The Perfect Diet for Compost Worms

Make sure you are feeding your compost worms the right types of waste to get the best vermicompost for your garden.

  • You should not feed your compost worms salty foods; it will cause them to shrivel up and die quickly.
    Photo by Pixabay/PortalJardin
  • “Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof and Joanne Olszewski has helped over 200,000 people start their own worm composting systems.
    Photo courtesy of Storey Publishing

Worms Eat My Garbage (Storey, 2017) by Mary Appelhof and Joanne Olszewski walks readers through every step of starting and maintaining a successful worm composting system for their homes. This 35th Anniversary edition is fully updated to help new generations begin their own worm composting systems. The following excerpt is a guide on what to feed and not feed compost worms.

What’s waste to me or you may be slop for the pigs or food for the dog to someone else. I have previously used such terms as organic kitchen waste and table scraps, but now it’s time to be more specific about what waste you can expect to feed to your worms.

Kitchen Waste from Meal Preparation

Any vegetable waste that you generate during food preparation can be used: potato peels, grapefruit and orange rinds, outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage, celery ends, and so forth. Plate scrapings might include macaroni, spaghetti, gravy, vegetables, or potatoes. Spoiled food from the refrigerator, such as baked beans, moldy cottage cheese, and leftover casserole also can go into the worm bin. Coffee grounds are very good in a worm bin, enhancing the texture of the final vermicompost. Tea leaves, even tea bags and coffee filters, are suitable.

Eggshells can go in as they are. I have found as many as 50 worms curled up in one eggshell. Usually, I dry the shells separately, then pulverize them with a rolling pin so they don’t look quite so obvious when I finally spread the vermicompost in my garden. Grinding up eggshells also increases their surface area. This makes calcium carbonate more readily available to the microorganisms and other decomposers in the bin and, later, to plants in the garden.

The list below shows some of the variety of food waste that can be fed to worms. It was developed from waste actually buried in worm bins I helped establish at a Michigan nature center during a publicly funded project in the 1970s. Coffee grounds don’t appear on the list merely because none of the six participants’ families drank coffee. Use this list as a guideline only; it is not, by any means, comprehensive.

Food Waste for Worms

• Apples
• Baked beans
• Banana peels
• Bread
• Cabbage
• Cake
• Celery
• Cereal
• Cheese
• Cream cheese
• Cream of wheat
• Cucumber
• Deviled eggs
• Eggshells
• Grapefruit peels
• Grits
• Lemon peels
• Lettuce
• Molasses
• Oatmeal
• Onion skins
• Orange peels
• Pancakes
• Pears
• Pineapple
• Pizza crust
• Potatoes
• Tea leaves
• Tomatoes

4/13/2018 9:10:24 AM

I just participated in a worm bin class at our local park district. The naturalist noted that citrus rinds caused her bin to have a very rancid odor. When she didn't put citrus peel in the bin, it just had the earthy odor.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters