is that the worms are not going to eat the food right away. It has to start decomposing a little before they chow down. That might take a day or two for cucumber peelings or melon rinds and a little longer for pumpkin or squash. Here you can see cucumber peelings that are almost all eaten. And below that are cucumber peelings and cantaloupe rinds that I have just added to the worm bin. Some people cut up the food into small pieces to speed up the process but I just put it in whole and it still works fine.
- Cucumber and zuchinni peelings
- Banana peels
- Cantalope and watermelon rinds
- Butternut squash and pumpkin
- Rabbit manure
- Apple cores
- Spoiled peaches
- Coffee grounds and tea bags (but not too much coffee, it can be acidic)
- Small amount of crushed eggshells
- Shredded leaves that have no chemicals on them
- Small amount of soil for grit for their gizzards
I put potato peelings in once and saw them untouched and undecomposed for the life of that worm bin so I don’t usually add potato peelings. They will actually eat melon rind until only the very outer skin is left. It looks like paper and is somewhat transparent. And then they eat that too.
There is a book called Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System, and I would change the title to Worms Eat Some of My Garbage. I have always needed some other disposal method for my other kitchen scraps. So I have compost tumblers. I have 2 worm bins and the worms could never eat all the vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps that we produce. So if you are really going green you need more than a worm bin to take care of all your vegetable and kitchen scraps.
I am emphasizing fruit and vegetable scraps because there are other kitchen scraps that worms either don’t like or the addition would make the bin too stinky and might attract pests:
- Meat and fish scraps
- Dog and Cat poop
- Acidic fruits and vegetables such as orange peels, tomatoes and onions
- Hot peppers
- Glossy or shiny paper
See an interesting youtube video on Boakshi and red composting worms!
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