2 Min. Tip: How We Keep Compost & Red Wigglers Warm All Winter

In today’s 2 minute tip, I’ll talk about how we keep red wigglers alive outside all winter long here in zone 5. The first thing we do is build a large hot compost pile in the fall, which will provide the worms with food, moisture, and warmth. We’ve had the most success with piles that are at least a cubic yard. The large size provides insulation from the cold and is optimal for hot composting. This compost was made with autumn leaves as the brown ingredient and comfrey, yard and garden waste, and used coffee grounds as the green ingredients. Ordinarily, hot compost piles are far too hot for red wigglers, but during the winter they provide a refuge from the cold. The worms can find locations in and around the pile that are comfortable and migrate closer to the center of the pile as temperatures cool. It’s also important to build the pile in a location that will receive as much sun as possible during the winter. This shaded pile is still frozen, while piles in sunny locations never froze during the winter, despite temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Another key is to keep the pile hot as long as possible. We do this by continuing to add more and more fuel, in the form of greens, browns, and moisture, as the pile cooks down. Covering the pile with plastic also helps. We continued to top this pile off with leaves and used coffee grounds well into January. As a result, the pile remained around 140 F all through December and was 120 F when this picture was taken in early January. The coldest temperature recorded was 45 F in mid-February. To show that this works, let’s take a look in one of the piles. After removing some of the material on top and digging into the compost, I find that it is absolutely loaded with red wigglers. Believe it or not, we did not intentionally stock this pile with worms. They simply migrated from nearby in the garden for the food and warmth. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching this 2 minute tip.

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