Cheaper alternative to coir bedding in worm bins?

MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

Does anyone else use the store-bought worm bins like Worm Factory (--the plastic trays with the grid bottoms you set on top of each other as they fill, to let the worm move upwards through them)? I came back from a Mother Earth News Fair about seven years ago, where I first heard about vermiculture, with a Worm Factory set-up, lured by the sales pitch at the presentation and a big discount for the Fair. That one worked so well that I soon added another, same design but less expensive, from another company. I have kept both happily going since.

When starting a new tray, I always followed the Worm Factory advice of laying down a bed of coir for the worms in the bottom inch or so. Later, to economize, I started mixing it half-and-half, coir and shredded paper, with a handful of kitchen scraps to draw the worms up, and that seemed to work just fine. Happy worms these past years. About two years ago I lucked into a great deal on the 1.4 lb coir bricks and really stocked up. Today I used the last one starting the next tray, and went online to look for more....

Given all the shortages and price hikes we've seen in the past year, I suppose this shouldn't shock me, but it does. I last paid 45 cents per 1.4 lb brick, if I remember rightly. Today the cheapest I can find is $3.80! The typical price is more like $5 to $8 each!! I'm obviously not going to pay that every time I start one of those trays.

I suppose I will try using all shredded paper for the inch or so of bedding in the next tray, and see if that works as well as the coir/paper mix. If anybody else is using this type of worm bin, what are you using for bedding?


  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    Hi mary, we too use a lot of core and our worm bins. Some suggestions would be mixing in shredded cardboard with the paper, shredded leaves or finished compost.

    Even garden soil. hay or straw. For carbon materials it's anything that isn't going to heat up.

    We've started to incorporate old potting soil and finished compost from our outdoor bins.

    Happy worming

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    @Hassena Thanks, those are good suggestions. I've got some tired potting soil I could mix in the next couple trays--that would be a good use for it. I always add a cup or so of the finished stuff from the previous tray to the new one, to keep all the good microbes going, so a bit more finished compost from the outside pile probably wouldn't hurt either. If coir stays at the current prices or goes higher, it will definitely be time to get extra resourceful.

    Wouldn't give up on my worms though. Aren't they amazing little critters!

  • happy-trails
    happy-trails Posts: 170 ✭✭✭

    Old potting soil for sure! =)

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,396 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I found coir bricks at Walmart a couple weeks ago for $2.38. I bought a couple and then went back and bought several more for my worm bins. You might need to check their app to see which one near you carries them. I found them by accident at a Walmart I don't usually go to but the one near me didn't carry them so I had to go back to the first one.

  • Jens the Beekeeper
    Jens the Beekeeper Posts: 651 admin

    I too would suggest spend potting soil and compost. Even better would be leave mold..

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    Adding potting soil or garden soil can provide the worms with much needed grit.

    The blend of finished compost from the worm bins makes a wonderful addition to the garden or to potting soil blends.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    I often add in the days coffee grounds with the other scraps to give the worms some grit too. I generally only have one cup in the morning if even that, so there's never much. But I do wonder, how much is too much coffee grounds for a small worm bin?

  • kalohunter
    kalohunter Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    If grit is what the worms need, consider adding several handfuls of biochar, which provides numerous benefits: a predominant source of carbon, absorbs orders and leachate, regulates moisture, retains nutrients. Though it can be expensive to purchase, you may be able to get some from a friend who makes it, or if you have a patio or sidewalk, you can make it yourself. The following short video provides good clear explanations using small containers to create biochar:

  • Fts
    Fts Posts: 16 ✭✭✭

    I use shredded paper as the main bedding material for my worms and add about a quart of coir to each bin every month to keep the texture of the finished worm compost nice, with only paper it was too fine and tended to turn into hard clumps when it dried out a bit. I know paper is not perfect but perfection is hard to find in this world. I use 10 gallon plastic bins for my verimcomposting and have two. One has been going for 5+ years and the other for about 3 years.

  • kalohunter
    kalohunter Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    I should add: once the biochar is produced, crush it up into finer particles. Not only will that make it easier for the worms to ingest, but also the smaller the particle size, the greater the surface area, increasing the benefits.

  • AngelaOston
    AngelaOston Posts: 249 ✭✭✭

    Im just using dried eaves from the fall and egg cartons. Sometimes a little peat moss since that is still more reasonably priced. I dont have much paper garbage.

  • Owl
    Owl Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    I have a friend who does lawn maintenance for people and he has to bag up the leaves and clippings each time. We have a deal worked out where I keep him in eggs and he keeps me in non sprayed or treated leaves and clippings. It’s a fine deal we have been enjoying for a couple of years now. It’s amazing what you can find that other people want to get rid of. My hubby followed a tree service truck around town one day and talked to the driver. We gave them permission to drop hardwood on a corner of our property and we have been blessed to be able to provide, from that chance meeting, firewood for several households and there’s still a huge pile. We got a couple of loads of wood chips the same way. The drivers were happy to have a local dump site and we’re thrilled to get free the things we use extensively around the farm.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,991 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I haven't tried it yet, but the book I read on vermiculture said that you can just use shredded paper, no coir needed. It described paper as the idea food for red wigglers, and warned not to put too many food scraps in the worm bin at a time since the worms can't eat it too quickly.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,028 ✭✭✭✭

    I stopped using coir and now just use torn up brown paper. It seems like there are more worms in the bin with using just paper so I'm thinking they like it.