Worm Composting - How To Feed Your Worms For The First Time

Let me start off by saying that worms aren’t for everyone. I know several people that get quite squeamish when they see a worm, or even talk about them for that matter. But if you are a gardener, having worms make compost for you is a huge plus. Those bags of worm castings are expensive! Plus, it can drastically cut down on your garbage waste. Heck, even if you are not a gardener, that last sentence is a great reason to have a worm composter. But I will make the case for this another time. For now, this post is for those of you who may already have a worm composter and are struggling to make it work.

A few years back, my wife bought me the Worm Composter 360 and so this is what I will be demonstrating with, however this could be done similarly with a home built worm bin. For starters, we are going to need a few things. What I generally have on hand when feeding the worms are the following:

  • Food
  • Paper
  • Rock Dust
  • Coconut Coir or Potting Soil

I’ll go over these in more detail as we go through the process. Let’s begin.

First I generally blend up my food scraps. You don’t have to do this, but I find it gets eaten MUCH quicker. Make sure there are no stickers. I avoid adding any meat. The worms also seem to not care to much for onions or garlic. Keeping a container dedicated to collecting food scraps during meal prep is very handy. If you find that you aren’t going to be feeding your worms for several days and you worry about smell, cover the container and put it out of site in the fridge until you are ready.

Gather Food Scraps

Now that our food is blended, it’s time to prepare our new worm bin. It’s important to get a nice base added before we put in our food. There are holes in the bottom to allow the worms to move about, and if we just added the food, a good amount of it would just fall right out. We also cannot just add food. It will smell if we don’t add “browns” such as paper. It will potentially smell very bad. Trust me. So I begin by laying a base of shredded paper.

Add Shredded Paper

Next I like to add a bit of rock dust if I have it on hand. This step is optional, but I find that they like it and it is my hope that it adds some extra minerals to the worm castings which will later be consumed by my plants. How much should you add? Good question, I don’t know if there is a good answer to that, so I generally eye-ball it and just add enough to dust the top. In this case I used a quarter cup.

Add Rock Dust

With the rock dust added, I now pour in some worm castings from a previous batch, as well as either coconut coir or potting mix. Whichever I have on hand. The worm castings are to inoculate and jump start this new bin, and the other two ingredients are to add some bulk and lay a material the worms are used to moving around in. Coconut coir also soaks up and holds moisture really well, which can help if your ratios of food to paper is off.

Add Soil or Coconut Coir

Time to add the food. What I tend to do is create a well in each of the four corners of the bin. Into these wells, I pour in the food. I then cover/mix in the wells with paper and the other ingredients already added to the bin. This encourages the worms to congregate in those sections of the bin, and by mixing it with the paper, will help keep smells down. If you have a lot of food and not a lot of worms, it may be wise to start with one corner this time and scale up in the future.

Add Food

Top With Paper

This bin is now done and ready to be added to the tower!

I tend to add the new bin to the bottom, and move the existing ones up to the top to start tapering off. I will not feed on the very top bin to encourage them to travel down to where the food is and to eventually remove the castings for use. Another thing to check occasionally is if the catch pan is full of liquid (empty if it is) and if the very bottom ladder is clogged and full of worms (clean this by putting the worms back in the bins and scooping out the waste; this stuff is generally not good to use).

Catch Pan

Dirty Ladder (It’s Gross)

Clean Ladder

Finally, add a damp newspaper to the topmost tray and put the bin back together and your worms will be happy to do the rest.

Damp Newspaper On Top

It took me a number of tries to get the hang of feeding them, but once you do it is quite easy. My biggest advice is to blend up the food and shred up the paper. This will really speed the process up and make for a cleaner (if you can call worm castings clean) product.

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About the Author

Geoff has been growing plants and vegetables consistently for the last 6 years and actively experiments with, and writes about, all aspects of gardening.

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