A reader asked whether any of my multiple worm bins have overwintered outdoors. The answer is yes. Well, kind of.
Let me give you an overview of the worm farming situation here. I’m not great at raising worms, although it’s supposed to be foolproof. (I refer all questions to Castaway Compost, my go-to for all things vermicompost. Check out my Farm Indiana piece on Keith O’Dell, pirate worm composter.)
1. My first experience was with my Garden Tower. I discovered too late that I stuffed the center tube too full, too fast. This tube is where the worms are supposed to eat their jolly way through my food scraps all summer long, and theoretically survive the winter. In the compacted medium, let’s just say they did not thrive one iota. (This year I’m being more more judicious with my feedings.)
2. Then I started a store-bought dealie with four layers. I am still only on the second layer almost a year later. I can’t figure out how to get my wigglers to eat and reproduce very fast. And I’m not sure when to harvest the castings. But I haven’t completely killed anyone off yet—that I know of.
Here’s a top view of my Sunleaves bin. I used coconut coir as the bedding. This was before I added the second layer, using shredded office paper as the bedding.
My store-bought worm bin, which stays in the basement year-round.
3. My third foray is indeed a year-round outdoor “bin”—more of a pit, really. We used a book called The Complete Compost Gardening Guide as our inspiration for this project. The idea is to have a covered hole in which to compost food and yard waste, convenient to your kitchen door. So, last fall we dug a rectangular pit about 18 inches deep. (I use the word “we” loosely on this digging bit.)
Unfortunately I forgot to document the digging and building phases.
We started off by putting shredded leaves from our yard (and the neighbors’) into the pit, without adding any worms. We cover all our garden beds with the same stuff.
Judy affixing hardware to the lid, which I believe was cobbled together from old pallets.
At the time I did not have a paper shredder that worked, so I geeked out on hand shredding things for a while. I just really like the idea of worms eating stuff like phone books and toilet paper rolls!
A very patient friend spent an October evening helping me tear up paper to add to the shredded leaves. Worm farming = big fun for all!
We added the shreds to the leaves along with some vegetable scraps for worms to munch on.
Creating a nice buffet and bed for the wigglers.
The next step was to moisten everything well. Worms do not like dry places.
Mixing and moistening. I must not have had any rainwater.
The book said something about worms appreciating the channels in corrugated cardboard, so I added some wet strips of cardboard. It also said they go crazy for cornmeal or wheat flour. We had a bag of flour that a mouse had chewed through, so I sprinkled some of that on top. Then it was Wiggler Time.
The dark stuff is a handful of bedding and worms from the indoor bin.
After that, we just tossed our kitchen scraps on top, crushing egg shells as best we could with a hoe. We did it all winter long, except when the lid was frozen shut or buried under snow.
Then this spring, someone suggested spreading some soil on top and giving the worms a break from new food. I did that, and later added a layer of shredded paper. (Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a whiz-bang shredder. Total Geekdom.)
Shredded paper, as detailed in my previous post
Now you can see, a few months later, that the stuff is well on its way to becoming a sweet soil amendment. Worms are still in there. (Whether they’re the original worms or their offspring or some random opportunists, I can’t say. But I think I can claim this as an overwintering victory.)
Lots of brown eggshells still showing. What can I say, I eat a lot of eggs.
I recently pulled the bulk of the material to one side to begin adding another round of food scraps. The experiment continues…
There’s still a fourth bin to talk about, also outside, which is new this summer. But that might be for another day. Let me see how it works out first!
Thar be worms in that thar bin (unless they’ve perished in the heat).