Winter Worm Windrow–02-22-10

Winter Worm Windrow

Compost Thermometer

I know these winter worm composting updates must be getting pretty boring, given how well the system has been doing, but alas, I still don’t have any major disasters to report on. Things have continued chugging along beautifully in the bed, even without much in the way of “food” being added.

As you can see, temperatures in the heart of the system are between 25 and 30 C (77 to 86 F), although the readings are a little lower on the remote temperature monitor I have sitting inside the house. I decided to unplug the string of rope lights a little while ago, and there seemed to be a minor dip in temperature, but nothing overly significant.

With the system doing so well, the REAL question of course, is how well the worm population is doing. I decided to finally do some serious digging around a few days ago to see for myself.

I quickly noticed that the springtail population seems to be doing just fine! Below you can see masses of them covering some green tomatoes that were once in my basement freezer (I didn’t do a great job with my food freezing last fall, and have decided to feed my worms with it instead).


Springtails - Close-Up

I was happy to see that the Red Worms also seem to be doing well – definitely comparable (if not better) than in my big straw bale bed last winter!

Red Worms

Normally, even when you keep the system fairly warm, you just don’t end up seeing the same densities and size that you would during warmer weather. In the case of this system, I will likely be harvesting worms for customers fairly soon.

Since the bed volume seemed to have gone down a fair amount by the end of last week, I decided to add a bale of alfalfa hay over top. I am really interested to see how the worms react to this once it starts to break down!

To help things along a little, yesterday I buried some shredded cardboard then poured a watering can full of molasses-water over the central zone. Hopefully the cardboard will help to hold a bit more moisture up near the top (where the alfalfa is) making this zone a bit more inviting for microbes and worms alike!

Stay tuned! More boring updates on the way!

Previous Winter Worm Windrow Posts
Winter Worm Composting Windrow
Winter Worm Windrow – 12-03-09
Winter Worm Windrow – 12-09-09
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-12-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-13-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-16-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-20-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-27-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 02-12-10

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  1. Oh Bentley, don’t be silly. Your updates aren’t boring.

    • Dustin
    • February 23, 2010


    Do you have any predictions of what is going to occur when the worms reach the alfalfa? Doesn’t alfalfa contain a decent amount of nitrogen? This would lead to a good microbe supply, right?

    How would you go about harvesting worms from a system like this?

    • Andy
    • February 23, 2010

    Your windrow looks like a big black hotdog.

    • Bentley
    • February 23, 2010

    CASSANDRA – thanks! I was mostly teasing, but I do appreciate the reassurance.
    DUSTIN – my prediction is that once the alfalfa starts to rot and settle down, the worms are going to go crazy for it. Rotten alfalfa is probably similar in food value to manure (it does indeed contain a decent amount of nitrogen, and should be readily colonized by microbes)
    ANDY – Yes…yes, it does!

  2. I’m not so far away, in the mountains of Vermont, was wondering about keeping the worms going over winter (if cat litter composting, and/or in horse manure pile, which is annual gift from neighbor with two horses), so these posts are FAR from boring! I would like to start vermicomposting in my sun-room, which is really a green-house / pool room on the south end of my house, has a 3500 gallon exercise pool that I keep at about 90F, which effectively heats the whole space (gets down to 50F on really cold nights), want to know if it would be too hot for the worms (automatic vent set to open when the air temp reaches about 85F, which it does on EVERY sunny day, even if it is 20 below outside!). I have saved ALL of the plant-based kitchen waste since it got too snowy to get to the compost pile (My Mom and I are basically Vegan, but I have bad knees and severe neuropathy from chemotherapy) in the cool garage in orange juice containers, so I have a LOT of worm food! We have many bags of leaves collected from neighbors and piled up around the sun room for extra insulation, not so much paper or cardboard waste as I use that for fire-starters (we heat with wood, a wood-gasification and hot-water storage system).

    I will get a box going (my Mom’s garden is on the deck in large rubber tubs, so I have a bunch around) tomorrow, and order a pound of your worms this week, so they will be delivered next week, but do let me know if you think the sun room will be too warm. The garage hovers around 50F most of the winter, so is probably too cold for a box system, also less convenient, although I do have to go down there every day to tend the fire.

    Yours is a great site! With only dial-up, I cannot watch the videos, so still don’t really know how to get the finished compost away from the worms. How about if I made a second bin when the first one begins to look “finished”, and gave the worms a way to migrate between them, then added food only to the second bin? Thanks for all you do.


    • Bentley
    • March 11, 2010

    Hi Julie – sorry for the delay!
    I would think you’d be ok in the sun room IF the system itself is not in direct sunlight. It would also help if it had really good air flow and if perhaps you even point a fan at it to help keep the air moving.

    Your idea for harvesting compost is right on target, and very similar to those discussed in various posts here on the site (check out the “Hot Topics” page where you will find a harvesting section)

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