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Worm Bedding: 9 Awesome Choices

Worm-Bedding-9-Awesome-Choices Meme's Worms

Worm Bedding: 9 Awesome Choices

Table of contents: 
What is worm bedding?
Why is worm bedding important?
What to use for worm bedding?
1. Shredded Cardboard
2. Shredded Paper
3. Straw
4. Peat Moss
5. Aged Compost
6. Yard waste
7. Coconut Coir
8. Aged Horse Manure
9. Decomposing Wood chips
How to prepare worm bedding?
Step 1: Sort the material
Step 2: Soak them
Step 3: Eliminate excess water, if any
Step 4: Break it apart
Step 5: Combine and spread
What should you consider while choosing worm bedding?
1. Carbon to nitrogen ratio
2. Moisture level
3. Oxygen flow
4. Fluffiness
5. pH level
6. Toxin free
7. Texture
How to maintain worm bedding?
1. Add fresh bedding
2. Monitor moisture level
3. Monitor the pH level
FAQs
How long does worm bedding last?
Do worms eat worm bedding?
Conclusion
Sources

 

Worm bedding isn’t just another thing present in the worm bin. As per the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, bedding is where the worms lay casting. Worms also burrow into the bedding to protect themselves. In a nutshell, bedding plays a very important role in vermicomposting.

The question then arises, what to use for worm bedding?

The post below not only delves into the basics of worm bedding materials but also offers 9 awesome choices.

 

What is worm bedding?

Worm bedding is a single material or mix of materials that provide a healthy and comfortable environment for worms to thrive. In most cases these materials are such that worms can eat them. According to a research report, bedding materials also have an impact on worm growth and the quality of compost, which means you can't take them lightly.

Why is worm bedding important?

Apart from the reasons highlighted above, worm bedding is important for a whole host of reasons like: 

  • As highlighted above, worms feed on bedding. Therefore, the bedding should foster plenty of microbes that remain inside the worms when they consume it. These microbes will help them break down the organic matter they consume.
  •  According to Oregon State University, worms prefer a pH level of around 5.5, which means the bin contents need to be slightly acidic. If the pH level is too acidic, the worm activity can reduce and even prove fatal. The bedding material in the bin plays a crucial role in maintaining the pH level. If the bin or the bedding is too acidic, you can always replace it. While doing so, ensure that you replace only part of it and harvest the worms from the old bedding to ensure none are lost.
  • A post on Cornell University website states that the bedding is also responsible for holding the moisture and air that worms need for survival. That’s another reason why choosing the right bedding is crucial.
  • Worm bedding also protects worms against other predators and the weather outside.

 

In a nutshell, choosing the right worm bedding is crucial to ensure proper compost generation.

 

What to use for worm bedding?

Now, time for the best worm bedding options you can go with.

 

Sr. No.

Material

Procurement

Cost

1.

Shredded Cardboard

Easy

Low

2.

Shredded Paper

Easy

Low

3.

Straw

Easy in Rural areas, Difficult in Urban areas

Low

4.

Peat Moss

Relatively easy

Moderate

5.

Aged Compost

Easy

Low

6.

Yard waste

Easy

Low

7.

Coconut Coir

Easy

Moderate

8.

Aged Horse Manure

Difficult

Moderate

9.

Decomposing Wood chips

Moderately difficult

Moderate

 

1. Shredded Cardboard

Shredded cardboard, especially of the corrugated variety, is an excellent bedding choice because: 

  • It has some kind of structure that facilitates the flow of air through it.
  • Unlike paper, it breaks down slowly, which means you need not replace it that often.
  • Wide availability is another reason to use it.
  • Often, the glue used to hold the cardboard together is made from cornstarch, which worms like.
  • It can soak water and retain moisture.

However, before you pick any cardboard and start shredding it, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid cardboard, which is glossy or wax coated.
  • Any kind of plastic layer on top makes it unsuitable for this use.

Despite these restrictions, it's not difficult to find cardboard in ample quantities to use as bedding.

 

2. Shredded Paper

Another commonly found bedding option in our homes is paper. Worms love feasting on paper, but if you don’t shred it appropriately, it can bunch up, which causes problems when you try to harvest the compost. That’s why you should shred it well to ensure worms can feast on it, stay protected within it, and you can separate it easily.

You might be thinking, what about the ink on it?

The good news is that most inks today are made from soy derivatives. Consequently, they won’t be a problem for worms. You can even shred newspaper and use it as bedding.

 

3. Straw

First things first, straw and hay are different. While straw is a good option for bedding, hay not so much. Straw is a good option because it facilitates the flow of oxygen. It also offers a decent carbon to nitrogen ratio (covered in the lower half of the article) and isn’t that difficult to cut or reduce into small pieces.

Although it isn’t found in most homes, it's very inexpensive to procure, and therefore, you can use it in bulk.

Note:

Straw has an inherent disadvantage since it doesn’t retain moisture. Mixing it with aged Horse manure (#8 on this list) is a good option.

 

4. Peat Moss

According to a research report, Peat moss can hold water up to 30 times its weight. It also has a high carbon content, which is conducive to worms and the generation of compost. Procuring it from gardens or nurseries isn’t difficult either. However, since it's acidic, you might have to manage the pH level if you use it in greater quantities in the bin.

 

5. Aged Compost

According to Oklahoma State University, aged compost is one of the best bedding for worms because it fulfills multiple requirements of good bedding: 

  • It's lightweight.
  • It's biodegradable.
  • It can retain moisture pretty well.
  • It's usually full of microbes.
  • Not expensive to procure.
  • It can be used in bulk.

The only thing you need to be wary of is critters in it. As long as you inspect it well and avoid the critters, aged compost is an excellent bedding option.

 

6. Yard waste

Want another free bedding option?

Try yard waste. The good news is that any type of yard waste can work as bedding, like grass, leaves, and so on. There are, however a few things to keep in mind before you start gathering the same: 

  • Green yard waste is not suitable because of its low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. Green yard waste should be turned to compot to increase the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.
  • If the yard waste has been subject to insecticides, pesticides, or any chemicals, then it's unsuitable for worm bedding.
  • Inspect it well to ensure no critters or pests are present.

On the other hand, it's easy to procure in urban and rural environments, which makes it an excellent choice.

 

7. Coconut Coir

Do you live in an urban environment?

If yes, go with Coconut Coir. The best thing is that multiple companies sell Coco Coir online. Usually, it’s made from coconut husks. When procuring it on your own instead of ordering it, ensure you break it down into same-sized pieces. Whichever way you procure it, follow the procedure below to make it more conducive to worms. 

  • Rinse it with water before using, to reduce salt content.
  • Add some organic waste to it to increase the amount of microbes in it.
  • Don’t use it dry since the texture isn’t that comfortable for worms.

The best thing about it is that when you rinse it, it can retain water up to 8 times its weight. 

That’s why it attains that soft, sponge-like texture, ideal for worms. When looking for a worm bedding for sale that’s widely available, go with this option.

 

8. Aged Horse Manure

One of the primary reasons why aged Horse manure is such a good option is its carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 20:1, as per a report by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Other attributes which make it a good choice include: 

  • It can readily double up as food for worms.
  • It consists of tons of microbes that help worms.
  • Usually, you can procure it for free from horse farms or stables.
  • Even when aged, horse manure has enough water content to help worms thrive.

When procuring it, do inquire about any medication given to horses because manure containing traces of medication might not be conducive to worms.

 

9. Decomposing Wood chips

Surprised?

Wooden bedding is usually not conducive to worms because it can’t hold water as efficiently as some of the other bedding options on this list. Also, wooden chips are susceptible to bacteria and fungi, which aren’t conducive to worms.

But decomposing or rotting wood chips are different. When wood chips decompose, the cellulose in them starts breaking down, which can not only hold water but also releases water. That means decomposing wood chips are naturally moist, making them a good bedding choice.

Mix some mulch with these wood chips and they become conducive for worms. The only issue here is that these aren’t the cheapest. Therefore, if you want to use them in bulk, be prepared to shell out a significant sum of money.

Now that you know the best worm bedding material options, it's time to understand how to prepare the bed.

 

How to prepare worm bedding?

Once you have shortlisted the bedding materials, follow the 5 steps below to prepare the bed.

 

Step 1: Sort the material

Whichever materials you choose, you need to first inspect them for any chemicals or additives that unqualify them as bedding material. After that, bring them into the desired form. For example, Paper and cardboard must be shredded, or wood chips must be decomposed partially first.

 

Step 2: Soak them

Irrespective of the material, you need to soak the bedding material. The extent of water you add will vary. For example, aged compost will have some moisture but something like shredded paper won’t have any. 

According to Oregon State University, worm bedding should contain a minimum of 75% moisture. The best way to attain this moisture level is to continue adding water and mixing until the bedding attains the texture of a moist sponge. This texture is comparable to that of a damp sponge that releases only a few drops of water when pressed.

 

Step 3: Eliminate excess water, if any

You need to refrain from adding so much water that the bedding is submerged in water. If that happens worms, won’t come out of the bedding at all. Therefore, excess water must be removed by squeezing or straining.

 

Step 4: Break it apart

Squeezing or straining any of the above materials will cause them to form a lump or a ball. The problem with such a lump is that it hampers the movement of worms and the air flow. That’s why you need to break it apart.

 

Step 5: Combine and spread

If you’re using a mixture of different materials, mix them well at this stage and spread the mixture in the bin.

That’s it!

 

What should you consider while choosing worm bedding?

Wondering why we chose these 9 as the best worm bedding options?

That’s because they fulfill all the requirements of a good worm bedding material, which are:

 

1. Carbon to nitrogen ratio

According to this report, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio inside the bin impacts the digestive power of worms, which in turn determines the amount and quality of compost produced. 

The carbon-to-nitrogen ratio inside the bin also impacts the bin temperature. Ideally, a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 25:1 is needed. Most, if not all, of the above bedding options have a carbon-to-nitrogen level near that level.

 

2. Moisture level

The bedding materials should be able to retain moisture. As highlighted above, when preparing the bedding, it's best to moisten it to the level of a wrung-out sponge. If they don’t hold moisture, you can’t use that material as bedding. The above suggested materials fulfill that requirement as well. 

 

3. Oxygen flow

Worms breathe through their skin, which means the bedding material needs to facilitate oxygen flow. For this reason, the bedding needs to have some structure, and it can’t be very dense either. That’s why, instead of using paper or cardboard as is, it’s better to shred them.

 

4. Fluffiness

Notice how the procedure advises to spread out the bedding.

It's advised to make the bedding fluffy. Only then it's easy for oxygen to flow through it. Any material that turns lumpy or gets matted at the bottom of the bin isn’t suitable for bedding. Bedding material should be such that you can spread it in the area you want.

Spreading out the bedding also makes it easy for worms to consume it. All the materials recommended above fulfill this requirement as well.

 

5. pH level

Worms prefer a slightly acidic pH level of 6.5. Since the bedding forms a significant part of the worm bin, the pH level of the bedding needs to be near this level, which is why the above materials are a good choice.

 

6. Toxin free

The bedding material you choose should also be devoid of toxins. Many substances harmless to us might be toxic to worms. You also need to factor in how worms will react when they come in contact with those substances. Choose a bedding material keeping the toxins in mind. 

Examples of such Toxins include:

  • Any materials that have come in contact with cedar, poison oak, poison ivy, etc.
  • Any organic matter treated with pesticides or insecticides.
  • Any material that has been bleached.

 

7. Texture

Above, we spoke about the bedding feeling like a wrung-out sponge. While that means the bedding will have significant moisture, this texture is also needed so that the bedding doesn't hurt worms.

All the above bedding options have been recommended keeping in mind these factors.

 

How to maintain worm bedding?

Worm bedding does require some maintenance as worms eat the bedding. However, maintaining it isn’t difficult.

 

1. Add fresh bedding

As worms eat the bedding, it breaks down. It might also get lumped in a corner. When that happens, add fresh bedding from time to time. You can repeat the same bedding or simply add another material to create a mixture.

 

2. Monitor moisture level

In addition, monitor and adjust the moisture level. If it becomes too wet, add some fresh bedding to soak up excess water. Of course, when it becomes dry, sprinkle some water.

 

3. Monitor the pH level

As highlighted above, a pH level of 6.5 is ideal for worms. However, the pH level will change as worms consume the bedding and produce more castings. In that case, you have two options: 

Option 1: Add more bedding to restore the pH level to ideal levels.

Option 2: Add granules of limestone or crushed eggshells to reduce the acidity. 

Usually, the pH level of bedding reduces with time, which means the worm bin becomes more acidic. That’s why monitoring and maintaining pH level is crucial.

 

FAQs

How long does worm bedding last?

It's not uncommon for worm bedding to last for 6 to 9 months. There are a lot of factors at play here, but that’s a good ballpark figure to go with.

 

Do worms eat worm bedding?

Yes, worms eat worm bedding and convert it to castings.

 

Conclusion

Worried about worm bedding? Simply follow the guide above and choosing the best bedding material won’t be a problem. With the bedding taken care of, you just need to get pure-bred worms, and you’re good to go.

 

Check out our purebred worms to begin your vermicomposting journey.




Sources:

https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/worms/wormfact/#:~:text=They%20need%20a%20moist%2C%20organic,they%20need%20a%20dark%20environment.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344441341_Effect_of_Different_Bedding_Materials_and_Waste_Feeds_on_Vermicompost_Production_and_Local_Earthworm_Performance_in_Wondo_Genet_Ethiopia

https://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/basics.html#:~:text=Worms%20need%20moisture%2C%20air%2C%20food,air%20spaces%20essential%20to%20worms.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229890824_Moisture_content_measurements_of_moss_Sphagnum_spp_using_commercial_sensors

https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/vermicomposting-composting-with-worms.html#:~:text=Eventually%20the%20bedding%20and%20food,and%20coconut%20fiber%20(coir).

https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pub/em-9034-composting-worms#:~:text=Worms%20need%2075%20to%2085%20percent%20moisture%20in%20their%20bedding.%20Mix%20the%20dry%20materials%20together

https://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/documents/compost07.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960852400000389#:~:text=An%20appropriate%20carbon%20to%20nitrogen%20ratio%20for%20optimal%20earthworm%20digestion%20is%20necessary%20too.

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