Store-Bought “Manure” as Worm Bedding/Food?

Bagged Sheep Manure

Something I’ve been meaning to test out for quite some time now is the potential value of bagged, store-bought “manures” and “manure composts” as a vermicomposting bedding, or even food source. Typically I’ve recommend that people avoid using them, since they tend to be nowhere near as nice in consistency as a real aged-manure (straight from farm or stable), not to mention the fact that they are basically sterilized. I’ve also wondered about potential salt content in some of these materials (remember, worms are VERY sensitive to salts, even at low concentrations).

Nevertheless, it’s always important to actually test things out – so that’s what I’ve decided to do! For my first trial, I am using a bagged “sheep manure compost” that was purchased from a local grocery store garden center. I am testing it in two different beds: 1) In a bed containing a beautiful, rich aged horse manure mix (that the worms absolutely go bananas for), and 2) In my “ultimate” bin (a work-in-progress for sure), containing mostly shredded cardboard and coffee grounds.

Opening up the bag and examining the material this morning did nothing to increase my optimism re: the value of this composted manure as a bedding/food. As you can see it is gray in color, and almost looks like it was mixed with a fine-grain sand (very gritty).

When I soaked it down (figure it will have a greater chance of attracting worms if it’s added nice and wet) it basically turned into mud – almost looked like wet concrete in fact! lol

As you might imagine, I have the lowest expectations for the material that I’ve added to the aged-horse-manure bed – the only redeeming quality I can see this material having (in comparison to the aged horse manure) is perhaps a greater water-holding capacity. But you never know!

I think the sheep manure compost added to my “ultimate” bin has a MUCH better chance of being colonized by worms, since I’ve been having difficulty keeping that bin well-moistened, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it offers a preferable habitat to the cardboard and coffee grounds anyway!

While I may seem pretty skeptical here, I should make it clear that I’m keeping an open mind, and am actually really hoping I end up surprised by the results (always fun when that happens)!

Will keep everyone posted!

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    • Terri
    • May 23, 2012

    Bentley, this is a bit of a tangent, but I have a funny story for you. Last year I put a little VC in the pots of all of my house plants. The other day I repotted one… and found a live red wiggler among the roots!!

    I’m sure it was a baby that I missed in the VC I put in the pot. But I’m surprised it survived among all that commercial potting soil… and I’ve been fertilizing it with Miracle-Gro liquid! 0.o Poor little guy. I moved him back to the bin with his cousins. Wonder if he can stand the shock. 🙂

    • Alex
    • May 23, 2012

    This is so Ironic I just bought some composted cow manure and put it into my worm bin :\

    • Bentley
    • May 24, 2012

    TERRI – These worms never cease to amaze me! One thing I do know is that any worms born into a given environment tend to be better adapted for that environment than those introduced into it – so perhaps this helps to explain what happened with your wiggler. Or perhaps it just got lucky!
    ALEX – Just keep an eye on the worms. You never know – they may like it. I’m actually seeing some worms moving into the material already!

    • Terri
    • May 24, 2012

    Bentley, no kidding! I suppose it was eating peat all that time. Now it will have to adapt to cardboard and apple cores, LOL!

    • Ameen
    • April 9, 2013

    I have started my first successful bin a week ago, after some major biggenner disasters ofcourse, I’ve lost almost 600 worms in process, left with only 50 worms in hand and little info I got from the internet I decided to dip some composted cow manure that I got from local store into water and mix it with shredded news paper and cardboard, I spent two nights mixing my bidding, making sure that cardboard and news paper is soaked with nutrition from the composted manure, and the mix is moist enough for the worms, in several hours the mix was ready I could only squeeze a drop or two out of it, i think it was 50:50 composted manure/paper & cardboard, after only two days from mixing the bedding I added some dirt from the same soil I found the worms in, I added a 1/2 inche covering less than 50% of the bedding, then i added the worms to the bin and covered them with more wet shredded news paper and and one full page of news paper on top, the good news is that isuccefully got my worms to live in that bin for a week now, with less and less fugitives, i even found some new babes in there!!! but the problem is that my worms r not going anywhere near my bedding, they r always hanging out in the shredded news paper or in the whole page on top of the bedding or their own dirt but not my mix
    Please advice me what to do? Is it because I didn’t leave the bedding for a couple of weeks before adding the worms?
    Or is it going to kill my worms again if I leave them in this inviroment?
    And do u think they r gona get used to it by time?
    Thank you

  1. so…how did it work out afterall?? did the redworms move into the storebought manure afterall? I ask because I bought 6 bags yesterday of steer manure and put it around the canopy…bottom circle around peach and pear and cherry trees and trying to make an eco system so redworms can reproduce all by themselves and leave behind their castings for my trees

    • Bentley
    • February 27, 2019

    Hi Darrell – my experience with bagged store-bought manures hasnt been very inspiring. It tends to take a while for the worms to move into the material. My hunch is that there are fairly high salt levels. I suspect that steer manure would be even worse for this. All that being said, I’m sure you will see benefits – exposed to the elements the material will become more worm-friendly and you may attract some more worms to the root zone. If you are planning to add Red Worms, I would wait for a while – and make sure you have some back-up systems (eg something like my “Insurance Bin” is very easy for keeping a culture of Red Worms alive without any hassles).

    • darrell
    • February 27, 2019

    oh rats! I ordered 2000 redworms dur for delivery this week…last year however I DID put chicken manure compostand fish bone meal around the canopy of the tree dug out about 6 inches and put a several inch band I did see some worms there that I didn’t add,this year I found some horse manure and aged a bit…put it on the surface as well as store bought steer manure,i live in calif where we have all the rain so perhaps before I receive the worms the rain might help with the salt?

    • Bentley
    • February 27, 2019

    Yeah running water through the material should help – but again, I definitely recommend setting up at least one back up system just in case. You can learn more about my “Insurance Bin” idea here:

    In order to really benefit from the activity of composting worms in gardens and orchards you should really set up actual beds of some sort. Even some straw/hay bales set up as walls and food/bedding layered inside could work very well, and you’ll have a much better chance of the worms staying put.

    • darrell
    • February 27, 2019

    oh,ok! outside the areas of my trees is worthless sand from the nesa here,theres no nutritional value I do throw apples and other vegetables corn cobs around the trees hoping to make them want to stay put…what exact food might they like? also that sheep manure you put in it,did they eat it afterall?

    • darrell
    • February 28, 2019

    well the worms came in today and I planted them…to my surprise there was some worms already there I wonder if they like last years composted chicken manure…storebought….and or fish bone meal from last year…I didn’t put them there….also perhaps they also feed on last years peaches that hit the ground as I leave them there for compost where they fall

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