Homemade Manure

Worm Food

Don’t worry, this post doesn’t have anything to do with pooping in your worm bin.

A little while back I wrote about my (relatively) new ‘Vermicomposting Tray‘ systems – one of the steps I’ve taken in an effort to help increase the efficiency of my operation. One of the interesting topics discussed in the comments section of the worm tray post was that of blending food waste – something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit as of late (again, thinking of different ways to increase the efficiency of my systems).

In all honesty, in the past when I’ve been asked about using food puree as a worm food, I’ve tended to warn people about the potential perils of this practice. I certainly had good intentions – after all, if you aren’t careful with wet food pastes you can end up with a nasty anaerobic mess, and potentially even some dead worms. For the most part, I’ve steered clear of blended food over the years for this very reason.

Now that I’m mostly using open systems, and have a lot more experience under my belt I’ve decided to re-visit the food blending notion. There is considerable evidence (presented in the academic literature) to indicate that foods with smaller particle size can dramatically increase worm growth, and (not surprisingly) greatly speed up processing time as well. That being said, decreased particle size can be a double-edged sword, since small particles also have small spaces between them – meaning less air flow and thus greater chance of anaerobic conditions.

To combat this potential issue I’ve been creating what I like to refer to as ‘homemade manure’ – a similar notion to that suggested by one of our readers in the comments section of the post discussed earlier. Basically the idea is to create the best of both worlds – greatly increased surface area of blended food waste, without the sloppy wet mess typically associated with this approach. The result is something like manure – but potentially even more valuable as a worm food.

My dad gave me his old food processor/blender, which has basically been sitting on his cupboard shelf since it was given to him, probably 15-20 years ago (he loves to cook, but I guess not THAT much!). Unfortunately the food processor component doesn’t seem to be working at all. Definitely a bummer – but the silver lining is that the blender seems to be surprisingly powerful (although nothing remotely close to my ‘ultimate’ system).

So how is this ‘manure’ made?

I’ll admit that I’ve been cheating a little bit by actually adding some aged manure (fairly dry stuff, to help absorb excess moisture) into the mix since I have plenty on-hand. You certainly don’t need to do this. Really, all you need is your wet food paste plus something absorbent (preferably carbon-rich), along with something that will inoculate the mix with microbes.

I’ve been using my favourite type of cardboard – ‘egg carton cardboard’ – as the absorbent component. Peat moss, coconut coir, or shredded newspaper would likely all work very well also. In order to inoculate the mix with microbes (assuming you don’t have aged manure) you can use any compost from your bins or backyard composters, or some partially decomposed leaf litter (I think this would be excellent stuff) if you have a forest (or aged leave pile) near by.

I’m realizing that there are endless possibilities for different recipes. I’ve been blending a wide variety of materials – basically anything that ends up in my kitchen scrap holder – without giving it much though, but I do want to start being more selective to see how different mixes perform. As I’ve discovered, blending is a fantastic way to break down and mix in egg shells – not to mention tough fibrous wastes like banana peels.

Thus far I’ve been extremely pleased with the results, to say the least! The worms go crazy for it – more so than actual horse manure I added as a test (although, if I blended and moistened the manure a little more they may have reacted similarly).
The areas where I’ve added the material in the bins are now teeming with worms.

No more waiting months for resistant materials (like carrots, broccoli etc) to get broken down, that’s for sure.

Anyway – as per usual, I will keep you posted on my progress! One thing I’d definitely like to compare is worm growth when fed blended vs non-blended wastes.

Should be interesting.

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    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • November 4, 2008


    • Adam
    • November 4, 2008

    I am also chopping up the food wastes (I use a grater attachment in a continuous feed system). I am currently mixing it with leaves. I was trying to use brown paper towels and egg carton cardboard but I an not sure how to get it small enough that the bedding gets composted at an equal rate as the food. I am ending up with the food wastes eaten quickly and the bedding not touched and when I add more food.

    How small are you chopping the egg cartons? Are you blending it in the blender with the food or ripping it small and mixing it in after?

    Thanks for any insight.

  1. I guess I’m lazy but the reason I have not adopted this system is that I don’t want to have to keep washing my blender! I chop all my food waste pretty small and keep it frozen until I use it. The frozen food breaks down pretty quickly, much more quickly than non-frozen food. Perhaps I’ll have to give the blending idea some more thought!

    • Sherry
    • November 4, 2008

    I started out processing my food prior to freezing. Then got lazy with cleaning my processor and just chopped everything in small pieces. Now I’m back to processing again. I find they do eat the food quicker, and I can get more food in my freezer containers.

    I’ve got a bunch of pumpkins out on my balcony, and processing those is definitely the way to go vs. hand chopping, for sure. I’ve fed them fresh pumpkin mixed in with their thawed frozen food and they love it.

    I have read that we must be careful processed or blended food doesn’t overheat, but so far, that hasn’t been a problem for me, or the worms.

    • Bob Packard
    • November 4, 2008

    Good stuff Bentley, I’m glad that someone like yourself likes to experiment. The food processor works well for me and there seems to be enough moisture in the process without adding any. The paper I had problem with was the brown coffee filters, so I quit running them through the processor and only use the coffee grounds.

    My blend consists primarily of coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, vegetable scraps, ie. cucumber peelings, old lettuce, carrots, potatos and peels also leftover green beans.

    I’m pretty pleased with both the size and multiplication of the worms in my composting bin. I’m also finding very little requirement for adding moisture. I usually use shredded newspaper and cardboard as a cover material. I soak it for at least 24 hours in water that has set for sometime to leach out any chlorine.

    Even though we have lots of furry night critters who visit regularly, because of total lack of odor they do not bother the worm bin. They do like to dig in the regular compost for their snacks and deserts, grubs and what ever is living in there.

    I hope that this will add in some small way to your research.


  2. Sherry – being lazy, I’ve discovered that I don’t need to thaw my scraps first. I put the frozen stuff right in the bin. The thawing process adds moisture. I assume the worms just wiggle off elsewhere until the food is thawed. It sure beats a thawing bowl of goo sitting on the counter. Good idea about processing the pumpkins. Maybe a mixed approach is best.

    • Tom Fields
    • November 4, 2008

    Hi Bentley,
    I think you have hit on something with your ground moist chow. it should make controlling moisture in my coverd 10 Gal. Rubbermaid bins easier. I have a bag of leftover Rabbit Food that I would like to grind into my fruit and veggie mix to make a runny paste. The rabbit food is a mix of a lot of different ingredients, but rabbits eat it. Do you have an opinion on the using the rabbit chow as a thickener?


    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • November 5, 2008

    Ok, now I really feel lazy. I used to blend my scraps, too, but got tired of cleaning out the dadgum blender. I chop my scraps, and the leftover catfood that my cats turn their little noses up to goes into the ziploc bag with my scraps, soaking up some of the liquid. If it gets too mushy, I put some shredded eggcarton/cardboard/paper into the bag as well, letting it mellow a bit before I give it to the wormies. Then I sprinkle a bit of powdered eggshell, top with the bedding of more shredded cardboard and they are quite happy.

    • Bentley
    • November 6, 2008

    Adam – I am ripping the egg carton cardboard down into pieces about the size of a quarter (coin) – some smaller than this. I have blended some in with the wastes, but this only serves to add carbon – obviously doesn’t help the aeration situation. For the most part I am mixing it in afterward to I get the benefits of the bulkier material. Adding fall leaves is a great idea – something I have plans to do myself.

    Mary – I definitely hear you re: cleaning the blender – likely one of the reasons I held off for so long with this approach. As mentioned I now have a junker blender I can use as I please, so I don’t have to worry too much about getting it clean (a quick rinse is just fine).

    Sherry – I am looking forward to blending my pumpkins too – worms love them (need to be a little careful about adding too much at once though). Good point about the heating – especially important in an enclosed bin. Increased surface area for microbes means a lot more microbial activity and thus more heat. I’ve noticed some extra warmth in the zones where I’ve added my blended wastes, but given the fact that it’s an open, shallow system it certainly hasn’t been anything to worry about.

    Bob – thanks for sharing your experience with blending. Sounds like it is really working well for you!

    Tom – rabbit food would make for a great worm food, but I would consider it more of an N-rich waste than a C-rich waste, so I’d be cautious about mixing it with food scraps, unless I was also adding a fair amount of shredded paper/cardboard etc.

    Kim – your approach sounds like a good one as well. Anything you can do to help the process along is a good thing!

  3. Ive been using the food processer for awhile. They eat the food quicker but i dont see any increase in size. Does anybody know if you can put red worms and euro nightcrawlers together. Will they mate with each other. If so what does the worm look like and what is it called. I think some of my red worms got in with my euros.

    • gary
    • November 25, 2008

    Dear Bently, Thanks for sharing your story about the manure experiment. The pictures, especially the bowl of manure were unbelievable along with your story. I started thinking about my wife’s reaction to some of my hobbies and associated experiments and I went in to a fit of laughter and started crying. You made my day!


    • Bentley
    • November 27, 2008

    Haha – always glad to help out however I can, Gary!

    • Susan
    • June 16, 2009

    I now leave my food processor out by the sink-put all food wastes in during the day & give it a spin–eggs, coffee grounds, veg, etc. Makes it easier for the worms, faster composting, haven’t had any rotting/smells issues at all.
    I never add kitty litter/cat poo to my worm bins, but I’m reading about adding manure…somehow the cat thing seems like a bad idea, right?

    • Candin
    • September 16, 2009

    I too have been adding frozen scraps without thawing. I have an outdoor inground bed and just put some shredded newsprint in there with the small hole dug for the feedstock. What is the actual purpose of thawing anyway? In the heat where I live, the frozen stock would seem like a homecoming to the worms. Its like the frozen bottles I out on top of the bed in the summer heat.

    The dry newsprint helps to absorb the excess moisture left by the frozen stock.



    • Bentley
    • September 18, 2009

    SUSAN – Just noticed that I hadn’t replied! Sorry about that. You are right – adding cat waste to a regular worm bin might not be the best idea! I have a separate system for the task.

    CANDIN – Thawing is important since this allows the microbes to then quickly invade the materials (since partially broken down from feezing) – it also helps avoid excess water release into your bin. For a summer bin however, adding it frozen is a great idea since it will help to cool the system, and moisture is often needed anyway.

    • Mark
    • October 3, 2009

    Hi, I have enjoyed this discussion. Some time ago I used to blend my worm food. My wife insisted I buy a separate blender as she didn’t like me using the kitchen one for this purpose. Anyway, I’d got out of the habit, but I am back into it again now in a big way. I tend to blend egg shells, tea-bags, apple cores, banana peel and other nice bits of vegetable matter I pick out of the general composting bin. I have several wormeries so I usually let the mixture sit a while then share it out.

    I had been blending egg cartons right in there, but I might stop that and just tear them after reading your comment, Bentley.

    I have a question. As well as my composting worms, I have a barrel full of soil in which I keep some soil-dwelling earthworms. This is mainly just for the fun of it, although my father-in-law does sometimes ask me for worms for fishing. I have heard that soil-dwelling worms don’t breed well in captivity – although mine do seem to be multiplying. I generally don’t disturb them at all, and just keep them moist with the occasional addition of some horse-manure or home-made compost. Anyway … I was wondering if they would appreciate some of the “home-made manure” – I have added some and haven’t noticed any ill-effects (ie they’re not crawling up the sides of the barrel in disgust!).

    • Mark Again
    • October 6, 2009

    Well, after doing some googling I found that some anglers do keep lobs. They seem to have had success with pretty traditional wormery bedding (ie shredded cardboard). And they seem to feed them mashed potatoes to fatten them up! Having read this I decided to investigate my soil-bin. I tipped it all out and had a good look through. There were very few worms in the soil that had been in the bottom of the barrel (it’s one of those big blue plastic barrels – sort of like an oil-drum). There were lots of worms in the layers of rotting organic material (horse manure etc). Lots of worms were in there looking very healthy. There were plenty of small worms which I think must have been born in the barrel and some cocoons that were MUCH bigger than composting worm cocoons. Therefore I think that lob worms do breed in “captivity”! Now I have read that the reproductive cycle is very long and that’s why they aren’t really commercially viable. But I am just doing it out of a love of worms anyway. I put some shredded cardboard in my barrel and replace most of the material in which worms were living. I then topped it off with some horse manure. I plan to leave it alone for as long as possible, apart from to feed them of course!

  4. SO glad to find this post and these comments. Pretty new to vermiculture and have a lot to learn!

    One question my on-line searching hasn’t answered fully yet is – how to use horse manure safely in the worm bin.

    I have a small box of horse manure a neighbor gave me about a month ago (had dewormed his horses 3 wks prior). It’s harvest time for my worm bin and I’m preparing the new bedding, curious as to what I need to do with the manure before adding it. It’s been sitting in a cardboard box on my back patio.

    Any suggestions/advice welcome!


    • Dan
    • November 3, 2009

    G’Day Vermicomposters!
    After a couple of experiments with food and bedding I have found that home made manure (food scraps blended in food processor and horse manure) is the best food for my worms. I have an open bin system and I overcome the aeration problem by using larger pieces of egg carton as my bedding (this also helps during the seperation of castings) the food is digested quicker, the worms reproduce quicker and the castings are seperated more easily. What more could you ask for?

    • Bentley
    • November 3, 2009

    Thanks for sharing, Dan! I am glad that the homemade manure has worked out so well for you!

    • Bentley
    • November 3, 2009

    Sorry ANN – I missed your comment there!

    I generally caution people about using manure in enclosed worm bins – especially if it hasn’t been aged for all that long. The problem is that it can off-gas ammonia which is very toxic to the worms. With open systems this is not an issue, and as long as the worms have some good habitat to retreat into (assuming the manure isn’t ready yet), they should be totally fine.

    If we are talking about fresh manure here, I generally recommend piling it outside and letting it sit for a few weeks or more. You can also actively (hot) compost it for 1-2 weeks prior to vermicompost in order to help stabilize it and get rid of excess ammonia etc.

    • Wade Watts
    • March 4, 2010

    I to have some horse manure that I got from a farrier. I am sure that the horses that were in her stalls have been dewormed. I was told not to use horse manure where horses had been dewormed, it was bad for worms, is this true, it is probably 4 to 5 months old.
    I have red wigglers, European night crawlers and African night crawlers.
    What say you, use it or don’t use it?

    • Bentley
    • March 11, 2010

    Hi Wade – that’s a good question. I’ve never encountered issues with manure that has been allowed to age for a period of time outdoors. I say go for it – just to be safe, why not test out a small amount first?

    • Jeff
    • March 30, 2010

    I like to use store bought cow manure compost and mushroom compost.Is this ok. I don’t use food scraps I have a large wooden bin to keep my fishing worms in and let them breed a little. Is this compost ok for my worms. I do use plenty of shredded newspaper and cardboard.

  5. Thanks Bentley and everyone else who commented. Now I know that I wasn’t putting enough material in my bedding to aid in aeration and moisture control. I’ve started putting in more and larger pieces of cardboard in the worms bedding and this seems to help. I was also putting the mix in too thick and in one large area. This sometimes went anaerobic and produced an ammonia smell and the worms DID NOT like it. Now I put it in thinner and in several smaller areas. I also realized that I just didn’t have enough worms in my box to eat the amount of food I was putting in there, so I ordered more (this time from Bentley – I hear he knows some folks with some good worms.).

    Thanks Bentley for your email letting me know about the shipment of my worms. My Jesus name prayers go out for the people in the flooded areas.

  6. Sorry, I forgot to say that my worms love this stuff. About two days after I put it on top of their bedding, it is full of worms. In two or three days, they may get a little slow at eating, so I sprinkle a little water on top of the homemade manure (if needed) and then sprinkle some compost full of microorganisms on top of that and the rest of the bedding. Sometimes in just a few hours there are more worms eating and mixing the bedding and food.

    One of the main ingredients that adds moisture and I guess feeds the microorganisms is pumpkin. I cut it up and freeze it for at least a week. When it thaws out, I add rain water and what ever else I have on hand. Freezing and thawing it helps it to blend easier in a food processor or blender. Okay, enough for now, I may post some other ingredients later.

    • Bentley
    • May 6, 2010

    Thanks, Buddy
    Sounds like you are headed in the right direction with your worm composting efforts

    Do feel free to share your “manure” ingredients. I’m always interested to see what others are putting in their mixes (mine are never the same from one batch to the next)

  7. Well, here goes on my manure list. First of all some of the ingredients may be odd or extreme to add to worm food, but they are what I like to add as plants supplements. So please don’t hesitate in commenting. Knowledge is good. And, if I’m doing something wrong, I really need to know.

    Right now the main thing that’s available is pumpkins. I bought 20 last fall for $1 each. I think I have ten remaining. Anyway. I cut the pumpkins up into about 1 inch squares. I then put them in large plastic jars and freeze them. When I’m ready to make the manure, I thaw one jar out and then fill it up half way with rain water. Then I add up to one table spoon of sifted peat moss, pulverized sphagnum moss (has small chambers in which it can hold organic material and water), coir, alfalfa meal, cornmeal, oat meal, grits, farina (wheat), wheat germ, ground flax seed, green sand, small amount of potting soil (last 2 ingredients for grit), phosphate rock, bone meal, cotton seed meal, molasses, fish emulsion, compost and finished vermicompost. I fill it up the rest of the way with rain water and put it in the refrigerator to meld together for about a week. Then I take it out and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. I then put all of it in a food processor and blend it until it is some what smooth. During blending, I drop in small pieces of cardboard that have soaked in rain water for about 24 hours. Dropping in the cardboard carefully I might add, it can make the processor jump and make a mess. Then I strain this mixture. I take small amounts of the mush and distribute it on top of the bedding/food in different places. I used to put one pile in the middle, but that caused anaerobic conditions. I take the rest of the mush and add equal parts compost that is alive and well with microorganisms and more wet cardboard. I let this sit for a few days so if it heats up I can let it cool before feeding to my worms. When I’m ready to feed some of this to my worms, I take some of the left over mush water that has been brewing in a bucket with an air pump and air stone, and sprinkle enough to moisten the bedding and then put an inch or so layer of manure on top and in the middle. They start eating this manure in less than 1 one day and will finish it off in about a total of 3 days. After that I sprinkle mush water and manure as needed. I also sprinkle sifted moist compost in between manure feedings to add extra microbes. My goal in all of this is to keep a fresh supply of food (manure and microorganisms) so my worms will hopefully reproduce and make good vermicompost efficiently.

    I probably left something out. But I’m really tired now. LOL Hope this is not to long to read.


  8. For my homemade manure can I use frozen banana, chinese squash, persimmon peels, and carrot peels and use cardboard for carbon?

    • Bentley
    • October 14, 2011

    Hi Kevin,
    You can use whatever mix you want – that’s the beauty of homemade manure. There is no set-in-stone recipe.
    Your mix sounds like it will be pretty tasty for the worms.

    • janet
    • December 20, 2011

    I’ve been mixing blended food scraps, leaf litter and grass clippings into my garden bed each week for a couple years now. There is absolutely no odor, flies or vermin present. Though I wasn’t trying to, I have noticed a HUGE increase in the number of worms in the area being composted. Prior to adding the organic material, there were NO worms in the vicinity. I’m certainly no expert but the soil appears rich and holds moisture very well. I will be using it to fill a raised garden bed this spring. Fingers crossed for a bountiful harvest 🙂

    • Sharon
    • March 4, 2012

    I just tried this a few weeks ago and spread it on top of some dry shredded cardboard then watered it in (and have been doing it weekly every since) and the worms are scarfing it down like nobody’s business. Really glad I went back and re-read these posts about HMM!

    • Ali
    • May 11, 2012

    I started my worm bin shortly after I started making vegetable juice every morning. The waste from our juicer is essentially veggie pulp that has been wrung out – it’s perfect for the worms! I keep the pulp in the freezer and feed my worms once a week, about a handful each time mixed with shredded brown paper bags or egg cartons. I noticed that the food would be gone in 2 weeks on average, and it feels like my worm number is dwindling, so I came to this blog to check if I was feeding the right amount. Now I understand they eat pulp much faster than chunks of food. This week I gave them about 1.5 handful of food and extra bedding.. I hope I see more worms soon!

    Thank you for creating such a valuable resource of information, Bentley! There’s nothing on the internet like it!

    • iJohn
    • February 21, 2013

    I have an “almost” endless supply of fruit and veggies to use as food for my worms, I also use wood chips, eggshells UCG, and off course the paper/corrugated cardboard… I freeze everything and blend everything and I precompost… I now have access to a good supply of horse manure and I’m wondering if it would be a good idea to incorporate some in my feed… How aged is aged horse manure, what’s the best way to age it…? I don’t have a conventional composting bin… My worms are in RM’s and one FT, all inside…


    • Normano
    • April 25, 2013

    Hi Bentley, can I use store bought cow manure and or mushroom compost for homemade manure mix?

    • LindaHarrison
    • March 18, 2014

    I know the worms are supposed to reside in the upper 6 inches of the bin, but mine go all the way down to the bottom as well I worry about the 02 content since i did not drill holes in the bottom. so I aerate the bin on a regular basis. Does this stress the worms out when I remove everything from my bin. They are healthy and strong, but not terribly active, In fact they have never been real active from the start. This concerns me. I thought red wigglers WIGGLE. I am concerned about the conversation regarding leachate. It is suggested as a liquid fertilizer Why? Science has proven it is toxic to humans and food crops. Why not skip the whole soak and drip out waste routine, keep your beds evenly moist and stop collecting a stinking solution that is worthless. Focus on molasses aerated worm tea that stimulates plants and wards off bugs. Oh, is it okay to play with my worms? I love messing with them

    • John Wood
    • September 2, 2014

    Hi Bentley,
    Just found your website, and very pleased with what I have read so far. bought in starting with the 360 mod. Live in South Carolina, Greenville area. Worms are doing fair, hot summer here. Had them setup in the garage,went on vacation in Fl. for a week ,came home to find 128 excapees dead on floor. Had to put them out doors after that.Trying to keep them cool in 94 deg heat not good. Have been pulverizing the food for a month now mixed with different grain flours and freeze for a few days. I use shreaded paper now tried some last years leaves with leaf mold but got a bunch other critters in with it. Have black fly larva in beds now,(Ithink they comsume more food then the worms do). So I have been reading your blogs and have come to the conclusion I have been feeding them to much food and not blending in enough paper products.
    Going to try something different tomorrow, putting shreaded cardboard and newspaper some dirt from compost ben and food from freezer in a paint bucket and mix it with paint stiring with electric drill. Then feed some to worms and refreeze rest for later. Sound ok to you?
    PS I also put the worms under the house where it is 70 deg.

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