Category Archives: Vermicomposting

Helping Your Worms Beat the Heat! Keeping Worm Bins Cool

Helping Your Worms Beat the Heat! Keeping Worm Bins Cool

Smart idea for the summer time!  If you store your food scraps in the fridge before you compost them, then this is a default no-brainer concept.

My basement stays cool or freezing cold all year long it seems, so I’ve never really thought about this so much.

Over at redwormcomposting.com, there’s several accounts of people’s worms surviving at extremely hot and cold temperatures, well above and below the suggested temps for their survival.  Worms are resilient little critters, aren’t they?

Composting with red worms outside during the winter (video)

Composting with red worms outside during the winter

Oh, Utah winter… can’t imagine!  People in Philadelphia complain over an inch.  Admittedly I’m getting tired of snow already.

A pit in the ground works through the winter…pretty cool!  Black plastic on top, plenty of cardboard underneath can work wonders for keeping the worms going through the cold months.

Worm Tower of Power – Vermiculture Vermicomposting System

https://youtube.com/devicesupport

Wow, I’ve never seen a stacking system done quite like this before!

I’m tempted to try something like this, since it has such a small footprint and can handle a pretty serious volume of material.

Something like this looks like it would cost under $20, not bad for an item that handles a heck of lot more than the Worm Factory for a fraction of the price…

Worm Inn Mega tour (video)

Worm Inn Mega – Tour

Definitely digging this MASSIVE Worm Inn.

My main question is regarding how to empty it… since it’s so huge when you open the drawstrings I can imagine material just flies out of that thing.  I wonder how heavy it is…definitely over 100 pounds when full, if not closer to 150 lbs!

If I had one of these, I’d pretty much have to stop my other compost projects since I don’t have a whole lot of material, but man it’s tempting to get one anyway!

My current Worm Inn is just enough capacity, but there have been times where I wish it was bigger.

Think Cool: Winter Worm Composting (article)

[Originally found here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/winter-worm-composting.aspx]

Even in the heat of summer, it’s not to early to consider ways to keep our garden friends, our composting worms, fully employed over the winter Vermicompost harvestmonths. For now, use that vermicompost for some worm “compost teas” to help your gardens with the stress of this summer’s heat. When cold weather comes, gather your materials and try overwintering your worms outside.

Cold weather (remember that?) will definitely slow the activity of a worm colony. Although my experience is that worms can be incredibly hardy, there’s no reason to miss a beat over the winter. The two key factors are shelter and heat.

Last winter I chose had to replace my compost bins cause they were rotten. They were oak pallets and they had lasted about seven years. I took the old pallets out, but wanted to level the site, so I started digging. What I found was a very rich layer of vermicompost between and under the pallets. Remember, I’ve been filling my bins with worms and managing for their happiness for the whole seven years.

I ended up with a level site and nine wheelbarrows full of vermicompost! As I shoveled the black gold aside, I tried to put the material with the most worms farthest from the compost bin pad. I spread the vermicompost on my garden and mulched it for the winter.

What was left over was perhaps three wheelbarrows of finished vermicompost and most of my worms. I covered the pile with some clear plastic greenhouse glazing. I never stopped putting my household food scraps on the south side of the pile. I simply came outside, lifted the plastic and a layer of straw and threw the scraps into the pile. What happened was that I started an active composting pile. There was enough food coming in, getting mixed in and covered to get hot and keep the whole area well above freezing. The winter sun helped warm the pile through the clear plastic. On cold nights there was condensed moisture on the inside of the plastic but the pile was plenty warm enough to keep going. Compost windrow

The worms were hanging out at the edges of the pile, staying warm and well fed. Although last winter was mild, this strategy will work well as far north as Minnesota, as I found out on a tour of compost education programs to St. Cloud in 1993. I visited Compost Guru, Jim McNelly (founding board member of the U.S. Composting Council) as he brought me in to educate in the schools there. He had a busy worm colony in a small black plastic compost unit outside his house in a tough winter.

Top photo: On the left is the windrow full of vermicompost that I harvested from the dark flat area on the right. Notice the clear plastic covering the pile, the pallets that will become the next bin and the stored bags of leaves.

Lower photo: The worms are hard at work under the clear plastic and the straw layer. The 2 x 4’s are not a part of the system, just left overs from the compost bin being built in the background.

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This is a great example of how simple you can make a vermicomposting system.  With a nice sized hole and enough straw plus a tarp, you can keep your worms alive and well through the winter.  I don’t know how they do it, but they do it.

I spotted a mouse sitting on top of my Worm Inn a while ago, and although he didn’t get in the system, it bummed me out.  It was my fault though, I didn’t have a nice layer of bedding covering the food scraps.  That’s the key with vermicomposting, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, is to always cover your deposits with plenty of bedding material.

Although it’s probably too late for me this winter, I’d like to try the outdoor method soon.  It’s hard to see the point though, with my main compost bin still cooking and handling all my scraps with ease…

Plastics in the Worm Composting System

After a few months of not adding substantial amounts of material to my Worm Inn (I slow down the feeding to my worms in the warmer months), I decided to take it outside and poke around in the castings.

There was a good six inches of beautiful, crumbly castings…great stuff!

However, there was also several pieces of plastic film…huh?

Then I remembered, a few months ago I placed some waxed paper, an ice cream carton, and a chinese food container (without the metal handle)…and that’s what’s left!  I don’t recommend adding this kind of stuff to a worm composting system, but my curiosity got the better of me.

What’s sad is that a large portion of single use paper products have plastic liners embedded in them to keep the contents from leaking out all over the place.  I can’t imagine that plastic liners are a favorite of worms…so I think going forward I’m going to keep all paper products other than cardboard and (dull) shredded paper out of the system.

Recognize the item in the lower left?  Yep, that’s a tea bag.

It looks like the worms ate the contents, but the bag must be synthetic.  There’s definitely some fully compostable tea bags out there…look for those.  I guess the string isn’t appealing, either!  Good thing I took the staple out.

Worm Inn Fruit Fly Trap

Worm Inn with Fruit Fly Trap

In the warmer months, I have challenges with fruit flies surrounding my Worm Inn from time to time.  The key is to pay attention to the moisture level inside the Worm Inn and cover your deposits with bedding materials to keep them to a minimum.

I decided to try putting my fruit fly trap on top of the Inn instead of on the ground beneath it.  I found that I caught nearly all the fruit flies overnight by having it on top!

If you haven’t made a fruit fly trap before, they’re really quick and cheap to make.

All you need is:

-A jar
-A few drops of dish soap
-1 cup of apple cider vinegar (wine works, too)
-A piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover the opening of the jar

Pour one cup of apple cider vinegar (or wine) into the jar.  Add a few drops of dish soap and put the plastic wrap over the opening of the jar.  Poke a few holes into it so the flies can enter.  They’re attracted to the smell of the vinegar/wine, and will go for it.  The soap makes the surface a bit thicker and the flies are caught.

Happy composting/fly catching!

Worm Inn mods!

Yes, this simple modification to the Worm Inn was worth posting about.

Well, how many Worm Inn owners hang up theirs underneath the steps using a couple screws (with threading exposed)?  Probably next to none of you (if you do, leave a comment!).

I decided to extend the life of the loops (made of a tough fabric) by threading keyrings onto each, shifting the weight to the metal rings.  So if you’re attaching/detaching the Inn often, or it’s hanging one something other than the stand kit, try some keyrings!

Worm Wonderings #1: waxed paper

For fun, I decided to add some materials that would break down eventually in a compost pile to my Worm Inn:

I decided to add a disgusting Jimmy John’s wrapper and also some little blueberry muffin cake things left over from Thanksgiving I forgot about.  Seriously messed up on that one- my mom makes killer food.  Sorry mom!  I’ll let you know if the worms like it.

On a side note, did you know that the majority of “paper” cups you see contain a plastic liner in them?  If your end castings seem to have bits of shiny plastic in them, and you put a paper cup or two in the worm composter, chances are the remnants are what’s left from the cups.  Crazy, right?  More info to come shortly…