Worm compost boxes

About 25 years ago, before Alaska stores began selling earth worms or night crawlers, I decided to bring some back from a Seattle trip for use in my garden. Sure enough the airline lost my bag. The baggage agent asked “Is there something unique that would distinguish your bag?” I said, “Worms.” By the time the bag was returned the worms were dead.

My favorite Fairbanks gardener, Eloise Dewitt, kept earthworms year round. She had large bins full of beautiful rich black worm-casting compost. In the fall she lured the worms to the surface with apple peels and brought them inside to keep them from freezing to death.

I’m no authority on earthworms, but I know there are few in northern Alaska. It gets too cold and they like neutral soil. Northern soil can be too acidic. Earthworms are sometimes found near hot springs. In Anchorage I’ve got reddish “earthworms” that are up to 4 inches long and seem to survive winters next to my house.

 Could arctic and subarctic gardens located near buildings or waste heat sources sustain year round earthworm habitats? Would it be realistic to maintain worm compost boxes indoors? (Rural Alaska often lacks much of the organic waste that we take for granted). I’ve heard you can even farm worms for food and they are an excellent source of nutrition. Perhaps an albino version could substitute for spaghetti (although kids would never fall for it).

What would we need in places like Pilot Point and Ugashik to keep earthworms year round and to generate worm-casting compost? They’d like to give it a try– please share your experiences and ideas.

~ Jim

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3 Responses to “Worm compost boxes”

  1. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Jim- ROFL on the lost luggage story though I’m
    sorry your worms expired .
    Somewhere, on some thread, Victoria mentioned what thoughts she had on indoor worm box possibilities…
    Gonna go see if I can find it.

  2. kat Says:

    i’m on the kenai peninsula and i do have some of the small red earthworms in my garden. i read a scientific paper on the idea of bringing larger earthworm varieties to alaska to let them breed with our smaller native worms. i’m wondering if that would disturb the gentle eco-system of this lone alaskan earthworm species to bring in larger lower 48 worms. has anyone heard of problems with this? have their been any studies? thanks.

  3. Jim Says:


    When I tried taking worms to Fairbanks I wasn’t worried about invasiveness because they wouldn’t make it through the winter.

    Breeding is an interesting idea, but I don’t know if you’d come up with anything that would survive.

    If you haven’t read it, check out “Earthworms Aren’t Always Our Friends”–


    The only places I’m aware of that have more common earthworms are at a couple hot springs (Chena and Pilgrim), and those imported by gardeners (that apparently don’t survive the Alaska winter).

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