With the winter months fast approaching, we have been getting a number of questions from readers who want to make sure their worms bin is ready.
- “Can my worms survive outside through the winter?”
- “How cold is too cold for my worms?”
- “How can I insulate my worm bin from extreme cold?”
Well readers, it’s your lucky day! In this blog post, we will answer all these questions and teach you 3 easy ways to insulate your worm bin to help your worm colony to survive the winter. You won’t need a special suit for this insulation job!
This will ensure your worms are processing waste materials through the entire cold season, and will produce an ample supply of worm castings for you to use as soon as springtime rolls around. There is nothing worse than heading out to harvest your worm castings in the spring, only to find out that you need to replace your worms who all died months ago!
“Can my worms survive outside through the winter?”
When the cold winter months roll around, the best place for your worm bin is inside of the house. However, based on your living arrangements, this might not be possible. Many of our readers live in apartments with no-animal rules, or do not feel comfortable sharing their living space with hundreds, or even thousands, of worms.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is natural to wonder about the safety of your worms when they are left out in the cold. There is no short answer to this question. The safety of your worms really depends on a couple of variables.
- How cold do temperatures get where you live?
- Is your worm bin inside of a structure like a garage or a shed?
- And last but not least, how much assistance are you willing to give your worms during this winter period?
“How cold is too cold for my worms?”
When people ask me about the prefered temperature range for their red wiggler worms, I ask them to think about the temperature range that they personally feel most comfortable in. Just like humans, red wigglers generally prefer temperatures in the 60-80 degree range. If you stand next to your worm bin and notice that you feel hot, it is likely that your worms feel hot as well. If you stand next to your bin and you feel a little chilly, your worms are feeling cold as well.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your worms can only survive in the 60-80 degree range. That just happens to be the temperatures in which your worm colony will do the best work. Your worms will be moving at maximum capacity while they process your waste materials into “black gold” worm castings.
When the temperature drops down below 60 degrees fahrenheit, your worms will keep on living and processing waste material, but at a much slower rate. Think of it like your refrigerator: lower temperatures make for slower decomposition.
When temperatures sink below 40 degrees, however, your worms will stop working and will begin to die off. Your goal for the winter is to keep your worm bin warmer than 40 degrees at all times. You can use a worm composting thermometer to take readings from different sections of your worm bin and ensure that the temperatures in the bin never get down to dangerous levels.
“How can I insulate my worm bin from extreme cold?”
There are a number of easy changes that you can make to your worm bin in order to help your worm colony survive the winter.
- Provide your worms with shelter. The easiest change you could make to help increase the temperatures in your bin is to provide your worms with some sort of shelter from the elements. This shelter can take many forms. If you are lucky enough to have shed or garage access, you can move your worm bin there. Even if you do not have access to a structure like a garage or a shed, you can place your worms behind a barrier such as a fence or a large hedge. By protecting your worms from the wind, you slow down the rate at which the temperature fluctuates, keeping your bin within a more moderate temperature range. And if your bin came with a lid, put it on! Every little bit of shelter can make a huge difference to your worms!
- Place an insulating layer on top of the bedding. A layer of presoaked newspaper can work wonders on your bin’s temperature! Make sure to soak the paper prior to adding it. Place a few layers of dry newspaper on top to absorb any excess moisture. The wet layer creates a thermal barrier which slows the transfer of heat out of your worm bin. You can also use a coconut coir mat or burlap bags for this purpose.
- Insulate the sides of your worm bin. Much like the top of your bin, the sides of your worm bin need to be insulated with some sort of thermal barrier. I have seen many creative methods that worm farmers have used to insulate their bins. You can stack objects like hay bales around your bin for an easy fix. If you really want to get professional with it, you can attach blue board insulation foam, cut to fit. You can even dig a hole for your worm bin and insulate it with the surrounding earth for a more sustainable solution!
Now that you have insulated your worm bin to the best of your ability, you may be wondering what else you can do to help your worm workers survive. In another post on our site, we covered 5 easy steps to prepare your worms for winter.
The only thing you can really do now is monitor the temperatures in your worm bin, and help to heat it up when necessary. Using a worm composting thermometer, you can regularly check the temperature in your bin and see when it is getting dangerously cold.
When the temperature approaches 40 degrees, you can add leaves and yard clippings to your bin. These will let off heat as they decompose, giving your worms the extra boost in temperature they need to get through the particularly rough patches of winter.
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Have you insulated your worm bin some other way? Let us know how in the comments section below!
Article by Bob Kenney