I've got one of those worm towers and it's currently residing in my heated garage for the winter. It did spend late spring, summer and early fall outdoors. I've currently got the garage temp around 60 which I understand is the low side of the temp range. The worms don't seem to be consuming much and I'm wondering if 60 is too cold for them to be very active. Would love some advice.
Cindy, my unheated garage is insulated and attached but maintains around 40 to 50 degrees in our harsh winter months. Worm bins on a carpet will mainain approximately that temperature and the worms will not suffer, but do slow down in their eating ability. I have a six foot heating pad which I place between the carpet and plastic bins in the winter hoping to adjust the heat to around 68 F with a toggle timer with 24 one hour increments. This I believe is the optimum temperature for worms, but difficult for me to adjust to that temperature. I have several times already messed up and gone to over 100 F, but the worms are still fine. I have worms in an outdoor vermicompost bin beneath my deck which freezes sold in the winter and somehow they seem to spring back each spring. I would say 60 F is a pretty good temperature if maintained on its own.
So while 60 is fine for their survival, they will slow down? I guess I could ultimately bring them into the house to optimize their composting abilities. Hate to heat the garage to 68 to get them moving again.
TX has indeed been having some squirrely weather. Only concern about bringing them in the house is the veggie scraps I add in - might get smelly unless I bury them well. Bad thing about the tower is that there's not a lot of space in each layered bin so once the bedding and scraps go in, I start worrying about air circulation.
If I might offer a possible solution? Morgan (mraider3) has been tutoring me in my first vermicomposting attempt, and his recommendation of pureeing the worm food in an old blender suits me and the worms just fine.
It was a bit of a process (no pun intended) to blend up all the scraps I had been saving, but, once it was all done, I poured the slushie into tall plastic coffee canisters and stored them in the back of my fridge. They're going into the freezer soon, and I'll just take them out to defrost as I need them. Also, the addition of some celery stems and bell pepper scraps gives the slushie a refreshing aroma!
Morgan's feeding method is to mix a portion of the slushie with some of the moistened peat moss (or whatever your bedding medium is), dig a 3" trench down the long end of the bin, sprinkle the slushie/peat mixture down the trench, then cover it over.
I've had my bin up since mid-December, and I've only fed them once. There is no smell whatsoever, and no bulky food pieces to deal with. And, since the food is pureed into a slushie form, the microorganisms attack it presto pronto, and the worms attack them, presto pronto. The entire breakdown process is speeded up, to the extent the worms' appetites keep up!
I was concerned about the possibility of having bugs and flies raiding the bin, however, because the slushie is buried so neatly and so deeply in the medium, the only visitors I have had have been the little gnats? that arrived with my worms. They don't do anything except flit over the surface of the medium, grabbing what they can find, and, when I spritz the top of the medium to moisten it, they just move out of the way. I wouldn't see a problem at all having them inside, since they cling to the bin.
Cindy, there isn't much discernible difference between 60 and 68F that I can tell. I would leave your bin in the garage and just keep a heavy rug beneath it. Sometimes we go to extremes when it's not really necessary. I for instance use a toggle timer and heater to raise the temperature of my four bins when 40F is just fine for over wintering. I wouldn't recommend this process to anyone because it can easily go wrong and cook your worms like I did once. The only reason I do it is because I plan on doing several major outdoor vermicomposting projects this spring and I wanted to produce as many worms as possible to seed my three outdoor vermicompost operations. Otherwise I would leave them alone and feed about once a week as Linda suggests.
I appreciate all of your recommendations. I was trying to replenish my stock of compost for repotting plants before spring hit since my compost pile is pretty much frozen. I'm thinking I need to learn patience. :)
Gave the bin a good spritzing last night. Adding about 1.5 - 2.0 cups of water every other day with the spritzer. The peat on the bottom stays nicely moist, and the bedding isn't compressing much at all. I'm still trying to get a "feel" for my wigglers...
So, I'm thinking I'm gonna feed 'em tonight...It's been a good several weeks or so. Have only fed them once. Will fluff up the bedding when I feed them, and report with pics tomorrow, ok?
Who out there really cares about my wigglers besides Morgan and me? LMK...
Well as I mentioned I don't recommend heat pads to anyone. I just like to experiment with things that I already had available and wasn't using for any particular purpose. There are lots of factors to be considered to get a consistent heat which is nearly impossible without putting in a lot of time and effort. My toggle timer is set for one hour on and three hours off at present and I may have to adjust that some, which means checking temps four or more times a day. Media moisture content, media depth, temperature of the water in the blended food mix, etc., are just a few of the things I keep an eyye on. If I can maintain the various bin temperatures between 50 and 70 F, I can continue to fee the worms at a rate of two to three times a week and see evidence of their breeding and egg capsules hatching. Food and moisture are important factors in keeping the worms constantly breeding at their peak levels. Although there is little difference between indoor vermiculture and vermicomposting, my goal is to produce as many worms and egg capsules in the next three months as possible. In April I start thinning the herd.
Can't wait Linda. When your composted peat moss or choir starts turning black and you see lots of baby worms.