When the holiday season is underway, feasting is inevitable. So are left-overs! When the big day is over, what can you do with left-over holiday food? Start by making new meals using left-over ingredients. Eventually, some of the food may be too old or too small to keep anymore. That’s when you can feed left-over holiday food to your composting worms. What are the best ways to compost food after the holidays? How can your worms comfortably convert holiday food scraps into valuable fertilizer?
What Do Composting Worms Eat?
The composting bin is a confined space. The worms cannot wriggle away if they don’t like the food. Therefore, you should only add food they can eat. Don’t add turkey, bones, gravy, sour cream, or whipped cream! Meat and dairy products are off the menu. They make the worm bin smell terrible! And they attract unwanted pests.
Put only fruits, vegetables, and grains in the composting bin. Limit acidic fruits such as oranges, cranberries, and pineapple. Stuffing cooked with turkey contains animal by-products so avoid it. Plain mashed potatoes, squash, string beans, Brussels sprouts, salad (rinse off the dressing), and fruit salad are great for worms.
How Much Food Can You Add?
You should in the habit of feeding your worms a set amount every few days. You might already have a good idea of what they can eat. To calculate this, look at what you fed them last time. The worms should have made a start on the last feeding before you add more. One thousand fully hydrated composting worms weighs about one pound. In theory, a pound of worms can eat a pound of scraps per day. In practice, use common sense to avoid over-feeding.
What Happens if You Over-Feed the Worms?
If you put too much food in the worm bin at once, the worms cannot keep up. The scraps contain moisture, which seeps into the bedding. The bedding should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Excess moisture leads to odors. Anaerobic bacteria proliferate. There is less oxygen in the bin, so the worms start to suffocate. Eventually, they can die from a wet bin.
Over-feeding also makes the worm bin heat up. Worms try to move to a cooler spot deep in the bin. They might try to escape.
What If You Have Too Many Scraps?
If you suddenly have a glut of kitchen scraps, keep feeding the worms approximately the usual amount. Refrigerate or freeze extras. You can give the worms more food if you chop up the scraps into small pieces. Smaller pieces break down more quickly than larger pieces. The quickest way is to run everything through a food processor. Blend the left-overs, then place in zip bags or plastic containers. Put them in the fridge if you will use them soon. Place them in the freezer for longer-term storage. Whenever you have fewer scraps or go out of town, these extra scraps will come in handy.
Don’t let holiday feasting overload your worm bin. Scrape plates carefully so that only worm-friendly food gets into the compost bin. Save left-overs in the fridge or freezer, and cut them up for faster breakdown. Stay steady with your composting and your worms will turn trash into fertilizer.
Don’t have a worm composting system yet? Need more worms? Browse Uncle Jim’s supply of Red Worms (for composting) and European Night Crawlers (for composting and releasing into the garden).