Drying Food Scraps for Vermicomposting

Happy New Year everyone!
Definitely time to get things rolling here again after a bit of a holiday break.

I received an interesting email from someone a little while back. One of their questions had to do with drying out food scraps prior to adding them to a worm bin. Specifically, they had come across information suggesting that drying out citrus peels prior to vermicomposting can make them less potent (and thus easier for the worms to process).

I’ve never heard of this myself, but it sounds perfectly reasonable. After all, I know how much of a difference there is between dried grass clippings and fresh grass clippings (the former being FAR more potent and thus more challenging to work with), so I wouldn’t be surprised if this holds true for a variety of materials.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to dry a bunch of different food scrap materials before attempting to vermicompost them. I’ll be keeping a running tally on the total quantity of material (“x number of banana peels, orange peels, apple cores etc) and the total fresh weight so I can make comparisons with the dried wastes and know what fresh-weight-equivalent I end up vermicomposting.

Should be fun! Stay tuned.

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    • Nevin
    • January 3, 2011

    How will you be drying them out? Just letting them sit out for a while? Is this any different than letting your scraps start to decompose a bit prior to adding them to your bins?

  1. Nevin asked the question I was going to ask. šŸ™‚

    • Gustavo
    • January 3, 2011

    If it’s really better to dry the scraps, I’ll finally have a reason to make a solar dryer.

    • John in Huntington Beach
    • January 4, 2011

    The only way I can see the drying of citrus peels being helpful is if the volatile oils gas off before going into the worm bin. This might be a good step for anyone who has a high volume of citrus rinds they wish to feed directly to their worms.

    I toss in whatever citrus peels my family discards and have never had a problem in my bin. The only exception being if we squeeze a large volume of fresh OJ, in which case the rinds go into the hot side of my compost pile. Otherwise, citrus accounts for from 5 to 10% of what goes to the wormies. Again. No problems ever.

    I have two vermiculture environments: 1-A Worm Inn; and 2-The cool side of my compost pile. The latter is teeming with worms who even make forays into the hot side when they think they can get away with it. My product is strictly for my own use, though if a friend is really, really nice I may part with a bag of black gold from time to time.

    Happy Vermicomposting in 2011 to All

  2. John how does the Worm Inn work for you. I have thought of buying one. So far my RM type bin is doing well. I have had it since the Beginning of October of last year. I also have a WF360 I have had that since the end of October of last year. It to is doing well.
    I have a couple of buckets that Im going to try an experiment in. Worm chow versus kitchen wast.
    See what you started Bentley. I watch one video on Utube on how to make your own worm bin and now look at me. Im a worm head (And Pround of It)

    • John in Huntington Beach
    • January 4, 2011

    Paula…The Worm Inn is doing very well so far. When I first put it together I was disappointed at how small it was. However, it is now so loaded with worms that I can’t fill it up. I’ve had it for six/seven months and innoculated it with a shovel full of worms/castings/cocoons from the cool side of my compost bin.

    I used to have a WF360 type stacking bin but found it to be too much of a hassle to keep going. I think lack of airflow might have been the problem. Last April I started a larger version of the Worm Inn at the demo area of our local nature center and the results were so good that I bought a Worm Inn from Bentley. Am so glad I did. I have been involved with worm raising for 3-4 years and I definitely like the flow-through system.

    One of the most amazing food sources I have discovered is pulp from the juicer of a local health food store. Unlike Jamba, the pulp from the health food store is not high in citrus. The pulp is relatively dry as compared to using fruit scraps. I have had no trouble with heat generation.

    The response of my worm herd to is absolutely amazing. The Worm Inn, due to its small size, cannot take a large charge but the larger version can and the herd chomps it down and generates hundreds of cocoons and juvenile worms. The same is true of the cool side of my compost pile. This indicates to me that they really approve of the environment.

    • Paula from Illinois
    • January 4, 2011

    Wonder if I should drill some holes in the side?

  3. So far the WF has been doing well. I think I will add the next tray by the end of next month. Im in no hurry. Next project is a flow through. I might just buy me a Worm Inn. You can find clothes bag holders all over I think. I work as a prep cook so I can get all the wast my worms can eat.

    • jean kruse
    • January 4, 2011

    Paula, I made a worm inn type ft with a large laundry bag and used it for about 6mo. The problem I had with it was drying out too much, so when one of my kids gave me a real Worm Inn for my bday I discontinued the laundry bag. I really like the Worm Inn and it takes much longer to get too dry and only around the edges. It also closes up so well that flying critters can’t get in unlike the lndry bag and it really holds a good bit of stuff.

  4. Great timing on the post. I’m doing that with orange peels. I remember the last time I put citrus in my vermicompost bin. It smelled awful. So I figured it would not really smell if it’s dry.

    • Bentley
    • January 4, 2011

    Nevin – I am simply letting the scraps sit in an open tray. Letting scraps decompose is definitely different because you are inoculating the material with lots of microbes in that case, whereas with drying you’ll likely end up with almost the opposite effect. There will need to be a period of re-hydration and microbial colonization when using dry scraps.
    Gustavo – I don’t mean to imply that this is a “better” approach. In fact, in some ways it MAY be a wasteful approach since we’re likely losing nutrients that could have been valuable for the worms and/or the finished vermicompost. Probably good for some materials though.
    John – you are probably right about the volatile oils. Glad to see you are having success with the Worm Inn. I totally agree re: the stacking types of systems (hassle) and prefer the K.I.S.S. approach.
    Paula – sounds like you are REALLY jumping in with the worm composting. That’s great!
    Chris – while it certainly won’t smell while it’s still dry, once it re-hydrates and starts decomposing it may start to smell. The key to reducing odors is providing good air flow.

    • Paula from Illinois
    • January 4, 2011

    I think my husband is getting me a worm inn for Valentines day. šŸ™‚ he bought me the WF360 for our 23rd anniversary.

    • John in Huntington Beach
    • January 5, 2011

    Paula…Your husband sounds like the kind of man who makes the rest of us guys look bad!! 8^D

  5. I could not wait until Valentines day so I bought one today. My husband is just happy that I have taken an interest in gardning. I tell him instead of buying me flowers buy me seeds so I can grow my own. Of course the only time he has ever bought me flowers was on our 1st date 24 years ago and when our son was born 22 years ago. So he owes me some darn flower seeds.

    • Frank
    • January 6, 2011

    Hi Paula,

    Good to see you here too from the vermicomposters.com sight! I so admire your enthusiasm. I am a member of the FT group there, as you are, and I plan to get some version of a FT (flow through)up and running in the weeks ahead. I will be interested to read your experience with a Worm Inn.
    I understand the feeding technique for a FT is very different from a RM – type bin. Please let us know how it goes.



  6. If I can get the stand built Im good to go. Im awful at instructions and directions. My GPS hates me. I turn it on and it says oh it’s you. I get left and right mixed up. On my last trip it gave me directions to the bus station then turned it’s self off. Ok kidding.
    Cant wait to try the new system out. I will post a video. I will be known in our neighboorhood as the Worm Lady. Oh Well šŸ™‚

    • Peter
    • January 6, 2011

    If you need a stand for the Worm Inn, Colemans has a high stand used for camping. I find the size perfect for the Inn and it’s rated to 100lbs! :). Just enough room to squeeze a small bucket under the inn with the hanging tabs looped around and hooked onto themselves (saves an inch).


    Sold at Canadian Tire for us further up north.

    • Paula from Illinois
    • January 6, 2011

    Thanks Petter Im going to go to a place that sales camping and hunting supply and see if I can find one.

    • Larry D.
    • January 8, 2011

    Beings as i live in the orange state,but grow grapefruits.I must say that the way i dry out the citrus is by simply throwing the peels on the groung loosely under shade trees.Once they turn black they are good to go.I let whole grapefruit break down on their own.If you put a grapefruit in,it will most likely kill your worms.It bleaches your hands,and by the way is used to sterilize things even in some hospitals.Does not sound like a good thing to put on top of your vc.The worms will eat it later.But it will kill a load of microbes in doing so,the way i see it.I may be wrong.But they use it to clean out compost tea makers.I use whole grapefruit to sterilize mine!

    • Larry D.
    • January 8, 2011

    I forgot to mention.I saw a comment that said it contains something that is also found in flea collars.I have no idea if this is true,or how it could help/hurt a worm system!

    • Marsha Rhodes
    • March 1, 2020

    Iā€™m currently dehydrating compost in a device called a food cycler. The reason for this, is because dehydrated compost takes up less space. It also kills all bugs. However, the first time I added dehydrated compost into my warm bins it heated up a lot. When I added the compost, I added it by spreading all over the top. I also moistened it. I am just trying again today, but this time, I am pocket feeding. The dehydrator compost just went in a corner of the bin. Hopefully it works as my bins are in classrooms and bugs have been an ongoing issue that makes me want to stop

    • Bentley
    • March 3, 2020

    This is really interesting, Marsha! When you say “bugs” I am assuming you are referring to annoying flying pests like fruit flies (which I agree can be a pain in the neck). Having a diverse ecosystem of critters in the bin itself is a good thing. I freeze/thaw for similar reasons (kills off fruit fly eggs, starts breakdown process).

    • Ash
    • July 24, 2020

    Re: Marsha’s message above, did you end up figuring out how to best add the dehydrated material? I would like to have both a FoodCycler and a worm bin. I figure that alternating fresh food scraps (greens, carrots, etc) with the dehydrated scraps could be a good move.

    • mjswider
    • November 26, 2021

    I tried adding dry corn / husks / cobs from a growing corn experiment that didn’t pan out. In my case, LOTS of sprouts once the seeds rehydrate. Its a win for me, as I tend to run my bins a bit on the wet side, so adding this dry material temporarily puts the water to good use, then the sprouted corn dies and released the water back into the bin.

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