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Worm Bin Bedding: How Important is it? Really?

Worm Bin Bedding, No Better Place to Lay

I have read many times "you cannot have too much Worm Bin Bedding." But until I started studying it I don't think I ever realized just how awesome it really is. Bedding, if it is the correct or best kind, provides so many benefits to the worm bin system. It can increase oxygenation, moisture retention, proper carbon/nitrogen ration, freedom of movement, manageability, and overall efficiency. It, also, can decrease problems and offensive odors.  As my friend Bentley Christie from redwormcomposting.com says "bedding is your friend".  The keys to a great bedding or a great bedding mix are:

  • Biodegradability
  • Great Air Flow
  • Great Moisture Holding Ability
  • High Carbon to Nitrogen Ration (c/n ratio)

Oxygenation and Moisture

The best worm bin bedding is bulky enough that it provides lots of little air pockets. This provides a much more oxygenated system. Worms need oxygen just like we do. They can survive on a small amount but thrive when more is present. Worms breathe through their skin, which requires moisture. So to take advantage of this increased oxygenation it must also be a material that absorbs moisture well.  The best bedding is one that holds a lot of moisture. 

High Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio

Although bedding will eventually be a food source for the worms it breaks down much slower than higher nitrogen sources, the things we refer to as "food" instead of "bedding".  It is necessary to have a high carbon source for several reasons.  It helps to balance out problems that the higher nitrogen sources cause, creating a balanced environment for the worms.  It will tend to buffer to a small degree some acidic materials and absorb the excess moisture that higher nitrogen sources release when breaking down.  The best overall c/n ratio to maintain in your worm bin is 25/1 or 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.  But, unlike hot composting, you can go higher on the carbon without any real problems.

 

Freedom of Movement

The bulky nature of the bedding also provides great freedom of movement for the worms. I admit that I am not really sure how great of an advantage that is. Some minor advantages, I suppose, would be the ability to get to the food sources they have easier. Also, to more easily get away from problem area's, such as areas heating up, or too acidic. Potentially, ease of movement could promote more reproduction since the worms will possibly encounter each other more often.

 

Manageability of the System

When you have plenty of good bedding the system becomes much easier to manage. Plenty of good bedding functions as a balancing mechanism. If you feed too much or too little bedding helps compensate for both. Bedding acts as a food source if the worms are fed too little. And it gives the worms a safe zone to go to if you feed too much and cause an area to become sour. Because worm bin bedding is a carbon source, it absorbs unpleasant odors that may develop. This, of course, benefits you the worm farmer more than it does them.

 

Optimization

The worm composting system is basically optimized by adding plenty of good bedding. By accomplishing all the things mentioned already, increased aeration, increased movement, good moisture absorption, proper c/n ratio and buffering of the ph the worm composting system becomes very efficient. It creates an environment that the worms thrive in. The result is faster processing of the waste products as well as the bedding. Reproduction rate of the worms will increase. The worms will grow faster, possibly even bigger as long as they are not too crowded. And all this makes worm composting easier and more fun. Some of those great beddings are Peat Moss, shredded paper, aged manure, regular compost, and my 2 favorites, cut up cardboard and shredded leaves. The best bedding of all is really a mix of several.

Bedding Sources

Bedding really falls into 2 categories, Primary and Secondary.  Primary bedding is a stand-alone bedding, it gives you your all 4 of the key necessities:

  • Biodegradability
  • Good Air Flow
  • Good Moisture Retention
  • High Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio

Secondary bedding meets some of the 4 key necessities but not all of them.  Usually, it needs to be mixed with another secondary bedding or with a primary bedding material.

Examples of Primary Bedding:

  • Shredded Cardboard
  • Other shredded paper products (excluding any glossy paper or white office paper.
  • Well-aged Manure (the ultimate because it meets all the key necessities as well as being a great food source also.
  • Aged straw ( has started to break down and rot)
  • Aged leaves (has started to break down and rot)
  • Peat Moss ( as long as it is buffered properly to reduce the acidity and fluffed or mixed up occasionally)
  • Egg carton cardboard

Examples of Secondary Bedding:

  • Dried leaves (that have not started to break down) (Good airflow, bad moisture retention until it starts breaking down) (Probably one of the most nutritious beddings around)
  • Straw (that has not started to break down or rot)(Good airflow, bad moisture retention until it starts breaking down)
  • Coco-coir (remember to rinse it thoroughly since it usually has a high salt content in it)
  • Burlap Bags or old cotton t-shirts (good moisture retention, ok airflow, but takes a lot longer to break down than other beddings)

Examples of Materials not to us as Bedding:

  • Do not use Garden Soil (poor moisture holding ability, poor airflow)
  • Potting Soil (very often it contains chemical fertilizers which will harm or kill your worms)

Here at Midwest Worms, we desire to help you see how awesome worm composting is. We have everything you need to get started. Take a look at our products today.


8 comments

  • So how do I know when I have too many worms in my worm bin? Also how do I know if they have hatched any cocoons with babies yet? Can you notice the cocoons easily? I have euro’s and red wigglers I purchased from you and they seem to be doing fine. I keep my Lids off my bins and been trying my best to keep bins cool cause the heat is terrible here in Missouri. I’ve been freezing milk jugs with water in them and placing them on one side of my bin to help. Wondering also how long it takes for these boys to get big lol. I put my euros that I purchased from you in a bin May 30th of this year so it’s been over two months now. I just a few days ago went thru both my bins and flipped all their bedding so it was not so matted together seemingly. They seemed to enjoy that.

    Zach
  • Thanks for your comment John, we appreciate the feedback, it helps us to know that the information we are sharing is helping others with their worm composting efforts.

    Kyle
  • Thank you for your posting of bedding, we needed a refresher course on this subject.

    John

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