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Composting > Feeding Your Worms

Feeding Your Worms

Redworms will thrive on any kind of vegetable waste you create while preparing food. Here's a partial list to consider: potato peelings, citrus rinds, the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage, spinach stems, cabbage and cauliflower cores, celery butts, plate scrapings, spoiled food like old baked beans, moldy cheese and other leftovers, tea bags, egg shells, juicer pulp. The worms' absolute favorite seems to be used coffee grounds though these can ferment and make a sour smell.

Drip coffee lovers can put the filters in too. This extra paper merely supplements the bedding. Large pieces of vegetable matter can take a long time to be digested. Before tossing cabbage or cauliflower cores or celery butts into the compost bucket, cut them up into finer chunks or thin slices. It is not necessary to grind the garbage. Everything will break down eventually.

Putting meat products into a worm box may be a mistake. The odors from decaying meat can be foul and it has been known to attract mice and rats. Small quantities cut up finely and well dispersed will digest neatly. Bones are slow to decompose in a worm box. If you spread the worm casts as compost it may not look attractive containing whitened, picked-clean bones. Chicken bones are soft and may disappear during vermicomposting. If you could grind bones before sending them to the worm bin, they would make valuable additions to your compost. Avoid putting non-biodegradable items like plastic, bottle caps, rubber bands, aluminum foil, and glass into the worm box.

Do not let your cat use the worm bin as a litter box.. The odor of cat urine would soon become intolerable while the urine is so high in nitrogen that it might kill some worms. Most seriously, cat manure can transmit the cysts of a protozoan disease organism called Toxoplasma gondii, although most cats do not carry the disease. These parasites may also be harbored in adult humans without them feeling any ill effects. However, transmitted from mother to developing fetus, _Toxoplasma gondii _can cause brain damage. You are going to handle the contents of your worm bin and won't want to take a chance on being infected with these parasites.

Most people use some sort of plastic jar, recycled half-gallon yogurt tub, empty waxed paper milk carton, or similar thing to hold kitchen garbage. Odors develop when anaerobic decomposition begins. If the holding tub is getting high, don't cover it, feed it to the worms.

It is neater to add garbage in spots rather than mixing it throughout the bin. When feeding garbage into the worm bin, lift the cover, pull back the bedding with a three-tine hand cultivator, and make a hole about the size of your garbage container. Dump the waste into that hole and cover it with an inch or so of bedding. The whole operation only takes a few minutes. A few days later the kitchen compost bucket will again be ready. Make and fill another hole adjacent to the first. Methodically go around the box this way. By the time you get back to the first spot the garbage will have become unrecognizable, the spot will seem to contain mostly worm casts and bedding, and will not give off strongly unpleasant odors when disturbed.

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