Question from Norma B:
I live on a farm with some hay bales that was too wet to make into dry hay when baled and did not ferment correctly to make good cow feed. (they are usually in a long line of white plastic) All the white plastic has been removed – they are left out in the open to rot. If I put some fresh manure on the bales, then the worms…. would they help to compost the large bales of hay? (600 lbs) I also have some wood piles… would the worms work on them?
Using composting worms to process old rotten hay and straw is an excellent idea! Hay bales in particular might not need anything more than a good soaking with water, since the C/N ratio would likely be low enough to support a fairly rapid microbial decomposition process. If they were straw bales I’d suggest soaking them with a manure “tea” (or some form of liquid manure) rather than adding solid manure on top.
Given the size of the bales, it would be important to leave them alone for a period of time before adding the worms, since there will likely be quite a bit of heating. Alternatively you could heap up some well-aged manure (ideally, material that’s been sitting outdoors for a month or more) next to the bales and introduce the worms into it. This way they would have a safe habitat, and could move into the bales once temps drop.
As for the wood piles – unfortunately, the worms can’t offer much assistance there. You could definitely speed up the process a lot if you had some sort of chipper/grinder, and then mixed the wood fragments with something like manure – but even then, the wood itself would be too hard and resistant for the worms to process.
Hope this helps!