The best worm bedding has several factors that make it the best bedding.
- Must be cheap
- Must be sustainable
- Must have good water retention
- Must provide good aeration
- Must have a neutral PH
- Must be a good carbon source
The growth and success of your worm farm is tied directly to the quality of your compost bedding.
Bedding is what makes up the bulk of our worm compost bins. If what you add to the worm bin is naturally juicy it is considered a green, but if it’s dry then it’s considered a brown (a carbon source), and it may be considered bedding.
The biology of a worm bin requires a consistent and moist environment. Many people just starting out, believe the worms eat the vegies and poop out the worm castings. But that is not how it works. An appropriate mixture of greens and browns create an environment that decomposes aerobically supporting soil microbial communities made up of billions of bacteria. The worms feed on the bacteria. This is a simple breakdown of the vermicomposting process. Keep it in mind while building your worm farm.
The ideal balance of browns (bedding) to greens (food-table scraps) is about 60/40, which means more of the worm’s diet comes from bedding rather than food scraps. That’s why it’s so important to have quality worm bedding yet made from a cheap and sustainable source.
What Makes the Best Worm Bedding?
Let’s let the cat out of the bag and remove the suspense so you can settle down and begin building the best worm bedding. It’s simply cardboard. Why cardboard? Read On!
Why is it the Best Material?
Cardboard is Cheap
it can’t get cheaper than free. Well, unless you can get someone to pay you for it, which is not out of the realm of possibilities. But, here at Swampy’s Worm Farm, I get all I want free. I don’t even go out specifically to collect it. When I am at Walmart, and workers are filling shelfs by emptying’s what? That’s right cardboard boxes. I have never been told I can’t have all I want. I simply load the bottom half of my shopping cart. I do the same at the Dollar store. Now, word to the wise. Don’t go behind the stores and disturb their bound-up cardboard bundles. Simply ask while in the store. Most of the time the worker will get a chuckle when you tell’em you’re going to feed it to your worms. Others will give you a high five for recycling it.
Cardboard is sustainable
and since you add bedding regularly, you can see that having a cheap and consistent renewable resource is just a smart idea. And, you can throw in that endless flow of junk mail and paper packaging. But, no glossy paper.
Cardboard has good water retention
and a worm bin thrives in a very humid environment but suffers in overly wet conditions.
Cardboard can suck up excess water
and retain moisture, keeping everything damp. Maintaining a consistent moisture level also helps to keep temperatures steady in the worm bin.
Cardboard can be made fluffy
which affects oxygen levels. Fluffy bedding creates a hospitable environment in the worm bin. When made fluffy it has millions of tiny air pockets that allow worms to both breathe through their skin while in a wet environment and bore through your home-made soil. If bedding is made or allowed to compact, it won’t provide good aeration, which leads to a risk of anaerobic decomposition-which in turn leads to rotting and bad odors smells in the worm bin.
Remember, we said to keep in mind how the worm bin works? It’s the bacteria that feeds first. If a billion bacteria can fit on the head of a straight pin, how fast can they digest a big a piece of organic matter? Think of a forest floor it’s like your worm bin. What decomposes faster a tree limb or a twig? In your worm bin, chunks of cardboard or millions of little pieces of cardboard? Remember aeration, how do you get chunks of wet cardboard fluffy. Ah, did the light come on? Why, it’s a paper shredder of course. Yes, but not just any old E-bay or Walmart special will cut it.
Here at Swampy’s Worm Farm, we shred cardboard daily. We can’t afford a commercial grade and size shredder costing thousands of dollars. They are also not in the scale of our business. But we were buying the run of the mill 10 to 20 sheet shredders 3 at a time until I found this paper shredder. Wow, what a workhorse. It’s backed by a seven-year warranty. Let that sink in – a seven-year warranty on an electrical office product. An office computer or copier doesn’t have a warranty that comes close. Not only is it a solid paper shredder, it also turns cardboard boxes into fluffy micro size pieces. Yes, fluffy – the little pieces come out looking like little springs. Even when wet they are light, fluffy and don’t compact easily.
Now, Swampy’s is a family business and we have three shredder technicians Miley age 5 years, Chloe age 3 years and Sophie the master technician at 14 months of age. Folks this shredder is simple to operate and safe. They can’t get their little fingers anywhere near the blades. My three granddaughters run the shredding operation while watching cartoons, yes, they can multitask. I bought each of them their own shredder. The oldest one has been running hers over three years now and they don’t go in a Walmart and come out empty handed.
Cardboard has a Neutral PH
Or maybe slightly alkaline and here at Swampy’s our greens are mostly rabbit manure, also neutral. So, if your using food scraps that are close to neutral in PH with cardboard for bedding, you will have eliminated one of the problems that causes some of the most mysterious and difficult to diagnose and correct adverse conditions in a worm bin.
Cardboard is Carbon-based.
Wikipedia defines carbon as a key component of all known life on Earth. A healthy worm bin is home to billions of living bacteria who rely on carbon-based organic matter for food. These elements sustain life and are transformed by worms into a rich humus material that feed plants that feed us.
Compare the Best Worm Bedding to other material.
Let’s compare cardboard to coconut coir and peat moss. Coconut Coir can be salty, high in sodium and potassium which can lead to calcium or magnesium deficiencies unless properly treated and it’s NOT FREE. Peat Moss has a PH around 5. It’s hydrophobic meaning if allowed to dry out it will be slow to accept water, remember maintaining consistent moisture levels and it’s NOT FREE.
Over a short period of time depending on the size of your worm farm, the cost of these popular bedding materials can pay for a quality paper shredder.