I have had more than one request to add to the list of foods that in large quantities or by themselves can be potential problems for your worms.
The most recent one being a question about breads, pastas and rice. All but the rice can be a problem. Foods that are high in starches have been a problem area for me and I have had to solve it by trial and error. My trials were done, as most things are in the bin, with my eyes and nose. Once I noted that the worms were all at the top of the bin trying to escape, I knew there was trouble. I hastily removed the worms to their worm annex, while I examined the bin contents. I noted that I had added in too much of a bread product all at once. In one case it was too many stale tortillas, in another, too much stale bread. Both of these two items have a relatively high sugar content to them. Sugar being one of the three key ingredients in making bread and having it rise. The other item which is in all breads is yeast. Add the yeast and the sugar together in that bread and the end result over time will be alcohol. Rather than having slightly drunk worms, I had worms that couldn’t tolerate the alcohol in the amounts I had fed them. I simply took out 1/2 of the bread, put the worms back and added more bedding to the bin. Checking the worms the next day I found them to all be happy and working as they should. A very similar situation happened with pastas. Once again I followed my nose and fixed the bin ASAP.
Another reader of the feeds here has asked me about citrus rinds. These can also pose a problem for the worms. I have solved this one here by soaking the rinds for 24 to 48 hours in a pail of waste water. I then tip off the water onto an acid loving plant such as an azalea, camellia or hydrangea. I then add the citrus about one cup at feeding time to the bins. I also do place the rinds into the pail with other wastes, allow them to become soupy and can safely add them to the bins.
I will reach back into another post to remind you how I manage to feed 90+ bins here. I add all the organics into a large pail. I cover it and allow it to sit in the sun for at least one week with a weight on the top to keep the critters from eating it. At the end of the week all or most of the organics are barely recognizable. What was once a apple core or banana peel is hard to tell which was which now, at the end of one week. To feed the worms, I pull back the bedding and ladle with a long handled ladle from the thrift store, the soupy mixture into the bedding. Then more bedding is placed over this in the bin to insulate the waste and keep it from overheating. You will recall that wastes which are allowed to heat up in the bin are a very real and potential hazard for the worms. That is the reason for adding more shredded and soaked paper bedding. This is topped off with a little more bird seed if it is needed. The seeds will sprout and send down roots into the bedding and accumulating casts. These roots will allow for the exchange of the methane gases the worms can and do make with rich oxygen. This provides a healthy environment for the worms to thrive within. Should the sprouts get too tall, some of them can and should be turned under, as they will become food for the worms.
Another reader asked about a previous post in which I wrote: ‘ line it ( the bin bottom) with an old sheet or pillow case’. I must have fallen across the keyboard on this one, as it is not the case any longer. When starting out with your bin or having harvested your casts, do line the bottom with dry cardboard or several sections of the newspaper This covers the holes in the bottom of the bin and keeps the worms from escaping out them. On this topic I do recall a disaster I had once with burlap material. I had read that it was a good covering for the worms in their bins. It kept the moisture in and to some degree the ants and fruit flies at bay. Imagine my horror when I went out to work with the worms and found so many of them stuck in the little holes of the burlap. They couldn’t go forward or back out of the holes because their clitellum was firmly wedged within those holes. I removed as many of them as I could and found a use other than in the worm bins for the burlap.
Yet another reader asked me about leachate. This is the liquid which drains out the bottom of the bin and is normal. In all the years I have been keeping worms I have never found this liquid to be a problem. I have on occasion, poured it around the base of a plant in the garden without any ill effects to the plants. There has been some very convincing evidence of late about leachate and it’s potential harmful effects on crops and people. I am still researching this topic and will keep this post up to date on what I discover about using it. Until then I am holding off on using it in the garden. I am using only worm tea made from the casts which I have cured myself now and ask you to do the same.
> hold off on adding too much bread or yeasty products into your bin all at once.
> to be safe with citrus rinds: always add them sparingly or mix into the soupy wastes.
> don’t use a cloth type fabric to line your bin, use only a paper product. Never burlap!
> let’s all hold off on using the leachate until I know more on this topic.
Until next time, I hope you are enjoying your worms and learning from them!