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How to Move Your Composting Worms Indoors for the Winter

indoor-wormIf you saw our blog post about keeping worms warm in the fall and winter, you might have decided to coddle your worms indoors during the cold season. You will be coddled too. Why? One of the huge advantages of indoor composting in the winter is this:

It’s more convenient to feed worms indoors

Trudging through the snow and ice to reach an outdoor composter means you need to put on boots at a minimum. You might also have to don warm outerwear to deposit a bucket of kitchen scraps. Some folks are outside anyway, or carry the compost out on the way to their vehicle; but for some, it’s a nuisance.

Your first step will be to decide where to do your composting. This will depend in part on the size of the composter. A huge outdoor composter might be too heavy or bulky to move indoors. If your composter is the smaller indoor/outdoor tray-based system, such as the Worm Factory 360, they can be placed indoors without much fuss. For convenience, you can leave the big composter outside and set up an additional small-footprint composter indoors. These can be ordered from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.

Think about a spot in the house that’s out of the way and maintains a reasonable temperature. Worms are most productive at 57 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. A basement, closet, quiet corner or heated garage could work. If the area you pick gets below 55 degrees, you could look into insulating the composter or safely adding heat (without starting a fire).

You can elect to move all of your worms, or a portion of them. A large composter that hasn’t been harvested in a while could have hundreds of pounds of bedding, worms, food scraps, moisture and worm castings (fertilizer) in it.

  • If you decide to move an outdoor bin indoors, harvest the compost first to lighten the load.
  • If your composter is tray-based, you can elect to harvest several trays-worth so you just have 1-2 trays left. Extra compost can be placed in a sack for later use.

If you decide to move the worms to a different composter, it’s OK to take a portion of them. The worms that remain will probably die from the cold, but they might lay eggs before this happens.

To bring worms to the top, blend several cups of tempting kitchen scraps in the food processor and add a little water. Soft, mushy food will attract them. Place the mush at the top of the compost bin. Bury it just below the surface and wait 3-4 days. Your wiggly friends should make their way to the top and start gorging on the food. This works great for our Red Composting Worms, our champion composting worms. If you have the larger Super Red European Night Crawlers, you might have to dig them out.

While they are congregating, make sure your indoor composter is ready.

If you are bringing worms inside from outdoors, go ahead and move them. It’s not necessary to fuss with fresh bedding, but you can add fresh bedding if you like – a mix of shredded newspaper, pure peat moss or coconut coir and water will suffice. You can bring the indoor composter out to the composter and put the worms in, or use a bucket to transport them.

Gently scoop up the worms from the top and around 1”-2” of bedding. Remember, worm bedding should be the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too wet, add shredded newspaper or leave the lid off for a while. If it’s too dry, add a little water.

Bring the worms inside and give them a feeding. Indoors, all food scraps need to be buried or you will get fruit flies, odors and other problems. Dig a hole in a corner and add the food, then bury it. At each feeding, put the new scraps next to the old scraps, and work your way around the bin over time.

Some tips for keeping indoor composters odor-free:

  • Grind or cut the scraps into tiny pieces or a slurry.
  • No bananas.
  • No dairy, meat or oils.
  • Bury the food. Always.
  • Feed them when they have made good progress on the last feeding.
  • Keep scraps in the fridge or freezer until you need them. Defrost before feeding.
  • If something isn’t breaking down, take it out.
  • Large chunks of bread — or anything else — grow mold and take forever to break down. Whip it up in the food processor, or don’t put it in your indoor composter.

You might end up with extra scraps, or scraps that aren’t suitable for indoor composting. These can be put in your outdoor bin, where they’ll start breaking down in the spring. Or, you can put the extra scraps in the garbage or kitchen sink disposal.

You might enjoy the convenience of indoor winter composter so much that you keep doing it in the spring and summer. Or, you can move your composting back outdoors. Either way, know that you are saving the earth by recycling kitchen scraps and making eco-friendly fertilizer.

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