Vermiculture in late fall

post_cover_wormsSeems like it’s been a while since I last wrote about my worm bin. Believe it or not, despite all my efforts in ruining it, it’s still there! As I wrote in summer, last batches of worm castings were a failure (the numerous reasons for this are listed here), so I decided to let the bin sit untouched for a couple of months and divert our food waste to bokashi cultures (I hope to write about it next month).

I was 99% sure that the bottom tray is not ready yet, but it was the last of the “bad” trays (too wet, not enough cellulose, etc.), so I really wanted to get the contents out. My goal was to free up one bin to place it on top of the tower and use this empty space as insulation.

First of all, when I opened the bottom tray, I was delighted to see that the worms are alive and wiggling! This was such a relief, as I was really worried about their well-being after all my substrate screwups on top of an unusually hot and wet fall.

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Another happy surprise was this baby worm – a sign that they are not just barely alive, but procreating, too.

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I’ve also noticed that most of the worms have unusually large clitella, but frankly, I’m not sure how to interpret this.

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Although there was a lot of not fully-processed matter (brown paper, corn leaves), there were also some clusters of black ripe castings – hopefully, the setup and its inhabitants are back on track to healthy vermiculture.

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The harvested batch went to my community garden plot, where it will finish decomposing over the winter, and the empty tray went on top of the setup. Air is a good insulator, and I hope to take advantage of this fact.

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In November the temperatures dropped dramatically, even reaching the freezing point a couple of nights. I figured that since the bin sits right next to the kitchen wall, a couple of thick blankets or something like it should be sufficient fortification against the season. So I went to a thrift store and spent a grand total of $2.75 on a padded twin-sized mattress protector…

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…and some sort of thick armchair throw (or whatever this is).

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The final layer is my trusty beach blanket with a weight (a vase full of pebbles) on top to keep it in place.

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I recently splurged for a three-sensor thermometer set to track temperatures at different locations in the garden and use it to test the worm bin insulation. Sadly, the best I get right now is 3 degrees F (not even C!) warmer than the outside balcony temperature…

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Sensor 2 (top) shows temperature on top of the worm bin, and Sensor 1 is the balcony.

Still, it is a start, and I have a few weeks before it gets much colder, and I really have to improve the insulation. In the meantime, as long as the temperatures in the bin are this low, I won’t be adding any new organic matter, because the worms slow down as the environment cools, so they can’t process this much. So all the kitchen waste will keep on going into bokashi cultures.

How do you protect the worms from cold?

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