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Winterizing a vermiculture bin?  RSS feed

 
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forest garden hugelkultur trees
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I've been raising red wigglers all spring and summer for composting food scraps in a system of buckets. Our first freeze in Arkansas is coming at the end of this month so I am trying to figure out the best way to insulate my worms for the winter. Would converting a cooler/ice-chest into my new worm bin be adequate frost protection for my wigglers or would I then need to bury the cooler in the ground as well? Another alternative to digging it down that I've considered is stacking straw bales around the sides.

Any thoughts or experience on this?
I live in zone 7, NW Arkansas. I tried locating the lowest temperature we reach in the winter and the best I could find was -3 F in extreme cases.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1974
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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No experience,but I would go with the bales over the burial,and make provisions for keeping the bales dry.
I would run thermostatically controled heat cable through the bottom of the bedding.
A drain with a P-trap is a good idea.
 
gardener
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Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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Red wigglers need at at least 40-50˚F to survive. There's a few options though:

- Leave it be and let 'em die. The cocoons will not and they will return in the spring.

- Bring them inside or put them in a garage or similar place.

- Keep adding a lot of hot materials during the winter like coffee grounds, which will start to hot-compost increasing the temperature.

- Find a place to put them in the ground, with an open bottom. They'll bury down deep enough to stay alive.

- Add some kind of heater to your bin, heated water in pipes (circulated by a aquarium pump) is best, but most anything will do — heat tape, soil heating mats, etc. They just need some areas to escape to.

- You can also insulate your bin (with haystacks/coolers or similar), but that works best so long as you continue to feed the bins, so there's a heat source coming from inside. Really depends on your temperatures here.

Personally, I have a larger CFT bin and some soil-heating cable taped to the sides hooked up to a soil thermometer. I did this since I built the bin in the winter last year and didn't have enough material to keep it warm. I'm hoping this year the cables won't really be on that much. It's been getting down to low twenties at night so far, but the bin hasn't gone down past 68˚ yet. Larger bins tend to do better here as they retain larger thermal mass.

 
Tas Zinck
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Thanks for the feedback! I think I'll build an additional worm tunnel for them. I have one worm tunnel already but I stocked it with super European nightcrawlers which are anecic and not suitable for contained vermiculture and thought I should probably keep them separate. Maybe I'll put half of them in a worm tunnel and experiment with the other half in a closed insulated unit. After checking the population today I'd estimate I have 5,000 or so red wigglers, and quite a few soldier fly larvae that showed up in the bin.
 
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