Creating an Optimal Environment for Worms


The Three Provisions: Environment, Moisture, & Temperature.

Worm bedding is the “home” for compost worms. It is a critical component in raising worms, yet it is one of the simplest parts of worm farming. I will be explaining my worm bedding in this article.  After reading this, I hope that I will have informed you with all the information you will need to create your own unique worm bedding!

An ideal bedding blend should simply: hold moisture (with drainage), offer good nutrition for the worms, & offer some sort of protection from ambient air temperature.

Worm Bedding | Photo: Meaduva, Creative Commons, Photo Flickr

Bedding Materials (Environment)

Worm bedding will serve for two purposes. First, is to provide food. Yes, your composting worms actually eat their bedding! Second, is to provide a structure. Bedding should be loose, and therefore allow air to flow while providing the ability for the worms to move throughout. Some bedding materials do both! My two bedding materials are simply wood chips and leaf compost; a 50/50 mix by volume. Let me tell you, I may have the happiest worms in the world! They love my bedding. :) Here are some other bedding options, just in case you don't have access to these bedding materials:

  • Horse Manure Compost
  • Leaf Compost
  • Shredded Cardboard
  • Crushed dried Leaves
  • Peat Moss
  • Coconut Coir
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Straw
  • Shredded Newspaper
  • Paper Egg Cartons
Worm Bedding | Photo: BrotherMagneto, Creative Commons, Photo Flickr

Bedding Moisture

A dry worm is a dead worm. Worms breathe through their skin, so it is critical to maintain a good moisture level in your bins.  A moist bed will also help facilitate the breakdown of your food & bedding.  It will make it even more attractive for your worms to eat! If you have a moisture meter [check price], the approximate level is around 80%. Typically, however, I go by feel for my moisture content. I pick up a nice handful of the bedding, and I squeeze it…I don't want water dripping out; but I want it to feel that if I squeeze just a little harder, I may get a drop or two.

When I am preparing to add layers of bedding to my bins, I use an electric concrete mixer to assist me with the process.  I fill the mixer with my bedding material, and then slowly add water while it's turning. That’s how I get the perfect moisture!

So now even though the moisture is correct when I add my bedding, this is something that needs to be continually monitored. For this purpose, I will also scoop a handful of bedding every time I feed my worms, and check the moisture level. This makes it easy to add a little more moisture if needed.

Worm Bedding | Photo: Dan Brekke, Creative Commons, Photo Flickr

Bedding Temperature

For my breeding of worms, I do my best to keep them close to the optimum temperature of 76 F. The closer you can get to that temperature, The more they will breed, eat & poop! A comfortable worm is a productive worm. :)

For my larger continuous flow bins, I am a little more relaxed on temperature. I make sure they are  between 65 F -85 F. They can survive short periods of time at a little higher temp, but they will die if exposed to increased/decreased temperatures for too long. Compost thermometers [check price] are readily available - they measure the true temperature of your bedding below the surface. It is comforting to verify the temperature you are providing for your worms. Extreme weather conditions (hot & cold) have the potential to dry your beds out, so remember to keep a close eye on moisture content!

Watch How I setup a Worm bin for my Grandkids:

In Summary

As with most things in life, I believe that what you get out will be a direct result of what you have put in. The more effort we put into figuring out the perfect blend of food & bedding for our worms while putting in the necessary work to control the moisture and temperature of our bins, the better our castings will be! All of us Worm People are still students in one way shape or form. We learn through sharing knowledge, experimentation, and the passion we have for our work. As fulfilling & profitable as worm farming can be, we should zoom out of our perspective a little bit. We will see that we are doing something much more fulfilling than what we've imagined. We are saving our soil… AKA our planet! .

Here's to your worm success! (even if there are a few lessons along the way)