What are the best conditions for Red Wiggler worms to thrive in an indoor bin, believe it or not that’s a bit of a loaded question. Another answer might be; How much time do you have? The first thing to keep in mind is active compost. Creating a microbial rich active compost is the first step to having productive worms. Think of it as a chicken or the egg question, worms live best and are most prolific in very active compost, they don’t necessarily create this environment but certainly contribute to it’s continued activity.
An active compost creates heat, the temperature of a bin can be manipulated by the amount of organic material currently under change. Your bin has a base line temperature dictated by where it’s located, moisture content and compost activity. This can be tested in new bins by starting the compost first and adding worms once it’s up and running. Very few people have the foresight to check this and of course for those of us already in full swing it’s not possible to go back in time. You can time a base line temperature check for a working bin just before adding new food. Wait longer than you normally would, up to two weeks depending on the size, smaller bins, under 10 L only require between 5 and 7 days. The bin will have time to dry out and composting will slow as organic material is converted to castings. This is now the ideal time to harvest castings and do a worm count too.
Once you established a temperature reading of a “cold” bin you can begin to use food and moisture to raise or lower the temperature. Our winter worm stock for example chills out at around 16 C surprising when you consider that the air temp in the area is 21 C. This base line will rise to 20 C when the bin is fully engaged. At our facility the manure piles can hit a composting high of close to a whopping 65 C obviously if this happened in your indoor worm bin the worms would die with nowhere to escape. In our experience, the worms will be attracted to these areas of “hot” compost action but they don’t do suicide runs to the center.
Some of the coldest and less productive bins are very “wet” bins. If you have more moisture you have less aeration and while water holds heat better than air it also takes longer to transfer that warmth. Vermicomposting is aerobic composting, that’s why it smells so nice, (Learn more here) standing water in your bin is a problem. Not only will it halt aeration to that level, whatever is under water, worms won’t live there unable to breath. But the worst part will be the smell, because anaerobic bacteria will start to work in the aquatic conditions you’ll have built yourself a swamp. That’s not to say that swamps and wetlands don’t play a valuable part in our ecosystems…. we just don’t want them in our houses, wink, wink.
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