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Does anyone out there cover their pile in order to prevent the deluge of winter rain and attempt to heat the pile up more for better composting? Will covering the pile cook the working worms in the pile? Thanks
In my experience, it is critical to cover an open compost bin. I use sheets of plastic and empty plastic bags that used to contain compost. There are several problems if you do not cover: the pile gets too wet and essentially drowns the important microorganisms; the amount of leaching increases dramatically; it cools too much and slows down the decomposition process.
As for the worms, my understanding (and experience) is that worms will not enter your pile while hot, so no need to worry. Once the heap cools down, they will move in and go to work. They also won't enter your compost if it is too wet.
A lot of people use covers. Some people use tin roofing material and build a sort of slanted roof that rain and snow will slid off of. There is at least one commercial bin that includes a Cone-shaped cover to divert water and snow to pile's edges. In the summer droughts, a cover will help retain water as the heat makes air evaporate and condense on the cover. So it is actually good for both too wet weather and too dry weather. I use an old shower curtain. Some have concerns about the possibility of chemicals from deteriorating plastic getting in their compost, but that's a personal judgement call.
A cover for a compost bin at any time of year is necessary if you want to control the level of moisture in your compost. I run across a large number of people that just do not quite grasp that what freezes a compost pile is the moisture and if you have just enough, and not too much, moisture in your mix the bacterial activity will generate enough heat to keep that pile from freezing.