By Teresa J. Frith
If you plan on raising worms for vermicomposting or as bait for fishing, you first need to decide on the best types of worm bedding. You need to be careful to choose the proper kind of bedding so your worms will grow fast and stay healthy and happy.
What is Worm Bedding?
First, let’s define worm bedding in general. Worm bin bedding needs to be made up of some sort of organic material that is also ph negative. It also should have a high ratio of carbon to nitrogen levels of 50:1. This allows the decomposition rate to slow down enough so your worms get the proper amount of microbes to feed on. Those microbes are quite vital, as the worms will be looking for not just proper bedding, but they also need a source of nitrogen so they can acclimate.
Choosing the Bedding
Now it’s time to pick from the best types of worm bedding. There’s several kinds to choose from, and it likely will depend on what’s available as well as what you prefer and whether you can source it from what you have on hand or have to buy it.
For one thing, did you know that about half your worm’s diet comes from that bedding? So if you don’t choose the proper bedding your worms will not produce the worm casings you need for vermicomposting, and they could die from lack of nourishment.
Characteristics of the Bedding
You don’t want to use a single type of bedding, you need to mix it up so it won’t end up being too wet, too dry, or not have vital components the worms need to survive. Temperature is also important, as worms need it to be between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for most worm species.
Moisture levels need to be 80 percent, which is about what it would be in a sponge you’ve squished out and is still a bit damp. Or, if you are really scientifically inclined, you could buy a moisture meter and check to see the percentage.
Worms also need oxygen, so the bedding needs to have some space within it so air can flow through it. You need to fluff it up to accomplish this and keep it from matting up in your worm bin.
Best Types of Worm Bedding
Here are some kinds of worm bedding to choose from:
CARDBOARD – Most households have a supply of carboard laying around, and this is a great worm bedding. You just have to make sure it is free of labels, glue, stickers or other attachments. Then just tear it up into little pieces. Hint: If you wet the cardboard it tears so much easier, and you need moist bedding anyway, right?
- PAPER – Here’s another cheap and easy worm bedding. Just make sure to avoid any paper with dyes or ink like magazine pages, no gift wrap, no wax paper coated paper, and no printed receipts. Best paper to use includes newsprint, paper printed with soy based inks, and unbleached paper like paper towels or napkins. Just shred it up and wet it as needed.
- DRIED LEAVES – Gather your leaves until you have a big bag, then shred them up into little pieces and wet them as required. Leaves break down quite readily and best of all they are free!
- SOIL – You can use dirt from your yard or buy potting soil. It is full of those needed bacteria and microbes the worms eat. And worms in the wild live in dirt, so what could be better? Just make sure it’s chemical and pesticide free, especially if you buy it.
- STRAW/HAY – These are great for allowing the proper flow of oxygen throughout your worm bin. Plus it’s great for meeting the proper ratios of carbon to nitrogen. You need to break it up into small pieces. You’ll need some kind of sharp tool to do this like scissors, a knife or your lawn mower.
- CLOTHING or CLOTH SCRAPS – You can recycle your old clothes made of 100 percent linen, silk or cotton. Worms love to eat these fibers. Just make sure there’s no synthetic polyester in the lining or in the thread used to hold the clothes together. It doesn’t decompose since it’s made using petroleum. Worms cant digest it and it is bad for them. Cut it up into tiny pieces to use in the worm bin. It’s great for absorbing any excess wetness in your bin. Note: It does take longer to break down than other bedding.
- COCONUT COIR – This is what’s left after meat and milk has been harvested from coconuts. One disadvantage is you have to buy it, plus it has no nutritional value for the worms. You don’t have to process it or cut it up, just add it to the bin. It is also good for moisture absorption.
- PEAT MOSS – This is another bedding you have to buy, and it can be found at many grocery stores, garden centers, feed stores, online, etc. Just don’t get any with chemicals or additives like Miracle Gro, etc., as it is poisonous to worms. Make sure it is 100 percent pure. Like with dirt, you just pour it into the worm bin for the bedding.
GRASS CLIPPINGS – Here’s another free source of worm bedding. Just save the clippings the next time you cut your lawn. Grass does however contain a lot of nitrogen, so make sure the worms also have a proper source of oxygen, and avoid clippings in which the grass was chemically treated.
- AGED COMPOST – If you already have access to a compost bin, you can use it for worm bedding. Make sure it is already broken down and not too dry. It’s great since it contains the bacteria and microbes worms need.
- WOOD SHAVINGS – This can be used in moderation as it dries out easily. Make sure the wood has not been chemically treated. It needs to be properly moistened prior to use and any large hard chunks taken out so your worms won’t get punctured.
- MANURE – This may not smell great but worms love it. Plus it already has a lot of microbes and bacteria the worms thrive on. Be sure not to use manure from any animal that has taken worming medicine, as the residue from it will poison the worms. Best manure is from animals like rabbits, horses or chickens since they normally don’t get deworming meds. Don’t use manure from goats, cattle or sheep since they are wormed regularly.
All in all, having a worm bin is a great method of acquiring worm casings, or worm poop, for fertilizing your garden or other plants. Just follow the above methods and you are well on your way to success.