How to Compost with Worms in Cold Temperatures


Composting with worms can help organic gardeners turn yard waste and even kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich compost for vegetable and flower gardens. If you live in an area with cold winters, though, you may be concerned about your worms freezing. Luckily, there is a way to combat this issue.

Step 1

Dig a hole that's 3 feet deep and 3 feet wide. At this depth, the ground does not freeze, so even if your compost pile is finished, the worms can head for comfort in the lower levels of the compost pile.

Step 2

Line the bottom of the hole with landscaping fabric so that the worms don't escape. This also makes it easier to remove the finished compost, since the landscaping material will keep it separate from the rest of the dirt.

Step 3

Rip up corrugated cardboard and dampen with water from the garden hose. Damp cardboard breaks down faster.

Step 4

Cover the layer of cardboard with fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Wilted lettuce leaves, half-eaten apples, a stalk of celery that you forgot to use, dead flower arrangements and even onion skins all make a great meal for hungry worms.

Step 5

Cover with 5 gallons of organic gardening soil and then repeat the layering process, finishing with soil.

Step 6

Cover the entire compost with a tarp for 2 weeks before adding your worms; this allows the microbes in the soil and the bacteria to grow enough to make it a hospitable environment for worms.

Step 7

Add worms right on top of the compost pile. If the ground is already frozen, use a hand spade to dig down a bit. You will see steam coming from the center of the compost, where decomposition has warmed the soil. Dump the worms in the center; they will spread out on their own, munching all along.

Step 8

Cover the entire compost with a tarp or black bags of fall leaves, to ensure that the pile stays warm.

Step 9

Uncover in early spring and give it a good stir, you'll probably notice that the pile is more than halfway complete. You can use some now, but sift it first with a wire mesh screen to remove big things, like watermelon peels or eggshells.

Step 10

Once the ground thaws, uncover your pile and begin to use your fresh compost to amend the soil in your garden, as a decorative topsoil, or for potted plants.

Tips and Warnings

  • Worms don't eat meat or cheese products.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Water from garden hose


  • Winter Worm Composting
  • Composting with Worms
Keywords: compost with worms, winter, cold temperatures

About this Author

Lisa Russell is an entrepreneur and writer from Washington State, with a professional background in education, cosmetology and the restaurant industry. She's been published in regional parenting publications, homeschooling publications and has published over 10,000 articles online since 1999. She studied Early Childhood Education at Antelope Valley College.