Red Worm Composting in the News

The Knoxville News, that is. A little over a week ago I received an e-mail from Rebecca Williams – a writer with the Knoxville News Sentinel – requesting a short interview relating to worm composting (my winter vermicomposting experiment in particular caught her attention).

Here is a blurb from the actual article (published today):

Worm composting is a growing trend all over the world, says Sherman. Large-scale worm growers can sell their compost at a premium. Some cities use worms to reduce landfill waste. Farmers use it to process cattle waste, and home gardeners use worms indoors to compost in the winter.

What makes the worm’s body a perfect little composter?

“Scientists really don’t know,” says Sherman. “That’s one the mysteries about worms.”

There is some debate about the best type of worm for a home compost bin, but most experts agree a type of redworm, Eisenia fetida, is best. They are also called bandling or manure worms, or red wigglers. This is not the same black earthworm you’ll find in the garden.

Redworms are surface feeders who like to eat rich organic matter and don’t mind crowding in a compost bin. They can survive in temperatures from the low 40s up to the 80s, so closed garages, porches or utility rooms are all good spots for them indoors.

Gardeners in northern climates keep worms, too. “My goal is to overcome the cold weather and compost outdoors year-round,” says Bentley Christie of Ontario, Canada. He writes the Web site and offers many tips for keeping worms in cold climates.

[emphasis mine]

Pretty hilarious given the long answers I submited to her questions (I replied via email). Oh well! You gotta start somewhere, right? (nice that the website got a mention anyway 🙂 )

Be sure to check out the full article here:
“Classroom experiment demonstrates red wigglers’ ability to produce rich fertilizer”

[UPDATE 2018: Article is no longer on the Knox News website so I removed the link]

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  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now and have become intrigued with vermicomposting.
    I live in central Utah, temps down to 20F and up to 100F, I have a two-car garage, two sheds, and a food storage area in my basement. I am not sure if the worms can survive in the sheds (uninsulated) so I am going to set up thermometers that will record high and low temps to get the full scoop for those and the garage.

    Is there someway of insulating the bins to keep them outside while allowing them to breathe? Will they create an unpleasant odor bad if I have to keep them inside?

    Also, I am unclear about how to harvest the castings without digging through and possibly damaging the worms.

    This sounds like a great alternative to throwing food waste on the compost pile and attracting rodents.

    I enjoyed the Knoxville News article. Thank-you for posting about this intriguing topic.

    • Bentley
    • November 27, 2007

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the comment. Glad to see you are getting interested in vermicomposting (my goal is to get as many people excited about it as possible!).
    You climate sounds pretty extreme (one end of the spectrum to the other). I think I’d be more worried about the 100 degrees than the freezing temperatures – I would imagine any sort of outdoor shed would get unbelievably hot in the summer time. You would likely be better off just building a bin outside in a sheltered area (perhaps erecting some sort of sun shade in the summer).

    For my winter composting experiment (video on the way soon) I used multiple layers of cardboard insulation, plus some old household insulation (around the sides) – the lid I’ve left uninsulated.

    To learn about an easy harvesting method, check out this blog post:

    I will also eventually be doing a video for that as well.

    BTW – vermicomposting is the ultimate odor eater (if done properly). I had a normal backyard composter going at the same time as my big worm bin. The regular composter emitted a bad stench for quite awhile (when I was starting it up), but the worm bin has never had much of a bad smell at all (only some odor if I overload it with food – I tend to be very easy going with it, given its size and outdoor location).
    I would recommend starting your own indoor bin – it’s a great way to get into vermicomposting (check out the video section if you want some ideas for easy homemade bins).

    thanks again


  2. In a multi tray system (as shown in the previous article) there is no need to separate worms from the castings. They migrate on their own.

    • Bentley
    • November 29, 2007

    Hi Edward,
    Thanks for stopping by!
    I’m definitely excited to try out the new system. It is my first official ‘continuous-flow’ bin. No more ‘dump and sort’! 🙂

    One question for you – do you ever do anything to the wood to protect it from decomposition, or generally leave the bins as-is? I’ve been thinking about trying out some sort of natural wood preservative, but would be interested to get your take on it.


    • Edward
    • November 29, 2007

    Hi Bentley,
    I don’t protect the wood. It is fresh and has some pine thus inside.

    Since I started, non of my bins got rotten enough to become unusable,
    even one that I keep outside in warmer weather.
    Mice gnawed the plastic mesh on the bottom stand, but the wood is still OK.

    I keep external surface of the bin dry and let for an emptied tray to dry,
    before reusing it.

    Thank you for your great site and great job, I became you faithful reader.

    • Bentley
    • November 30, 2007

    Thanks for the info, Edward!
    That’s all I needed to hear! I’ll definitely get mine up and running pronto. 🙂

    Thanks also for the kind words – glad you’ve been enjoying the site!


    • rebecca
    • December 31, 2008

    Where can I get worms in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter?

    • Bentley
    • January 6, 2009

    Hi Rebecca,
    I just found this comment – sorry for the delay!
    My supplier ships worms all winter long – even to cold zones in the northern US (Alaska might be a bit of a stretch though – hehe). As long as you are home to receive them, or allow us to mark the package for a post office hold, everything should be fine.

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