Worm Keeping in the Winter

Take care of your compost worms during the winter with these tips.

| June 2018

  • Keep your worm farm in good shape over the winter.
    Photo by Getty Images/PhotographyFirm
  • “Compost Revolution” by Helmut Schimmel combines classic and cutting-edge research with real-world experience in gardens and horticultural applications.
    Cover courtesy Acres U.S.A.

Compost Revolution (Acres U.S.A., 2018) by Helmut Schimmel teaches alternatives to conventional composting, particularly those using earthworms. Worm composting is a superb alternative to traditional composting methods, which generally suffer from high-energy losses. Working in harmony with the below-surface army of microorganisms, the lowly earthworm is now known to be the true hero in the underground, a soil builder par excellence, not only in nature, but also in garden- and farm-scale composting systems. This section explains how to care for your worms during the winter. 

Important Steps to Take in Winter

I consider maintaining fermentative heating in the food substrate to be the most important factor for keeping worms through the winter. It has the greatest effect on seamlessly carrying on composting through the winter months. The importance of adding food is exemplified by its threefold function during the winter: it causes heating (together with the soil microorganisms), it delivers nutrients, and it protects life in the compost pile from outside influences. I have come to the following conclusions with regard to winter care.

Be prepared for the first frost. The wise man plans ahead. When the time is right, add food reserves such as a few sacks of chopped fall leaves that can be effectively employed as insulation if needed. Alternatively, it can serve as food if mixed with other types of waste.

The nature and size of your worm container have a non-negligible effect on their capability to survive the winter.



It’s important to enter the winter with well-heated compost material. If the compost starts out cooled down and waterlogged, it will be difficult to get it going again as the cold sets in. Most small-scale worm keepers end open-air vermicomposting at the first frost according to the motto: once everything is frozen, nothing is happening any more. Some complain that they no longer know what to do with their kitchen waste at this point. For me, this sort of waste becomes even more important in winter, as it is one of the few food sources that will continue to build up and is capable of generating a good amount of heat.

Making it through the first prolonged period of frost requires more food than usual. This makes it beneficial to be able to draw on additional food reserves. If a period of severe frost is imminent, maintaining proper heating is essential so that “the oven doesn’t go out.” The desired fermentative heating doesn’t appear immediately.






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