We were processing some messy compost/soil to get the junk (ie plastic bags, large bones) out when we realized it is full of earthworms. Any suggestions on a process that results in fewer worms being diced up?

This is NOT a question about what belongs in a compost pile.

Picking out junk in the compost/soil and running through a 1/4 inch mesh

  • Why do you want to process it? – Willk May 17 '20 at 14:49

Earthworms are sensitive to temperature and will flee soil that is up around 100 deg F. If you were to build up your compost into a loose pile, moistened to ensure free mobility of worms in the pile, make a flat top on the pile and cover it with black plastic on a sunny day this should encourage worms in the top layer to go deeper into the cooler soil. Carefully remove and process the top few inches of soil which will be largely free of worms and then flatten again and replace the plastic. Repeat as required.

  • So, I can fill the tray up, leave it in the sun today. When they go down they have the opportunity to just fall through to the bin below with the sifted soil. – CW Holeman II May 16 '20 at 18:19
  • That's not the way I would do it, particularly as your grid visible in the foto appears to be quite fine. – Colin Beckingham May 16 '20 at 18:33
  • What does the small mesh size have to do with it? – CW Holeman II May 20 '20 at 4:10

Worms don't stay close to the well-lit surface. You could remove the thin surface (worm-free) layer of compost every five minutes until you end up with a pile of worms.

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