Low Desert Vermicomposting

Phoenix, AZ

Ok. I'm getting ready to start my first bin and I'm full of questions. I am particularly interested if anyone has experience in growing worms in an arid climate like we have here in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm planning on putting my worms outside in a protected area in the shade of my orange tree. Am I headed for disaster? I have purchased a few Rubber Maid 10 gallon bins. I chose smaller ones because they will be easier to lift when full, hopefully easier to manage. I want to keep my startup costs low. Will soaked news paper really work? Do I need to buy some coco fiber for best results?


artgirl I think you will cook the worms with the temp what it is now in Phoenix. Put a themometer under the tree and check the temp. I tried to raise worms outside Bakersfield, CA in like conditions and the worms lasted only a few hours.

Phoenix, AZ

What a great idea. I have some coco coir all hydrated and ready for bedding down some worms. But before I add them I'll set a thermometer in there to see what it measures. Hmmm. What temps do worms tollerate all else being good such as moisture, light, ventilation, and food supply?


Mine seem to like between 50 and 75 degrees. but, I keep mine in a heated garage.

Phoenix, AZ

Ok. I just talked to a worm supplier here in Phoenix who is going to sell me my start up supply of worms. Hers are used to this area and the temps here. The conditions she is growing hers in are very similar to the spot I have planned to put mine. She's been growing worms for 15 years here. Perhaps starting with worms that are aclimated to the dessert will make the difference. At least it gives me confidence that I'm on the right track with putting them under the constant shade of my orange tree in the corner of the yard protected on two sides by superlight brick fence. I'll keep you posted. Tomorrow I go and buy them. I'll keep you posted on what I learn. Yikes. I'm about to be a worm farmer!!!! Eeee gads!


best of luck.

Phoenix, AZ

Thanks Chucki,
Yesterday I got my little "red wigglers". It was a scorching 115 degrees here, too. The worm farmer lady kept her bins in a chicken coup type setup under an aging orange tree which did not really provide that much protection but a little on one side where the worms were located. It seems the tin roof would generate some heat although the worms would always be well ventilated and in the shade. Ok. This will be a good test. Luckily the quart of worms I bought only cost $15. So if I fail it's not much to lose other than to add worm murderer on my record.

My set up is a second hand 3-tray Vermihut tower. The first tray is layered with cloth and fully hydrated coco coir. I was concerned that it was wet enough. I noticed the worm supplier kept her bins quite wet. That's a problem here because it's so dry. So I added the worms buried in the coco coir and poured some water on. That was around 9am. At 10pm I went out to check on the little guys and found them racing for air. Luckly this system has a drain. I turned on the spiket and quite a bit of tea came draining out. But the good news is that the worms are still alive last night. We're expecting another 115 degree day today. That's why this will be a good test to see if these worms are aclimated to the desert or not. I put a wet towel over the bin careful not to cover up any air holes. Hopefully it will provide a little evap cooling effect. I'll keep you posted.

Phoenix, AZ

Ok. The first week I got the worm composter, I prepared a bed of coco coir and let it sit for a week.

Day 1 Day 1 starts when I added the quart of red wigglers. The worms are alive in the VermiHut 3-tray worm composter but I think I got them a little wet because they were migrating to the top. I think they were searching for air, but still alive in these 115 degree temperatures.

Day 2 I keep them cool by draping a towel over the unit and wetting it down for an evaporative cooling effect. It's been so blasted not here lately. It's cool to the touch when I feel the coco coir in the beds. So I think the worms should be happy. None of them are bolting to escape.

Day 3 I am continuing to add the layers of trays, bedding and add my first food scraps as we generate the waste just as instructed by VermiHut. I'm pouring water over the new trays which leaches out to the bottom and drains out. I'm collecting the tea in a container to feed plants. The beds are quite wet, somewhat like the worm farmer had. But they might be a little too saturated.

Day 4 I am not seeing many worms at all in the beds. Where did they all go?

Day 5 I'm not seeing worms but realize that I probably should have added the food to the bedding material and let the whole thing sit for a few weeks to produce the kind of microbial activity that worms like to eat. That is my plan going forward. I'll just keep the beds moist and let them grow microbes. I'll add more red wigglers in a month or so when it's cooler around here. Summer is a savage time to start this whole thing. I know people are doing this out doors here. There is a way and I'm going to figure it out. For now I might have to face the fact that instead of being a vermiculturist I am a "vermurderer." Heaven forgive me and help me get this going. PLEASE!!!

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

you are very entertaining - thank you.!

I think you will do fine with your redworms. Maybe you can take some photos of your set-up and its surroundings and show the person from whom you bought the worms (when you go buy more). First though, wait to be sure you have really killed the ones you have; they are pretty hardy. They may even have laid (is it layed?) eggs which will soon hatch and prosper.

The first batch of food, at least, can be veggie kitchen scraps run through a blender or food processer. Just pour it into the coir (I think that's right, I use shredded newspaper). That mush will quickly be inhabited by garden microbes if you have added garden type soil. Just scatter a couple of tablespoons from a potted plant that is outside and put on the mush you made. Or even from native plants that you can dig dirt out from near the roots.

OK you experts, I'm winging it here - does all this sound right?



Did anyone tell you to add some dirt to the bins. The worms don't have teeth and need dirt/sand to digest the food. I always blend all the food for my worms but I know of other people that just add scraps to the top bin and they have plenty of worms. i have been using choir this past year and the jury is still out on it, I have used peat-moss and schredded newspaper and like both. I think better than choir.
if you have a soil thermometer, check the temp in each bin, if the temp is too high, add some ice cubes to the top, (cold goes down) You can also think about getting some blue-board and insulating the whole thing,

Don't give up, you can do this.

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