To Mix or Not to Mix – That is the Question!

A question from Madeleine:

My son and I both have worm bins. I have a worm Inn and he uses a
small rubbermaid container. He frequently mixes the entire contents of
his container then adds shredded newspaper on top. I was under the
impression the red wigglers are happiest at the top layer of a bin, so
I just layer new food and bedding at the top and leave them alone.
Please settle our little debate: to mix or not to mix? PS we both have
growing worm populations. Thanks!

Hi Madeleine,

All in all, I would say that your son’s approach is a good one – especially given the fact that his worm population (according to your last sentence) seems to be doing just fine. Of course, there is certainly more that can be said about this topic though.

When using an enclosed, plastic tub system (without drainage) it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up dealing with increasingly soggy conditions, and thus decreasingly aerobic conditions over time. As more vermicompost gets produced (creating smaller particles, and a more homogenized mix) bin materials tend to get compacted as well, so that certainly doesn’t help. As such, doing whatever you can to get more air flowing within the composting zone will likely have good results.

While, I’m not sure I would “frequently mix the entire contents” of a plastic bin, I would use a small garden hand fork to get in there and break things up a bit from time to time – in an effort to help air to get down to the lower zones. I’d also likely mix in some new bedding to help soak up moisture and act as a bulking agent (encouraging a bit more air flow). Keeping a thick layer of fresh bedding on top (as your son seems to be doing) is a great approach as well since it will absorb moisture, and inevitably end up getting mixed into the composting zone over time.

NOW – let’s look at your approach…

Even though you take different approach than your son, what you’ve described is in fact a nice, easy – yet still effective – way to maintain an active Worm Inn. The key thing to remember here is that a Worm Inn is a VERY different worm composting container than a plastic bin. The contents of a Worm Inn system won’t likely need to be mixed up at all since the air flow is excellent. It’s never a bad idea to dig around a bit with your fork to loosen everything up once in awhile (and just generally check on conditions down below), but it’s certainly not mandatory.

Bottom-line, there is definitely no need for a “debate” (haha) here – both of your approaches are great for the particular system you’re each using!

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  1. I never told anybody this… I fluff my bins! I do so because of what Bentley descibe above. However, if I had a Worm Inn I probably would not need to due to the increased airflow (six sides). On my first big flo thru, I had a fan forcing air up through the bin. In my case, the increased air flow had a dramatic effect to the point that I had to buy feed to keep it going.

  2. Mark is a secret fluffer 🙂 I always poke in my bins, whether they need it nor not. Usually, it’s just the top inch or so.

    • Bentley
    • January 20, 2012

    I’m a nutty fluffer (or is that a fluffer nutter?) too! It’s ok, Mark – we’re all here to support you!

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