Disposing of compost infested with jumping worms

Asked September 25, 2020, 9:52 AM EDT

One of your experts has verified that my compost contains Asian jumping worms. Should I dispose of the compost (because it contains cocoons) and if so, how? If I bag the compost and take it to the dump, should I dispose of it with landfill-directed materials? Can I just shovel the dirt into bags? Or do I need to kill the worms firstwhich would be a laborious process?

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

Hi- the best approach would be to shovel the compost into large, heavy-duty plastic bags. Try to kill as many adults as possible during the process. Leave the bags in a location where they will not be disturbed or punctured. Freezing temperatures this winter and hot temperatures inside the bags (around 100 degrees F.) in spring should kill any cocoons and make the compost safe to use by July.

Thanks, Jon. It will be lot of work to sift through the dirt, but worth it. I'm not sure, though, that the remaining mulch will have much value. I understand that the jumping worms destroy the fungi that hold micronutrients and their granualization of the compost makes it prone to drying out. Can you think of a useful application for the post-freeze compost?

Hi- I would first open the bags in spring and observe the contents for a few weeks to make sure no worms emerge from cocoons.

I have not seen any research suggesting problems with using compost that has been infested with AJW. If the compost is devoid of worms next year it would be fine to spread a 1-inch layer around any garden or landscape plants and either leave it on top of the ground or gently incorporate into the top few inches of soil. The compost is not contaminated and soil organisms and the elements will continue to decompose and degrade the organic matter in your compost.