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Winterizing the Worms
In early October, one of the apartment maintenance crew told me that frost was predicted that week. It seemed awful early, but spurred me to act on my idea to keep the outdoor worm bins warm over winter.
I'd already split my original 14-gallon "worm Friendly Habitat" bin into two 10-gallon bins made from Rubbermaid totes, while harvesting my first layer of wormcastings. Each of the totes had about two pounds of worms at this point.
I have two big rectangular plastic tubs that I bought at Goodwill with dreams of giant worm bins. I'd used them in turning my first two batches of compost, and found that they each held the full contents of one of the 40-gallon trash cans. So I filled one of those with compostables, topped it with a layer of the older compost, and set the two small bins on top of it. It was just a tiny bit short for both of them to fit flat, but it was close enough that they were both stable.
I was hoping that the heat from the composting would keep the bins on top at a comfortable temperature. As it happened, the pile -- not being very deep -- warmed up only moderately, and cooled fast. I never turned it, because as soon as I lifted the bins, I found worms crawling all over the compost!
They have since spread all through the 40-gallon bin -- while an active population of worms remained in the smaller bins, too. The bedding in the bins, both small and large, felt chilly to my fingers, but the worms seemed happy campers.
Last week the forecasts really began threatening us with freezing nights, and I wanted to improve the insulation for the worms. I filled the second 40-gallon tub with compostables -- using leaves instead of paper -- then set one 10-gallon bin on each tub and piled leaves on top, tucked in on both sides.
I then draped a sheet over the top of the leaves.
I've also been trying to load up the little bins on food, to increase the heat. It's rather frustrating. It was so easy to accidentally touch off extra heat in the bins during the summer, and in the indoor bin at Real Change. In the outdoor bins this winter, though, even an inch thick layer of soybean meal doesn't get noticeably warm! All efforts added together, at least I can say that the inside of the bins no longer chills my fingers.
And worms have begun spreading into the second 40-gallon bin, also. :D
Last edited: Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:11 pm
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Sounds like quite a challenge to keep them warm Anitra, I sincerely hope you succeed.
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