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I want to do worm composting outside

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I want to do worm composting outside

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/25/2013, 7:14 pm

I've read through the "1,000 worms" thread a couple months back and I searched the topics, but didn't find anything specific to what I would like to know without doing days' worth of reading and I have worms on the way so pardon my asking! Mods, If this has been answered before in an obvious place that I missed, just point me in that direction and merge the thread.

I literally don't have a place in the house to stash worms - we're stuffed to the gills.

I have about 2 months of 100 degree days in the summer. The spot I'd like to place my worms is shaded virtually all day. Heavy shade through afternoon and then shaded by a plum tree and the shadows of my new table top gardens the rest of the day.

I would like to do an outdoor open bottom composting bin so that the worms can go down in the ground to keep cool and warm in the winter (we're zone 8B).

How would I best set it up? How large? How tall? I have a lot of extra lumber I can use to build the sides. What should my layers look like? How would I harvest it, would the castings simply be obvious to scoop up and use?

Any success stories to share?
Any disasters to share?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me - the worms are a total impulse purchase so I'm totally unprepared, LOL!
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  llama momma on 3/25/2013, 7:34 pm

Does the last line of your post mean you already ordered worms??
Go to redwormcomposting.com It is an extensive site and you can look up info on outdoor worm set ups. As hot as it gets where you are you may have better success with a windrow which if you don't know is a trench in the ground and build up from there instead. A side thought, some folks use frozen bottles of water to keep the temps cooler. But I recommend you find out a lot more on worm care also how many worms you want to start out with, different kinds of set ups for temperature extremes, etc. You certainly don't want to waste your time with just a little knowledge and possibly kill off your little buddies! Redworms are definitely not soil dwellers and not known for diving deep into the ground to cool off, but will they if they have to? I don't know. Please stay in touch and let us know what you find out and decide to do, ok?
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  walshevak on 3/25/2013, 8:11 pm

Do a quick rubbermaid bin to house your worms immediately while you research and decide on your permanent solution. If the temps are currently warm, the bin can sit outside in the shade.

Kay

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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  llama momma on 3/25/2013, 9:13 pm

I realize now you said you already ordered worms. You basically want a way to keep worms in a range of somewhere between the ideals of 65-ish and 80 degrees. Yes they are known to survive in temps much higher and much lower, but I believe there is a big difference between surviving those temps and thriving well and reproducing.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  Coelli on 3/26/2013, 12:03 am

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I'm also in CA with hot summer days and I could not keep my worms outside, even in full shade in the coolest spot I could find. Sad I had two bins stacked, one for the bedding set inside another for it to drain into, and the worms kept all winding up in the bottom bin because they were trying to escape the heat. I also had various bugs getting in there too. I wound up bringing them inside and finding a spot for them because they were going to die if I didn't. From that point on they thrived and I was able to harvest a full bin of castings and start two more bins. Like a lot of people, I just use 14 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck totes that don't take a ton of room.

Someone else who's more of an expert can correct me if I'm wrong but as these aren't soil worms, they're not likely to go below the bin into the dirt and then come back up like an earthworm would. If you make your compost pile large enough they might be okay in the center of it if it gets really hot and if you make sure it's moist.

Are you looking to harvest castings, or just improve the quality of your compost heap?
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/26/2013, 1:53 am

Thanks for the replies everyone. I've been reading like crazy.

I reread the worm tower thread again and am going to give it a try. Josh (the creator of the thread) experienced heat of over 111* and drought conditions and his worms survived in his SFG beds and in his table tops.

He's in zone 6 and gets much, MUCH colder temps than I ever will and again, his worms have done fine in his table tops. I'll be sure to update this as time goes by so that anyone else interested will find out how the experiment went.

Here's the thread: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1603p300-worm-tube-for-the-sfg#154993
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  Thomas on 3/26/2013, 11:26 am

Google worm tubes and there are 3 or 4 articles on how to set one up. Most have decent pictures included. I think that worms would migrate into the soil and find a sufficient depth to survive heat.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  Coelli on 3/26/2013, 12:17 pm

Good luck with the worm towers. Smile My worms were rescued (a few survivors) from my towers before going in the bins. I think it just got too hot here for them even in 12" beds - and to date I have not found a single red wiggler anywhere in my beds, even when I removed all of the soil to rebuild them. Check them frequently and make sure they're okay, and have a backup plan! I was so excited about the towers, it seemed like a great idea, but I think the only thing that had any success with them was earwigs. Razz And flies. They loved the things.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  H_TX_2 on 3/26/2013, 2:58 pm

I wonder if placing some sort of cover over a portion of the garden during the hottest months would help the worms survive. Something like a board, scrap piece of carpet, or flat stone of some sort. It would need to block moisture from escaping and have a bit of insulting properties. You could even do it in layers with newspaper or cardboard under the what ever cover you are using. Lift up the cover and it the paper is damp leave it be but if it is drying out add some water. I would put this cover near the worm tube so they would not need to leave the cooler more moist area to get their food. I find worms under some of my pots sitting on the ground. This would be to try and replicate that environment.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 3/26/2013, 11:38 pm

I will be placing shade cloth over most of my table tops this summer and I will be putting 3-4" of wood chips on top of the MM which will keep the moisture in and should also help keep the soil cooler.

We'll see how it goes. I'll keep as close an eye as possible so I can rescue them if they need it.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  llama momma on 3/27/2013, 2:06 am

In my first worm tube I had native earthworms since they are free and use to local conditions, plus have the ability to dive down into the soil to cool off. If you use redworms, those little guys are close to 20 dollars a pound and more, and simply not known for burrowing behavior.

My worm tube was supplied with free worms I corralled from a buried shoebox w/lid and a couple holes and some kitchen scraps. Transferred them over to the worm tube and they lived and reproduced. Even when I removed the worm tube to plant seeds, this box continues to be the only box that contains large fat worms in it months later. I'm getting ready this weekend to bury several shoe boxes to supply 8 worm tubes. Free is best!
And I didn't have any earwigs or a fly problem, the top of the tube was covered.
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Re: I want to do worm composting outside

Post  Coelli on 3/27/2013, 12:33 pm

@llama momma wrote:And I didn't have any earwigs or a fly problem, the top of the tube was covered.

I covered the top of mine with tulle, but they still kept getting in somehow. I'm glad the tubes work for some people and was really sorry when they didn't work for me. On the other hand, when I broke my beds down a couple of months ago I found a bunch of native earthworms and put them aside into two trays as I found them, then added them back into the two boxes that were rebuilt from the old one. Just a couple of days ago I was transplanting a kale start and pulled up a big worm, so I guess things will work out. Smile

That's a great idea about the shoeboxes and catching worms, I think I might try that!
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