Citrus peel and flesh can be fed to your worms if you follow a few easy steps. Start with small amounts of citrus, cut it into small pieces and cover it with soil or mulch. Add brown materials such as straw or fall leaves to help to absorb the extra moisture and deter vinegar flies. Worms and soil bacteria will break down citrus over 1-2 weeks if they are given a small amount.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes are acidic and have a high water content. This means that to moisture and pH balanced in your farm you need to take care when adding these foods.
This article will explore how to safely feed worms citrus including how to keep the balance in your worm bin and help the worms to break it down quicker.
How to feed worms citrus peels
It is safe to feed your worms citrus peelings including those from lemons, limes, oranges and mandarins. Once you peel your fruit take some kitchen scissors and snip the peel into strips that are half an inch wide.
This will help the worms to have access to a larger surface area to break down the peels quickly. Helping citrus peel to break down quicker will help to avoid attracting small vinegar flies which are attracted to the acid in the rotting fruit.
Sprinkle a small handful of cut citrus peel over your worm farm to start with. Once your worms have broken this down you can add more. A small worm farm like mine will break down a handful of citrus peels in 1-2 weeks.
Larger worm farms with multiple layers can break down more than this but start small and work your way up. Worms can break down more food in warmer weather so adjust the amount you feed them with the seasons. Avoid adding citrus peels in winter if you live in a very cold climate.
How to add citrus flesh or whole fruit to worm farms
You can add citrus flesh to worm farms if you prepare it correctly. Never add whole citrus fruit to your worm farm because it will take too long for the worms to break down and it will turn moldy. If you have old oranges, lemons or limes, cut them up into ½ inch cubes before adding them to your worm farm.
Citrus flesh will contain a lot of moisture so always add other materials with the citrus to stop the worm farm from becoming soggy. I like to sprinkle mulch over the top. Use whatever you have nearby which could include dry lawn clippings, straw, hay or dry fall leaves.
Sprinkle a layer over the top of the citrus fruit to cover them completely. Cover your worm farm with a worm blanket to help to protect the worms and keep bugs out.
Always start by adding with 1-2 small citrus fruit to your worm farm before you add more. It is best to mix through other foods for your worms at the same time to give them a range to choose from. Green food scraps including offcuts from celery, carrot tops and peas work well when adding citrus. These contain less water and can be broken down quickly by the worms.
Can I add rotten or moldy citrus to worm farms?
You can add rotten or moldy citrus foods to your worm farm. Cut the fruit up outdoors to avoid making a mess of your kitchen. Outdoor garden knives are perfect for this. I often cut up moldy fruit outdoors on the edge of my timber garden bed.
Once the fruit has been cut into small pieces it can be added to your worm farm. Soil bacteria and worms will break it down over 1-2 weeks. Cover the fruit with straw, soil or hay to absorb the moisture and keep vinegar flies out.
Can red wigglers eat citrus?
Red wigglers are a common composting worm that will eat and break down citrus in small amounts. My worm farm contains red wigglers who can eat 1-2 small lemons or mandarins over a period of around 2 weeks.
Only add citrus to your worm bin occasionally to avoid making it too acidic. If the worms are trying to escape and crawl up the sides it might mean that there is too much acid in the mix. Add a small handful of dolomite lime to the surface of the worm bin to help to balance out the acidity.
I find that adding a layer of old potting soil, straw or hay has kept my worm bin in balance without needing to add garden lime.
If you notice a lot of vinegar flies or small flies in your bin, slow down the amount of citrus you are adding and cover the mix with newspaper. Over time the newspaper will break down but will help to keep the vinegar flies out for longer.
Other composting worm varieties can eat citrus as most are veracious eaters. Composting worms come from tropical regions where they live in moist conditions and break down the decaying organic matter on the surface of the soil. They live in colonies where they all work to break down food together.
This makes composting worm perfect for breaking down food scraps, including citrus in your home worm bins.
Red wigglers will breed rapidly so feed them small amounts of mixed fruit and vegetable scraps regularly. Happy worms will breed rapidly in the warmer months helping to break down food quicker.
Feeding Worms Citrus | Summary
Composting worms kept in worm bins or farms can be fed small amounts of citrus without throwing off the balance. Start with small amounts of cut up citrus or peel and allow it to break down before adding more. Cover the citrus peel with a light layer of old potting soil, sugar cane mulch or newspaper. Always add other food scraps with your citrus to give your worms a variety of food to choose from.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.