Phase I of my new winter worm composting project
In the most recent issue of the newsletter I wrote about my success with rounding up a bunch of fall leaves last week (most of them – more than twenty bags worth – came from one neighbor). It was really cool, and also provided me with a valuable lesson in the importance of ‘stepping outside your comfort zone’! Next fall I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to let people know what I’m doing, thus (hopefully) helping me to collect even more of these sorts of materials from my nearby neighbors!
With bags and bags of great worm composting materials in hand, I decided that it was finally time to get my outdoor beds ready for winter – originally it was planned to be a ‘winter slumber’, but after giving it more thought I ended up deciding it was time to try out a new winter worm composting system this year (my third in as many years). There is no doubt that last year’s winter worm bed was HUGELY successful, and I know I will be making another one just like it at some point down the road, but the major issue with that system is the fact that it is sitting in my dad’s backyard – not mine!
The time involved in hauling materials over there, and just generally driving back and forth really doesn’t make too much sense to me anymore – I have really big plans for the next few months and a lot of work ahead of me (much of it on my computer – wink wink), so I need to be much more of a ‘home sticker’ this winter. Of course, I still want to have my yearly Winter Composting “Extravaganza” though! I can’t let my loyal readers down!
Apart from that, its just WAY too much fun to go out in the middle of a blizzard (while my neighbors look on in disbelief) and feed my worms!
I am really excited that this year I am going to have the opportunity to try something completely new – and as the title of the post implies, it’s going to be a ‘winter windrow’ this time around! Earlier this week my dad and I basically winterized ALL my outdoor beds (those that haven’t already been emptied out – well apart from my big wooden worm bin, which will be emptied very soon) – we put some extra focus on one particular stretch of bed, which is going to be my designated winter bed. Obviously, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to try and keep EVERYTHING out there active. I’ll just end up spreading my resources too thin (literally) and it will be a lot more difficult to maintain.
I selected a stretch of trench bed perhaps 20 feet in length (will do some actual measurements before too long – I might be WAY off here!), and we added a lot more material in this area – although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the pics. The entire garbage can of pumpkin waste (basically liquified by this point) was mixed with a considerable amount of mulched grass clippings/leaves from my own property and added, along with some aged horse manure, some miscellaneous yard waste, lots of fall leaves, some material (with lots of worms) from other stretches of the bed (those not part of the fully protected system) – and of course lots of straw.
The other stretches of trench beds received mainly fall leaves and straw – which should be just fine for keeping everything alive and kicking over the winter.
Similarly, the sandbox worm bed was mounded up with organic matter (mostly fall leaves and straw) as well. You may recall that I added a big tarp (that had been folded multiple times) as an added layer of protection to this bed last year. Well, that tarp is going to be one of two sitting on top of the winter windrow this year, so the sandbox worms will simply have to make do with what they’ve got!
Have no fear though – with all the material that’s on there now, plus the snow that’s going to pile up on top, the worms will be snug as bugs in rugs down below!
This is basically “phase I” of the winter windrow set-up. While the tarp-protected stretch is certainly in good shape to keep the worms safe for the winter, there is no way I will be able to keep it really active the way it is. I definitely need a LOT more material. That’s where my system from last year will come in handy – all those nicely-rotten straw bales will be an excellent food material, and a great way to provide the windrow with a LOT of extra volume as well. Both tarps being used have plenty of room for expansion as well, so it should be no problem continuing to keep everything covered as well.
I will be making a video about this bed, showing exactly how it was set up etc – but will wait until I have added the material from the other bed.
I have adopted an interesting new food scrap storage approach for my windrow as well. Will write about that in another upcoming post!
Nice utilization of your yard! If/when worms out-grow my plastic tub, I might consider the trench/windrow concept. I love the information you post and look forward to learning more about this winterized strategy!
Thanks for stopping by James (and for the kind words) – you might want to check out the ‘vermicomposting trench’ series on the ‘Hot Topics’ page for more on my outdoor trench beds.
Thanks for all the great info! I live in Florida and am interested in your winter worm trench. So far, I can’t locate any manure–do you consider this an essential ingredient?
My really big concern is snakes. Definately have snakes in my yard. I don’t want to provide a cafe for them! Do you think if I covered it with some kind of mesh it would keep the snakes out? It would be a pain to add food to though, since I don’t have to worry about snow!
Great reads here!
I was hoping someone with experience could answer a couple questions I am considering using the windrow method and I am still in the planning sages
How long does a Windrow of this size take to compost to completion from the time of inoculation? assuming that you stopped adding food for the worms at some point. and assuming you maintain a healthy worm population.
How many cubic yards of worm food, food scraps, manure etc does it take to yield x amount of cubic yards of castings?
Cheers, Thanks for the info!