Keep Your Worms Happy
The Worms Are Here. Now What?
The worms will be travel-weary when they arrive and should be put into their bedding right away. Gently pull them apart and put them them into your bin(s) or compost pile. They can’t go into a hot compost pile, of course, but will be happy in cooler piles.
I have an inside worm bin. What can I use for bedding?
Shredded newspapers, compost, or a synthetic peat moss. Magic Earth is a synthetic peat moss that the worms love. Fill the bin with bedding and water it before adding the worms.
Punch drainage holes in the bottom and water the worms occasionally to make sure the bedding stays moist-about like a wrung-out washcloth. Worms like a dark environment, too, so keep the bin loosely covered or in a dark room.
What do I feed the worms?
Worms will eat almost everything that has lived and died. If the worms are inside, feed them food scraps. They especially love orange vegetables (squash, pumpkins), cantaloupe, apples, flour, coffee grounds, and cornmeal. Everything gets eaten. You can finely chop everything and they’ll eat faster and multiply more quickly. However, we at Rising Mist have never bothered with the chopping. We just put the food scraps in the way they are.
If the worms are outside, you can also include straw, grass, leaves, weeds, and animal manure. If the manure includes a lot of urine, however, it may be toxic.
Is there anything I should NOT feed the worms?
These foods can be toxic in large amounts, so avoid them for small inside bins:
onions and garlic
anything very salty
anything very vinegary
Meat and heavy fats must break down a bit first with putrefaction, which causes odors in a house bin and can become an unhealthy environment for a small space. In a compost pile or an outdoor bin that is large, however, you can toss meat and fat scraps in, sparingly. Be aware that animal scraps will attract mice.
Worms can’t tolerate food substances that have been treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, including grass and weeds.
How much do I feed them?
Most books say that worms will eat their own weight in food every day. We are more conservative and say every two days. So, one pound of worms will eat one pound of garbage every two days.
What about temperature?
Extreme temperatures are tough on worms. The optimum temperature is between 40-70 degrees Farenheit. Outside bins must be shaded in summer and insulated in winter. In a compost pile, the worms will move around to find a comfortable temperature in the pile.
Does the bedding ever need to be changed?
Yes. When the percentage of castings gets too high in a bin, it can be toxic to the worms. For an inside bin, change the bedding every 3 months. For an outside bin (if it is big), remove half the bedding after 6-8 months. Put the old bedding material directly in your cold compost pile or garden, and put fresh bedding in the bin. Take out the other half of the bedding in the next change. Of course this process becomes extremely easy with our home worm harvester.
What are castings?
Castings are small pellets that worms excrete after processing their food. Castings are a nutrient-rich plant food that can go directly into your potted plants, gardens, and lawns.
How do I separate the castings from the worms?
Of course the best way to separate the worms from the castings is by using our harvester. But if you do not have one, then scoop small hills out of your bin. Shine a strong light on the mounds. The worms will dive to the bottom of the hills to avoid the light. Scoop off top layers every 30 minutes. You should end up with most of the worms on the bottom of the hills. Those can be scooped up and put into new bedding.
How fast will worms multiply?
Temperature, moisture and food affect the reproduction rate of worms. Under the best conditions, one pair of worms will produce one egg capsule each week. Each capsule contains up to 20 worms that will hatch in 2-3 weeks. These new worms will be capable of reproducing in 2-3 months.
Still have questions?
The book we recommend is The Wacky World of Worms.
You can also telephone or email us with your questions.