Winter Worm Composting Wrap-Up 2009

Big Worm Composting Bed

It feels pretty funny writing a ‘winter worm composting’ post here in mid-May (my last update having been written back in February), but then again, for me this sort of thing has kinda become ‘par for the course’. I’m still sticking with my ‘better late than never’ motto!

As I wrote in various other posts, this year’s winter composting project was definitely a major success. Both of my previous attempts (with a much smaller system) had to be cut short due to temperatures dropping dangerously close to the freezing mark in February. This year, my system actually seemed to follow the opposite path – starting out relatively cold early in the winter, then gradually getting warmer and warmer. This worked out really well, since it ended up being nice and toasty in the bed during a time when it was extremely cold outside.

What’s interesting is that given my success on the winter composting front, I naturally assumed that this system would make an easy transition into a typical warm-weather worm bed, but the funny thing is that I’ve probably been having more trouble with it now than I did during the winter. My first mistake was leaving the tarp on for too long – this served to trap heat and reduce air flow.

Over-heating in general seems to be a major issue. Even though I haven’t really added all that much food material, there are sections of the bed that have become too hot for worms. My hope is that they’ve migrated downwards or to the sides where it is cooler. I’m sure there are loads of them taking up residence in the straw bales themselves.

Last summer I discovered the heating potential of coffee grounds, when the temperature in my backyard worm bin skyrocketed due to the addition of a relatively modest amount (I thought so anyway). As I’ve written previously, we have added a considerable quantity of coffee grounds to the big bed, so I suspect this has contributed to the problem. I assumed they would be totally fine spread out as thinly as they are, but you know what can happen when you ‘ASSuME’.

My hope is that the temperatures will start to stabilize, thus making this system an excellent worm growth bed. There’s no doubt that there are loads of worms in there, but it’s certainly not performing as well as it could. Interestingly enough, my smaller beds (like the vermicomposting trenches) seem to have higher worm densities.

Anyway, I will certainly keep everyone posted (although, perhaps in my usual belated manner – haha) on my progress with the bed.

Previous Winter Worm Composting Posts
Winter Composting Extravaganza 2.0
Winter Worm Composting – 12-08-08
Winter Worm Composting – 12-15-08
Winter Worm Composting – 12-30-08
Winter Worm Composting – 01-23-09
Winter Worm Composting – 02-09-09
Winter Worm Composting – 02-23-09

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    • Sara
    • May 18, 2009

    hi Bentley , when it comes to fertelizer , the NPK value is the key factor to consider. Does vermicompost have the NPK value ? What is the recommended dosage of using vermicompost to small to large scale plant pots ?

    • Sherry
    • May 19, 2009

    Hi Sara,
    I don’t want to jump in on Bentley, and I’m sure he’ll give his opinion, when he sees your question!
    Everything I’ve read is 20% castings to soil. A lot of people put some castings in the hole then plant your veggies and flowerbeds. I use my castings mainly for top-dressing my houseplants. My excess go to my parents for their flowerbeds.

  1. I am aiming to give this a try in NW Alberta this winter. Luckily I have access to all the manure, straw and hay of various ages to work with. Ill dig down a foot or two as well and hope that combined with biology works to keep the system active right through our -40+ C temps.

  2. Our local “Mars Cafe” puts out bags of its coffee grounds and filters for composters, so of course I’ve been grabbing lots. And guess what? Coffee heats up INDOOR bins too! I had to quickly add calmer materials and disperse the coffee grounds more, to keep from cooking my babies.

  3. Sara and Sherry, Last spring I didn’t have much vermicompost (was just starting out), and I added some to the tops of my seedling containers. The plant roots went crazy, running across the surface to grab the vermicompost, instead of my Miracle Gro seed starter mix! Last week, I transplanted my dormant fig into a mix of 2/3 vermicompost and 1/3 various potting soil I had sitting around–and the very next morning, that fig had opened a new bud. (I was afraid it was dead.)

    I’d say, use as much vermicompost as you can, around your seedlings when you set them out.

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