Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keeping Worms Alive in High Temperatures

We just got through our first triple digit days of the summer and our losses were fairly significant despite our initial efforts to keep our bins cool. We were not alone in our losses; I received several calls from other folks in the Sacramento area that have lost the worms in their bins due to the heat. I thought that it would be important to share some of the lessons learned so that those of you with outside bins can keep your worm populations alive this summer.

What happened…

I took off on Friday to visit some family and when I came back on Saturday I noticed that my garden was drooping despite the fact that the soaker hose had been running all night and all morning. That was my first clue that there could be a problem. I denied the situation a little longer so I could get dinner ready and put the kids to bed. Well once the angels were asleep I went to check the herd in the garage… It wasn’t a pretty sight.

The bin temperatures were in the 100’s and the worms were climbing out. Some of them made it to the floor and were dried up and others were huddled up together on the lids of bins below them. Many of the new bins that only had a few inches of castings were dry so we had to add water and mix in some ice cubes. The bins with thicker casting levels and lots of wet paper bedding on top of the worms and castings did much better.

The next morning as we were facing another 100+ day we put a sandwich bag of ice or a frozen bottle of water on top of the wet paper bedding in each bin. I checked the temperatures in the bins about 3 pm and they were almost 90 degrees and the ice was totally melted. We switched out the ice packs and this got them through the afternoon heat.

Thoughts for your outside bins…

If you keep your bin outside and the forecast is predicting temperatures in the high 90’s or 100’s I would suggest putting some ice in a baggie (so you are not adding excess water to your bin) or a frozen water bottle on top of your bedding in the morning and replacing it in the afternoon on particularly hot days. Since heat rises, the area under your frozen package will stay at a reasonably comfortable temperature for the worms. The worms will gather toward the center of the bin and away from the hot walls. A little prevention will be worth your time… TRUST ME… you do NOT want to open your bin and get a blast of dead worm smell. It is right up there with dead fish smell. Good Luck!!
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Brenda says...

Worm Fancy is the greatest place to get your worms in the Sacramento area. They have the best customer service!

Doug and Tammy, Yuba City

Tammy and I would just like to thank you for your professionalism and patience in answering all our questions about vermiculture. We are very interested in the difference it will make in our garden this year. Even our son will be using the new Worm Factory 360 in his science fair project that compares plants with and without worm castings. We're already noticing the better health with it. Our time with you was pleasant and we will be sure to return! Thank you again and we'll keep you posted. composted. :D

Scott R. from Sacramento

I picked my worms today and it sure looks like a lot more than 2 pounds worth. I ordered a pound from another vendor and you gave me 5 times more than they did.