Best Time For Worm Bed Construction

Here is a question from Bobby:

I need to build a new outdoor bin is better to build it now
while it is cold or wait until spring. This is a great site didn’t
know there were so many worm enthusiast.

Hi Bobby,
This is a great question. I would say that now (as in any time in the fall/winter) is definitely the best time to set up an outdoor bed, but it really does depend on what you are trying to do and where you are located.

I am currently setting up a winter worm bed with the intention of breeding lots of worms in time for Spring (when demand for worms will likely be considerably higher). I’m still not 100% sure how successful I’m going to be in terms of generating enough warmth to keep the worms active, but I am very optimistic.

If you are located in the far north (eg. northern Minnesota, Alaska etc), it might make more sense to start something indoors and wait until spring to set up an outdoor system. Although, that being said, I’m sure I would be determined to find away to create an active outdoor worm bin in those regions as well if I lived there! (I’m stubborn like that)

Even a system that stays very cool is going to be much better than no system at all – all sorts of microbes can decompose materials (albeit more slowly) at lower temps than you might expect, and Red Worms are very cold tolerant, so they will stay at least semi-active as long as temps stay above the freezing mark in the bedding. This way, as the weather starts to warm up a bit (you can help the process by putting a black tarp over the bed) in the Spring the worms will get really active and start breeding like crazy. In other words you will have a serious headstart on getting a thriving system going – and you’ll likely need fewer worms to get started as well.

If you are located in an area that gets snow and typical winter weather in general, you’d certainly be better off building an insulated system. Straw bales are an excellent – and relatively inexpensive – building material. Aside from their incredible insulating properties, they offer the advantage of being easily movable, so you can change the dimensions/shape etc at any time. They will also help to insulate the bed from excess heat in the summer. Yet another advantage of this material is that it will also be a fantastic long term food source and habitat for the worms.

Apart from insulation, you will also need a heat source – something that is relatively easy to achieve with a large volume of organic materials, the right C:N range, enough oxygen – and of course the assistance from countless microbes. In other words, a cold weather system should generally be larger, and receive more ‘food’ than a warmer climate system.

Hope this helps!

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    • Len
    • December 13, 2008

    Hi Bentley,
    Terrific website, more information that I have found anywhere else. Yet, I still have a question that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere…
    Regarding bedding material, I know that you are partial to cardboard, and use newspaper and coconut coir, other sites mention leaves too, but I’ve never seen mention of sawdust or wood shavings from woodworking waste. I’m a woodworking hobbiest (along with gardening and composting) and have much wood waste that composts down just fine but since I’ve been (bitten) by the vermicompost bug was wondering about the sawdust and shavings as a bedding material. I use mostly pine, oak and a little cedar, if it is ok to use it as bedding, is there a type of wood that would be detrimental to the worms?
    Thanks in advance for an answer, and again, great website.


    • Bentley
    • December 15, 2008

    Hi Len,
    We recently did talk about wood chips, but it was in the comments section of an older post (so no wonder you missed it!).
    Wood waste unfortunately tends to be very resistant to breakdown, thus not offering much in the way of nutrition for worms. It also doesn’t absorb water the way cardboard, coir etc do so it’s not a great bedding. That being said, if you are able to “compost it down”, why not just use the partially composted material as a bedding – that could work a lot better.
    Definitely stay away from the cedar – the oils can harm your worms. Similar woods should be treated with caution, although pine should be ok (I’ve had bins made of pine with no issues).

    Hope this helps. I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

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