Weve lately had a few questions about composting with worms. Can you put them in a tumbler? Will they get too hot? How do you compost with worms? (Disclaimer: I am not yet a worm farmer, but I have turned to one of my most trusty sources: The Rodale Book of Composting to bring you some answers.) I just built my own compost pile, about which I will write this week, including pictures. It is quite the piece of sculptural wonder. (NOT!) However, hopefully, it will make me some yummy compost. My neighbor with the most beautiful vegetables in the world was scoffing at my soil yesterday. Its time to show him whats what. Back to worms!
Conveniently, this relates to my blog post about humic acid. Worms are a one way short cut to your own pile of humus in your yard, worm bin, etc. Humus is compost at its finest: a poorly understood (in terms of science), but hugely beneficial concoction that happens when organic matter is broken down into its most highly digested form. Worm castings (worm poo!) are a rich source of humus, and much cheaper than purchasing a soil conditioning product with humic acid in it. (Although, if you dont want to farm worms, a soil conditioning product with humic acid does actually work and is worth the money. I know, because I helped plant some things in impossibly terrible soil about a month ago, and we added a great soil conditioner, which has already helped the soil start morphing into something plants can grow in, not die in.)
Your garden will grow large and lovely with worm castings as part of the soil mix. The Rodale Compost book has great info about a study from the 1940s that compared agricultural plots with worms and without worms, and otherwise similar soil and crops. You guessed it: a year later, the area with worms produced healthy, lush growth of barley, bluegrass and lespedeza, while the plot without worms grew only weeds.
Worms are also a great way to compost/digest your kitchen scraps. You can feed worms banana peels, among other things, which take quite a while to bread down in a regular compost pile. You can even keep a bucket of worms under the kitchen sink for instant gratification re: cleaning up the kitchen.
You can make a lovely little worm bin to keep under your sink, which makes worm composting convenient. To build an indoor worm bin, check out our post last December about building an indoor worm farm.
Eisenia Foetida do very well in a compost tumbler as long as;theres enough moisture (damp not wet); nothing too hot (fresh manure); dont turn the drum too often; and have a large enough system to insure gradual changes in their environment.
I live in western Washington, and the tumbler is in full sun and Im always supplying others with livestock.
Worms cannot tolerate soil/compost temperatures above 100 degrees F. That means, you cant just dig a hole in your steamy compost pile and dump the worms in, because they will die. You also shouldnt put worms in your compost tumbler, because the tumblers heat up quite rapidly in during the summer.
If your compost pile doesnt have a concrete or wood bottom, worms will naturally migrate up through the pile, until they reach a point where the temperature is too hot.