I hope you have brought in any bins you might have outside or in hot garages? There are some important things to know about managing your worms in the summer. In the Texas heat (85 degrees and above), it is important not to overfeed your worms. The process of decomposition does heat that bin up. If your worm bin gets too hot from overfeeding, you are going to kill your worms. Slow down on the feeding, reduce grains and grass clippings, or other foods that heat up a compost bin. The other 9 months of the year, Texas has it easy compared to our Northern neighbors and you can enjoy easy and productive vermicomposting. So, manage your worm herd in the heat and you can prepare for some great fall gardening with all those castings!
Here are some general guidelines:
- Worms can (in general) eat most fruit and vegetable peelings, grains, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags
- Food should be raw, or if cooked; have no additives (oil, salt, butter, spices, etc.)
- Worms (in a small plastic bin) will not be happy with more than a very small amount of garlic, onion, broccoli or cabbage, or citrus (which contains the irritant limonene). When the gas from these vegetables are released in a small bin, with a lid on, it can create a problem called “protein poisoning”. This can also happen with too much food in a small bin. The poor worms begin to look like a string of pearls and actually explode. If you see this start to happen–TAKE YOUR LID OFF AND REMOVE THE FOOD!
- Avoid meat, bones and dairy to keep smells at bay
- Avoid dog and cat waste if vermicompost will be used on a food source
- Beware of herbicides and pesticides on grass clippings. Wash fruit (especially bananas which can have an anti-caterpillar pesticide) and vegetable peels from non-organic sources.
- Do not feed pineapple and papaya, they have “protein-eating” enzymes. They will kill your worms.
Vacationing? Don’t overfeed (which will overheat and kill your worms) or take your worms to a worm -sitter! They will be fine if you don’t overfeed them before you leave. We have been gone for over two weeks, and the worms were very happy that we left them alone and stopped pestering them for that long! Here are my vacation tips:
1) Cut a sweet potato (which take a long time to decompose) in half and place on opposite sides of the bin, below the paper/cardboard layer.
2) Add a lot of moist newspaper or cardboard–up to the air holes.
3) Have fun on vacation! Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring your tickets and reservation info.
4) When you get back, go see just how well the worms did. You should have lots of castings from all that paper they ate through.
Hope this helps keep your worm squirm healthy and productive through the summer. Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch, whether you are from Massachusetts or Texas, Washington State or Alabama, or just about anywhere–we’re here to help you vermicompost.