Poor frozen worms!

jillian_plicplic(Zone 8)January 6, 2011

Last Spring, I started a Worm Factory at my daughter's preschool. During the warmer months, I went by every week or so and took the kids in groups to check the worms, feed the worms, talk about vermicomposting, etc. They're having a lot of fun with it, but the worm box management is all on me - there are some teachers who like the box, but they are intimidated about how to care for the worms, etc, and they're busy with their regular curriculum already. So, that's fine, I intended to keep it a very low-maintenance program for them. I want to show people that having a worm box doesn't have to be a lot of work, because much as *I* love my worms and check in on them all the time, I know most people don't. I want to show those people (and the kids!) that worms can be fun and easy.

When it got colder and rainy (and my own schedule got busier) I stopped being able to stop by as much. I peek into the box now and again and it's been humming along just fine (lots of cocoons, lots of clusters of worms all over) and one of the teachers puts food in now and again.

Well, the last several weeks were very cold - dropping to the 20s and below at night, staying under 40 during the days - and when I checked the box yesterday, the poor worms were clustered up in the 2nd and 3rd levels, with the top level frozen through and frozen VC (crystals throughout, not a solid chunk) surrounding the worm cluster. I'm sure some were lost, but for now at least, the cluster seems to have worked to keep most of them alive.

My question is - can anyone suggest an easy, cheap low- or no-maintenance idea for keeping the worm box from freezing through? They won't take it inside the building (there are some serious worm-phobic teachers!) and again, I'm trying to keep this an easy project for them. Do you think just covering the thing with a tarp during freezing weather would be enough?

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I would bring it into the school on the weekend and disguise it as a piece of furniture. I almost had to do that with the wife. Or get with the custodian and hide it in the boiler room.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 5:19PM
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ellicottcitycathy(7a/baltimore suburb)

I put a gallon milk jug of water in the middle of the bin with an aquarium heater in the water.

I cover the whole thing with a black sheet and keep it in my unheated greenhouse. The worms are not as active as in the summer, but they have survived, especially next to the warm water. The food definitely does not decompose as fast. One day, after of a week of days with highs in the 20's, there was a frozen chunk in the side of the bin, but the worms appeared to have moved out of it.

If no electricity, try moving the box in the sun. Cover with a "comforter" made of a black trash bag filled with styrofoam peanuts. Use binder clips to keep it from blowing off. Make sure the worms are still getting air.

I think worms at school is potentially a great idea, but I haven't worked out the details yet for my school. My bins get fruit flies too easily to keep inside. And I worry about kids with mold allergies.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 7:14PM
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jillian_plicplic(Zone 8)

Taking the box inside is just not an option. I like the heated water, but I don't think I can do that in a worm factory bin. I'll keep it in mind for my home box, though!

I think I might just go with the black plastic and see if it makes enough of a difference. The worms do seem to be dealing with it - I didn't see a lot of dead ones, actually - but if it gets even colder I think it will be dicey.

The experience at the preschool has been so much fun - the kids are FASCINATED, and I love that they're getting to see the fun of it so early. I give them the chance to participate as much as they want to, or just hang back and watch and nearly all want to get right in there up close, checking out the cocoons, squealing over the wads of worms all over their yesterday's snacks, tearing up paper to make bedding. It's great.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 1:37AM
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Possibly the best scenerio given you cannot move the bin indoors is take it home with you until spring..

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Get bales of hay or straw and stack then around and on top of the bin. They will be fine. Easy to move them off the top to add food.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 4:52PM
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