To start a worm bed, mix at a ratio of 50/50 black kow brand compost or aged horse manure with a safe carbon source. We have found well rinsed coco coir, mulched leaves, bagged pine shavings and shredded plain, non-colored, non-glossy cardboard to be safe carbon sources for worms. Add a handful of sand or garden soil that is free from chemicals to add grit. Make sure this mixture is damp like a wrung-out sponge. For covering the surface of your bedding to help with moisture retention, you can use bubble wrap the bubble side facing down(this ensures proper air circulation). Do not use a sheet of plastic of any type to cover your worm bed. This will lock out the oxygen that the worms need to survive and will kill them. Once you have the proper bedding mix and a safe cover for the surface of the bedding, you can then introduce your worms. Make sure to keep your worm bin in an area that is not exposed to extreme temperatures. You can feed the worms for the first time immediately after receiving them. We feed our worms veggies 1x a week and recommend that your do the same. If you are vermicomposting, regular inputs of veggie scraps work well in the recommended carbon/black kow compost mixture. When you add veggie scraps, you need to add a similar amount of safe carbon bedding to maintain the proper carbon/nitrogen ratio. A worm bed needs to lean very, very heavy on the carbon side to avoid vermicomposting disasters. Adding lots of nitrogen rich material without an adequate carbon buffer will heat up your bin and create an acidic environment. Both conditions are deadly to worms. Periodically add a sprinkling of dolomite garden lime to your worm bed, to add grit and maintain proper PH. You can add a small amount of dolomite at every feeding if you are using fruit or veggie scraps. Do not use slaked or hydrated lime. That is a different product that can kill your worms.  Use a pump sprayer to lightly water the surface of the bedding. You don't want the bedding to get dry, and you don't want it to be muddy, either. If feeding mazuri earthworm diet or alfalfa pellets, do this once every week. Every 6 months, it is a good idea to harvest most of the castings and start over with fresh bedding. If your bin has a high population density of red wigglers, you can harvest a good deal of worm castings after three months. If you are growing red wigglers for bait, feed them a high protein diet. I recommend Mazuri earthworm diet, or alfalfa pellets. To maintain worms at bait size, don't let your population density get too high. Go fishing more often with your surplus worms, give them to a friend, or start new worm beds! Also, to maintain large worm size, you need to regularly replace the bedding. Red wigglers that live in castings rich material are generally stunted in size. 

Jesse Tolliver, Farmer

North Carolina Red Wigglers

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