top of page

Will the Worms in My Compost Survive the Winter?


October 9, 2017

I live in far north valley right against the bosque.  Zip code 87114. I'm new to having red wigglers. How do I create conditions so my red wigglers survive the local winter in the outdoor compost pit? I read but did not find much info addressing this topic, except for "soil piled against the bin.... straw can be placed...". Thanks a lot for your advice.


Answer by JZ: Excellent question.  Excellent idea.   Other colleagues may also respond to your question.

If your worm “ container “ (bin) is above the soil, then you have a few options:

* Surround and cover the container with straw bales bales or several layers of cardboard or styrofoam panels or a heavy blanket or a combination of them.

* My particular choice is to submerge my container in a hole in the soil, the lid is at the level of the soil for easy access. The soil insulates the bedding material / worms from winter cold and summer heat, so setup may be used year-round. In the container it is useful to have a few bottom water drainage holes or you could cut out the bottom of a container - I use repurposed kitty litter plastic containers.    See our picture presentation "bucket in a hole".

You may add composting worms to this bucket.  Let us know if you have further questions.   Keep up! All the best.

Response from Questioner: Thanks.  I saw this same info in the article on NMSU website.  I do not have a container.  My question is "can my worms survive the local winter in the outdoor compost pit?" Earthworms must survive local winters, right?  Or do local earthworms have a One Season Life Span? How can I create conditions so my red wigglers can survive the winter OUTDOORS in my COMPOST PIT? I guess I'm going to separate them into several batches and put them in 2 or 3 or 4 different locations/situations and see what worked and what didn't in the spring.

Answer by JZ: Yes, composting worms/red wigglers can survive outdoors with some protection. If your pit is in the soil, then just cover it with a board. The surrounding soil will then insulate them from cold and heat.  Our local soil often does not freeze.  Because of our local day to night temperature shifts often soil warms up during the day.  Composting worms live for about 3-5 years and they will continue to breed in your pit. Keep talking, if we are not "on the same page".

Answer by MG: You'll probably get this answer from the others, but it's just a variation on the same theme you heard from JZ Yes, it's fairly certain your red wigglers can survive over the winter in your compost pile PROVIDED (1) your compost pile is big enough, say, 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet or 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet, (2) your compost pile is well insulated, and (3) sufficient moisture is maintained deep within your pile. The insulation could consist of a number of things -- bubble wrap or old carpet pieces around the sides and top; a build-up of straw, dirt, or snow around the top and sides of your compost pile; or if your compost pile rests against the side of your house or a sun-warmed cinder-block wall. Also, your compost pile should sit on the ground with the dirt being a layer of insulation, not on concrete.

Does this answer your question? Please let us know in the spring how your over-wintered wormies did!

Answer by MC: In your email you mentioned that you had a "compost pit" I'm curious is that a pit or a pile. If it is a pile, is it active, in other words is there thermophilic action (heat) generated in the pile. How big is the pile, is it moist? These are all factors that will determine how the red wigglers will move in and or out of the pile based on the temperature conditions.

Pea if you could give me a bit more info it would help in developing the course of action.

bottom of page