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Composting with Worms in Cold Weather

winter compostingWhen the weather is cold, your worm outdoor composting program might need some adjustments. Worm are living creatures that can be harmed by low temperatures. You can choose not to worry about it, or you can take steps to protect the worms. Either way, your composting program can continue throughout the winter.

If you let nature take its course, your worms might expire. The center bottom of your worm bin will probably be the warmest part. They will likely migrate there. The decomposition process generates some heat. However, if you live anywhere in the northern United States, chances are the worms won’t make it. It is possible your worms will have laid eggs. These hardy eggs can survive the cold temperatures. If you don’t see many worms in your composter come spring, you can order a sack from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.

When food breaks down, it creates some heat. Adding insulation to your worm bin keeps some of this heat in. Insulating your outdoor worm bin requires basic handyman skills. You will need hay bales, insulation foam, bubble wrap, carpet, or old blankets. Fashion the materials into an external insulation layer. Make sure you leave gaps for air circulation. Also, don’t block any drainage holes. Add a worm blanket and avoid lifting the lid too often. There are no guarantees this will 100% protect your worms from the cold.

Another option is to move your worm bin indoors. Maybe you can move it to the basement, shed or garage. So long as there is some heat in the room, this should work. If added heat is needed, install a light as a heat source, or a seed tray warming mat (follow package instructions). A full worm bin can weigh several hundred pounds. If the bin is too heavy or dirty to move, you may have to scoop out some worms and use a smaller worm bin inside for the winter.

Options for Indoor Composting

Composting indoors is an easy antidote to winter’s cold bite. In fact, it is more convenient than trudging outdoors in the snow. A well-maintained indoor worm bin has a pleasant, earthy smell.

You can make an indoor composter using a tote, or buy our Worm Kit. However, a tray-based composter has better drainage and is easier to maintain. We recommend the Worm Factory 360, Worm Cafe or Can-O-Worms tray-based composters. Follow the instructions for setting up the bin. You can dig out some worms from your outdoor bin and transplant them to the indoor bin.

A tray-based composter has a small footprint. Drainage holes at each level help keep the moisture levels right. Feed your worms in the top tray. When that tray is full, add a new tray on top. Beware of overfeeding. These smaller composters cannot handle the volume of waste that large outdoor composters can. Cut up all food very small or use a food processor. Extra food can be ground up and put in the freezer for later. You can harvest finished compost from the lower trays very easily.

In the spring, you can choose to move operations back to the outdoor bin. Tray-based composters can continue to be used indoors in the summer, get cleaned up and put away for the season, or used outdoors under shelter.

Winter does not have to slam the brakes on your composting program. At Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, we ship composting worms year-round all over the United States. The composting process slows down, but your worms will continue to live if you give them enough warmth. Finished compost will be waiting for you when spring comes. This invaluable “black gold” helps plants grow strong. And it saves the environment at the same time! Check out our other articles about composting with worms.


One comment on “Composting with Worms in Cold Weather

  • John Hartman says:

    My worms are doing very well. I have yet to come up with a winter plan. I will probably put a plant heating pad in the top of the container. It get s below 20 degrees in the garage. Also I may incorporate some into a growing raised bed. It currently has leafy trash. I also dumped some inferior peaches in that area . I am concerned that voles may eat the worms or they will not survive the winter.
    So far I have found my worms really “like to have fruit scraps or tomatoes with skin up. They eat the scraps and must feel safe not being exposed. They also” love” Thick watermelon rinds. they turned typical thick rinds into paper thin skins in about 3 days. John


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