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Bedding for Worms

Red wiggler worms are like little seeds that grow compost. Add them to a good moist bed and they will multiply while making the best soil conditioner for you.  The bedding that worms want is the same as the carbon containing ‘browns’ used to build a regular compost pile. They like absorbent materials like brown leaves, sawdust, peat moss, coconut coir, newspaper, or my current favorite, cardboard.

The classic books such as Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof recommend newspaper.  However, few of us still get the daily paper.  I’m too cheap to buy peat moss or coconut coir and I don’t like the dirt and bugs that come with come with leaves or sawdust, so I stick with the loads of cardboard that flow by everyday.  Using cardboard for growing worms also keeps it out of the landfills.

Cardboard does have it’s own problems too.  It can be hard to tear up to the size people like to feed their worms.  Luckily, the worms don’t really mind a chunky bedding. Most folks cut up cardboard with a sharp knife or shears or scissors. Some soak the cardboard in water for easy tearing by hand. Whatever method you choose, the worms will quickly start breaking it down from the edges. I like a finely broken down cardboard bedding because the smaller bits compost quicker and I am looking for fast compost production.  I made a DIY cardboard shredder that is still too scary to share.  Maybe refinements will let me eventually sell the Better Bedding Shredder, but not yet. In the meanwhile, if you live in the San Jose area, I would be happy to supply cardboard shreds.

The Old TomsWormery bedding is a mix of cardboard, newspaper, coffee grounds, spent brewers grains, rock dust,, and eggshells.  I wet OldToms worm bedding with fruit and vegetable juices from another project, but you can add a little (fist size) ground up food scraps. I have lots of well finished vermicasts, check the website for availability.

4 thoughts on “Bedding for Worms

  1. Can you use shredded paper, instead of cardboard? I seem to have alot of that in my office ?

    1. Hi Michele, Yes, you can use shredded office paper, but keep an eye on it as this tends to clump up. White paper shreds want to be mixed with some other texture. You might try dry leaves or dry grass. You could buy peat moss or coconut coir. The paper shreds will stretch a bag of moss far into the future.
      Tom B

  2. Hi Tom,

    How much bedding would you fill in a 2x stacked 10 gallon paint bucket system? I was going to do about halfway up (with a little food) on the bottom bin and the same on the top (but with more food).My bedding will consist of coco coir, cardboard, and newspaper.

    And Is it okay to leave all the worms in the same bin for a while once they start multiplying? Appreciate the help as it’s my first rodeo. This is so cool!

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I’m having a problem picturing your set up. Do you have 10-gallon buckets, or do you have two 5-gallon buckets. In either case, you don’t start out stacked. What you do is grow one bucket until the herd is booming and the first bucket is nearly full. Then you pile on the next bucket with holes in the bottom. The booming worms worm their way up into the new bucket while they continue to eat and finish the bottom bucket. To get more surface area for now, you can start both buckets evenly. Start the buckets at about a quarter full. They need a certain concentration to find each other for mating. Add some finely crushed eggshell to your bedding. the worms need the pH control and they want the grit to better digest their food. It is very cool; the red wiggler is so humble but does great things for the earth.

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