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How Do You Compost with Worms in the Cold Weather?

compost bin in the winter and cold weatherCan you compost with worms even in cold weather? If you live in an area with temperatures below 57 degrees during the winter, you can still compost with worms. However, you need to decide how to operate your composting bin. Worms are made mostly of water, so exposure to below-freezing temperatures will kill them. Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm recommends you choose one of the following options:

  1. Compost Indoors
  2. Move the bin to a warmer place
  3. Insulate the outdoor bin
  4. Partially bury the outdoor bin, or
  5. Leave them as-is outdoors

Option 1: Compost with Worms Indoors

If you have the space, bringing your composting bin inside is a great way to ensure that your worms survive the fall and winter months. Some people even prefer to compost indoors year-round.

A popular indoor composting method is to use small, tray-based composting bins. However, if you are composting in a larger space like a basement, bigger bins are also an option.

Attract your worms by putting mushy kitchen scraps in one part of the bin. After a day or two, the worms will congregate there, and you can scoop them out. Place them in an indoor bin with bedding. Do not stress about collecting all the worms in your bin. Hopefully, if a few are left behind, they will lay eggs, and new worms will hatch in the spring.

If indoor composting sounds like the right fit for you, check out our article about indoor composting to learn more.

Option 2: Move Your Compost Bin to a Warmer Place

It may seem obvious, but another way to protect your worms from the cold is to move your compost bin to a warmer spot. While it may be tempting to place your compost bin in sunlight, this could result in overheating and kill your worms.

Look around your house to see if you have a waste heat source, such as a central heating exhaust or a dryer vent. The regular blasts of hot air that escape here may work to keep the worms warm inside your compost bin.

Depending on the construction of your composting bin, another option is to use seed tray warming mats with a thermostat. Attach your warming mats with the cool side of the mat against the top panel and place the hot side down towards the worm bedding. A heat lamp may also be a useful heat source. If exercising either of these methods, use caution when running power cables outside. It may be a good idea to move your bin under shelter and close to an electrical outlet.

Option 3: Insulate the Outdoor Bin

The process of composting generates some heat. However, cold weather causes the composting process to slow down as worms eat more slowly. Compost bedding provides some insulation, as does a lid. If your worm bin does not have a lid, you can fashion one from a tarp. Also, check out our article on worm blankets for more options. Since the center of the bin will be the warmest, the larger the bin, the bigger the warm spot will be.

Try trapping more heat inside your compost bin by insulating it. You may do this by placing bales of hay around the outside of the bin. Or, attach board insulation foam on the outside. If you use foam insulation, be sure not to block the bin’s drainage or air holes.

Option 4: Partially Bury the Outdoor Bin

Similar to option 3, the earth works as an excellent insulator. Bury your composting bin by digging a hole a minimum of one foot deep and placing the worm bin inside. As temperatures drop, the worms will migrate to the bottom of the bin. A partially-buried composting bin can be used year-round.

Option 5: Compost with Worms Outdoors As-Is

Perhaps you don’t have the time or resources to continue composting during the fall and winter. If this is the case, do not give up on composting altogether. Red worms are among the oldest organisms on earth and have made it through many freezing winters on their own. They did this by laying eggs, allowing the next generation of worms to repopulate the area.

Red Worm eggs are about the size of grape seeds and are viable for up to a year. If laid in the fall, the eggs will wait until the weather warms up to hatch in the spring. So while the adult worms may die, new babies should hatch and take their place. Continue to place kitchen scraps into your compost, they will break down slowly, and activity will speed up in the spring.

If worms do not appear several weeks into the warm weather (above 57 degrees Fahrenheit), you may need to order more worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. We recommend Red Worms for composting.


Don’t let winter deter you from continuing your composting program. Even in the winter, Red Worms can break down organic matter quickly and effectively.

Composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to reduce trash while creating nutrient-rich finished compost for gardening and indoor plants.

About: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is the #1 supplier of composting worms in the United States. We offer live worms, mealworms, indoor composters, outdoor composters, and supplies.




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