Winter Worm Food Bin – 1-14-13

As reported in one of my VermBin48 (“The Beast”) posts towards the end of December, temperatures in my winter worm food bin dropped quite a bit after I replaced some of the warm leaves/grounds/food-waste with new materials that had been sitting out in the cold (go figure, eh? lol).

Some days later, I finally got around to doing something about it. I mixed alfalfa cubes and molasses with piping hot water – creating a warm slurry – and poured it into the food bin.

What’s funny, though, that the bin had already bounced back to the nice ‘n’ toasty range by that point. I didn’t realize it until I was out there with slurry-in-hand (lol), so I figured I should just add it anyway. I added a bunch of frozen fall leaves at the same time to help balance things out a bit.

After a stretch of very mild weather (by January standards) last week – resulting in all our snow melting away – it has turned wickedly cold. I checked on the bin this morning and was pleased to see temps ranging from 25 C (77 F) to 50 C (122)! I even found a Red Worm on a piece of cardboard I have sitting at the top. I didn’t really dig around – but it would be interesting to see if a lot more worms are now moving up into the material.

In some ways I’m actually hoping for a decent stretch of “real” winter so I can at least see what this bin is capable of. So far, I’ve definitely been impressed by how warm it has remained.

I’ll keep you posted on how things pan out!

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    • GA
    • January 15, 2013

    I’m now conducting my own winter experiment – to see how quickly an outdoor bin will bounce back once the thaw comes (which won’t be anytime soon). It’s been -10C or below for close to six weeks now, with -20C for about two weeks in a row for a stretch.

    My outdoor bin – with no special prep – has just plain frozen solid. I’ve been adding veggies and now a good ten inches of cardboard (in pieces), watered and now frozen. I’m not really worried about it – mostly curious to see what will happen when it gets warm and how quick it will bounce back and when the worms appear.

    The second bin is also frozen – it now becomes the main one as the first is full. The layer of leaves at the bottom is frozen and it now has its own top layers – fifteen inches or so – of (wetted, now frozen) cardboard chunks. This one probably didn’t have worms established before the winter hit, so will need an injection once they turn up. Food waste, when added, freezes pretty quick – no need to use a freezer, anyway.

    I’m now thinking I’ll need an indoor bin just to help out and ensure the presence of a healthy, hungry herd for spring!

    • Nomar
    • January 15, 2013

    What kind of bins are you using for your winter experiment?

    • John W.
    • January 15, 2013

    I am not exactly sure what -20c equates to in f…but it sounds awful. Here in Pensacola, FL I am having the exact opposite problem. It got up to almost 80f today. I am having to make sure my bin does not overheat…or that i sweat to much wile working in my yard 🙂

    • Kelejan
    • January 15, 2013

    John W., -20c is roughly just below Zero F. Bl….. cold.

    • GA
    • January 16, 2013

    My bin is just a plain old plastic composting bin. Worms have loved it for a few years now, moved in on their own, and bounced back after previous winter too.

    Who knows, maybe my success before was from benign neglect – they do so well when we don’t mess with them.

    • Nomar
    • January 16, 2013

    John W,
    -20 C is -4 F. Use frozen food haha.

    How did you manage to have worms move in on their own?

    • GA
    • January 17, 2013

    @Nomar: the bottom of the normal compost bin is not entirely sealed, so I guess they just moved up from the ground. At any rate, they appeared there without any effort on my part.

    I should add though that I have ‘added’ worms periodically from what is essentially a ‘grass manure pile.’ I have a compost pile (entirely open) that started from previous owner – it is mostly just grass clippings and excess garden waste and spoiled windfall apples. After a long enough time it just becomes what I am calling the grass manure pile – it smells exactly like cow manure and is completely colonized by redworms. I periodically dig up some of this and add to the regular compost bin, where it eventually converts into regular compost / worm droppings.

    The extra air and bedding and worms get rid of the manure smell quickly.

    For me this started as my parents used to keep worms, and when I wanted to dig up/reduce the green manure pile, I recognized them immediately.

    I can’t say 100% that the worms came in on their own, they might well have been in/on some stuff that I added to the compost bin, but I don’t think so.

    Anyway, I think many would be surprised how many redworms there are around in the average yard. They’ll show up anywhere outdoors there is anything ‘manure like’ (and rotting grass is essentially manure). Once they have a habitat they like, they’ll reproduce fairly quickly. It’s also why I’m confident that if they don’t survive the winter in the bin, there’ll be some I can add if needed.

    This is, of course, different from trying to ensure maximum throughput in a worm farm. I’m in no rush.

    • rou1
    • January 26, 2014

    Dig a hole lower than the frost line and add compost,worms and then cover with hay bails for the winter.You will find a lot more worms come spring and summer.

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