Bedding for Earthworms: Easy to Make Complicated
As with anything, you should start with the end in mind. What are you trying to do: make castings,
make more worms or both? Is the focus of your vermicomposting or vermiculture system one or all of these?
Will your worm farm and all the many worm bins you have be used mostly for earthworm production, waste reduction or
What is your primary mission? Are you starting a business to sell worms and castings or just
trying to help the environment and compost some of your organic material instead of sending it to the landfill? The answer to these questions plays
an important role in the decision of the type of bedding.
If you're trying to generate castings, then the faster the worms convert the material the better. And they
(and the microbes) convert small pieces of organic matter faster than larger pieces. Peat moss, coconut fiber, and shredded (using a shredder)
newspaper and cardboard all break down relatively fast. You can even speed things up by soaking them in water for longer periods of time before
adding them to the bin. We like to soak shredded paper and cardboard for several days while "mixing" it with a grout mixer blade a few minutes each
day (you can buy a grout mixer from your home improvement warehouse) attached to a heavy duty drill. It blends the paper and cardboard into a mush
that breaks down very quickly. NOTE: glossy newsprint (advertisements) will take much longer to break down even if shredded.
If your main goal is to sell worms, you'll still need some of the above prepared type of bins. These will serve as large scale breeding grounds for
your worms and as such you will still generate alot of castings. In addition, you'll also need some fattening bins where the primary food is
pulverized grains like chicken laying mash or laying crumbles. Just be sure to only apply a thin (less than 1/8 inch) layer at a time or it could
heat up or generate gases that cause your worms to run for their lives.
If you're just trying to save the environment and divert organic material from your kitchen table from going to the landfill, then soaking
shredded paper or cardboard for a day or two as your main bedding will do just fine. Then add your leftover vegetable scraps as they are generated
and you'll do just fine.
No matter which path you take, just remember a few things.
Click here to order European Nightcrawlers!
- First, soak your bedding for a minimum of 24 hours to soften it up. Then drain it. We just pour it into the bins and allow
the liquids to drain off (which we then collect and re-use for the next batch). Start with around 6 - 12" of bedding.
- Second, add a couple of handfuls of soil or castings to "seed" the bedding with microbes and lightly stir/rake the top to
work it into the bedding.
- Third, cover it and wait a week before adding worms. This allows a good population of microbes to get established before
the worms move in and start feasting!
- Fourth, and most important, after adding the worms, allow THEM to work themselves in to where THEY want to go. If you mix
them into the bedding manually you risk killing them! There will be hotspots and low oxygen spots in the bedding so let them find their way.
- Fifth,and very important, after they have found their way into the bedding, DON'T stir the bedding a lot. You risk adding
a lot of oxygen at one time and if there is much "green" left in the bedding it will heat up fast and cook them. Trust us on this one. We cooked
our first batch of worms doing exactly this.
- Sixth, be patient. Add just a little more bedding/food at a time and allow them time to process the
new before adding more. You'll have happier worms, a more thoroughly composted bedding, and better castings as a result.