Home   |   About Us   |   GROW: The Book   |   Blog   |   Join Us   |   Shop   |   Forum Rules

Composting In An Old Freezer — The Grow Network Community
The plants have enough spirit to transform our limited vision.

- Rosemary Gladstar

Composting In An Old Freezer

greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 457 ✭✭✭✭

My garden just keeps growing each year so my needs for a good quality compost keeps growing larger also. And I'm just not willing to spend all that money the box stores and online sources want for some 10 lb bags (or smaller) of good compost.

So earlier this Summer I heard about building the compost pile in an old chest freezer. The concept seemed like a pretty good idea to me so I decided to try it.

I've had my bin going now for 3 months approximately and the results so far have been spectacular. But you have to remember, that 3 months has been compared to the normal way of building a compost pile out in the 3 bin system. So to me this freezer method sure does have it's advantages.

(I didn't give up on the 3 bin system... as I said I need a lot of compost now)

My worms seem to be happy because their bedding is being broken down and they are delightfully making me the most superior soil I've ever had in my 4 years of gardening.

I've read to expect only having to empty the freezer once a year but there is no way I am going to have to wait that long. Even now, at only 3 months I can tell I have some beautiful composted soil already ready to be harvested at the bottom of my freezer.

So is anyone else doing this? If so, do you have any suggestions for me since this is a complete trial and error process for me. I'm the one who would NEVER touch a worm when I was a kid. Now I've got thousands of them for pets.

I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have because I sure do hope I can make this project stay an ongoing success.


  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 457 ✭✭✭✭

    Just an update to this post...

    Yes, I had a hard time believing I had figured this out first try and there was going to be no complications. So complications have arisen. Or more to the point, disaster has struck. I've lost most of my worms in my worm farm.

    I have about five ideas what might be the problem but if anyone else has ever tried this method I sure would like to speak with you.

  • KarynPenningtonKarynPennington Posts: 8 ✭✭✭

    Did you remove the bottom or at least drill holes? Worms need air flow. I just have a large bin in the basement with the same worms (and their prodigy) that I started with 3 years ago. You have to be careful that you don't overfeed them and give them "grit" of some sort, crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, even sand -- they need that for digestion. I'm sorry you lost them and hope you can recover.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,037 ✭✭✭

    Look for the TGN Summit Replay: Tom Bartel covers this subject in his Perfect DIY Designs for Backyard Gardens.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 457 ✭✭✭✭

    @KarynPennington you say you have a 3 year old system going. I'm told a large one is as good as a small one. The upkeep and maintenance are the same.

    So do you know the answers to these by any chance... one of these is what I think might be causing my problem.

    1. I have been freezing my greens for them in small portions then thawing them out before I give it to them. But we all know a green when frozen is generally crisp. When frozen it turns limp as it thaws. Could it be there is too much moisture in it for them. I heard too much moisture will make them suffocate since they can't live with too much of it.
    2. I drilled 3 holes and inserted PVC pipes thru the walls for air holes. I also added a hole to the bottom and added a pipe for moisture control in the bed. Then about 7 weeks later I placed some fiberglass screen over the holes because I noticed flies were crawling into my bin. So the screen does have holes but fiberglass screen is such tiny holes I was wondering if I took away too much of their air.
    3. Your grit suggestion is OK because I do give them all three of the things you suggested on a rotating basis about once a week.
    4. What is overfeeding to you? My bin had a thousand worms to start. For the first 11 weeks everything was going pretty good. I'd feed them once a day about three cups of chopped up fruits, veges, greens and a little bit of the gritty stuff occasionally. Everything was going well. The change started when I added the fiberglass (which I have now taken off), when the temps started getting cooler so I was wondering if they eat less in cooler temps but I did insulate the outside of my freezer also just in case and I started feeding every other day instead.
    5. I am careful what I feed them. I have a good for worms list and a do not feed list and I do strictly follow it so I can't believe it's what I'm feeding.
    6. When I got them it was recommended peat moss (which I don't use) or coconut coir which I do use. But I mix some other dry stuff with my coir. I use shredded no-print paper (the stuff they use to make newspapers). Also I use organic straw, alfalfa grass and leaves. All of them are shredded into small pieces and combined So their bedding material is easy for them to crawl thru and it is all safe (no chemicals etc.)
    7. Or those flies that were getting in... do they eat worms?

    So I am at a loss what went wrong somewhere right around week 11. Everything I changed I have changed back except the weather but I made weatherproofing to compensate for that change.

    Even if you know the answers to any of these I would appreciate your knowledge. By a process of elimination I hope to find out what happened?

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 457 ✭✭✭✭

    @shllnzl I know about Tom Bartels because he is the one I first heard about this from on last years Summit. I just did not find an old freezer to use until mid-Summer of this year.

    I watched this year's presentation too mainly as a reminder and to see if he mentioned something else I did not know. He goes into pretty good detail about how to build it but he goes into next to no info about troubleshooting.

    I couldn't find any info on his site either so I've just been asking around trying to find someone else who does this.

  • gardneto76gardneto76 Posts: 186 ✭✭✭

    @greyfurball the frozen greens may have some excess water in them due to the freezing process. The key is to watch the dampness of the contents or dirt in the worm bin. If the worms are happy they will stay in there. If it is to hot, cold, or wet they will try to get out. I have a small bin I keep in the house and have lost most of my worms and they bounced right back. Have you tried turning your bin at all? It could be the worms moved further down for food or to stay warmer. Also extra water tends to make it settle faster which could suffocate the worms. I also do not feed my worms that often. I have no idea how many are in my small probably 2ft x 3ft storage container, but I only feed them once every week or so. And they only ever get kitchen scraps. If you want them to process more you can send it through the food processor or blender. I use mine a handful or 2 at a time into the tops of my gardening containers and have honestly just been lazy about feeding them.

    any idea what kind of fly is getting in there? I had an issue with Soldier flies getting in mine. I think it was their larvae that either ate the worms food or the worms. Maybe try a slightly larger screen over your holes to help keep air flowing. It does sound like you may be over feeding them. 3 cups per day for 1000 worms seems like a lot. I don’t think mine get that a week. If the food is rotting and not getting eaten, it’s to much food. Key signs to rotting is the smell. Your worm bin should always smell like fresh turned earth. The shredded newspaper, alfalfa grass & leaves are fine in there. I do not know about the straw, because it is pokey and they have very soft sides. Hopefully I answered some of your questions.

  • greyfurballgreyfurball Southeastern PennsylvaniaPosts: 457 ✭✭✭✭

    @gardneto76 yes this is what makes this so confusing.

    My contents smell perfect, look perfect. I turn my bin daily or now every 2-3 days since I am only feeding every third day. I have done that from day one just so I could make sure I didn't have wet spots/dry spots/excess food etc. floating around in there that I did not know about (my bin is about 3 feet deep and 9 feet long) since it is a very large chest freezer).

    The only two things I keep coming back to is the lower temperatures and those flies. The screen with large holes won't really work for me because the whole reason I placed the screen was to eliminate the flies crawling in or the worms crawling out. If it's bigger holes there I didn't prevent anything.

    I did hear about the pure lime from Tom Bartels last video to reduce fly problems so I ordered that and I'll get that in the next few days. Other than that, I can tell the temps in there aren't as high because when you open the lid I don't have that surge of warm air rising from a heated up pile. But I also don't feel cold air. It just feels like a warm Spring day now.

    So maybe somehow I got worms which like the hot air of summer and just aren't into spring days.

    I'll keep playing around with what I've known to be working for the last three months and see if I can get it back to its former stage. Thanks for your help.

  • gardneto76gardneto76 Posts: 186 ✭✭✭

    @greyfurball i know if it is to warm, above 85*, the worms will go deeper. That is hard for me considering we are still in the 80’s. With my small container I can only have them outside for a few months out of the year. I do add them periodically to the raised beds that sit right on top of the ground. I also have the. In my aquaponics system where they stay comfortable year round with the water movement. Sounds like you are doing everything right though.

  • judsieffertjudsieffert Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    I am going to try composting in an old freezer. Does anyone have advice on starting off?

  • judsieffertjudsieffert Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    I am currently composting in a square 12" x 12" and 48" tall square planter stand. It is convenient to use with daily scraps because it sits right beside the steps to our house and a plant sits on it in warm weather.

  • EarlKellyEarlKelly Penn state master gardener Northeastern Pennsylvania zone 5bPosts: 185 ✭✭✭

    Busy putting up a cattle panel greenhouse. Wanted to incorporate the chest idea compost maker. Had an idea, will go to yard sales and flea markets and look for the large coolers that fisherman like to use. Figured if I bury them up to just about the lip of the cooler that would work. Put my seed tables above them so I wouldn’t lose any space in the greenhouse. The heating compost would also provide some residual warmth to my greenhouse. Has anyone tried this method? May give it a try and see how I make out. Any other ideas would be welcome.

  • norabelehcimnorabelehcim Posts: 32 ✭✭✭

    The cooler concept might work--have seen repurposed fishing coolers, old barrels and pails, and many other things used for compost and worms in other countries. Especially for worms (compost alone seemed simpler), make sure soil and contents, as well as containers, are very clean, adequately drained and with adequate aeration. If using hose or PVC pipes, drill holes in top/sides for drainage in some pipes, and drill holes in bottom for air in other pipes.

Sign In or Register to comment.