How to keep your worms alive in summer heat

worms_post_coverWhen I was setting up my worm house, I was somewhat concerned that they may get uncomfortable out there on the balcony during the Philly summer heatwaves, but I was hoping they will make it through.

As the temperatures climbed above 90F (32C), however, I have noticed that the wigglers are desperately trying to escape the worm bin. If it was in a “normal” (ground-level) garden, it would have made perfect sense for them to crawl out, because they could escape the heat in the cooler soil below ground…

In a healthy worm house, there should be no worms crawling out into empty space (this top tray was completely devoid of food scraps or bedding at this point).

On my fire escape balcony, however, the only thing awaiting them is the scorching heat. Some did make it outside, eventually, only to meet a grim end.


So I started wrecking my brain and came up with the idea of placing ice packs on top of the setup, so that the cold air naturally travels toward the bottom). And as you can see, the worms loved it! After chilling on top of the ice packs for a few minutes, everyone made it safely inside the lower trays and stayed there.


I now add a large ice block, in addition to an ice pack, to make sure all trays are also properly hydrated. Also, be careful not to stack ice packs directly on top of each other: as they melt, they soften and can trap the worms that were trying to cool off between two packs. This happened to me yesterday, when I went greedy and piled a few ice packs.


You’ll need to come up with the amount of ice to use for your particular setup. I like to make sure there is a small ice chip still remaining in there by the end of the day (like the one in lower left corner of the picture above).

A beneficial by-product of all those ice cubes is the increased amount of vermicompost tea that gathers on the bottom of the setup!


Now is not a good time to fertilize, so I am waiting till the temperature drops down a little bit, piling all that compost tea in my designated “bokashi cabinet” (all those yogurt tubs are filled with pickling bokashi-treated food scraps).


One thing I know for certain is that all my plants are getting a nutritious treat this weekend!


2 thoughts on “How to keep your worms alive in summer heat

  1. Pingback: State of the garden: late September – The Fire Escape Garden

  2. Pingback: Harvesting a new batch of worm castings, plus an uninvited guest – The Fire Escape Garden

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