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Composting with Worms


May 6, 2020

We are just moving from Nob Hill to Silver Hill (87106), and are wanting to set up an easy compost system. I was looking at this one. It looks like this is a worm composter, and I'm wondering if red worms do well here, or if it gets too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for them to survive. I've never done worm composting before.

Also wondering if you think this type of setup would work without worms, or if there is a similar, above ground system that you would recommend? I want something that would keep the smell down, and keep animals out. Thanks for any advice or recommendations!


Answer by JZ: Your question will be received by a few of my colleagues, they may also have suggestions. Great that you are considering worm composting. Red worms do quite well here in all seasons, as long as common sense is practiced.

The subpod would be fine for year round use here.  I would mention that all of my worms are outdoors in covered containers in Rio Rancho. My method is a covered bucket sunk into the soil, AKA bucket in a hole. You may see it under Homemade Bins under Composting Info in our website menu.

The soil around the bucket insulates the contents from wide ambient air temperature changes, so worms are fine year round. I put about 1/2 - 1 cup of red wigglers in the bucket, then add chopped organic material as it becomes available - truly a “dump & run" setup. Any size container with a lid will be fine.  This container works well without worms too. The lid keeps moisture in and flying insects out. A well managed (aerated) composting setup will have little, if any odor - see bulking material in cold composting article below.

Another simple above ground (or below) setup is Plastic Container Bin described in our Homemade Bins pages. Any size container with a lid is fine.  I use 30 gallon plastic trash cans. Inexpensive and performs well for static ( no turn) composting.

You may add composting worms to any “cold” composting setup and they will be fine.  If any setup is in the summer sun, then you may cover it with a large piece of cardboard or 2 layers of shade fabric.

You would be well served by reading the menu on our website, which contains much useful information. 

Local composting worm sources are posted here on our website.  See Worm Sources under Resources in our website menu.

Register, then join us for a future class.  See Classes under Activities in our menu.

Hope that this is helpful.

Answer by JH: I would only add to JZ comments that after looking at the subpod - which is pretty darn cool and something I’ve never seen - I would be concerned that the worms might exit through the holes depending on which side of the device offers the best environment. But as a composting container it meets any desert composting requirements provided the holes are not exposed to air (which will evaporate the bin contents) and the lids are also tight fitting to prevent evaporation. If you go with this device please let us know how it works out.

From original questioner:  Thank you so much for the advice! The Subpod seems a bit pricey for what it is, so I think I might try the bucket in a hole system. Do you think this would work in a raised garden bed? Really appreciate your help!

Answer by JZ:  Great. Yes,  you may put the container in a raised bed.

Answer by JH:  Yes, JZ has good success with that containment method. No need to spend money you’d rather not. Putting the bucket in the raised bed is your choice. I personally wouldn’t want to take up that much square footage of the raised bed and would fill the bed to start with a good percentage of compost mixed in with the potting soil. Then I’d dress the bed in the Fall with the worm castings and do some sheet mulching over that - which is also described in our web resources. Sheet mulching is an easy and effective method to add organic matter to prepare beds for Spring planting with little effort. Best wishes!

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