Winter Worm Windrow-11-29-10

Last week I (thankfully) decided to finally get things rolling with this year’s “Winter Composting Extravaganza”. While the images might make it seem like we are still enjoying some pretty typical “fall weather”, I can assure you that conditions are actually a lot closer to winter now.

As you can see, I’ve decided to stick with the “winter worm windrow” approach, since it worked so well for me last year. I started things off a few weeks ago when I chopped up all my giant sunflower plants and added the material to my windrows (making sure to add the most in the zone that would become my winter bed). Something I discovered back in late summer or early fall was that the worms actually really seem to like the decomposing sunflower heads, so I’m hopeful that this debris will provide both structure AND a long-term food source.

We also had a collection of pumpkins and squash left over from fall decorating and Halloween, so I certainly didn’t let those go to waste!

Once these were all chopped up (using a shovel and a big plastic garbage can) and mixed with some fall leaves, I created a depression in the sunflower waste and dumped everything in.

Next, I added several alternating layers of alfalfa hay and fall leaves (many of you will likely recall that I scored quite a few bags of these not too long ago), before watering everything down (with some help from my trusty assistant).

Lastly, I placed my big black tarp over top of the windrow and secured it with some bricks and stones (as shown in the first picture).


This past weekend I decided to add several more bags of leaves and about 5 lb of food waste. I also soaked some leaves and cardboard in about 2 gallons of dirty fish tank water (with some molasses mixed in for good measure) and added it all to the bed.

I still have a lot more leaves, most of a straw bale, and about half a bale of the alfalfa hay, so it looks like we’ll definitely be in good shape to get things rolling nicely. I definitely don’t want to go overboard just yet since the REALLY cold weather hasn’t arrived – no point burning through our fuel before we really need it, right?

Apart from plenty of my own food waste (which will be stock-piled in my freezer, then thawed and mixed with fall leaves and/or cardboard indoors), it looks as though I may have secured another good supply of winter worm bed “food” from a local business! Will write more about that soon.
8)

Previous Post

Winter Worm Windrow-12-2-10

Next Post

Happy Thanksgiving – Facebook Contest

Comments

  1. Not quite so fancy, but I’ve topped off my two cubes of compost/worms with about a foot of autumn leaves, in the hope of insulating them this winter (possibly milder than yours!)

    Dave

    • Jason
    • November 30, 2010

    Do you find the new piles need some starter microbes (aka dirty fish water and molasses) usually? Also what kind of temperatures are you usually seeing in the winter?

    • Larry D.
    • November 30, 2010

    I haven’t advanced to windrows yet.But i am going with the Easy Bake oven style in my flowthru!I filled the mixing tubs in my harvest chamber with horse manure with bedding,and rotting pumpkin.As it cools i will start making tubs hot compost one at a time as needed for heat.Then when the fuel source is spent i will feed it to the worms.I do have a backup heat source,so i don’t regret trying this experiment!

    • Zeb
    • November 30, 2010

    how many pounds of worms will you add once this bed is ready? how long will you wait? throughout the winter how often do you usually uncover and check the progress and overall conditions? i’m assuming that below the sunflower pieces is just the grass of your lawn. do you fear that the worms will escape downward before the ground freezes?

    • Anna
    • November 30, 2010

    How essential do you think your tarp is? I’ve got a large pile of leaves, semi-composted material, leaves, and straw piled on top of my worm trench in the hopes of pulling the worms through the winter. I’m hoping not to have to break out the tarp because my neighbors might complain to the village. If you think the tarp is important, can you think of anything less conspicuous I could use in its stead?

    Thanks!

    • Frank
    • November 30, 2010

    Hi Bentley,

    I appreciate all your postings and admire how much you give. Thank you.
    I keep learning as I read your archived material. Thank you for that ,too.

    +Frank

    • Mark Rice
    • December 1, 2010

    Great info! Have you or anyone reading tried automatic means of food prep for your worms? I’m thinking about your typical big-box yard waste shredder but feeding food waste, cardboard, etc… into it instead of limbs. I don’t have a shredder to try it, but was wondering if this may work. Anyone?

    Thanks.

    Mark

    • John Duffy
    • December 1, 2010

    Your trusty assistant is growing about as fast as your worm herd;)
    How wet do you want the pile before you close it up for the cold weather?

    • Larry D.
    • December 1, 2010

    Don’t know why i didn’t think about it before?But is there any chance you can pop one of those vermi-cakes in the ground over winter,and see what happens? Hey,there is always next year!

    • Bentley
    • December 1, 2010

    DAVE – sounds great. Do you get much (if any) snow?
    ———
    JASON – generally I don’t worry about starter microbes (plenty of microbes in the materials added to the bed). The fish water certainly contained lots of microbes but I was more interested in the nitrogen. The molasses was added as fuel – hopefully to help get some heating action going.
    Temps can vary depending on how actively I tend to the bed. I all but ignored it early last winter and it almost froze solid. Then, once I added a lot more material and started adding on a more regular basis, I was able to get it up to 68 F and higher even during the coldest part of the winter. Obviously this isn’t uniform throughout the bed by any means, but I’m happy to have a warm core regardless.
    ————–
    LARRY – what is the coldest weather you will generally see in your neck of the woods?
    ————–
    ZEB – this is a stretch of my vermicomposting trench bed so it was already a well-established worm composting zone. The only worms that will be added are those in my big wooden worm bin since they will need a home for the winter. I actually forgot to mention that I added some material from that bin already. Not sure what you mean by “how long will you wait”? As far as checking on it goes, generally I try not to do it TOO often since I don’t want to lose heat, but I do try to open it up at least once a week. Definitely no worries about any “escaping” – again, this is a well-established habitat already.
    —————–
    ANNA – In my yard I’d say the tarp is quite important. We get some really cold winds blowing down our street in the winter – not to mention lots of snow at times. Just the fact that I can lift up the tarp to check on things is reason enough for me. I definitely don’t worry about it for most of my outdoor beds though – so if you are simply wanting to protect them for the winter (without keeping an actual active bed) you should be ok (depends on winter temps though – you probably get some really cold weather, no?)
    ——————
    FRANK – thanks! Glad you are finding the info helpful/useful!
    —————–
    JOHN – Yep, she sure is. Seems to be outgrowing all her clothes these days. Haha
    Good question re: wetness. I try not to add TOO much once the weather gets REALLY cold because we have really heavy clay soils and I don’t want to create a lake down below! Mostly just rely on food waste to keep things moist in the winter.

    • Larry D.
    • December 1, 2010

    It is supposed to get to 29f.the day after tomorrow.A record for this time of year.It usually, once or twice gets to 26f. Today i was sweating in shorts and a t-shirt,and 80f.high!It got in the teens once,and shut the town down.Our water pipes are only buried a foot deep.So worms would never freeze in the ground here.It is a sandy soil.
    A hard freeze needs to be that low for several hours to do damage from freezing.We consider a hard freeze starting at 26f.If you leave a faucet dripping,it keeps any thing from freezing up.

    • Anna
    • December 1, 2010

    Bentley–I’m guessing we have very similar weather. I think we’re in the same gardening zone (5a). I live about 1 mile from Lake Michigan, so we also get more precipitation (i.e., snow) than we might otherwise. I guess I’ll try to find a “tasteful” tarp to put in my yard so that I don’t offend the neighbors.

  2. LARRY – you snuck in there! Unfortunately I don’t have any vermicake leftovers, but I may make another batch at some point – the worms really seemed to love that stuff!
    ——-
    ANNA – Forgot to provide you with less offensive suggestions. You might try something like burlap, or some sort of earthy looking blanket. It won’t likely be nearly as windproof, but at least you’ll be able to lift it back after a snow fall. There are actual compost tarps as well, but I suspect they would be rather expensive.

    • Anna
    • December 1, 2010

    Burlap is a great idea. Thanks! (I’ve even heard that coffee roasters will give these out for free, so that’s even better!)

    • Frank
    • December 2, 2010

    With regard to burlap vs plastic:

    How about the 1st layer being plastic then cover with a more festive neighbor-friendly burlap? Think of the possibilities for that second cover!!!

    +Frank

    • Bentley
    • December 2, 2010

    Awesome idea, Frank
    Even an “earthy” looking blanket should work well for the upper layer, and would have the advantage (over burlap bags) of being all one piece.

    • Frank
    • December 2, 2010

    Forgive me if I get a little silly here:

    a new line of boutique (sp?) and shiek and highly personal worm bed covers..for the descriminating vermicultualist…

    Needing-to-get-some-fresh-air,

    +Frank

    • joe
    • November 21, 2011

    Anna, I have lined the walkways in my yard with Christmas lights. I know it’s the end of October in south Texas, but it’s beautiful. So it’s a little early. Maybe you could dress up your cover material, albeit for the nighttime only, with lights like I did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.