Winter Worm Windrow-12-09-10

Winter Vermicomposting

I decided to check on the winter vermicomposting windrow today. We’ve been having some pretty cold weather as of late, and I’ve been a little worried about the heap cooling off too much. Normally, when the bed is nice and warm I can see obvious snow melting zones up on top. It did look as though there was SOME melting (so I knew we weren’t in serious trouble by any means), but I had a sneaking suspicion that temps might be lower than I want them to be at this time of year.

Well, as it turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about – looks at though much of the bed is up in the 20 C (68 F) range!

The one thing I didn’t take into consideration was the fact that I have a REALLY thick layer of insulation (leaves and hay) at the moment (added even more leaves today) – so that’s probably why there isn’t as much heat making it up to the tarp zone.

I didn’t add any actual food materials today, but I did start up a big scrap-holder using one of my big plastic garbage cans. Some of you may remember the “Jumbo Food Scrap Holder” bags I made last year. This is a similar idea but I’ve opted to use a larger container this time around.

The first thing I did was add some cardboard down in the bottom as a means of soaking up excess moisture that drips down from the rotting food waste. Next I added some leafy yard waste material. Then I simply added alternating layers of food wastes (a lot of it has been sitting down in my chest freezer for awhile) and yard waste.





The bin is sitting just outside my back door and I will continue to add materials until it is completely full. At that point I will bring it in and let it sit for at least a few days down in my basement. Depending on how much settling of material occurs, I may then continue to add room temperature wastes until it is jammed full.

The idea here is that I’ll be able to avoid opening up the tarp all the time (releasing valuable heat), plus I’ll be able to add a big warm mass of wastes all at once which should really help to stimulate additional heating in the bed.
8)

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Comments

    • Kim from Milwauke
    • December 9, 2010

    Bentley, looks like you make alot of trips to McD’s with those stacks of drink holders! 🙂 Impressive!

    • Anna
    • December 10, 2010

    I’m envious of your large collection of cardboard coffee cup holders :).

    How are you keeping your scraps from freezing in the trash can?

    • Carolyn
    • December 10, 2010

    The cardboard coffee cup holders and the unique stackable aging method is what caught my eye too. No doubt Bentley is preseeding them with efficient composting microbes spread by a secret soon to be patented snowflake induction method.

    Cardboard coffee cup holders, because they stack so nice are money in the bank, I never know if I should spend them now or save them for a rainy day.

    Egg cartons, however, burn a hole in my pocket and are in the bin even before all the eggs are used. My spouce is left wondering why there are homeless eggs in the fridge.

    • Frank
    • December 10, 2010

    Carolyn,

    I chuckled at your comments. Thanks.

    VC…it’s a bit of a disease, don’t you think?

    +Frank

  1. ANNA – The idea with the scraps is that they should actually freeze while in the container since this will help to break them down a bit. It’s when they are brought inside for a few days that they will become worm-bed-friendly
    ———————–
    CAROLYN – No microbe seeding, but plenty of microbes in the waste materials. I was kinda hoping to keep the snowflake induction method hush hush, but oh well!

    • Larry D.
    • December 11, 2010

    Carolyn,that is some funny stuff! Cha-Ching!
    Can you stand eggs up yet? Or do they still lay sideways?
    My store got smart and quit carrying cup holders.I guess they did an audit on how many was being used? Now i have to stick to my cardboard boxes.

    • Anna
    • December 11, 2010

    Do you let the scraps thaw again before adding them to the bed or do you rely on the heat of the bed to thaw it?

    Carolyn–lol about the eggs. I love it!

    • Bentley
    • December 11, 2010

    ANNA – Yep, the few days inside (likely even longer than that since there will probably be some settling and further addition of scraps) should help in that department.
    🙂

    I’m sure I could get away with letting them thaw in the heap (and might do that if it seemed to be overheating), but I figure we might as well conserve as much energy (in the heap) as possible

    • Betty
    • December 11, 2010

    Thank you, Bentley!

    I have been vermicomposting for about ten years now and still use the progeny of my original tiger striped E. foetidas and hortensis. I’ve recently refreshed my vermi-addiction and have been really enjoying your informative and reader friendly website. Your garbage can scrap holder perfectly resolves a problem for me. I’ve moved my outdoor general compost pile from my back yard to my veggie garden about 75 yards from my back door. Since it’s dark in the winter when I get home from work, I’ve started adding my scraps to a 5-gallon holding bucket by my back door to be emptied on weekends. But I’m about to head to my community hardware store to pick up an extra garbage can and will be incorporating your design–which is absolutely perfect for me.

    Appreciatively,

    Betty in Arkansas

  2. I have 4 of these. All 4 are full. By spring they should thaw out again and start composting. I used 2 last spring for hot composting. Then a few months ago I was introduced to Vermicomposting. Some guy called the Compost Guy on Utube. (LOL).
    So now have 2 worm composting systems. Always thinking of ways to add another.

  3. I also get wast from my job as a prep cook. In place of the cardboard cup holders I get the cardboard egg holders that hold 30 eggs a flat. I have stacks of these in my basement.
    If any of you posters have some one that works in a resturant or are friendly with a server at a resturant ask if they could save you some of the egg flats. Along with 5 gallon pickle buckets while your at it.

    • Ted
    • December 12, 2010

    Hi Paula,
    I’m a cook at a Nursing and Rehab facility. I too take the 30 egg flat holders. Don’t forget the egg shells that went with it. Dry them out in the oven at 300 for 10 min. We have a Robot Coupe that turns shells and coffee grounds to powder. Good luck with it all.

  4. Hi Ted I also get the coffee grounds from work and the egg shells I dry them in the oven at home. The egg shells not the coffee grounds. I also collect the fruit and vegetable wast to blend and freeze for the worms. If I have to much I just add it to my out doors non worm compost bins.

    • Bentley
    • December 12, 2010

    BETTY – That’s great! Glad you found the scrap holder idea helpful.
    —————-
    PAULA – Four full cans? Wow! Sounds like you and Ted have great jobs for vermicomposting hobbyists!
    😉

    ——
    All my drink trays come from my wife’s work. Once they discovered that her oddball husband worked with worms (and that they loved drink trays) they took it upon themselves to start gathering as many of them as they could. Up here (in Canada) Tim Horton’s coffee consumption is almost religious, so it doesn’t take too long before the stacks pile up and I end up with a new supply of them. I actually can’t keep up with them since I don’t really have time to tear them up. Have been giving quite a few to local customers.

  5. When Spring comes Im going to use my husbands mower with the mulching blade and bag to run over the cardboard egg cartons. I will toss some leaves in with it. Fill some 5 gallon buckets to have on hand all the time. Wonder if it would work on food wast?

    • Betty
    • December 12, 2010

    I’m off and running! I got my compost can all set up right beside my back door before dark last night. It’s really a great idea, and it will really simplify my life enormously. I have five pet chickens and will be adding litter from their house and extra egg shells. I bring home office shredder paper and coffee grounds. Plus, I have leftover 2009 garden veggies in my freezer. My worms will eat well next spring! Looks like there will be four compost cans on my patio before the winter is over, Paula!

    Sure would be nice if these systems would heat up enough to help warm my enclosed breezeway where I keep my tropical plants. You don’t think…..?

    Betty in Arkansas

    • gayle from maryland
    • December 12, 2010

    Hi Bentley – question about leaves vs. shredded paper/cardboard. This fall I traveled around on recyling day and collected a lot of bags of leaves and was planning on using them in my bins in place of shredding up paper and cardboard – will that be ok? or Should I still be putting cardboard/paper in as well? Just trying to give myself a break from shredding …

    Thanks so much for all the time you put into this website – very helpful info!!

    gayle

  6. I think if I draged my compost cans in side my husband would have me commited. I even suggested he move his Harley out side so I can put the 4 cans in the garage. He has a cover for it. But he just stared at me.

    • Anna
    • December 13, 2010

    “I think if I draged my compost cans in side my husband would have me commited. ”

    ^THIS! My husband has already been very patient with my hobby as it is. There are times when I would really like to harvest my VC indoors in the winter (it’s currently in the garage), but I don’t think DH would go for it.

    • Bentley
    • December 13, 2010

    Gayle – shredded leaves are phenomenal in worm beds/bins, but I think of them as “secondary bedding materials” simply because they can’t hold water very well. Ideally you should have some really absorbent materials (such as the shredded cardboard/paper etc) as well. Once leaves rot enough they become a lot more absorbent though, so if you have some nicely rotten leaves perhaps you will be good to go!

  7. Our neighboors toss out vegetable scraps for the rabbits. I seen them hopping around munching on it. On my way home from work I thought hey rabbits and rabbits make rabbit poo. So I happily go out side with rubber gloves on of course and start collecting rappit poo.
    It is frozen so its sitting in a egg carton to thaw. Will this be ok to put in my worm bin. Does it need to worm up or compost some more?
    My Name Is Paula and IM a Vermaholic.

    • Betty
    • December 14, 2010

    Paula, that’s too funny about collecting bunny poo from the yard. But, my daughter in Baton Rouge has a bunny, and I’ve asked her for bunny poo and used cardboard (like egg or coffee cartons) litter as a Christmas present! I think I’ll be getting it, too. What’s great about those little round bunny balls is that they don’t have to go through the pre-compost or heat phase before we can use them like we do with other manures. Our worms can have them straight from the fluffy little factory.

    Gayle, my worms’ favorite bedding is leaf mulch, the old, partially decomposed leaves. I combine them with some paper or cardboard shreds, and my worms multiply like, well, like red wigglers and bunnies.

    Betty in Arkansas

  8. Thank you Betty for the info. I have set out some lettuce wast from work to lure the bunnys. Come spring I will have to put a fence to keep them out.

    • Kathy Jacobson
    • December 14, 2010

    How fun!
    Thank you for your wonderful outreach efforts!
    It’s a pleasure to run into folks as vermimad as I am…
    It was -2 F in Southeast Ohio this morning but the big wedge outside is still running at 80 F!
    Happy wormin’ holidays!
    kathy

    • gene
    • January 10, 2011

    I live in Maine. When out and about in the back 40 I see alot of Moose droppings! Would my worms like them for a midnite snack?
    gene

    • Frank
    • January 12, 2011

    Hi Gene,
    I am originally from Maine (China, near Augusta), and I have seen a fair amount of Moose during my visits to Baxter State Park.

    I am sure your herd would like the moose droppings. Depending on how fresh the droppings are, you may want to put them in a compost pile for a couple of weeks to partially thermally compost (you know, the regular way to compost)them. Then, after they have cooled down, feed the worms.

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