I’m always saving food scraps for my worm compost bin but worms can’t eat everything.
Composting is a great way to recycle food scraps and yard waste from your home, and you will develop a great organic base to add to your soil. Full of nutrients, compost helps the plants in your garden to not just grow but to thrive.
Once you have set up your composting bin and added vermicomposting worms, you might have some concerns about what you can or should add to the mix.
Potato peels are often added to compost piles,
but can worms eat potato peels?
The addition of potato peels is often debated by both rookie and seasoned composters. Some believe there is no harm in adding potatoes to your worm bin, but there are some scientific reasons this might not be a good idea.
Potato peels actually contain solanine, which in high amounts acts as a poison for insects and other garden pests.
Solanine is a toxin naturally found in plants in the nightshade family. Potatoes, join other plants like tomatoes and eggplants, as members of the nightshade family.
The compost worms in your bin will do what they can to avoid any potato peels you might add. The peels will eventually break down as they are organic material, but the process isn’t usually aided by the worms in your bin.
If you have set up a hot compost pile, it is better to add potatoes and their peels to this pile instead of in your worm bin.
Hot composting, speeds up the process, relying on microbial activity to break down organic material to create a nutrient rich compost.
Even though produce from these plants, and many others, contain solanine, this doesn’t mean you need to pass on these delicious veggies.
While solanine poisoning can happen in humans, causing symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal issues, hallucinations, paralysis to death, it is relatively uncommon. It takes a lot of solanine to harm people.
Most levels you might find in your food are so minimal you won’t even notice. Higher levels are found in sprouting potatoes and potatoes that have a green discoloration.
These should be discarded to avoid any potential issues.
The Best Worm Food For Vermicomposting Worms
Developing a successful composting bin does require a bit of research.
You will want to make sure you are giving your worms what they need and can break down. Newcomers to composting with worms commonly ask, what are the best worm foods to add to the bin.
In this section, I will break down some of the best and easily available scraps you should be adding to your bin. Remember a varied diet is best for your worms and will produce great compost.
The best foods for your worms include:
- Coffee Grounds
- Tea Bags
- Aged Lawn Clippings- If the clippings are fresh, they may increase the temperature of the bin to dangerous levels. And make sure that they have been treated with pesticides.
While a varied diet is best, a vegetable rich one produces great worm bin.
What should you not feed worms?
Understanding what you should not be putting in your worm bin is just as important as knowing what should not be added.
Not all kitchen scraps are good for your worms and should be avoided.
- Citrus-Foods like oranges, lemons and grapefruits should not be added as the acidity levels in these are too high for your worms.
- Salty Foods
- Cooked Foods- Cooked foods often contain high levels of salts and oils, both members of the worst foods list.
- Eggs- The shells are great for composting, but avoid adding the inner yolk and white to the bin
- Oil & Oily Foods
- Foods With Preservatives
- Spicy Foods such as hot peppers.
- Animal Manure– Household pet waste should never be added. Manure from livestock commonly added to the soil, should also be avoided as it can raise the temperature in the box too much for your worms to survive and thrive.
- Onions and Garlic
- Glossy Paper
Other Tips For Composting With Worms
If you are interested in a quicker turnaround for your compost bin, try chopping up the food into smaller pieces.
This will make it easier for the worms to break down the organic material and speed up the process. If you are full of patience or don’t have the time to break down the food before adding it, that is perfectly fine too.
To produce an effective composting bin, your worms will need foods high in carbon and some high in protein.
In the composting world, these are referred to as brown and green foods. Brown foods are high in carbon, or carbohydrates and green foods have high levels of nitrogen, or proteins.
Brown foods include, paper, cardboard, and sawdust to name a few.
Foods that consider green are the food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags you may add. Keep your green and brown foods balanced.
Browns will also help eliminate the odors coming from the bin.
Now that you know what to feed your worms, you also need to consider how often they should be fed.
This will be determined by how many worms you have in your bin. A worm is able to eat their weight in waste in a single day.
One pound of worms can logically consume about a pound of food per day.
Try not to overfeed.
Your worms won’t be able to break down the food quickly and other pests, like gnats or flies will come to check out your bin.
You will also notice unwanted odors that develop if the worms are unable to break down the material in a timely manner.
Knowing what to add and what not to add to your compost bin is very important. Potato peels, while heavily debated, should be avoided as they often contain solanine, which in high levels will be toxic for your worms.
Worm bins are a very common and useful tool for home gardeners.
Composting provides you with a great end product, to help give your soil what it needs to grow a successful garden. Besides the benefits to your soil, composting is a great way to reduce garbage heading to landfills.
Using a worm bin to break down the organic material you would otherwise throw out, means this material doesn’t end up with the other trash.