Keeping Red Worms Outside
I recently received some questions related to keeping Red Worms outdoors
The first one comes from April:
Can the red composting worms live outside? What are the
temperature ranges that they can tolerate?
The short answer is YES, absolutely. Be sure to check out my winter worm composting series to learn more about my outdoor (cold weather) system. Red Worms (Eisenia fetida) are a very cold-hardy worm. When I was transferring material (and worms) from my previous winter composting bin to the new one this year, I literally found worms encased in frozen compost – still wiggling away (a little more slowly, mind you).
Basically you are probably ok with temperatures between 0 and 35 C (32-95 F), and maybe even warmer depending on the situation (I have a friend who has kept them alive at temps of 100 F). Remember, we are talking about temperatures in the worm’s habitat – NOT necessarily ambient temps. Even it’s 100 F outside, you should be able to keep the inside of a vermicomposting system a fair bit cooler using various strategies.
Next, we have a question from Gayle:
I have worms in an inside bin. i seem to have way more
waste than my 1 # of worms can handle. I want to convert my inside
worms to outside, and make an outside compost. i had hesitated to do
this originally, because I didn’t have much garden waste except
deadheaded flowers etc. I now have winter garden leaves etc to make
compost. so, bottom line, if I put my worms outside will i kill them?
the spot I am considering to start is an old unused sand box that has
a layer of garden dirt. i live in Texas. we are for the most part
done w/ winter. lows maybe rarely in the 30′s. thanks
You can indeed move composting worms outdoors – especially given your climate (ie no extra protection will be needed – assuming we are talking about Red Worms here). Garden waste actually isn’t the best worm food for the most part, so don’t worry about not having too much of that. Fall leaves are great though – they fall (no pun intended) somewhere between food and ‘bedding’, and the worms love them. I’d recommend adding ALL your fruit/veg food waste as well (you mentioned producing way more than the worms could eat inside).
Regarding the type of system to set up – there are lots of options. Your sandbox idea is a really good one – I’m a little biased though, since I did the exact same thing last summer. haha
I actually created a ‘vermicomposting trench’ – something I would highly recommend in your case since it’s going to get REALLY hot there in the summer. This will help the worms to stay cool. I’d recommend you check out my ‘Vermicomposting Trench Wrap-Up‘ post – you’ll find links to all my related articles about this topic there.
Hope this helps!