Winter Worm Composting – 12-15-08

Winter Worm Bed Inches Closer to Completion
Hi Everyone – another quick winter vermicomposting update. On Friday I managed to get over to my dad’s to work on our big worm bed a little more. I was hoping to see the temperatures in the bed a little higher due to the piling of the materials, so you can imagine my disappointment upon discovering that the temps had actually gone DOWN! I couldn’t find any zones in the 10 C (50 F) range – most of the spots I checked were hovering around 5 degrees C (41 F)!

We had a freeze-thaw cycle with some rain fall since the last time I was there, and there was a decent pool of water (with a layer of ice on it) up on top of the tarp (see image).

My Own Above-Ground Winter Pool!

If you are ever looking for a cheap way to create your own make-shift pool in the summer, I recommend erecting some straw bale walls, making a mold inside with some soft soil, then simply laying in a heavy duty tarp (lighter colours would obviously be best). It might be a bit of an eyesore, but hey you’ll stay cool, right?

Back to composting…

I took a tub of food waste (mixed with compost) with me to bury in the middle – thinking it might help to stimulate some heating. We also added a couple buckets of manure, but my optimism was certainly waning by the time I left. I know all too well what can happen once temps are down this low – it is VERY difficult to stimulate natural heating. Just as a huge mass like this will tend to hold heat well, so too will it hold the cold. I also realized that aside from needing a LOT more material to help start the warming process, we just need a lot more to fill in the bed in general and mound the heap up a little so water doesn’t pool on the tarp. There is no point using straw bale walls if the material inside isn’t snug up against them (and obviously no benefit if there isn’t any heat to keep in).

All that being said, believe it or not, things are really starting to look up. My dad and I have been looking into the possibility of using eavestrough heating cables to at least provide some artificial assistance until the temps start warming up enough to get the microbes going – I think this might be just the solution we are looking for. Apart from that, this week I’ve been able to arrange with a farmer friend to get a shipment of straw bales (enough to finish the bed off) plus a cubic yard of manure, which should be enough to really fill in the bed and get things going! I’m pretty excited.

I’m optimistic that the bed will be in much better shape by the time the weekend arrives, and will certainly keep everyone posted!

Previous Winter Worm Composting Posts

Winter Composting Extravaganza 2.0
Winter Worm Composting – 12-08-08

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  1. Perhaps a ‘band aid’ type temporary solution? A two inch plastic waste pipe,
    from the outside, near the bottom, into the middle of the heap. When the
    temperature drops lower than (you decide), give it 20mins with a hair dryer
    or paint stripper to put some heat back into the pile?
    Just an idea.


    • Bentley
    • December 18, 2008

    Interesting idea, Dave – thanks for sharing that.

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