For the last little while I have been adding all my food scraps to my normal backyard composter, rather than my outdoor worm bin (pictured above), although as mentioned yesterday, I’ve now converted the composter into a worm bin too.
This year I am once again going to give winter composting ‘the ol’ college try’, to essentially see if it’s possible to vermicompost all year long up here in Ontario (Canada). My last attempt was documented on the EcoSherpa blog. You can find all the pertinent links (and pictures) on our EcoSherpa Squidoo Lens (photo links are part way down the page, followed by links to the blog posts).
[UPDATE 2018: EcoSherpa (and Squidoo) are no longer online so the links have been removed]
I will be providing full coverage on Red Worm Composting (and another soon-to-be-revealed site) this time around, so all my faithful vermi-friends (readers, not worms) will be able to follow along!
So why exactly am I not adding any more waste materials to my outdoor bin?
Basically I need to make room in the bin so I can 1) More easily add insulating layers of cardboard against the inside walls of the bin, and 2) Free up lots of space for fresh materials, which will be vitally important in order to generate a decent amount of microbial heat.
It’s been amazing watching just how quickly the level of the material in the bin goes down now that I’m no longer adding anything! Yet another reminder of just how awesome composting worms are when it comes to processing wastes.
This fall I will be collecting lots and lots of fallen leaves (may even ‘steal’ some bags from my neighbours’ curbside collections! 😆 ) – this will be very important for insulation and helping to keep the microbial fires a’ burnin! I’m also hoping to secure a supply of manure as well, since we’ll definitely need nitrogen if we expect to create a decent amount of heat.
Like last year, I will be insulating the outside of the bin. I’m thinking about using a thick layer of styrofoam insulation this time – should be better than the homemade system I created last year, and has the advantage of being easily re-usable next year. I will also once again put a tarp over top to help block wind and keep out precipitation.
I will also likely test out a new strategy this year for making sure the contents of the bin don’t freeze during the coldest months. It is actually a technique Mary Appelhoff (vermicomposting legend, who sadly passed away a couple years ago) used to keep her outdoor bins active during Michigan winters. What she did was put a bird bath heater inside a bottle of water and buried it in the centre of the bin. This ensured that the water in the bottle was always above zero, thus helping to keep the surround material above zero as well. I could of course go completely overboard and install soil heating cables, but I think that would be a tad excessive (not to mention expensive as far as my utility bill goes!).
Anyway, it should be a lot of fun! My neighbours will once again think I’m even more of a weirdo than they already do, and I think I can definitely succeed this time!!