Surviving a Scorcher of a Summer

How are your worms coping this summer?

I’m not sure if it is just me, but each sucessive summer seems to get hotter. With the effects of the prolonged drought for the last few years, it is getting tougher to provide the perfect environment for our worms.

When the weather is hot, your wormfarm will heat up too. Composting worms are living creatures who operate best in a specific temperature range of between 5C and 30C. That is the temperature of the mass, not the air temperature.

Size Does Matter

So that is the first hint for managing the temperature of your worms. The larger the mass (worm farm), the more hot weather it requires to raise the temperature of the mass. And visa versa the more cold weather required to lower the temperature. So if you have a small wormfarm (less than 25kgs capacity) managing the temperature is critical to their sumertime survival. If you have a large wormfarm (500kg capacity and over) your job is easier as the mass of your system will take prolonged heat (or cold) to move the temperature out of the preferred range.

Black is soooo Hot

Next thing to consider is the material your worm farm is made from. If it has to stand out all day in the Ausyralian summer sun, it will need to be white (light colour to reflect the suns heat) and insulated. Keeping your wormfarm in a shady location will help greatly. Worms don’t have eyes, but are light sensitive and are just as happy in dark locations right out of the sun.

You might need to keep your wormfarm under cover anyway due to rain. Depending on the design, certain wormfarms let in too much water when it rains. Excess water makes the bedding too moist, may fill up the bottom tray and drowns the worms if it doesn’t drain fast enough.

Moist is how they like it

You need to consider and try to control evaporation. So if your wormfarm has a lid, keep it on. If not put something (organic) on top of the mass, such as paper, cardboard, old rags, hession sacks or even old carpet. If you keep this cover moist it will control evaporation and allow your worms to worm right up underneath it.

Your worms will also need to additional moisture at times. It depends on their location, outside temperatures and moisture content of what you are feeding them. The best thing to do is use your worm juice (leachate) and pour it back over the fresh food. This has multiple benefits, it innoculates the fresh food with bacteria to begin the breakdown process, it keeps the worm farm moist and it increases the strength of your worm juice. Be aware how well your particular worm farm drains and manage accordingly. My commercial pits have an automatic watering system and they get 1 hour per day with the sprays on in summer, but they drain very well.

So use your common sense. If you get a prolonged period of hot weather and no rain, your worms may be struggling. Keep a cover on them to mimic the conditions of mulch in the bush that they would live under naturally. If the garden needs a watering, its probable the worms will need it too.