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What NOT to feed worms

Posted by margored 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 21, 06 at 14:29

I'm a relative newbie to vermicomposting and anticipate setting up a workbin sometime in the next month or two. I read "Worms Eat My Garbage" and have browsed many of the postings on this site; yet I'm still a little hazy on the specifics of what foods are off-limits. I've run into some contradictory info. For example, some say no dairy or meat, but "Worms Eat My Garbage" refers to school programs that feed lunchroom scraps to worms. I'm sure worms have their subjective tastes (and many have posted about their worms' "favorites"), but I'd like some firmer guidelines before I set up my bin.
Below is a list of foods I've read you SHOULDN'T feed red worms. None of this is official, and some of these could well be urban myth. If I'm off on something, could someone please correct me?

What Not to Feed Worms:
*Salt & Foods Cooked with Salt
Why: salt bad for worms

Why: they inhibit digestion + they smell

Why: could stink up indoor bins and attract pests outdoors

Why: could stink up indoor bins and attract pests outdoors

Why: no idea, I just remember someone saying this was a No-No

Why: too much could disrupt the bin PH

*Corn Cobs
Why: won't break down

*Hard fruit peels (ex. avocado, banana)
Why: difficult to break down/digest

Why: difficult to break down

*Too much coffee
why: grounds could upset PH balance

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What NOT to feed worms

  • Posted by sqh1 z7 NC (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 21, 06 at 15:09

I have lots of bins, both indoors and out.
Salt: would have the same effect as pouring salt on a slug..:(
Lots of oil: will coat their skin and they could not breathe
Dairy and meat can smell really bad as it decomposes. I do not put either in my indoor bins. I do a lot of classroom event presentaions and they are very hands on and in my bins. As these systems are not "hot" composting systems I do not want to run the risk of kids/adults handling partially decomposed meat. (I do not have left over meat much anyway, as I have cats and dogs in line ahead of the worms:)) Indoors, in more shallow bins than the outdoor ones, I think the meat and dairy would cause nasty smells and attract unwanted marauders.
All the other things you listed are just fine for a bin with worms.

RE: What NOT to feed worms

I don't think foods "cooked" with salt would be a problem. Very salty things might cause problems, but the small amount of salt that is in, say vegetables or pasta cooked in salted water shouldn't be an issue -- I've certainly never seen any problems with it in my bins. Ditto with oils in small amounts (i.e., the amount of butter clinging to the leftover green beans, or dressing on the remains of the salad). Dairy and meat are best avoided, for the reasons you give, though again, I don't obsess about small amounts, like the parmesan on the leftover pasta. Cooked beans, citrus, hard fruit peels, corncobs and coffee grounds have never caused any problems for me, though obviously the "harder" something is, the longer it'll take to break down (only avocado seed have proven impervious to the bin, but I guess they really fall into the next category). Seeds are best avoided to the extent possible -- they don't break down, and promptly sprout when I use the vermicompost, but there's little way to avoid the occasional tomato, cucumber & squash seed if you're looking to use the system to compost your kitchen waste. So I just weed out the volunteers.

RE: What NOT to feed worms

What about carrots? I recently started juicing again and juice 8 carrots in the morning. This can produce a lot of crucsed carrots over the period of a week and maybe the worms just couldn't keep up, but the bin got a little stinky. They do fine with the yam and apple leftovers though.

i now have a 5 gallon bucket outside the kitch door and will just put most of the carrots in the garden.

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