How to keep composting worms alive and active in your compost pile
This article is adapted from a reader question sent in through our ‘ask a worm composting question’ page. Thanks for the great questions and keep them coming. You may see them turned into articles like this one. Learn how to keep red wiggler worms in a compost pile.
Can you put red wiggler worms in a compost pile?
The short answer:
Yes, you can add red wigglers to a compost pile. You will want to keep the pile a little wetter than you would a normal hot compost pile to keep the worms happy. They will leave the pile if it gets too dry or too hot. But, if you keep it moist and stocked with food scraps, they should stick around. If the pile is large enough, composting worms can move around within the pile to find areas that are the right temperature and moisture content for them.
The longer answer:
A outdoor hot compost pile is made of the same ingredients as worm bin: Carbon (leaves or shredded paper), Nitrogen (food scraps), water, and air. To make a hot compost pile you mix those ingredients at around a 25 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio and then sit back and let the microorganisms break things down. Turning or mixing the pile every 4 to 6 weeks will add oxygen and speed up decomposition. For instructions on starting a hot compost pile read How to Build a Hot Compost Pile.
It is called a hot compost pile for a reason. The process of the leaves and food scraps breaking down creates heat deep inside the pile. This heat would not be preferred by red wigglers. To keep your red wigglers happy in a compost pile you would want to add more carbon (aim for a 50:1 carbon/nitrogen ratio) and more water so that it more closely resembles the mixture found in a worm composting bin.
One tip for keeping an uncovered compost pile moist is to make a funnel shape in the top of the leaves. That way, when it rains, water will be directed into the center of the pile instead of washing off the edges. This trick will help you maintain the increased level of moisture that is needed for your red wiggler worms in a compost pile.
Building a larger-than-you-normally-would compost pile will also help keep your composting worms alive and active in your pile because the worms can move around within the pile to find areas suitable for their liking in regards to temperature and moisture level.
Using this approach can result in some really great compost! If you are worm farming in worm composting bins and pile composting already, why not add a handful of red wiggler worms in your compost pile?
If you liked this article and want to try mixing other forms of composting, read Compost Directly in your Garden with an Earthworm Composting Tower.
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