Question from John:
I live in Mesa Arizona and I’m not looking forward to the Arizona heat
which will reach 115 degrees. Last year I lost all my worms when a
worm dealer said just keep them in the shade. Do you have any good
ideas to keep them alive.
Vermicomposting in extremely hot/dry locations can definitely be a challenge, to say the least. Any supplier telling you simply to “put them in the shade” strikes me as someone more interested in selling worms than seeing their customers succeed! Yikes!
Shade is obviously a vitally important first step – but some additional measures will almost certainly be required.
One strategy that may help is partial or complete burial of the system. The further down in the soil you can dig the more moderate the temperatures will likely be. What I might try is using a half- or three-quarters-buried wooden bin with some absorbent material(s) – like burlap or even old sheets – sitting over top (but inside the bin). If you keep these materials moist (without flooding the system every time you wet) there will likely be a nice evaporative-cooling effect. The zone down below the soil would most likely remain in a temp range the worms can handle.
A somewhat similar idea I learned from my friend, George Mingin, is to drape wet sheets over top of your beds (again, a system with excellent air flow would be important here) and to point a fan towards them (obviously would only make sense in a garage or shed).
A more environmentally-unfriendly approach might involve rotating frozen water bottles between a freezer and the bed(s). If you kept them wrapped in the burlap or sheets that could help to extend the melting period – and the condensation moisture would likely help to keep the cover materials damp as well.
Hope this helps!