Bedding has a huge impact upon how quickly worms grow and ultimately upon the maximum size that they will obtain. Also it plays an important role in reproduction rates and has a practical impact upon the manageability of a worm system. It helps to prevent smells from forming in the worm farm or bin by providing carbon, without which the system would sour. Also the proper bedding will be forgiving and help keep worms healthy even when the worm bin is accidentally over or under fed or watered. The best bedding allows the free movement of the worms so that they can eat and move while exerting the least energy.
Peat moss is a good solution but it is not necessarily the best thing. It must be bought as it usually cannot be found freely and it has a lower pH than worms like so adding limestone is necessary for optimum conditions. Peat moss has almost no food value and as such will not help in the fattening process, but use of a good food source can get around this problem. Also some people object to using peat moss because of environmental concerns.
Swamp dredging or bog soil usually makes a good bedding where one knows where to get it. Also the quality varies widely. Usually is is free minus labor to get it. Similar to peat moss but better because of its non acidic nature.
Leaf mold or is a fair bedding but lacks in its ability to hold water. It may contain pest such as centipedes which can bite someone tending the worms. However if it is well aged it should be relatively free of pest and it hold water better as it decomposes.
Shredded paper is also good bedding. It is free and using it helps to reduce waste. Most inks used now days are soy based which is harmless to the worms. Paper does provide a little food value as it breaks down. However it can clump together and make movement difficult for the worms. This also makes harvesting more difficult.
Shredded cardboard works really well and has the same advantages as shredded newspaper plus it does not tend to clump together. It provides more nutrition to the worms than most other bedding as the glue contains protein. The biggest problem is shedding it is difficult or next to impossible without machinery.
Compost can vary widely from excellent to terrible. Homemade stuff is usually very good and the worms can sometimes live in it for a while without the need for additional feeding. Compost bought from the big box stores are not suitable for use as bedding by themselves. They are usually to coarse or to high in salt. However they can be mixed with other bedding sources to produce a good bedding product.
Manure can be used but needs to be well aged and checked out on a small number of worms before committing a large number of worms to it. This is because it could contain vermiticides, have a high salt content. Also it could heat and kill the worms so pre-composting is necessary.
Some things to test out. Some things which I have tried but not so extensively as to be able to recommend without some testing on the users part.
- Saw dust. Must be from non-cedar, non-treated and non-sap-bearing. Pine saw dust is not usable as the sap is harmful to the worms
- Straw or hay seem to work well when they are chopped fine but tend to mat up and it is hard to feed powdered feeds with hay bedding. Does not hold water well and takes a long time to break down. May work well with manure after aging for a couple weeks.
- Peanut hulls have been used by some but I have no experience. Must be unsalted.
- Worm casting work great. After all it is where they came from. Worm casting can become compact easily, but the addition of a small amount of peat or shredded paper will solve this.
Do Not use soil as a bedding. Although some worms will do well in soils red worms and euro’s do not.
The best solution is to use mixtures of the above ingredients to make a bedding that retains moisture well, does not clump, and provides a small amount of food value over time. I like to use a mixture of peat moss, bog soil, leaf mold (pest free), shredded cardboard, a very small amount of fresh poultry manure (known to be vermiticide free), and some worm castings so that the worms have something familiar. The proportion are not given here because they vary depending upon the qualities of the ingredients. Also bedding used for fattening a worm is not the same bedding bedding used to compost food waste. A bedding used to fatten a worm should have more food value and have a finer texture. Bedding used to compost waste should have a higher carbon content, such as shredded paper, and can be coarser because they will be expected to break down slower so that they retain structure while allowing time for the waste to compost.
You can also buy our bedding already mixed such as our bedding available by clicking here, and at least by knowing what goes into the bedding you will be a better worm grower. As the more you understand the needs of the worm the better you can meet them.
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Thanks for reading!