Tag Archives: red wiggler worms

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.

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.

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…

Can Worms Compost Latex Condoms?

You may remember back in March/early April I decided to take my condom experiment from the compost tumbler to the worm bin.  Why?  …why not?

Worms are so quick to gobble through whatever waste is thrown at them…maybe they’ll eat latex?  Let’s take a look:

Can Worms Compost Latex Condoms?

The worms don’t seem too interested, do they?  And no, the experiment isn’t over yet.  I’m leaving the condoms in there.  It took my compost tumbler a good 9+ months to really get the condoms broken down in the slightest…I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s still plenty of pieces in there.  A small-scale backyard composting project isn’t going to produce crazy hot composting temperatures for a sustained period of time (which is definitely why my Sun Chips bag is still intact a good 10 months after putting it in).

I’m going to make a phone call to the local commercial composting facility and see how they react to the idea of composting latex…this should be fun.

Condoms in the Worm Bin: Update 2

It’s been about 6 weeks since I started the condoms-in-the-worm-bin experiment.

There’s not really much to report other than that the condoms are still in the bin.  They’re covered in springtails and what looks like mites.  I’ve caught worms sitting in them, but it’s a rarity and it’s definitely leading towards my initial guess.

It looks like the condoms will be there until the microbes eat them up.  Worms don’t appear to be all that attracted to natural latex…I don’t see any real munching marks on them.

Although it doesn’t seem like much, I’m still wagering that they’ll be degraded within a 6 month time frame.  What do you think?

All in all, who cares?  The fact that they didn’t drive my worms out of the bin is a small victory, I think.  At the end of all this, I’ll have a Youtube video showing the project from start to finish…what a fun project!

Condoms in the Worm Bin: Latex Love or Trojan Travesty?

You may remember a few months ago when I put expired latex condoms in my compost tumbler…eventually the microbes gobbled them up, and they are now gone.
How do you think worms will respond to them?  My worm bin is chock full of critters other than worms, so I think that even if the worms don’t want them, everything else in the bin will eat them over time.  Let’s find out.   Does this make me a bad father?
From left to right, we have the untouched condom, the barely tampered with condom, and then a shredded condom on the right:

What’s the point of this?  Honestly, I have no idea.  It’s not like everyone has expired (or used) condoms just sitting around waiting to compost.  Well, I’ll keep you posted on the progress and of course I’ll have a dorky video at the end of the process, too.

Acclimation Anxiety

Hey there crazy composters,

I wanted to share a recent experience I had with the ol’ red wigglers that seems to happen quite often…the initial freakout phase.
I’m noticing it seems rather common that the first few days of having a new worm bin results in worms trying to escape and run all over the place…why is this happening?  Chances are, it’s due to the main variables: Container (and oxygen), proper food, bedding.
One thing to remember, is when you receive a shipment of worms, they just spent a few days in a tiny box…so chances are that’s why they seem a little weird at first.  They either appear dead, or hyperactive.  I still remember when I got my last pound of worms…I put them in their new home, which was a Worm Inn, and waited a few hours.  I left the light on in the basement to help keep them away from the top of the bag…didn’t matter.
I put in more coffee grinds and more bedding.  Dampened the contents.  The worms still hung out at the top.  I actually put a piece of duct tape where the zipper ends so that they couldn’t get out through that tiny little gap.  By the next morning, everything was fine and they settled.
Similarly with the plastic worm bin, the worms instantly clung to the top.  I realized quickly that no matter how much bedding or proven awesome contents I added, they were freaking out.  Then I wondered if they were having problems with air flow, since plastic bins don’t get the same circulation as a Worm Inn does, obviously.  Once I drilled nearly twice the amount of air holes, the worms went down in their new home.  Solved!
Recently, a cool customer of mine was having the same difficulties with her new bin…my first thought is usually to advise leaving the light on and/or putting the bin directly under a light.  I was curious how they were coming along, so she sent me this picture:

Pretty darn brilliant!  Good way to keep the light overhead in a creative way.  I almost wonder if it’s “too much” light… while it’s not direct sunlight outdoors, which would effectively harm your worms, it’s kind of intense.  However, in seeing the bin illuminated the way it is, it was easy to see what would also help here: more holes.
As with my first worm bin, extra air holes can’t hurt.  Since the plastic bin is not porous, improving the air circulation is critical.  Now her bin looks like this:

Way to go, Karen!  And now her worms are chillin’.  Have any of you out there experienced similar circumstances?  If you have, take a look at your air flow and contents.  Overall, it seems that no matter what you do, there will be a brief period in the beginning where the worms are wondering what the heck is going on and try to escape, or just look around outside their new home…I don’t blame them.
I’m going to start a new system soon, and I’ll be reporting on if it happens yet again.  Have any of you composters been able to start a worm habitat without any freakouts?  I’d love to hear about it.

Buy Composting Worms

Are you vermicurious?  I find that it’s becoming more and more popular to start worm bins at home, and there’s good reason for it.  They’re really easy to set up, they’re fun to watch, and they require very little attention once you have the system running and your worms acclimated.

I got into worm composting when I decided that burying my food scraps in the ground in the winter just wasn’t fun enough anymore.  Worms can handle next to anything from the kitchen, and you’ll be amazed at what they can do.  I never thought I would love worms the way I do-It’s gotten to the point where I talk to my worms every morning.
So what will the worms need?  Quick watch my video on how to create a worm bin in under 15 minutes and less than ten bucks:

How To Build A Worm Composting Bin In Under 15 Minutes

Plastic bins are a good beginner’s way to try it out, then there’s more “advanced” levels such as the Worm Factory 360 system, or the Worm Inn.  In fact, I should be getting a Worm Inn pretty soon to try and I’ll post a full review of it once I get it going.

Since we’re dealing with a live product here, there’s some stuff you need to know, so here we go:
-Please make sure your USPS mailing address is correct, as this is where your order confirmation will be sent.  The worms are sent via USPS Priority Mail.
-Orders are shipped out early each week to avoid sitting at the post office over the weekend, so try to order by Saturday to receive it by the end of the following week.
-If you don’t think you’ll be home to receive it, please let me know so we can arrange to have the post office hold the package for you.  Worms are super tough, but why risk their health in extreme heat or cold?  I want you to be happy with your purchase.
-If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  I should be able to get back to you within 24 hours with the exception of a serious emergency.  Between myself and the amazing redwormcomposting.com you’re in good hands for getting all of your worm questions answered.