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I live in the midwest and I plan to run my AP system only during the growing months  in the greenhouse). So do you reccommend adding red wigglers in the GB as they will surely die in the cold frigid months. My concern is when I startup the sytem the following spring, the dead and decaying worms will pollute the water and the whole setup. Thanks for any input.

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I would probably use worms anyway.  See even if you don't add them, many people find that worms make their way into the systems on their own (worm cocoons in the roots of transplants or however, worms are amazing creatures.)

 

Anyway, I would hope you could get local worms that will be more likely to survive your climate.  If you let the grow beds drain but say cover them over so they stay moist and a bit insulated for the winter, you might find that it isn't really as big a problem as you think.  Granted, I've not had much personal experience in such situations but I know of some people on other forums that have run seasonal grow beds in Pennsylvania and seem to have managed.

 

Which part of the midwest are you in and what is the greenhouse like?  If you can just keep the water from freezing, you might even be able to winter over certain kinds of fish and keep the system minimally ticking over (might not be growing much without extra heating but if you can keep the water from freezing over, the system can be in a sort of hibernation rather than completely shut down.)

I'm in central Iowa. So far temps has dropped to as low as -8F, a few nighst ago. Last year there was one day where it dipped to -33F (luckily it was a Saturday and it wasn't a work day). I have  a 300 gallon cattle trough in the greenhouse and the ice is about 4-5 inches thick !! I'm sure the worms will be frozen solid in these temps even in the GB. My greenhouse is 10X16 wood framed with recycled old window glass on the sides and twin walled 8mm acrylic for the roof.  I have a heater in there, but I don't think it will be economical to keep it heated the whole winter.

TCLynx said:

I would probably use worms anyway.  See even if you don't add them, many people find that worms make their way into the systems on their own (worm cocoons in the roots of transplants or however, worms are amazing creatures.)

 

Anyway, I would hope you could get local worms that will be more likely to survive your climate.  If you let the grow beds drain but say cover them over so they stay moist and a bit insulated for the winter, you might find that it isn't really as big a problem as you think.  Granted, I've not had much personal experience in such situations but I know of some people on other forums that have run seasonal grow beds in Pennsylvania and seem to have managed.

 

Which part of the midwest are you in and what is the greenhouse like?  If you can just keep the water from freezing, you might even be able to winter over certain kinds of fish and keep the system minimally ticking over (might not be growing much without extra heating but if you can keep the water from freezing over, the system can be in a sort of hibernation rather than completely shut down.)

you don't necessarily need to keep the greenhouse toasty warm or anything like that.  And it doesn't necessarily take that much to keep water from freezing.  If you were to throw insulating material over the fish tank and grow beds for the winter, you might only need a small amount of heat (like a stock tank heater as might be used to keep cattle troughs from freezing over in all sorts of climates) set to keep the water from dropping much below 32 F.

 

I would definitley not advocate you running enough heat to grow tomatoes in January unless that was your passion.  Perhaps you could track the temperatures inside your greenhouse this winter to see how much below freezing the inside of the greenhouse usually stays to know if it would be worth the trouble or not.

 

I know people up in the northern climates who keep worms alive all winter in 4' by 8' beds simply by adding lots of mulch in and covering them with some insulation and a tarp.  If that can work, seems to me some insulation or blankets over the grow beds and insulating board over the fish tank and a tarp over it all, perhaps all one would need is a pond de-icer or stock tank heater to keep the system from freezing solid.  Since it is inside a greenhouse one wouldn't need to worry too much about wind blowing the tarp off or sucking out the minimal amount of warmth from under the tarp.

 

but obviously without any heat what so ever, the system will need to shut down over winter if you already have multiple inches of ice over the water in the 300 gallon tank.

I may give your idea a try regarding iowa garden worms, a stock tank heater and insulation. So do I keep the pump running (ebb and flow system) ?

A constant flood system might hold more heat in during the winter.  (It can be fairly easy to bounce back and forth between constant flood and flood and drain depending on the set up.)

David Soh said:

I may give your idea a try regarding iowa garden worms, a stock tank heater and insulation. So do I keep the pump running (ebb and flow system) ?

Hi David,

 

You have a valid concern about the worms rotting.  I've been raising red worms in luggage 'clam shells' for five years in south central Indiana. Most years they over wintered fine with corn meal, wheat straw and foam board insulation.  Last year however they all died back leaving it to the hatchlings to comeback in spring for a feebler colony.  We aren't sure just what got them, rodent's, cold, fouled bed.

 

  They will go where the food is.  I imagine that when you drain the system in fall you could lay decaying vegetables and shredded paper on screens over your grow beds and the worms will inhabit that.  You may collect them and overwinter in a basement or tool shed with light bulb. Or you might try super insulating only the grow beds and keep a small heat source in them. 

We are overwintering ours this year in an unheated spare room at 40-55 and they are doing great. 

 

They will leave eggs behind in the beds, many of which will survive the freeze. Try not to make any sudden temperature change when you start up again.  There are always some rotting worms in a system.  I imagine a flushing will help if it stinks.  The fresh live worms will take care of the rest when you reintroduce them.

 

I'll be starting my 256 sq. ft. AP system in spring and i will introduce worms then.  I'm building a greenhouse.  Hopefully by next winter i will have a Ketchelofen style heater (also called a rocket mass stove) to keep it around 40-50F.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

 

Homefire

 

 

Hi David, here in Denver I have kept my system going, in a greenhouse with just a 300 wattt aquarium heater and the pump running day and night, I have kept my flood and drain with siphons going 24/7 to prevent ice build up and it works.  The plant growth is non existent, and even though there is plant tissue freezing  at night it seems to recover during the day.  (beet greens, celery, and pac choi.) I only have 3 large goldfish in the tank and they eat once every three days. Good luck, and good gardening

David Soh said:

I may give your idea a try regarding iowa garden worms, a stock tank heater and insulation. So do I keep the pump running (ebb and flow system) ?

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