5 Things You Should Never Feed Worms

John Fry of the Garden Tower Project has created a fascinating system that incorporates vermiculture right into your growing container!

Think of vermiculture in the same way you would think about composting. Don’t add anything to your worm bin that you wouldn’t add to your compost pile. But, specifically, let’s take a look at a few things you should never add to your worm bin!

5 Things To Never Feed Worms

  1. Meat, fish, dairy, grease, oil, and bones
  2. Diseased vegetable or plant waste
  3. Grass clippings treated with herbicides and vegetable/fruit scraps treated with pesticides
  4. Citrus
  5. Dog, cat, or human feces

FUN FACT: Did you know that worms breathe through their skin? Anything oily can be detrimental to their survival!

What do you feed your worms, what do you avoid feeding them, and why? I hope you’ll let me know in the comments section down below!

WATCH Marjory interview John!

So, what should you add to your worm farm?

Like I mentioned above, think of vermiculture like composting. You can add a lot of similar materials to your worm farm.

Let’s take a look:


  • Vegetable (make sure they are cut into small 1-inch pieces)
  • Fruit scraps (avoid citrus)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Yard waste


  • Grass clippings
  • Straw (has fewer weed seeds than hay)
  • Leaves
  • Paper, newspaper, or cardboard
  • Wood chips or sawdust

Read More: “Small-Space Vermiculture, Step-by-Step”

What else do worms need?

Worms need grit to aid in proper digestion and reproduction. Make sure to give them sand or egg shells to help keep them healthy and reproducing!

PRO TIP: Use Food Grade DE (diatomaceous earth) to help control mites and pests inside the worm bin! 

This System Lets You Feed Worms to Feed Your Plants

Working toward my vision of “homegrown food on every table,” I am always setting up different experiments and trying out different growing methods, such as hydroponics and aeroponics.

Some of these are viable for homestead-scale growing, and some are better suited for urban and suburban needs.

One of the systems I’ve tested is, of course, the “Garden Tower,” which I am quite fascinated by. If you didn’t already watch the video above, essentially it is a 55-gallon drum fitted with a tube in the center which contains a composting worm farm! The system continually feeds the plants that are growing in pockets along the outside of the drum. Genius!

I have featured the Garden Tower in a few videos that you can watch below. Do you have any experience with The Garden Tower? If so, leave us a comment below and let us know your experiences!

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(This article was originally published on September 24, 2013.)

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This post was written by Marjory Wildcraft


  • Loretta says:

    I remember being told never to feed any canned or salted food in the worm bin, either. Salt isn’t supposed to be healthy for the little critters.

    Thanks for what you’re doing, love your newsletters!

  • What not to feed worms. Years ago I gave my worms some stale dog food — just about lost the whole lot of them. Guess that fits in the no grease category. Thanks, 🙂 Marianna

  • Tatiana Zolotareff says:

    Hi, this is my first year raising worms. I’m still learning and have had a couple of mishaps in the process. (Story for later) I learned not to feed them onion or garlic skins. They love banana peels but it needs to be organic only! I read that non-organic bananas are sprayed with a poison to kill a spider that grows in the plant…to protect the pickers. Also, I read and tried on rare occasions to give them bread crumbs…they really like it.

    Right now as the colder seasons are here, I am contemplating where to put them. They like warmer temps (55-90). And…they do not like wet conditions! You might have noticed that when it rains a lot…and you go for a walk after it…you will see a lot of worms on the road!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Thanks Tatiana,

      Actually, from Texas we don’t think 55 degrees as ‘warmer’ LOL.

  • Carolyn Plunkett says:

    I raised worms for several years and used to put all my vegetable scraps in a bread bag in the freezer. After the scraps have frozen they break down quickly and are usable for the worms. I started new worm bins with finely shredded newspaper, never added soil. They quickly multiplied and provided lots of good worm castings.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Oh Carolyn,

      Very good tip. Thanks

    2. Karen says:

      I’ve heard that freezing your scraps is supposed to kill any fruit fly eggs also.

  • Victoria says:

    I feed my worms most veggie scarps and they love it. They particularly seem to love melons and mangos. When I lift up the tarp I find them swarming all over those things.

  • John S says:

    Those damn banners on the top and bottom of my phone screen only leave me half an inch of screen to read article.

  • Riesah says:

    I’ve had a garden tower for 3 years. The first year of planting was my most successful. Somehow since then, I’ve run into different problems. Last year was a summer of drought; no rain for 6 months followed by an evacuation from our home due to wildfires. The ground opened up into wide cracks and being out of our place for nearly a month cost us our worms too.
    This year May was summer hot and I put in many seeds; few of them germinated because June
    was very cool. I’ve replanted seeds and am still looking for signs of growth in early July. Perhaps
    other owners of this system which could be so wonderful, could suggest and offer ideas on how
    they plant into the garden tower and their results. We are in southwestern Alberta, just east of the Rockies, where the Prairies meet the mountains.
    Our plan is to move the tower indoors come colder weather and keep growing with lights to keep the critters warm and to provide us with some homegrown foods through the winter.

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