Two-bit Guru | Worms in Winter | Photo of Red Wiggler Worms in Dirt.

When I wrote about the cold frame heater I’d just made, I didn’t mention that the other side of this story involves the several hundred thousand red wiggler worms I’ve got living in plastic buckets in the garage. They aren’t squatters. They are there because I built an insulated room for them and now I’d like to get them out because I want to put my truck back in the garage. What to do with the red wiggler worms in winter has become an interesting challenge.

Red wigglers have a couple of desirable characteristics when it comes to sustainable living. A pound of them can eat half a pound of vegetable matter in 24 hours. With their ravenous appetites they produce quite a lot of worm castings that are great fertilizer for the plants in the garden.

They also have a major drawback. They aren’t crazy about cold weather because unlike their common earthworm cousins, they aren’t big on burrowing unless in a medium of substantial porosity like shredded paper and rotting garbage. That means when cold weather comes they need a bit of protection to survive. Here’s where the cold frame heater comes in. It was made with worms in mind.

By placing lava rock on the top of the rope heater, and with the rope heater against the metal bottom, I’m thinking that the warmest place on the heater ought to be at the bottom. Now, one thing that is true of red wigglers is that a thousand of them or so are capable of bunching together into the shape and size of a slow-pitch softball, maybe even a regular softball or even a baseball, kind of like a ball of string except it’s worms. I know the numbers because I’ve counted them in such a configuration.

I’ve made two worm heaters so far and placed them in cold frames along with shredded paper, vegetable matter, and maybe about 5,000 worms to each frame. The idea is that if the worms get cold they will bunch up along the heaters and stay warm enough to survive the winter. Just like people crowding around a wood-burning stove.

If things work out as planned, I ought to have two cold frames rich with worm castings and a substantial number of happy worms dwelling within. Those castings will provide a good bed for young plants come springtime. And of course in the fall the leftovers from the mature plants that were fed by the castings will go back to feed the worms in the fall. The food of the plants will also go toward feeding me.

It is immensely satisfying to live in harmony with the cycles of nature, even if it does take a bit of electricity to make this particular experiment happen. I’ll keep you posted come spring.