Worm Bin Bedding

Here are a couple questions from Marc:

I just started a worm bin per your video instructions. So far so good. Well, it’s only been a few days. But I do have a question. Once I’ve done the original bedding, moistened everything, added food scraps, let it stew for a week, and added the worms… is there any reason to add more bedding materials? Do I just keep adding kitchen waste and no more bedding?

Here’s another question, how small of a bin have you attempted? I have friends interested but space is an issue. Is three gallons too small?

Thanks, I really like the site.

Thanks Marc!
These are good questions.
Firstly, let’s talk about bedding. These materials – typically a carbon-rich and absorbent – are really important in a typical ‘worm bin’ vermicomposting system since they absorb excess moisture, help to balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, increase air flow, and help to create a safe habitat matrix for the worms.

In my humble option, it’s not a bad idea to add a small handful of new bedding every time you add wet food wastes to your bin, and on a fairly regular basis in general. If you stop adding them altogether you will notice that conditions start to get really soggy in the bin, and/or there will be lots of liquid down in the reservoir (if you’ve made the ‘deluxe’ bin). Your system may also start to stink due the increased moisture content and reduced air flow.

As for creating a small worm bin – I say go for it! The bins I made in my YouTube videos (deluxe and basic) are actually very small systems – likely in the 3 gallon range. You definitely need to be careful with the amount of food you add to small systems however, since you can end up overfeeding them quite easily. Other than that, the same basic principles (of vermicomposting) apply.

Hope this helps!

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    • DeDe
    • October 23, 2008

    Hi Bentley! I’m really glad you posted this because I’ve had some bedding-related questions as well.

    I’m wondering if I might have too much bedding. My bin is only a month or so along and other than adding food to the top and obessively peeking in on my brood, I haven’t dug into the depths of it. Last night when I checked things out below the surface, I found the layers of shredded newpaper I’d use to set my bin up had become a thick, matted strata. I’ve also not had any liquid drainage at all. In fact I’ve only had a spare lid sitting under the worm bin and it’s remained bone-dry. I’ve sprayed the bin down a couple of times, but I’m thinking I might have added too much bedding in my set up and it dutifully absorbed any and all moisture. Plus I went a little crazy with my drill and made quite a few more holes in my bin than your video recommends, so there’s definitely plenty of aeration going on in there.

    So now I’m wondering if I can just break up the matted sections, keep adding kitchen scraps, but hold off on adding more bedding? Do I need to stir my bin up periodically, or do worms prefer to be left undisturbed?

    Also, I’d really like to add some fall leaves with the next feeding. Would this exacerbate the problem?

    • Marc
    • October 23, 2008

    Thanks, Bentley, for the response. Good to know, I went to town on a phone book, and have some other materials around, so I guess I’ll be adding some here and there.

    • Sherry
    • October 23, 2008

    Hi Marc,
    As an experiment I made 2 mini-worm bins. One was a ceramic container, used to put kitchen untensils in on the counter, and the other was a clear plastic container that baby spinach comes in. The small one….not the large l lb one. (That one I use in the frig to collect my scraps).

    These mini-bins were started in July with just a few worms in each. The ceramic jar had a plastic coffee can lid with holes laid on the top. The clear see-through container had holes punched around the container, near the top.
    They were both bedded with shredded paper. I fed them sparingly and added cross-cut paper when needed.

    Last week I emptied them out to see how they fared. They had lots of worms! One had 53 (started with 8) and the other had even more. I stopped counting after a while.

    So small bins would work, BUT there is no room for error. Obviously a decent-sized Rubbermaid container is best so they can move away from any danger. This was done, just for kicks and giggles.

    My clear bin was done solely to see if they really disliked light as we are led to believe. I could see them at the edges, but I put lots of shredded paper in to keep it dark.

    • Marc
    • October 24, 2008

    Thanks, Sherry, that’s just what I was wondering. Sounds like it’s doable.

    • Bentley
    • October 24, 2008

    Wow, Sherry! That sounds like a nifty little experiment you haven’t bothered to tell me about!

    Better late than never, I guess!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Bentley
    • October 24, 2008

    Sorry DeDe – I missed your comment!
    It is certainly possible to have TOO MUCH bedding in a bin – this is especially easy to accomplish in a system with a lot of air flow since it will tend to be pretty dry in general – thus the addition of dry bedding will only serve to absorb more moisture, making it even drier.
    If you regularly spray the system with water this shouldn’t be an issue though. When it comes down to it, my recommendation is simply to do whatever it takes to maintain a good moisture content for the worms – whether than involves soaking up excess moisture with dry bedding, or spraying down the system with water.
    In your case, as you’ve suggested, simply adding scraps for awhile without more bedding probably isn’t a bad idea.

    Turning the contents of your bin periodically can be helpful, but I probably wouldn’t recommend doing it on a regular basis (as in daily) since the worms will likely do a better job if relatively left undisturbed. I certainly dig around in my systems with a hand fork quite regularly – but not so much for the purpose of aerating the system, but rather to see what’s going on with my little wiggly friends.

    Fall leaves are awesome. Not great as a sole ‘bedding’ material since not absorbent, but great as a secondary bedding and food source as long as they don’t dry out on you.

    • Sherry
    • October 26, 2008

    Hi Bentley,
    I could have sent you an email regarding my little project, but I always figure you’re inundated with emails!!

    Looking at my post, I’m not sure why the little guy with sunglasses is there. I started with 12 adult worms with visible clitellium in the ceramic mini-bin and more worms in the plastic container.

    Very interesting indeed to see how they fared.

    I put some leaves in my bins recently and they were gone in no time!! I have read that if there are leaves, they prefer them to food, so they will leave the food alone. I have a little grocery bag full of leaves to feed them again. One thing I’m afraid of is incorporating undesirables in the bins hitch-hiking on the leaves, so I’m hesitant on adding a lot.

    Has anyone seen pill bugs, earwigs etc that might be on the leaves, in their bins?

    • Libby
    • April 27, 2011

    Can I use office paper for bedding?

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