I was surprised to find that drowning your worms is not all that uncommon. I talked to a woman at a gardening festival the other day that had done basically the same thing.
I also talked to a “Master Composter” who gave the following tips:
Use a bedding material of shredded news paper and peat moss. I asked if any sort of soil was even necessary and she said not really. She said she hadn’t had any problems with minimum temperatures in Albuquerque, which is in USDA gardening zone 7a I believe. She said that in most cases in this area, you can put the bin against a sunny wall during the winter and they should be ok. However, I’ve read in several sources that say not to let the temperature drop below 38 degree F or the worms will start to die off. This is why this winter we’re moving the worms to the garage or to a friend’s greenhouse.
The Master’s Composter also had an interesting tip: wash out egg shells and throw them in without crunching them up. She said that the shells actually provide a comfortable habitat for the baby worms to hang out and nest in.
She also said not to put too many fruit scraps in. This way you’ll avoid some of the issues with fruit flies.
Some things to note about worm farming based on our recent experiences:
It shouldn’t smell if things are working as they should. I noticed that indeed the bin started to smell a bit a couple days before our worms met with an untimely fate. The bin should smell just a little earthy or as much as a normal compost bin, slightly sweet.
Just make sure, if you do perceive a smell, check the conditions immediately!
I also recommend setting up a separate compost pail to collect kitchen scraps and let them partially decompose before adding them to the compost bin. Chopping up the pieces into tiny bits will also help. I’ve tried out putting the scraps in a blender and adding them to the worm bin that warm. That seems to work very well but again, be very attentive to the moisture levels in this case! This also takes some extra time, so it may not be practical for some people. We try and blend when we can, but if we can’t we simply cut up our compost material before adding it to the bin.