Wooden Worm Box in Texas Heat

Hi! Thanks so much for such an informative site and my apologies if my
query has been posed before. I have an old wine crate with a sliding
lid and have decided to use it for a 1/4# of worms. I just laid
bedding (shredded newspaper, cardboard and some leaves) and some
vegetable waste into it in anticipation of my worms’ arrival in about
2 weeks. My concern is: I live in Texas where it gets (obviously) very
hot in the summer. I plan to keep my worms outside in an area that is
shaded all the time, but it is still going to be SO HOT, even in the
shade, for the next several months. Will my worms be okay?

Thanks again for your time!

Hi Sarah,
Interesting question! Let me start by saying that you would definitely have at least one good thing going for you, based on the system you’ve described. When vermicomposting outdoors during hot weather it’s a really good idea to use something at least semi-breathable. A plastic bin outdoors in Texas heat would be a death sentence for most worms I suspect.

Wooden bins are great because they allow for moisture release, which results in an evaporative cooling effect. The trade-off, however, is that you can end up losing a lot of moisture quite quickly. This brings us to the potential downside of your approach. I’m not 100% sure of the dimensions of this box of yours, but when I think of “wine crate” I picture something relatively small. I have a sneaking suspicion you may have a heck of a time trying to keep everything moist inside – even with it sitting in the shade.

Something that might help is partial burial in the ground (may help you keep things cooler as well). Perhaps having a rotation of frozen water bottles (with small perforations for slow moisture release) would be another way to make this work. One last suggestion would be to line the inside of the box with corrugated cardboard or some other breathable material so as to at least provide an extra layer of protection (while still allowing moisture release)

Bottom-line – I definitely think it may be do-able, Sarah, but you may have your work cut out for you!

By the way, you may also want to check this other “Reader Questions” post related to vermicomposting in hot/arid regions:
Vermicomposting in Arid Regions

Hope this helps!

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    • Ted C
    • April 14, 2011

    Now that I’m a bit more confident in my worming skills, next month the whole batch will be outdoors till Sept.
    I have an old basement with natural stone walls. When it gets humid in New England, I know it because, my basement floor sweats. Last year the moisture gave me some issues.

    The East corner of my home, behind a wooden stockade fence, will keep them in the shade all day.

    Have great one everyone

    • Jason
    • April 15, 2011

    Mine are doing ok outside so far, plastic and everything. I water my bins at the same time I water my garden. I have them in full shade, a car port or under a thick bush/shrub should be enough with a couple waterings a week. Heather (the Texas Worm Rancher) Rinaldi may have some ideas for you, she is also here in Dallas.

    • Andres
    • April 15, 2011

    I live in Austin and I keep my plastic bin indoors in the mechanical room (in between the garage and the house). This little room houses my HVAC. It gets a little warm in there in the summer time because of the attic. In order to avoid the gnats and fruit flies, I freeze my food before putting it in the bin. I also don’t use a lid on the bin because that just increases the moisture and gnats.

    • Gustavo
    • April 16, 2011

    Sarah, this is what I do: I add something to make the bin’s walls more thick, like wood board or cardboard – if you use cardboard you’ll have to change it often, so I prefer some thin wood planks. Just put it here, the compost/food will hold them in the walls. In addition, always let a 5 cm layer of mulch, It helps A LOT.

  1. I would say the box will be eaten by termites.You can’t use any poison.So it will be gone within a year i’d guess.Better to build a small block bin with a little of it in the ground.Plus the fire ants will take over a wood box in a heartbeat! And a block bin with a foam top will be protected from rain and some heat.In Florida the termites will eat one in a month easy!

    • Kuan
    • April 17, 2011

    Sarah, welcome to vermicomposting. I’m in Kansas and it is hot here too. What I did the last 2 summers was freeze a couple 2L soda bottles with water. I go to work at 6:30am so I put them in the bin on top of the bedding. I do wrap them in a few layers of wet newspaper though. When I get home at 5:30pm, the bottles are all water, no more ice due to the heat but still cool. The condensation will help wet some of the beddings. I see lots of worms congregate around/under the bottles to keep cool. I then refreeze the bottles for next day use. I also wet down (not sopping wet, just moist) the bin with my hose when I water my tomato plants in the evening. Evaporation will help cool the bin down like sweating cools down our skin. So far my worms seem to be doing OK in the last 2 summers. HTH.


    • Andres
    • April 20, 2011

    Great idea Kuan! Also, another key thing is Moisture moisture moisture. The specific heat of water is greater than air…so, it takes more to heat it up. Also, the bedding helps. I like to use coir because it holds in moisture really well. Also, freezing your veggies before throwing them out helps keep the bin cool.

    to keep out fire ants, make a cup of simple syrup w/ a tbsp of borax. I use baby food lids and put the mixture in that. Ants eat it and die. simple at that…you can also use Orange oil mixed w/ soap and corn meal.

  2. I started my bin in central Florida last June. A 12x12x18 inch plastic one with 4 half inch holes in the bottom. I glued window screen over the holes. Set in in another plastic tub that was big enough to allow several inches of clearance all around. Kept a few inches of water in the big tub. Set the worm bin on bottles to keep it out of the water. Put it where it would be shaded all day.
    Didn’t have any trouble with overheating. Might have been the evaporation effect and double shading. The water kept the ants out. I did lift the bin out and change the water in the tub once a week. That cleared out out the mosquito larvae.

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