How much moisture do red wiggler composting worms need?

Learn the optimal moisture level and how to increase or decrease moisture in your vermicomposting bin

Vermicomposting (worm composting) binWorm composting is a form of composting in which you feed your vegetable food scraps to a specific type of earthworm, red wigglers. Vermicompost (worm poop) is better for plants than almost any other type of compost and is worth about ten times as much as compost from a pile. The composting worms have three jobs: eat, poop, and make babies. Your job is to manage them in a way to maximize all three.  If you are just starting out with worm composting, be sure to read Getting Started with Worm Composting and Why You Should Worm Compost

The type of worms used in vermicomposting are called red wigglers (scientific name: eisenia fetida). In nature, red wiggler worms live above the soil in damp rotting leaves or wood. In order to survive, red wiggler composting worms must have a certain amount of moisture in their environment. This article will teach you the correct moisture level for a worm bin and how to adjust the moisture level in your bin.

Why Do Red Wiggler Composting Worms need a Moist Environment?Composting Worms
All worms breathe through their skin. In order for them to be able to do this, their skin must stay moist. If a worm's skin dries out, it will die. You may have seen this when an earthworm gets stuck trying to cross a sidewalk in the summer. They end up dried up, shriveled, and dead.

What is the Correct Moisture Level for a Worm Bin?
Worm composting bins should never be dry but there should also never standing water in them. Ideally, the worm bin bedding should be about as moist as a wrung out damp sponge. The worm bedding should clearly feel moist but when you squeeze it in your hand no water should drip out. Also, when you squeeze it you should not hear crinkling of dry paper or dry leaves.

Too Much Moisture, Your Worm bin is too Wet
Too much moisture in your worm bin can make a worm bin smelly and muddy looking. It also reduces the amount of available oxygen for your composting worms. Too much moisture in your worm bin is usually caused by one of two things:

  1. You added too much water when you were first making your bin.
  2. Your worm bin got too wet over time by adding high water content food scraps (80%-90% of food is water).

Either way, a worm bin that has too much moisture is easy to fix. Add a couple handfuls of freshShredded Paper Composting dry bedding. Shredded paper works really well for this but any type of worm bin bedding that you are using will work. Mix the dry bedding in a bit and it will soak up the excess moisture. This will work for any type of worm bin and should be the first thing you try.

If your worm bin does not have a drain in the bottom, you may need to turn it on its side to drain some of the excess water from the bottom. This needs to be done a couple times a year if you are using a storage tote style worm bin. Simply tip the worm bin on its side so that the worm tea can run out on of their air holes that you drilled. Be sure to either do this directly in your vegetable garden or into a bucket so that you can add the nutrient rich tea to your favorite plants.

Not Enough Moisture, Your Worm Bin is too DrySpray bottle to add moisture to a worm composting bin
If your vermicomposting system is ever too dry you need to add some water. The easiest way to add moisture evenly to a worm bin is to use a spray bottle. Simply spray the dry areas of your bin until they are the correct moisture level for a worm bin. You should not have to do this too often. One way to help regulate the moisture level in your worm bin is to place several sheets of soaked newspaper loosely over the bedding like a blanket. This will help retain the proper moisture level in your worm bin.

The Correct Moisture Level for a Worm Bin is Very Important
As you care for your red wiggler composting worms and your vermicompost bin, the moisture level of the worm bedding will fluctuate over time. Use the above techniques to help maintain the correct level of moisture for a worm bin.
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