Is an outdoor bin in Austin even possible?

Storm18(8)March 13, 2014

My spouse does not want a worm bin in the house. I purchased a wooden bin not realizing my spouse would have an issue keeping it indoors. It was my fault he had assumed the bin would be outside and I must not have been clear in my explanation.

Now, I want to make sure I can keep the worms alive outdoors with the hot Texas summers before I pick up a 1/2 pound of worms. Has anyone successfully kept a worm bin outdoors in the Austin area? I could keep them in the garage, but it will get quite hot in there also. Perhaps I could use a fan, wet cloths over the bin, etc... to help keep them cool. Any ideas if this is even doable in central Texas? We have several weeks high temps (over 100). Our yard has several shady spots, but even so I imagine it will still get quite toasty in those areas.

Our chicken coop is quite shaded and I'll use misters to keep the hens cool in the summer... but the idea of a worm bin in the chicken coop seems crazy. If the hens ever got the lid off... poor worms! I would hate to risk that. Plus, it's quite a walk to get to the coop.

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I forgot to mention that the bin is 16 X 16 X 4. I've read about people being able to keep worm bins outside in a large plastic tub. I'm wondering if this wood bin is way too small to use as an outdoor bin in extreme heat.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 2:22PM
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What a handsome bin. It looks well made and a piece of art. I wonder if water could be slowly dripped into the system.

This post was edited by equinoxequinox on Thu, Mar 13, 14 at 14:46

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Thank you. I found it on Craigslist... Unfortunately, it looks like it may be going back on CL. I do have a drip system so perhaps that would work? I'm excited about vermicomposting, but trying to keep the worms alive outdoors looks like it might be quite a challenge. : ( I really don't want to toast the worms.

Yes, I thought this bin would look great in a corner of our living room! My husband is absolutely appalled by the idea of worms in the house. I can't blame him. He is worried they will smell bad and I haven't been able to convince him otherwise. His grandma has a bin in her barn and it supposedly reeks. Honestly, being a newbie it would probably take me a while to figure just the right balance to keep things from getting a bit smelly. : (

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Do you have a copy of "Worms East My Garbage"?

Not a question of will it stink or not. Rather, the question is -- will you be knowledgeable and willing to take the effort to keep it up, and keep any odors and flying bugs away. Does he trust you in any past projects you have done?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:07PM
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No I don't have that book. I do have a different one, The Worm Book by Nancarrow. Yes I think he does trust me as my projects usually are successful. The issue is his experience with his grandma's stinky worm bin. Unfortunately we do not know anyone else with a worm bin. I am willing to keep up the bin as to whether I will be able to do it... I'm not sure since this my first time to try vermicomposting. I'm a bit nervous about it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 5:36PM
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I live in Longview (East Texas) and my daughter in Round Rock so I'm familiar with our weather.

In the shade, with some breeze (a fan wafting over an ice bag in the dog days of 100+?), and can do it.

Keep a thermometer handy and use it.

With a start of 1/2 a pound, it'd be advisable to start them off in a small, plastic tote because the portability of it would allow you to move it around more easily to cooler pastures when Texas toast begins.

All that said, I cheat with a 5 by 5 potting shed in the backyard...air-conditioned that I only activate usually in late July or early August using an automatic timer that starts it a 2pm til 7pm.

Any help?


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:41PM
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I have read about raising worms outside in the heat. It can be done, but probably not with your system. Larger systems with more mass do better.

You could dig-in a spot and create an open-bottom bin. Go gown 6-12" and make it 18-24" tall (including the part in the ground). Earth makes a great insulator and will provide a cool refuge. Maybe make the sides out of 2' or 4" wide wood, or concrete cinder blocks would be better. Allow for future expansion. Hardware cloth tucked in the bottom to keep burrowing critters out can help. A lid of thick plywood or solid foam insulation would top it off!

Fill your new bin half way with some good Austin horse manure. Get it good and wet, let it sit for a few days or until it cools, and add worms. Top off with LOTS of bedding. A leaf or two of straw on top would make a nice evaporative cooler for them.

Good luck and happy wormin'!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:52PM
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If you decide to not do the up hill battle with the worm bin you might enjoy these other options instead.

BSFL Black Soldier Fly Larvae Bin. They might crawl off in the heat but will repopulate when it cools down. The chickens would enjoy them.

Bokashi which is a way to pickle kitchen waste and then bury it in the garden or regular compost pile.

Kumbucha which has nothing to do with kitchen waste but results in a tasty beverage.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:51PM
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chuckiebtoo thanks for the advice. I do need to get a thermometer.

mendopete I do have a lot of concrete cinder blocks so that may be a possibility. I guess there is no concern that the redworms will escape through the bottom. It seems like it would be difficult to harvest castings from this type of system? Maybe use mulch as the bedding and pile it high. Just not sure how I would harvest the castings/compost.

equinoxequinox I've never heard about BSFL. It sounds scary. Earthworms are a stretch for me. I don't know that I could handle maggots.

I would like to try Kumbucha someday...

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 1:45AM
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Interesting we have posters from hot areas and cold areas. Maybe we could have a traveling herd. They fly north in the summer and south in the winter?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:07AM
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Worms will not leave an open-bottom bin...... unless they NEED to. If conditions in the bin become intolerable , (ie: too hot, cold, too much food, ect.) they may go down for a short vacation. This is a good thing, as they will return later rather than perish. Outdoor open-bottom bins are very forgiving. ( disclaimer: I wear a sweatshirt all summer here :)

Harvesting... That could be challenging due to having to dig out the black gold. One simple way is to divide the bin in half and feed/compost one side at a time. When you stop feeding that side and begin feeding the other side, the worms will migrate laterally. After a month or two you can harvest the original side free of most worms. If you can source a couple of old plastic milk-crates, you could simply build your bin to fit 2 or more of these crates. Sitting side by side. compost 1 crate until full then start the next crate. After the migration, lift out your first crate then dump and replace into the system. I use this method... easy, simple, and NO DIGGING!!!!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:58AM
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There is some very good free info about raising worms outside in hot, dry conditions (Reno) at sierrawormsolutions. They use cinder blocks to make long "windrows" and also show some dug-in 4' x 8' wood bins.

I hope this helps. Good luck to you.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 11:10AM
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Sometimes with posts that deal with weather conditions and extremes, it is helpful for the readers and potential responders of those posts to be aware of the zones where the posters are located.

The "Zone (optional):" heading just under the posters' User Name really would better serve us all if it weren't optional. With the NSA and Facebook, Twitter, etc that "security" thingy just seems a little over-thought to me.

Anyway that's why I specified my location and the proximity to Austin of my daughter in my earlier post so that the Austin poster knew my worms get real hot in the summer.

Just checking in this thread, I'm the only participant showing a Zone location. ?


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:30AM
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Well.... scouted out the perfect spot in our yard for an outdoor worm bin. Deep shade all summer long. Was going to bury it 12" and use cinder blocks. Started digging today and there were TONS of earthworms, baby worms, eggs. The soil was a rich black. Made me wonder if the previous owner had a worm bin there before??? But these were regular earthworms. After accidentally killing a couple with my shovel, I didn't have the heart to ruin their "home." Back to square one. : (

This post was edited by Storm18 on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 18:41

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:40PM
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By tomorrow, those worms you disturbed may have left. If not, they might be composting worms!

With Deep shade, maybe you won't need to dig-in much, if at all.

You could also try spray-foam insulation in the cinder block voids.

If you build your bin in this perfect spot, you may not need to buy worms. Add that black soil with tons of worms and eggs to the new bin. Look at it like an urban renewal project for the displaced wigglers.

You could always find a nice hard piece of ground and try again. I bet you won't find worms there!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:30AM
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I would not be surprised if there once was a worm bin in that same spot. The previous owner was an incredible gardener. I'll take a peek tomorrow and see if the disturbed worms left. Maybe the tons of baby regular earthworms were actually redworms. However, they didn't appear to be very red more of a dull pink. My husband would be excited to have a spray-foam project. Great idea! I planted some transplants in the garden and used handfuls of dirt from "the worm spot" in case that dirt had a lot of castings. ; ) We'll see how the little plants do.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:07AM
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Well, I just realized we are in the same garden zones!

Now what chuckiebtoo?

I wear a sweatshirt part of or all day in the summer due to a cool, foggy, damp coastal climate here in far northern California. Is wearing a sweatshirt in Austin in the summer even possible??

I have often wondered what zone I really am in. Zonefinder says 8, by definition I say 9, The Pacific Ocean is about a mile away and IT ranges from 48-56F nearshore, and keeps it moist and mello for vermiculture .

As the good Commander Cody used to sing, I am lost in the ozone again!


    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:23AM
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