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Winter Composting 2010

Winter Worm Bed
This year’s winter worm composting windrow


Those who have followed this blog at one time or another, or at least toured around the site, will likely know that I get a kick out of setting up winter composting systems every year to see if I can keep them fully active throughout the winter. I’ve jokingly referred to this annual challenge as my “Winter Composting Extravaganza”.
I wrote about my Extravaganza here for one of the four winters I’ve been doing this (and of course, set up my Winter Composting page at that time as well). The following year I moved things over to Red Worm Composting, and that’s where it’s remained.

Last year, I set up a huge straw-bale worm bed over at my dad’s place (with his assistance). It worked very well, and we ended up having no real problem keeping it active all winter. The main issue however, was the fact that it was at HIS house, not mine. This made the project into a rather time-consuming endeavor, and as a result I didn’t do as much with it as I would have liked.

This year I decided that it only made sense to host the Extravaganza in my backyard once again – this time testing out a different strategy from any of the previous years. I set up a big windrow bed, using lots of straw for insulation (along with a black tarp over top). I was guardedly optimistic about my chances of success. After all, the system didn’t hold near the volume of my straw-bale bed, and it was located in a totally unprotected location (i.e. not directly behind the house, or in a sheltered backyard, as my other two systems have been).

Over the holidays, my worries seemed to transform themselves into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I watched as the temperature in the bed dipped down very close to the freezing mark (in fact, there were plenty of zones that were totally frozen. In my defense, this DID happen to be a busy time for me, so I definitely didn’t give the system the attention it deserved!

I decided enough was enough in the new year, and worked hard to get the bed back in good shape. I added lots of new food material (food waste, hay, leaves, manure. coffee grounds) and some additional insulation (straw + a blanket). I even ran a string of rope lights through the middle to see if a little artificial warmth would help to get things going.

Well, as you might guess, everything turned out just fine, and as it stands, I would have to say that this has been my most successful system to date! Temperatures in the core of the pile have been above 20 C (68 F) for the better part of a month now. I have been monitoring the temps from inside my house using a remote weather station device (with the weather probe sealed in a ziplock bag and buried in the pile).

We just had a big snow storm yesterday, and as you can see, the snow is melting off the top of the bed.

Winter Composting

I’m happy to report that the Red Worm population is also doing very well. I dug around in the pile a few days ago and found nice masses of worms munching away on the wastes down below. I am actually planning to start harvesting worms for customers fairly soon.

Red Worms

Anyway, if you are interested in reading more about this year’s Extravaganza, be sure to check out the posts over at Red Worm Composting. Here they are (in chronological order):

Winter Worm Composting Windrow
Winter Worm Windrow – 12-03-09
Winter Worm Windrow – 12-09-09
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-12-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-13-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-16-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-20-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 01-27-10
Winter Worm Windrow – 02-12-10
Winter Worm Windrow–02-22-10

[tags]composting, vermicomposting, worm composting, winter composting, windrow, red worms, compost worms, vermiculture[/tags]

Written by Compost Guy on February 23rd, 2010 with 2 comments.
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2 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chet
#1. March 7th, 2010, at 10:49 PM.

Just curious where you’re located and how cold it gets. I’ve recently moved back to Alaska and am excited to experiment with an outdoor set-up once I have my own land. At the moment I’m doing everything indoors and using it in the spring. Good luck

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Zenny
#2. March 6th, 2011, at 2:38 PM.

I am using a manually rotating outdoor composting bin the whole winter. I used food scraps, shredded newspaper/cardboards and some ground coffee. However, it did not turn into compost. It remains solid and very wet. Is there a way I can make it dry and disintegrate into compost? I need help. Thank you in advance.
Zenny

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