Creating a Super-Optimized Worm Food Mix

A question from John posted on my last Worm Inn Mega update inspired me to shoot this video today. It shows how I am creating these optimized food mixes for my Worm Inn Mega, and provides a good overview of the “food optimization” concept in general. I can definitely see myself referring people back to this one a LOT (so thanks, John!!). While I have written a fair bit about “optimization” and “living materials”, this is the first time I have offered a video tutorial on the topic.

Key Points to Remember

1) The three main components of MY optimized mixes include well-chopped-up food waste (ideally frozen-then-thawed), absorbent bedding, and some sort of “living material”.

2) Well-aged horse manure is amazing stuff, but absolutely DON’T assume that is the only “living material” you can use. And if you DO decide to use it – or any other manure (remember, they are definitely NOT all created equal) – make sure it has been allowed to age outdoors for at least a month or so.

3) This optimization process should result in a “food” that: A) is almost impossible to “overfeed” with (but no need to push your luck – haha), B) will help to greatly accelerate the vermicomposting process, and C) will likely result in amazing worm densities (will vary from system to system though). It will also more than likely leave you with better quality vermicompost.

In case you are wondering what I did with my food mix today…

Rather than adding everything to the Mega so soon after my last (~ 22 lb) feeding – as I originally planned to do – I decided to leave the food mix in the tray – along with a cover layer of aged manure – so it could age for a few more days.

Maybe I’ll record another Mega video early next week to show you what the worms think of the last food mix I added.

(Yes, I’ve become rather addicted to grabbing “gobs of worms” these days! lol)

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    • John W.
    • April 12, 2014

    Well I have the same cement mixing pan. I just don’t know if I am committed to spending 3 days to chop the food scraps.

    • Gina W.
    • April 12, 2014


    When you age horse manure, do you freeze and thaw it if nature has not already done that for you?

    Background– recently been using small amounts of aged llama manure and leaves plus leaf mold with thawed kitchen scraps, oatmeal, occasional crushed egg shells and azomite in the bins filled with massive shredded paper and cardboard. The worms seem fine but I think there are far more springtails since adding manure and leaves. I don’t worry too much about those but I wonder about long term use of manure/leaves at the microscopic level introducing something harmful in a bin environment. To which I ask the original question, do you freeze/thaw horse manure?

    • Bentley
    • April 12, 2014

    JOHN – Haha – very funny! It probably takes about 10 min or less, especially when scraps have been frozen/thawed and chopped up a bit already.
    GINA – I do not worry about freezing the horse manure. Especially not in this case since it actually comes from a heap that has Red Worms in it. I have lots of springtails in my systems and – as mentioned in another of the Mega videos – they don’t cause any issues for me (likely help in fact). You’ve reminded me of an important tidbit I forgot to mention, though. This mix assumes that one has tested out the manure, on a small scale, ahead of time (to make sure it is absolutely worm-friendly).
    If you DO want to be extra careful about the organisms that you’re introducing, deep freezing is certainly an option – especially useful when the material is a bit closer to “fresh” since there can often be various types of fly larvae in there.

    • Tom Bergstrand
    • April 13, 2014

    This is Tom in Kingman AZ still alive and kicking. This video interested me because you used one of my major ingredients. Aged horse manure. As I’ve reported in the past I use horse and cow manure mixed with coffee grounds. The liquid needed to mix it all is about half cheap diet cola (78 cents for 2 liters) and half water. Not to forget a liberal amount of finely granulated egg shells.The worms go crazy for it and “so far” there are no downsides to this. We are just 2 people so we don’t have the veggie waste that many others have BUT, I do put what we have in the deep freeze and occasionally mix it up. My wife has a Ninja machine she got on QVC (It’s a home shopping channel) and she grinds it all to a liquid consistency and that becomes part of my manure/coffee mix. Worms are not too picky when the food is “right”. I have however, noticed an upsurge in reproduction by the worms. I think that the caffeine gives them energy which makes them eager for more sweets. They don’t feed from the bottom but rather seem to “swarm” the food. I find an inch of castings with a level of food still under the surface. So with this in mind it seems that they are gorging, mating and gorging some more. So now I have gone from one 30 gallon flow through to that bin and 2 18 gallon bins to accommodate all the new worms. I think that I must plan something early to be ready for when they are too numerous for the bins I have. For some reason they like to “drill” holes all the way down to the PVC bars holding the castings in. Not many holes, only 2 or 3. This gives me worms mixed with castings every day, sometimes twice a day. I fill in the holes and they make more. I get castings and that is the object of the exercise. Anyway, I liked your video (as a matter of fact ALL your videos) so keep them coming. I must admit that you have me thinking MEGA when the time comes. I just wonder about the weight of the manure being damp and such. Maybe I’ll just start small and test the limits. Thanks again.

    • dermy
    • April 16, 2014

    Nice video Bently. I like watching your adventures in Worm Land. I hope the system does well for you.

    I have a question though is there such thing as chopping up food waste too much? I only have a small population of worms so I chop it up into small 1″ cubes and then freeze it. Then I add some old leaves and such from an older bin to it. But unlike you I don’t add 18lbs I add maybe a cup of food every now and again.

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • April 17, 2014

    Thanks so much for posting this Bentley! This is a great way to prep worm food.

    • charu
    • October 23, 2014

    Hi Bentley,
    Charu here!
    Thanks for this video – very helpful… to see how you do it…
    question: it is the first time i hear to freeze and thaw – can you pls. explain why? I never did it… I just get the food scraps chop them and put right in my worm bin.
    Do you use onions? just the peel? i also add some tea bags and some used coffee –
    thanks again for this video very good – and all the info…

    • Kristina
    • January 10, 2015

    Hi Bentley Greetings from Finland.
    I enjoy your site. I have a small population of red wigglers. The bin is indors and they have been with me for 4 months now. I’m learning a lot by reading your site.

    My question is : what happens if the horse manure is to fresh? And for how long does it need it to burn down before you use it?

    • Juanfran
    • July 18, 2020

    Hey Bentley! How are you going? I hope you’re alright! I have several questions for you today. One of them is, can I make this optimized food withouth “living manure”? I guess so, but I think this food it might be not so optimized haha. Other question, how can I balance pH of food wastes in order to be a “worm friendly” food? Probably, letting the mix several days or even weeks to stay apart of the worms?
    Thank you so much for share your knowledge!

    • Bentley
    • August 4, 2020

    Hi Juanfran – I assume you mean “living material”. Honestly, unless it is the dead of winter, getting a small amount of this sort of stuff is very easy (and as touched on in the post, you certainly don’t need to use aged manure). That said, a food mix made solely with bedding and food wastes (or some other rich material) would work too. Microbes are everywhere so they will colonize regardless. I just really like the added benefits of living materials when available. Here is a link to the LM guide for anyone wanting to learn more about what I mean by the term:

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