Tomatoes As Worm Food?

End of the year harvest (fall 2006) from my tomato bed. I collected even MORE rotten ones, which went straight into my outdoor worm bin.

This post was inspired by a interesting reader discussion that seems to have sprung up on one of my recent blog posts (see: Apartment Vermicomposting – Revisted). One of the topics being discussed is that of tomatoes as worm food – i.e. should they be fed to your worms or not?

Tomatoes are a water-rich, acidic food item so some caution is certainly warranted. I’ve personally used them as worm food with great success – in my experience, worms seem to gravitate towards the moist, rotting flesh of tomato, the same way they would with various types of melon.

As mentioned in the caption above, in fall of 2006 when I was cleaning up my tomato bed I collected a huge quantity of leftover tomatoes (not the ones in the upper picture – those were eaten) and added them to my big outdoor worm bin. [ Just as an side – if you are wondering why so many tomatoes were still green, it is because they were started very late that year].

I also added ALL the tomato plant waste (pictured to the right), after chopping it up quite a bit. Not too surprisingly, the bin did heat up quite a bit, but neither that nor the large amount of tomato waste seemed to harm the worm population (not noticeably anyway).

Incidentally, it was the addition of all this material that led to the growth of my “compost bin tomatoes” last summer.

By the way, if you are concerned about the acidity of tomatoes, you might try adding crushed egg shells to your bins to provide some extra buffering capacity. Adding lime is an option as well, but keep in mind that composting worms generally prefer a somewhat acidic pH anyway, so you definitely don’t want to go overboard with this.

Anyway – just my 2 cents (not to be taken as ‘gospel’ by any means)! I would definitely be interested to hear about any negative experiences people have had with tomatoes.

[tags]tomatoes, composting, worm composting, vermicomposting, worm bin, composter[/tags]

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    • Jill
    • July 20, 2008

    I put tomato slices- about 6-8 pounds leftover from a catered event- all around my wigwam like topping off a giant pizza and didn’t have any problems…however, I had lots of plants start coming up real fast! There are some small photos on my blog. But, anyway, it didn’t cause any alarm.

  1. Curious to know if you’ve had any volunteer tomatoes show up in your gardens from your finished compost. My regular compost bins offered me up numerous volunteer tomatoes throughout my gardens from tomato seeds that apparently survived the process.

    If not, how long does the compost cook before you use it? (Mine was cooking from spring of last year til spring of this year, however the tomatoes were added in fall. Probably not enough heat, eh?)

    • Bentley
    • July 24, 2008

    Hi Cannedam,
    Yeah I have them springing up everywhere – they are more like weeds than tomato plants!

    The vast majority of my composting is done with the help of red worms, so no heating allowed. I’ve been enjoying watching tomatoes (and this year even a potato) grow out directly from my big worm bin as well!

    • Claire
    • November 17, 2009

    Thanks! Very helpful!

    • Jean Halsey
    • November 28, 2021

    Not in my worm bin but I have wild tomatoes grow back yearly. Thanks for the info. I was wondering if I could feed my worms tomatoes. Had some late watermelons that did not ripen that they love. I put my worm food in the blender and add cream of wheat for grit

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