How to Keep Red Worms Safe in Winter
Worm composting is what gardeners call vermicomposting where worms convert organic waste materials to very beneficial soil additives that enrich soil fertility and help gardeners in producing organic food. Some classes of worms are highly adapted to decaying organic waste materials and flourish and reproduce well in such materials. Red Worms or Red Wigglers also fall in the same category and convert millions of organic waste to compost for home gardeners and commercial farming facilities. These worms produce worm castings, also called Vermicompost is enriched with several essential nutrients that dissolve in water after they are applied to garden beds. Home gardeners are well aware of the benefits of the compost obtained from Red Worms as an organic soil conditioner and a fertilizer.
Gardeners use these additives to improve soil aeration, enriching garden soil with microbes, balancing soil pH level, and enhancing the water holding capacity of soil throughout summer when the environmental conditions are highly adaptable for composting. However, the decomposition activities often stop during extreme winters or chilling conditions when their working and survival becomes a question mark. The gardeners know well that Red Wigglers do their best at the temperature range between 55 to 77 °F which, is often observed in Spring, and under the same condition, they perform maximum reproduction. Any temperature above or below this range either dehydrates them, makes them sluggish, or kills them.
Upcoming long freezing nights could potentially harm Red Wigglers as these conditions not only stop their composting activity. But, threatens their survival as well. With some simple tips and precautions, you could help them surviving extreme winters to keep up the benefits of composting for your spring crops. When the conditions become suitable again, they would be ready to feed on the kitchen waste and yield free organic additives for your garden plants.
Moving Composting Bins Indoors
If you think that outdoor temperatures could touch freezing limits, move them indoors to avoid seasonal extremes. A favorable temperature in the worm bins doesn’t need turning the composting materials. Moreover, there is no foul smell associated with the worm bin if the system is in balance aeration. If something like this happens indoors, only improve ventilation by lifting the layers of bedding and organic waste. The improved oxygen circulation will enhance the microbe’s activity resulting in rich compost.
Reduce Feeding of Red Worms
When temperatures are not adaptable to their living, they often stop feeding, and food piles start rotting. Food rotting leads to producing several bacteria that could cause disease to the worms in the bins. Anyways, stop them feeding anymore if the temperature adjustment is not possible. They would survive on the food already in the bin since the idea is to provide the conditions to live throughout winter.
Insulate the Bins
To keep the bins warmer, insulate it from the outer side if it is not feasible to relocate composting bins. The best insulation materials are grass clippings, hay straw, bubble wrap, wood chips, and cotton wraps. Allow the gaps to circulate air into the bin and close the drain outlets. It could considerably reduce internal temperature while working worms also produce sufficient heat in the bins. As soon as the temperatures become acceptable, remove the outer covering to regulate the Red Wigglers’ internal temperature.
Last but not least, keep the bins environment moist between 65-75% and don’t let water stand over the bedding. Bins remain oxygenated if the relative humidity is kept between these ranges and temperatures between 55 to 77°F. Under these conditions, Red Wigglers could tolerate the pH range between 4.5 to 8 and keep on composting for your precious organic plants in the garden beds.
For general information about red worm temperatures I recommend my article here: Temperature Guide for Red Worms.