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Shredded paper for worms: Am I overthinking this?  RSS feed

 
Frank Brentwood
Posts: 81
Location: Long Island, NY (Zone 7)
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As with much of America these days, my household gets a LOT of junk mail that gets recycled. On top of that, there's the usual assortment of things that I shred before recycling to protect us from identity theft.

My current shredder is of the "crosscut" style that produces bits of paper about 1" long by 3/16" wide. I would much rather feed this stuff to a bin full of worms than just taking it to the curb, but I'm wondering if the shred is too fine to be useful.

Will it just clump up and cause problems when it gets wet? Or am I really overthinking this?
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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maybe you should do an experiment and get some wet and see what happens? also give a handful to your worms and see how they respond? I know I have seen others use shredded paper but I don't know what sort of shredder they had. I have used shredded paper that came with something in the mail as padding and it worked fine. I also sometimes give toilet paper rolls to my worms if one of my kids gets one wet so it is no longer usable as toilet paper and they seem to do fine with that even though it is in a roll and sort of soggy and a big clump.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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there is also a way to get off lists for junk mail. I no longer remember how to do it but I did it years ago and receive almost no junk mail now.
 
Jessica Padgham
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Location: Denver, Co 6000ft bentonite clay soil
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I have used paper that small and even smaller with no problems.
 
chip sanft
Posts: 380
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Jessica Padgham wrote:I have used paper that small and even smaller with no problems.

Ditto
 
Frank Brentwood
Posts: 81
Location: Long Island, NY (Zone 7)
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Meryt Helmer wrote:maybe you should do an experiment and get some wet and see what happens? also give a handful to your worms and see how they respond? I know I have seen others use shredded paper but I don't know what sort of shredder they had. I have used shredded paper that came with something in the mail as padding and it worked fine. I also sometimes give toilet paper rolls to my worms if one of my kids gets one wet so it is no longer usable as toilet paper and they seem to do fine with that even though it is in a roll and sort of soggy and a big clump.


Worms are still "in progress" and I'm trying to get set up for their arrival. How badly the paper clumps seems to depend on how wet it is and how hard I squeeze it to get the water out.

Meryt Helmer wrote:there is also a way to get off lists for junk mail. I no longer remember how to do it but I did it years ago and receive almost no junk mail now.


LOL, yeah, that only lasts until the next catalog you order something from sells their mailing list. And I'm married to a catalog lover.

Jessica Padgham wrote:I have used paper that small and even smaller with no problems.


Thanks for the reassuring words. I just don't want to wipe out my worms on the first go araound.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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if you are worried about wiping out your worms perhaps having several worm bins would give you some peace of mind? I have been making outdoor ones which work well in my mild climate. I drill holes in buckets and get twist off lids for them and then bury them most of the way in the way in the ground with some oyster shells below for extra drainage (my soil also has excellent drainage) My worms go in the buckets and moles and things that live here and eat worms can't get them. the worms can come and go as they please but they like the buckets because they have good food in them and nice bedding material. right now I have 4 of them each near plants that need the extra nutrients in the soil and because I have 4 I can experiment and if all the worms die in one I will be ok. I am planning to make a total of 7 of them as my worms reproduce I make more and then our food scraps go in a different worm bin each day of the week.
 
Chuck Stephens
Posts: 4
Location: Soon to be central Maine - zone 4a-b
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I'd just keep using it. I use larger pieces but that's because we don't have a shredder. I wouldn't add too much water though to prevent it from clumping up.
 
Ronnie Ugulano
Posts: 55
Location: Zone 9, CA
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There's absolutely nothing with using paper for your worm bedding. Junk mail is entirely fine, too, except those little plastic windows on some of the envelopes. Cut out the windows, and shred the rest. Been doing it for years.
 
matt sorrells
Posts: 126
Location: Canton, NC
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For my red wigglers in the basement, I tried shredded paper (printer paper from paper shredder) first and thought the worms were slow. After a few months on that, I tried some shredded hardwood leaves. The worms went bonkers! Baby worms everywhere and egg masses all over! They're making lots of castings for me. Another thing I'm not going to do again is to use store bought produce leftovers - I used some from wal-mart and 3 months later there was untouched banana skins and tomato skins. Unrotted, and untouched by the worms. That oughtta tell you how safe that produce is to eat yourself. Personally, I'm convinced to use leaves and not shredded paper anymore, but it may work for some.
 
dan long
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Paper does tend to mat down into a soggy, anaerobic mess. I've never had any luck with it in my worm bin or in my regular compost bin. Personally, I feel that having the paper recycled into other paper products is probably the most sustainable thing to do. Society is not going to stop using paper products anytime soon and if they aren't made from recycled paper, they will be made from trees.

Shredded leaves sounds like it's much more sustainable and according to the Matt Sorrels, much more effective.
 
chip sanft
Posts: 380
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Recycling is probably not be as sustainable a way to use waste paper as on-site composting -- and vermiculture is souped up composting.

Check this post for some discussion: When you recycle paper.... Recycling paper as commonly done is pretty costly in terms of resources.

The only time I've gotten waterlogged using paper for my worms is when I let the water build up without adding enough paper and, if really necessary, removing moisture. But simply adding more paper (and/or other absorbant material like coffee grounds from the coffee shop, where they make espresso so the grounds are dry) improves things quickly.

FWIW, I also experienced water buildup when using leaves in the vermicomposter. The problem was due to moisture levels, not bedding, and balancing things out fixed the problem.
 
Keith Odell
Posts: 68
Location: Indiana
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The reason I started composting is to turn my waste back into a resource.
I now have a hobby worm business and I use everything except the windows and the glossy stuff from the mailbox.

All new bins will be slow unless they are seasoned (pre-rotted) before you add the worms.
I've also found that the worms love it wet (think swamp) but that makes it hard to harvest the compost.
We've compromised.

So use your paper, leaves, cardboard, fruit, veggie, etc. waste and don't sweat it.

Keep them moist, fed and at a decent temp (70 +/- 15) and enjoy the fruit of their labor.
 
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