sepeters
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how big/small should worm food for vermicompost bins be?

Hi all!
I have a worm bin and have tried different feeding techniques and was wondering what others do. Basically, what works best for you?

Usually I just throw in hand torn pieces of veg scraps and occasionally old rice or quinoa that is whole. But I got to thinking how could worms possibly be eating this? Are they eating the bacteria that feed on it or are they eating the decomposing parts? I have chopped things small in the food processor and thrown them in and always throw the pulp from the juicer as well. Everything seems to disappear pretty quickly regardless of the size, but is there one method that is more beneficial to the worms?

Does the kind of food make a difference, as well? Most food is greens, but also coffee grounds, fruit peels, etc. Obviously I am only using coffee grounds, not whole beans, but can I toss in whole banana peels, and how small should i grind eggshells?

I have been using crosscut newspaper as bedding and am constantly having to put more in, should I use bigger pieces? I think they eat the bedding, too.

I use European Nightcrawlers, if it makes a difference.

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rainbowgardener
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My bedding this time is just fall leaves, but I have to keep adding more. I know they eat the leaves too, because they leave all the hard leaf stems behind.

I found this:

Helpful worm feeding tips
Cut food up into smaller chunks. This decreases the time it will take for the worms to eat their food. Worms eat bacteria growing on the food waste along with very small pieces of food. The greater the exposed surface area of the food, the faster the food will break down and make it possible for the worms to eat. Avoid blending the food as this will quickly release the water and could make your vermicompost bin too wet. Small chunks of food are better.
https://www.vermicompost.net/what-do-worms-eat/

I put food in my worm bin, in about tablespoon sized chunks.
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BluesJay
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I use Red Wigglers in my worm compost bin, although there might be other types hiding down lower. They will stand up and tap dance for Coffee Grounds and Corn Meal. We keep a large used freezer zip lock bag near the sink and put all veggie scraps into it. If it's a hunk of celery base or woody broccoli stalk I cut it up into smaller pieces. I don't put citrus peel in, mainly because we have so much of it. They do okay with onion peels. My bin is outside and it can get really hot here so if it's over 100 degrees I put one or two frozen water bottles upside down for them...keeps em happy and chewing :bouncey:
Also I use to think worms drowned during heavy rain, but saw on TV where they love water and come up onto the cement just because they can...curious little devils.

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rainbowgardener
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My worms won't eat onion peels. I've tried a couple times and the onion peels just sit there until I pull them out again.

You must have a ton of worms if they can handle all your kitchen scraps. I still keep a bucket for the excess, to take out to the compost pile. The worm bin just slows the flow enough that maybe I don't have to carry the bucket out when it is cold and snowy (although that isn't working right now either - cold and snowy out, full bucket and I just fed the worms yesterday, probably have to trek out to the compost pile anyway).
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BluesJay
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In the summer the worms are like spaghetti, it's taken me a while to get to that point. I knew it could be done because I had a friend back in the 70s that showed me his worm compost and it was amazingly thick with red worms. At the end of last summer I started to put some in one of my garden beds, they are only a couple feet high(the beds not the worms :wink: ). Then I covered them with leaves and a little food, will be interesting in Spring to see how this "out station" colony has done.

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Composting worms don't have teeth. If you want them to eat better-faster-more easily freeze material so cell walls are broken and juices can more easily be sucked off.
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BluesJay
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tomc wrote:Composting worms don't have teeth.
Okay, so why do they keep sending me their dental bills? :wink:
If you want them to eat better-faster-more easily freeze material so cell walls are broken and juices can more easily be sucked off.
Interesting idea, I'll give it a go. Come to think of it, :idea: if I freeze the kitchen scraps with some water in a ziploc, then I'd be feeding and watering at the same time.
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sepeters
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Excellent! Thank you all!
I'll keep giving it a rough chop. I love the tip about the frozen water bottles! It does get extremely hot here and I hate to admit that i have fried my worms by accident before! :oops:
I keep the nightcrawlers now because red wrigglers are very curious, like you said! They would escape and drown in the leachate catcher or dry out. The nightcrawlers seem to mainly stay down in the dark and damp, but they do a nice thank you dance for coffee grounds! I've been using shredded paper as bedding because I don't have trees. And I never use scraps from the garden because I have a terrible aphid problem. I do give them almost all my kitchen scraps, but there's only two of us here, so I find I actually have to go get grounds from the coffee shop. I've thought before I had too many worms, so I give them away and then they have babies and shore up the numbers, lol. I guess they like a crowded house.:wink:
Mine will eat the onion skins but not onions, they just break down after time, so I don't use them or citrus peels. I have to microwave any potato peels first, or I get potatoes popping up in there! :o

sepeters
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tomc- will freezing eliminate the need to cook the potato peels? 8)

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rainbowgardener
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I read here about giving your worms crushed eggshells, that they need some grit to help digest their food as well as the calcium. So I crunched up an eggshell and put it in awhile back.

Today I was inspecting the bin (I like to check on the worms every once in awhile and see how they are doing :) ). I'm looking around and going where are all my worms? Then I got to where the eggshell was and there was a big pile of them. Clearly they like the eggshell!
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sepeters
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I also read that post. How interesting that worms need to eat eggshells just like birds need to eat pebbles! A gardening AND biology lesson! :D

Do you just crush yours up by hand, or like a mortar and pestle to get them very fine? I was thinking of using my coffee mill, but am afraid i will break it!

tomc
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sepeters wrote:tomc- will freezing eliminate the need to cook the potato peels? 8)
Why would you need to cook potato peels for worm food?
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tomc
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Worms don't have a chambered gullet. They don't use eggshell as a chicken uses grit.

They may well like shell.

Hey if they'd eat up my compost faster I'd spring for dentures. ;)
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rainbowgardener
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The worms do not have a chambered gullet, but they do need grit to help grind up their food as it passes through the digestive tube:

Because worms have no teeth, they need to take in grit with their food. Rock dust or crushed oyster shells offer grit for their diet and can also help correct problems if you've added too much food to the bin. These can be purchased at most garden stores. To add these powders to the bin, sprinkle a small amount on the food scraps once or twice a month.

Pulverized eggshells are an excellent source of grit. If you are adding eggshells to your bin you probably won't need to purchase other types of grit.

https://www.recycleworks.org/compost/wormfood.html

I have seen this several places.

My worms clearly loved it and were hanging out with the eggshells in preference to any of the other food that was in there.


I just let the eggshells dry out for a few days and then hand crush them, but next time I may try the mortar and pestle to get it a bit finer.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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I would think bone meal would be excellent for worms. how about ground up chicken bones in the blender! A pound sack of bone meal would last a long time with just a sprinkle once a week!!
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rainbowgardener
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Incidentally, re worm bins. I just emptied mine to get the worm castings. Since I don't have one of the fancy ones with different chambers, I just took all the stuff off the top, bedding, food, worms and all and dumped it into a big wastebasket, down to the layer where everything was solid.

Dug all that out, put some fresh bedding in the bin, dumped all the rest back in and covered with more fresh bedding (i.e. fall leaves). Turns out it was a good thing to do. All the stuff at the bottom being so packed down was pretty soggy-wet and getting a bit anaerobic/ fermenty. So now I have a bunch of worm castings and the worm bin is all nice and fresh and aerated. Happy worms! :)
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Chopping and freezing the veggies first helps them to decompose faster. I'm lazy I just throw in the whole leaves and banana peels. When I get there the next week everything is usually gone except for the hard stems. That I fish out and could be tossed into a compost pile. Sometimes, I don't have enough kitchen scraps so I cut off the outer leaves of my kale and swiss chard and give them that instead. When there are a lot of worms you can even watch them pushing and dragging the pieces down.
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Freezing is a big help. It bursts the cell walls of veggies and that aids in the rotting of the plant. I also tend to throw everything (after thawing) into a blender. It's kind of yucky but my 3 year old enjoys watching and dumping it into the worm bin. This has dramatically increased how quickly the worms break down the food.

sepeters
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tomc wrote: Why would you need to cook potato peels for worm food?
The potato peels have a tendency to sprout and begin growing in my bin. I don't peel my potatoes, but the other half does and I usually don't know they're in there until I see something growing. They're easy to remove and don't seem to harm anhything, but I'm lazy and don't like weeding my compost... I'm sure destroying the cell wall would keep it from growing and make it easier for the worms to eat.
:lol: @ worms with teeth! Would be nice!

Good tip on the bone meal, Bobberman! I don't eat eggs or have a good way to grind them, so this will be perfect for my situation!

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rainbowgardener
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I'm just tacking this on here as a place to put it, since it's about our most recent worm bin thread.

I just moved my worm bin outside. We have a few more nights of below freezing. I'm hoping that will sterilize it a bit, without killing all the worms, which have a lot of bedding around them. It was getting a bit too full of life to keep indoors: slugs and a whole bunch of little flies (about half the size of house flies, very triangular wing shape). I guess they come in with the fall leaves I was using for bedding. Anyway, it wasn't seeming like an indoor thing any more.
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