Saturday, November 23, 2019

Looking After Your Wormery In The Winter

I originally published this on the Wiggly Wigglers blog but a lot of the links are now out of date, and they no longer sell the Worm Cafe or Can-o-Worms but rather the much funkier looking Urbalive wormery.  So this is basically a refreshed version of the original blog with updated links and the addition of some advice for Urbalive users.
The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping and the rain seems to fall day and night. None of this is good news for your wormery.

If you have a Worm Cafe or Worm City wormery then the rain isn't so bad because the air holes are in the sides rather than the lid but if you have a Can-o-worms or Urbalive then you need to keep an eye on how much rain is seeping through and filling up the sump. In the summer this is a good thing because you get to feed your vegetables (and especially tomatoes) on a daily basis and get rewarded with a bumper crop of beautiful, home grown veg. However, as winter approaches you'll be less inclined to venture out and don't have so much veg to water/feed anyway. This results in the sump getting full quite quickly so you need to keep an eye on it and often empty it daily or, not only will the wormery get cold and wet, it will fill up with water and drown your worms. Too much wet also encourages anaerobic conditions that can kill your worms as the food rots and the compost becomes compacted.
So what should you do?
Firstly, try and move the wormery somewhere out of the rain - a shed or garage is perfect for over wintering as it will help keep the frost, as well as the rain, off. If you can't move it under cover keep it as close to the house wall as possible so it gains some heat and is at least a little sheltered from the wind, rain and frost.  For the Urbalive wormery, which has wooden feet I would stand it on some bricks or something to save the wood from getting wet and (eventually) rotting.  Standing it on something will also make it easier to  get at the tap, which is directly underneath the wormery and difficult to get at when it is free standing.
During the summer I often rely on shredded paper and cardboard for keeping the wormery dry and this doesn't alter much in the Winter either as paper is good at drying a wormery out when too wet, keeps the compost aerated by stopping it getting compacted and adds much needed carbon for the worms while also producing great compost that can be used for top dressing your plants or improving the soil in your borders.
However, it also helps to try and keep the rain out and the worms warm so that they will continue to break down your waste as well as they can during the winter months. For both the Worm Cafe and Can-o-worms it's well worth buying a couple of moisture mats (these are good for the summer as well but less necessary when it's warmer). They keep the worms in the dark (so they work better), dryer and warmer. It's worth noting that the worms will slow down a bit as it gets colder anyway so every little helps to keep them warm and active.
If your wormery is one with air holes in the lid then it really is best to get it under some sort of cover but be careful not to block the air holes - they are there for a reason and you don't want to suffocate your worms! A cover is well worth it  though if you don't fancy venturing out on one of those miserable, dark, wet and windy winter evenings to make sure your worms aren't drowning!
If it gets very cold and falls below freezing for a length of time then it really is advisable to get them under cover but if that's not possible then bubble wrap, old carpet and placing it near the flu from the central heating will also help. Not too close to that flu though as the last thing you want is them being affected by carbon monoxide poisoning!
You'll also want to feed less when it's very cold as they do slow down quite a bit and uneaten waste can easily rot, causing acidic and anaerobic conditions that will make the wormery smell and possibly kill off your worms.
And don't forget that you can join the brilliant discussion groups in the Wiggly Wigglers Facebook group where there's plenty of like-minded people willing to share their experiences and help answer your questions with tried and tested advice. It's a great community and everybody is really helpful and friendly.