Vermicomposting: Easy and Efficient Composting with Worms: Cold Weather Suggestions for Worm Survival

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Vermicomposting: Easy and Efficient Composting with Worms

By dave
August 22, 2011

Whether you live on a self-sufficient homestead or in an apartment in the city, you should consider keeping a bin of worms to turn your kitchen scraps into the best compost available. Here's how to get started.

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Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
Oct 4, 2015 11:29 AM CST
This popped up as the random article for me today and it is fairly timely as the weather is starting to get cold and I'm starting to worry about the worms in my compost bin. Since I have gnats (and other things I don't want in my house) that live in my worm bin, I have to keep the bin in the garage. Inside is *not* an option at this point. I have them against a wall that butts up to our house (i.e. pretty much as far away from the cold as possible), but with Michigan winters, it gets COLD. It seemed that I lost a lot of worms last winter, even despite purchasing a tiny space heater for them. I checked on them periodically and they were always in the bin closest to the tiny heater, which worried me because I doubted that they were venturing to the top to get the food (which was probably hard to eat since there wasn't much warmth to support the break-down of the food scraps). I felt bad for them.

Any suggestions?

Continuing to use a space heater worries me because space heaters are responsible for a lot of house fires in the winter months. I'd love an option that allows for something safer. If it helps, I use the Worm Factory 360. Has anyone successfully used a setup with something like the foil hand/feet warmers or heat-reflecting blankets of some sort....anything???
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Oct 5, 2015 8:10 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

My advice would be to solve the gnat problem. Then you can bring the bins indoors and they'll do great inside. We often keep bins in our laundry room.

The solution to gnats is simple: just make sure that no food is exposed to the air. For me, that means lots and lots of cardboard. When you add food (coffee grinds, banana peels, apple cores, etc) first dig a nice little hole in the cardboard bedding. Drop the goodies down in there and make sure to thoroughly cover it all up. When you look in the bin, you should only see cardboard on the surface.

Also, consider adding a lid if you haven't done so. Just poke little holes in the lid so air can breathe through.

If you went and just added a few inches of very wet cardboard pieces to your bin, right on the top, I bet your gnat problem will go away pretty soon.
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
Winter Sowing Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Dragonflies
Birds Cat Lover Seed Starter Dog Lover Region: Kansas Houseplants
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Tuckersmom
Oct 5, 2015 8:38 AM CST
I am intrigued by this idea. For weeks, I've been viewing videos and reading articles and I'm still on the fence. Dave, have you always had your bins in the laundry room? Or did you start them elsewhere and, once the bins got balanced, move them? I do not want bugs in my house and I have to imagine there's a learning curve. What, besides fruit flies/gnats and pill bugs can infiltrate the bins and can you prevent it by simply burying the worm food? I would appreciate anyone's input about the bugs. Thanks.
“In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
– Zen saying
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Oct 5, 2015 9:02 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

We initially started with the bins in the laundry room because I ordered got started in January. Smiling The worms I ordered arrived basically frozen and I was worried about them. They did fine and I never dealt with any serious bugs. Once the weather warmed up, I put them all outside on the back porch where they never got direct sun.

Later on, as I expanded my operation, I moved all the bins out to the barn and that's still where I do most of my bins. I have a room that is loaded up with bins most of the time.

Other than pillbugs I've never had any bugs in my bins that I can remember. Just make sure you use lots and lots and lots (And lots) of cardboard. Smiling
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
Winter Sowing Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Dragonflies
Birds Cat Lover Seed Starter Dog Lover Region: Kansas Houseplants
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Tuckersmom
Oct 5, 2015 9:12 AM CST
You are so quick to respond! Thank You!

Did the pill bugs come after you moved the bins outside? I was thinking of doing this in an unfinished basement. I have never seen pill bugs down there that I have seen, of course, spiders.
“In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
– Zen saying
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Oct 5, 2015 10:13 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I really don't remember on the pillbugs. My guess is that I accidentally imported them when I brought in rotted wood to add to my bins. But they don't hurt anything, in fact they are quite helpful in breaking down the larger chunks.
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
Winter Sowing Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Dragonflies
Birds Cat Lover Seed Starter Dog Lover Region: Kansas Houseplants
Image
Tuckersmom
Oct 5, 2015 10:20 AM CST
Understandable. Thank you so much, Dave. I will probably end up doing this, but I'm not going to commit at the moment. Smiling
“In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
– Zen saying
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Image
dave
Oct 5, 2015 10:22 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Once you get started you'll wish you had started earlier. Smiling
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
Winter Sowing Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Dragonflies
Birds Cat Lover Seed Starter Dog Lover Region: Kansas Houseplants
Image
Tuckersmom
Oct 5, 2015 10:42 AM CST
I have a friend, who has a friend, who is doing this here in town. I have been invited out to look at "the operation" later this week. I am feeling a little better about keeping a bin in the basement. I'm in that exploration phase, but each bit of information I collect reassures me. Thanks again!
“In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
– Zen saying
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
Image
DogsNDaylilies
Oct 5, 2015 5:22 PM CST
dave said:Once you get started you'll wish you had started earlier. Smiling


Patti, I agree with Dave, here. You're also lucky enough to be in a slightly warmer zone than here. I kept mine in the garage all last year and, although I suffered some losses, they still did okay with a little added warmth.

Dave, thank you for the suggestion. I'm still nervous about bringing a bug-filled box indoors, but I'll see how confident I am after a few weeks of smothering it in damp newspaper and wet cardboard, LoL! I just hope I don't have a recurrence of last year (my box started to go anaerobic and it was a furious dash for me to get it dried out and to stop smelling. (I had loaded the bin up with a bunch of thrown-away veggies from the supermarket and they all liquefied at the same time. I learned my lesson on that one!)
Name: Patti
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 6b)
Winter Sowing Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Dragonflies
Birds Cat Lover Seed Starter Dog Lover Region: Kansas Houseplants
Image
Tuckersmom
Oct 5, 2015 6:58 PM CST
[quote="DogsNDaylilies"]


I just hope I don't have a recurrence of last year (my box started to go anaerobic and it was a furious dash for me to get it dried out and to stop smelling.

And "That" is the learning curve I am worried about. Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing I guess the rule of thumb is to go slow when feeding. Dave, I got a chuckle when you said you don't remember any serious bug problems. A serious bug problem to me is any bug that doesn't belong there! Hilarious!

Thank you both for your encouragement. I'll be popping back up on this thread again soon, I'm sure. I tip my hat to you.

“In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
– Zen saying
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
Image
DogsNDaylilies
Oct 5, 2015 7:12 PM CST
Patti - exactly! Not that you want to starve the little guys, but last year I gave in excess. I had trouble with my plants for the same reason...I over watered them and ended up having a gnat problem in my home because of that. Rolling my eyes.

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