Jan 092010
 
If you build it, your decomposers will come.

You don’t need to recruit decomposers for your pile; they will show up exactly when they are needed.

No, do not add worms to your compost pile.

Confusion About Adding Worms to a Compost Pile

Worms are a common topic among home composters on the internet and elsewhere.  Some species of worms are used in worm bins for a method called worm composting, vermicomposting or vermiculture. However, people who compost in piles may not be familiar with worm composting.  This can lead to confusion since pile composters often see earthworms in their piles, so assume the worm discussions apply to piles.  These worms are not necessary for composting in piles.

Heat of a Hot Batch Pile Kills Worms

The heat of a hot batch compost pile will kill any worms you add to the center of it.  You will have wasted your money and destroyed perfectly nice worms.  Vermiculture worms may or may not survive in the cooler, outer portions of a hot pile.  At any rate, it is an unnecessary expense for pile composters.

Garden earthworms may live if you add them to a low-temperature section of the pile that is adequately moist, but your handling of them stresses them.  Again, it is unnecessary to do so.

Build the Pile, and Decomposers Will Come

Nature’s critters are really good at showing up right on time for dinner.  Different decomposers are useful at each step of a pile’s decomposition process.  The specific decomposers required will vary based on (among other factors):

  • pile temperature,
  • contents of pile,
  • moisture level of pile,
  • what has already been eaten vs. what’s left, and
  • creatures already there that might serve as an additional food source.

The conditions of a particular pile may never be right for earthworms.  If you add them anyway, they will either die or crawl away while the decomposers that showed up on their own continue to work on your pile.

You don’t need to recruit decomposers for your pile; they will show up exactly when they are needed.

Mary Tynes, Master Composter, www.mastercomposter.com

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/18474854@N00/2916723522/

  4 Responses to “Do I Need to Add Worms to My Compost Pile?”

Comments (4)
  1. Thanks for the info. I started a compost bin last year. I had considered adding worms, but did not. I thought I over stuffed my composter at the end of fall, but this spring, after leaving it alone over the winter, I have beautiful compost full of lovely worms. The decomposer came to do their work.

  2. If you have good microorganisms worms will find a way to get in there. The worms will replicate in the bin and probably got in there after a rain and the sides where wet and moist.

  3. Thanks! The worms have done their work on my compost. I’m glad this batch stayed cold. It’s alive!

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