large scale outdoor composting and education
Hello, this is my second post to the forums and I'd like to thank all of you for providing an active forum to gain information on vermicomposting.
I started close to two years ago with 10 worms and a 10 gallon bin. Much like most of you, I'm completely and totally addicted now. I just gave two talks locally related to what I'm doing and have become the local worm guy much to my chagrin.
Initially I didn't think worms would work outside in our climate. Austin can be arid and with temps easily in the 100F range for several months in the summer I presumed it just too warm. I fed an outdoor pile of curing compost about 10 worms in September as the temps were dropping and by March the pile was visibly shrinking. I figured out it'd work through the winter.
Then the next test was summer. It's mid July and I declare it a success. My acre property is heavily shaded and a windrow underneath a tree, kept saturated with water and with plenty of mass lets a worm dive down and stay just fine. The temps aren't optimal, but it's working. I find eggs when I dig through my piles and slowly but surely they're working through the material.
By winter I should have at least three windrows going on site. They are 12'x5' and usually 2' high. I compost the prep table scraps from a single local restaurant, shredded paper and all the leaves I can get my hands on. I should in the future be able to find new restaurants and select scraps to feed directly into the piles.
At this point I'm selling small amounts of worms to people and doing my best to educate the public on the benefits of composting worms. I've decided to do all of this as cheaply and low tech as possible. I build a large pile, let it cook and when it cools...the worms will finish it off for me. My only issue will be harvest which may take a little longer than I like but producing yards of compost will be well worth it.
This might not be news to any of you but it's been nearly revelatory for me. The experience of starting a small farm has been gradual and lots of fun. I've had naysayers tell me raising worms outside is impossible here and I'm here to say that that's completely not the case. The climate isn't ideal but with some shade, moisture and mass, worms will thrive.
Thanks for all of the info you've shared with me over time. I pass all of this along freely and encouraged those interested to read the forums here.