Feeding the worms

I wasn't sure if I should call this page 'feeding the worms' or 'throwing out the garbage'. Who's the boss here? I like to think of it as a symbiotic relationship, which it really is. Both needs are important or the worm composting just won't work.

Being a big fruit and vegatable eater I produce almost 1lb of waste per day. I keep two margarine containers in the fridge at all times. All waste goes into them. When one is full, I weigh it, record the date, weight, and area I'll put it into and put it in the worm composting bin. If one is full and I haven't gotten around to putting it out yet then I start filling the second one. Keeping it in the fridge keeps the odors from becoming a problem.

It usually takes about 12 days for the worms to fully reduce the waste with the exception of some big pieces which take longer. Of course it isn't just the worms that are doing it but also the bacteria, molds, ... The following before and after pictures show the difference 12 days can make at room temperature.

Before - day 0.
After - day 12.

A typical day's waste is:

  • orange skin,
  • banana skin,
  • two apricot nuts,
  • kiwi skin,
  • skin of two carrots,
  • tomato stem,
  • bits of bad lettuce,
  • brocoli leaves, and spoiled bits,
  • red pepper insides,
  • apple core,
  • one tablespoon of crushed eggshell

Occasionally I'll also have spoiled material composed of kidney beans and/or black beans.

Breaking down the food during cooler weather

During the hot days of summer (30C or 86F) I noticed that the food would vanish faster than on cooler days but the worm population would be the same or lower. I figure this was because with more heat, more non-worm composting was happening, breaking the food down faster.

When the weather began getting cooler in the fall, around 5 to 10C (41 to 50F) this additional composting slowed down to the point that food wasn't being broken noticably at all and would just stay there for weeks. So I figured I'd do the breaking down myself with a blender as shown in the following pictures. This meant the worms could eat the smaller pieces of food right away.

To make my blender work I put in some food and then add enough water to cover the food. Next I pulse the blender, add more food, pulse, ..., and add more water as needed. Then I'd strain out the water.
The result.

Reducing acidity

Orange skin is acidic, as are some of the other items I use. To reduce the acidity I always add about one tablespoon of crushed eggshell. I leave the eggshell out for a day or two to dry it before crushing. I crush the eggshell to make it easier to break down. And now that I think of it, I never see any eggshell after I've put it in the bin so it must get broken down quickly. Worms come at the food from below so make sure you sprinkle eggshell below as well as above.

The mortar and pestle make crushing easy.
On the shelf.

Putting it in the bin

To put waste in the worm composting bin, I wear a dishwashing glove in one hand. I gently plunge my hand down about 6 inches and pull the bedding up and away. Be careful not to get the top bedding that you've pulled away dirty. Any waste near the top of the bedding will produce an odor. Deposit the waste (and eggshell) and roll the bedding back in place. Make sure that the top few inches consist only of clean bedding so that there will be no odors. If there is not enough bedding to do this then make some new bedding.

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