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What Can I Use For Worm Bedding?

bedding-worms-will-loveWe can all agree that bedding is one of the most important elements of upkeep in a worm farm. Adding at least some bedding on a regular basis is essential to keep your red worms happy and productive. Failure to do so can result in all kinds of problems, even death to your worms!

It can’t be emphasized enough, then, how important it is to provide effective bedding to your worms. What kind of bedding can be used in worm farms? We here at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm know of many bedding materials that work really well. The key is to use a combination of materials to allow your system to operate most efficiently. This is because some materials are inherently better than others and adding several types into your worm bin will make up for certain weaknesses in some of the materials you may have on hand.
So with that, let’s dive into some of the more common types of bedding and discuss what makes good bedding material versus what makes poor bedding material.

Worm Bedding Characteristics

From the moment you set up your worm farm, the most important thing to do is make sure that the right kind of bedding material is used. Good bedding must:
  • Be of neutral PH
  • Be free of any sharp or abrasive things that can harm the worms’ sensitive skin
  • Retain moisture
  • Allow oxygen flow
Good bedding can also be eaten by the worms. In fact, up to 50% of a worms diet may consist of its bedding. One material that works extremely well for both bedding and food is brown cardboard. Red worms love to eat brown cardboard. It should be shredded up into small pieces to allow for better air flow and so that the worms can eat it more easily.

10 Bedding Materials Your Worms Will Love

The key to maintaining a healthy worm bin isn’t choosing just one “best” bedding material, it’s using a variety of materials and adding them to your worm bin often. Most vermicomposters could do a little better at adding new bedding to their worm bins more frequently.
For best results, use a mixture of the following materials in your worm bins to create a good balance. As I said before, some materials have weaknesses that others don’t, and it’s nice to be able to use whatever materials you already have on hand. When the bedding has reached desirable conditions, the worms will thrive and production will soar. Be attentive to this and your red worms will be plum happy.
  1. Shredded brown cardboard
  2. Shredded paper (not bleached white office paper)
  3. Shredded newspaper (not colored)
  4. Aged compost
  5. Aged horse or cow manure
  6. Coco coir
  7. Peat moss
  8. Straw and hay
  9. Fall leaves and other yard waste
  10. Wood chips
Remember to dampen these materials when you add them. They shouldn’t be sopping wet, just damp. Once every now and then, fluff up the bedding to keep it from compacting and stinking. Also, remember to feed the worms in different places.

In Summary

Finding worm bedding is easy, and so is adding it to your worm bin. Make sure your worms are happy and productive by giving them the right kind of bedding on a frequent basis.
CC image courtesy of Tofutti Break at Flickr

62 comments on “What Can I Use For Worm Bedding?

  • Hi, your suggestion of the manure is really conflicting me. Many cattle farmers (all?) Actually “worm” their/our animals to kill the parasites that naturally accumulate in their gut and cause them to grow more slowly. This is a pesticide which persists in the manure and even after aging I wouldnt be putting it anywhere near my wormies. The lack of information in your article about this important and potentially deadly pesticide use could be very misleading to those unaware of its presence.

    Reply
    • Suzy Quinn says:

      Our first worm farm we started, we gathered manure from neighbors and were told they had not been dewormed. We lost over a thousand dollars worth of worms, bedding, supplies do to dewormed manure. We could not use anything associated with or that might have come in contact with the taunted manure. Be sure of what you feed your worms.

      Reply
  • how do you get the gold from the worms? right now I go through the dirt with my hands and put the worms inn another container. is there an easier way?

    Reply
    • make a pile, shine a light on it, the worms will avoid the light and head to the bottom of the pile, you can then scoop from the top of the pile where the worms have left. repeat! hope this helps

      Reply
      • Concentric320 says:

        You can build a side by side bin too. One big bin sperated by a hardware divider. Grow your worms on one side, then when the dirt is ready, start feeding the other side. The worms will move to the other side and after a few weeks you can harvest the dirt. You may still have some baby worms and cacoons over there, though, friending on how long you wait to harvest.

        Reply
  • We have pine shavings, as well as cedar ~ kept around for our bunny. Would either of those work well – or should either or both be avoided?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Aubrey,

      You can use pine and cedar shavings as bedding, although we would not recommend using only that as bedding. Wood chips can provide bulk and create air spaces throughout the bedding, when mixed with other beddings. They can also be reused, as the worms will not compost them. Keep in mind though, wood chips or shavings can dry out easily, so you would want to mix them with something that retains moisture.

      Sincerely,
      Bethany
      Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

      Reply
    • Hello Sherryl! Yes, this is what we use and recommend as a source of bedding. We recommend having it kept about as moist as a wrung out sponge and between 40 and 80 degrees for the worms. The pH should be kept neutral. Hope this helps!

      Uncle Jim

      Reply
    • Hello! Yes, grass clippings are fine to add to your bin. I would recommend letting them age a little while so they are not so hard when you add them. Have a great day!

      -Uncle Jim

      Reply
  • Just got 500 worms via Amazon from you guys yesterday! Added them into my bin and I think they’re happy. My current bedding is a mix of coco coir, shredded fall leaves, and shredded paper egg cartons. I want to add some more bedding on top and it was going to be shredded newspaper. But, I can’t find any black and white newspaper here in town.

    My Question:
    Can I use shredded brown “Kraft Paper” in my bin? I have a big roll of it I can shred up for the little guys.

    Reply
    • Hi Nick! Yes, you could add this paper as another source of bedding. Make sure that it is shredded and kept about as moist as wrung out sponge. Have a good day!

      Uncle Jim

      Reply
  • Chuck Zirkle says:

    Is shredded brown cardboard boxes and bags from fast food places that have colored ink safe for worms, or should these areas be cut out before shredding? W the gray paper beverage trays (cup holders) alright for bedding?

    Reply
    • James Shaw says:

      Hi Chuck,

      Using shredded cardboard boxes/broken down cardboard cupholders/paper bags should be fine for the worm bin. As for using newspaper/paper with coloured ink, we do not advise it since it is coloured. However, many inks today are toxic-free.

      Uncle Jim

      Reply
    • leaf tallbird says:

      I saw a post today on a youtube news site saying that the wrapping and packaging for fast food, esp M contains toxic chemicals. carcinogenic to humans. don’t know about the wigglers, but they seem somewhat sensitive to unnatural stuff.

      Reply
    • James Shaw says:

      Hi David!

      Worms from local bait shops are generally nightcrawlers of some sort, which are fine to mix with the worms you have. Mixing both European nightcrawlers and red wigglers does not hurt either of the worms since they live in basically the same environment.

      Uncle Jim

      Reply
    • James Shaw says:

      You can use it. But don’t use much and yes make sure its aged if possible as it has a lot of ammonia which will hurt the worms.

      Reply
    • Ray – I assume different places around your bin. i.e. I put scraps in SW corner, then next time in the NW corner, next time NE corner…

      Reply
  • Brenda Christiansen says:

    I see that rock dust and pumice is included with the kit from Worm Factory 360. But no where does it say how to use it. Wouldn’t that be rough on their little bodies? or cut them?

    Thanks for all your help

    Reply
  • Alex Kastelic says:

    You say to fluff the bedding periodically. I have also read to not disturb lower trays. Does one only fluff the top tray or should lower trays be fluffed?

    Reply
  • why not bleached white office paper? multiple other sources say it’s OK to use as bedding in moderation. just wondering if it’s bad because it’s bleached or if its because too much can lead to excess carbon.

    Reply
  • Jennifer Tuller says:

    I just wanted to add that ants are terribly mean to worms,. I’ve seen a few people ask if they will hurt worms and YES THEY WILL ATTACK THEM.. its horrible..

    Reply
  • Jennifer Tuller says:

    Also do u have food I can buy? I’m having trouble coming up with stuff to feed them.. I don’t have very many but I don’t want to be just put grass in there.. Ive been putting banana peels cut up but that’s all

    Reply
  • Hey there, very informative, thanks. I was wondering can I use fresh water clam shells if I boil them and grind them to powder in a coffee grinder? Will this make a reasonable grit for their digestion in place of egg shells? thanks.

    Reply
  • I am a touch confused. Is bedding different than what you feed your worms? I have access to a lot of manure/hay/straw mixture ,grass clippings and leaves. My bed is going to be 24′ x 4′ decided in the middle. Aging manure on one side and working tie other. Do.i need to collect some news paper and cardboard. Or just use the stuff I mentioned above.

    Reply
    • Bedding is the material the worms live in and breed in. You feed them your household vegetable scraps. The worm castings they create make a wonderful soil amendment for pot plants and vegetable beds. If I had a supply of manure, straw, and grass clippings I would mound it up and make a ragular compost pile without the worms.

      Reply
  • I’m wondering about using the bedding — can the shredded newspaper just be mixed into the soil & kitchen scraps or does it need to be a separate layer underneath? I’m also confused as to how to keep it “airy” if it’s wet, it kinda flattens down.
    Sorry for the (silly) questions, but I didn’t actually intend on having a worm bin inside, but I found some little earthworms in a pot of lily bulbs that I’d brought in for the winter — and I couldn’t bear to just chuck them outside in -30F weather, because that would have killed them, so I set up a worm bin using the soil that the lily bulbs were in, some shredded newspaper & some kitchen scraps (fruit & veggie trimmings).
    There were 6 worms in total — which was a shock to me, because the soil was completely bone dry, then the bulbs started to grow so I threw some water on them …. then went to separate the bulbs to pot individually, and found baby slugs (UGH) and these earthworms. Two were red wrigglers, and the other 4 are these little dudes that I usually find in my outdoor compost bins or under grass clipping mulch (they seem to really like grass clippings!). They’re about an inch long, they hardly wiggle around at all & one end is bright orange. They are usually just hanging around, fairly straight, with a slight c shape.
    Thank you for reading this, and thank you in advance for any guidance as to bedding and what kind of worms these little ones might be 🙂

    Reply
  • I have a couple of plastic indoor bins located in the laundry room. I have had the worms (eisenia fetida from Uncle Jim’s purchased through Amazon) since March of last year. My bedding consists of: shredded cardboard,egg cartons,brown leaves, a small amount of white paper, and shopping bags; some peat moss with a little bit of lime for ph buffer; and, rabbit droppings with hay/straw mixed in. I wet all these stuff together until I have a bedding with a moisture content of a wrung out sponge. My bins don’t have holes or rocks in the bottom. It is solid bedding. I don’t have a cover for the top except for dry shredded cardboard and/or egg cartons. I have never had an occasion where the bedding dries out. I even put dry materials under the food scraps I put in to prevent too much moisture.

    I feed my worms vegetable and fruit scraps that I either run through the blender or have aged in a covered container mixed with coffee grounds. I spray a small amount of diluted molasses on this. I also feed them a small amount of homemade worm chow and ground up egg shells.

    I feed them until the bedding has shrunk to about half the volume or thereabouts. At this point, I stop feeding until I am satisfied with the look and feel of the compost in the whole bin which resembles coffee grounds. I resume feeding and after a few days, I lift the whole mass of worms covering the food and transfer it to a new bin. I do this until I have harvested most of the worms. I put just a tad bit of food in my finished compost for some worms that might be straggling or haven’t hatched yet. I sift with a fine mesh what I need for my gardening needs for as long as I still find worms. I keep my finished compost moist by covering the top with a damp sheet of newspaper and a lid with holes on it.

    Beneficial information gathered from various sites enabled me to have a worm composting set up that is easy to maintain and makes use of available materials.

    This from a Filipina who has an aversion (phobia, really) to earthworms growing up! Thank God for gloves! Hope you have a wormie day!

    Reply
  • Sophie Kohn says:

    How long does chicken poop need to be aged? I was looking into possibly worm composting wood shavings and chicken poop from 3 chickens…Maybe I should just stick to regular old non-worm compost?

    Reply
  • Therel Utsey says:

    I have just started with worms brown cardboard are you talking about cardboard boxes I thought boxes would have glue on it would that harm the worms ,thank you Therel

    Reply
  • Can I use top soil mixes with peat moss for worm bedding and how long my I keep
    the bedding without having to replace it, also can I add newspaper and cardboard every now and then?

    Reply
  • Can I use top soil mixes with peat moss for worm bedding and how long my I keep
    the bedding without having to replace it, also can I add newspaper and cardboard every now and then?

    Reply
  • What’s an acceptable TDS meter reading for worm bedding? I’m considering some coconut coir that reads at 300 on a TDS meter, is that too salty? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Whyte davy says:

    I bought a lb of worms last year and put the in my composting Bin which was half full. No bedding added. Those guys multiplied significantly. When I harvested the two and half months later, I had about 14 lbs of worms. This year I will be experimenting with the recommended way of feeding my other bin( 1″ of food on top of bedding to see which is more effective.) I should point out that it’s a pallet outside bin.

    Reply

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