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Beginners Guide To Making And Maintaining Your First Wormery

 

 What is a Wormery?

A wormery usually has several layers of trays that make up a box system, placed on top of one another to form a column.  The wormery houses live worms (normally Tiger worms or Dendrobaena Worms you can house the worms together with no problems at all) that mulch through your organic kitchen waste to produce worm casts, adding more and more waste into the wormery keeps this process going, the upper most tray is normally covered with some type of cloth/paper/cardboard etc to help retain moisture within the bedding, on top of this tray is the wormery housing lid with perforated holes to allow good ventilation of air through the wormery.  The Tiger worms and dendrobaena Worms normally live in the top tray close to the food supply although it is quite normal for the worms to pass through each compartment into another to look for other food, (the worm casts is an essential product to use on your garden).

Worms make an excellent supply of compost with the added bonus of a concentrated and nutritious liquid fertiliser, all this liquid is collected at the bottom of the wormery in the sump, the sump has a tap on it for you to collect the liquid in a container ready to use – don’t forget, this liquid is quite concentrated to dilute it down to a ratio of approximately 1:10 with water.

There are quite a few different designs of wormery on the market now, regardless of shape/size/colour or design they all aim to do the same thing – to turn your waste into nutrient rich worm poop (vermicompost).

What a fantastic organic and environmentally friendly way of using up all the kitchen scraps/garden waste and paper/cardboard rather than send it to landfill sites.

Using tiger worms and Dendrobaean worms in this manner speeds up the composting process and significantly increases the levels of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous and humic acids in the ready-to-use compost.

You do not have to buy a wormery, you can always make your own, doing it this way can save you a lot of money as if you have some space for instance round the back of the shed, there’s no reason why you can have a few wormeries on the go all at once especially if you have a lot of kitchen waste and garden waste or a lot of packaging and paper to get rid of.  In another section there is a 6 step guide on how to make a wormery without hardly any cost, this is only one example of many, the main thing is you grasp the idea and then if you want – design one yourself! Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

 

Summary of How Worms are stored in a wormery;

  • We keep the worms in a wormery – this can be easily homemade or you can buy a special type of wormery.
  • Keep the wormery cool and damp. Worms like to be cool.
  • The sump at the bottom of the wormery catches the liquid as it passes through the bedding and worms, this liquid is rich in nutrients, great for potted plants and is often referred to as ‘worm tea’.
  • A basket with holes in sits on top of the sump.
  • We use a worm bedding made from coconut coir fibre (this is the hairy fibre on coconut shells usually compressed into a size of a household brick), or we use a blend of worm bedding – you can use both of these products or you can try to use your own made up bedding.
  • Over time worms will lay their cocoons (eggs) in this bedding.
  • Add the kitchen scraps or worm food on to the surface of the bedding.
  • Cover the food with a thick layer of damp newspaper/old towel/cardboard etc.

How do I make my own wormery?

6 easy steps;

What you will need:

  • A plastic box or crate, around 50cm x 25cm deep with a good tight fitting lid.
  • A drill for drilling ventilation holes (drill bit 1-2mm approx.)
  • A couple of bricks to stand the box on.
  • Cardboard/paper – store up your old packing boxes, tear these up.
  • Worm bedding – you may be able to find something in the garden.
  • If no bedding available either use what we mix ourselves or use coir block.
  • Worms, either Tiger worms or Dendrobaena worms are equally as good, aim for 500g, it’s a decent amount of worms – they live together with no problems at all.
  • Some kitchen scraps.

 

A homemade wormery is easy and saves you a lot of money, its more time and effort but rewarding too, just give yourself an hour or two to put it all together and think ahead to find a suitable location. Location of the wormery is important as the ideal place would be shady, good ventilation and fairly dry.

  1. Drill small holes in the base of the box (worms need air to survive), drill more holes in the sides of the box towards the top but not in the lid as the rain will be able to get in, add a piece of cardboard the same size as the internal base of the box and sprinkle it with water.
  2. Try not to use a clear plastic box, as the worms are light sensitive it won’t work very effectively. If you cannot use anything else use lengths of cardboard around the insides of the box to shield the worms.
  3. Add a thin layer of bedding about 30mm-50mm for your worms to bury into, carefully tip out the worms and bedding they arrived in onto the thin layer.
  4. Add the kitchen scraps you have ready (remember not too much at this stage).
  5. Cut up into small pieces some newspaper and cardboard and add to the kitchen scraps, then add a sheet of cardboard over the top of the kitchen scraps/newspaper and strips of cardboard.
  6. Put the box lid on and fix into place, put the box in your chosen location on the bricks (or blocks), this will allow any excess water to escape – you can add a collection container for this fluid as this will also be useful to use on your garden as well.

 

What do I feed my worms?

It is amazing what worms will eat and before we cover this it would be easier to start with what remembering about hygiene, remember that you are adding to the wormery foods that will eventually be eaten by worms and will either go little rotten at times and/or go through the amazing digestive system of the worm and be ‘pooped’ out into really good worm compost, so, please use good gloves and don’t forget to wash your hands regularly.

Your worms will eat raw fruits or your kitchen veg scraps and most things but you do have to be careful as you will see that I have included citrus fruits in the ‘YES’ list as a small amount is okay but in large amounts it would be too acidic for the worms.

Worms enjoy life better in a neutral pH value environment and can normally keep this balance maintained for themselves unfortunately with our interference (adding food) we can sometimes mess this up for them so use crushed up egg shells to reduce acidity and if necessary use Lime (Calcium Carbonate powder), this help to maintain a neutral pH value in the medium and has the added benefit of reducing any smells from adding too many food scraps for the worms to get through quickly (TIP – little and often with food scraps is better than too much too soon), Lime also reduces any small fruit flies you may get and reduces smells.

Cardboard packaging is a great product to add to the wormery, especially if it is the corrugated type as the worms will crawl into the flutes of the corrugation and will happily stay there chomping away merrily until its gone – you need to tear this up into small lengths/squares to give them a chance of devouring it! Same with paper but not the glossy magazine type – worms do not like this paper or print.

If a wormery starts to smell it’s probably down to overfeeding or not enough worms.

There are loads of things you can feed worms and this list is by no means definitive:

 

YES – You can add to the Wormery

Cereals, Vegetables, Leaves, Citrus Fruits, Vegetable Peelings (Potato Skins Take Ages to Rot Down), Onions – not too much though, Sugar, Baked Beans, Crushed Egg Shells, Hoover Contents, Fruit / Peel, Pet Human Hair (this takes ages to rot down), Coffee / Tea Bags, Bread, Cardboard / Paper, Cakes/ Biscuits, Pizza, Pet Faeces (Rabbit / Gerbil Etc), Rice, Pasta, Flowers (if shop bought – ensure nothing has been sprayed on them).

 

NOT –  to be added to the Wormery

Meats, Eggs, Garlic, Spicy Foods (Curry etc), Oils, Dairy Products (milk, yogurt, butter), Insecticides / Pesticides, Paints, Bones, Poisonous Plants, Weeds, Salt, Soaps / Cosmetics, Non- Biodegradable’s, Solvents, Plastic bags (this is not a definitive list).
How do I Look after my wormery?

When feeding your worms always start with the rule ‘little and often’, chop up the scraps/food into smaller pieces.  With a new wormery a common on mistake is to overfeed and add far too much food which in turn goes off and may start to smell.  As a general ‘rule of thumb’ add the equivalent of a banana, some fruit, coffee grounds, some torn up cardboard and once the worms are settled and established and the colony of worms start to grow you can then add more. Tiger worms and Dendrobaena worms are prolific breeders and providing conditions are right will just keep on breeding.  Always make sure the small air holes are not blocked as ventilation is very important, in the early days of adding the worms, you may find the worms crawl everywhere except in the bedding they are supposed to be in. To help them back into the bedding just put the worms onto the surface of the bedding, leave the wormery lid off and as the worms are light sensitive they will burrow under the surface to get away from the light (you only need to do this for a few minutes).

 

What are worm casts?

You probably already know the virtues of worm casts, a rich nutrient commonly known as ‘black gold’, an organic soil conditioner produced solely by worms as food has passed through their gullet. The worm ‘poop’ or ‘castings’ are full of nutrients and stuffed with the type of beneficial bacteria that plants thrive for.

The advantages of using organic worm castings as a natural fertiliser;

  • optimized levels of minerals, trace elements and enzymes.
  • rich in nitrogen, phosphates and potash.
  • full of good bacteria which stimulate plant growth, germination, fertility and an increase in yield.

 

How do I Harvest the compost from my wormery?

Depending on time of year and weather conditions it should take about three months to get to the stage where you can start to harvest the compost.  Most of the worms will live in the top few inches of the medium (compost) so if you scrape off these first few inches you will have removed most of the worms, temporarily store this material in a bag of some kind (you will be putting all this back soon).  Empty out the rest of the compost and this is what you are going to use on your garden, you’ll probably find a few worms in the compost, don’t be too concerned – they’ll continue doing a good composting job for you in their new home – the garden, and worms are prolific breeders so numbers will soon start to increase.  TIP – ensure you dig the compost in or it tends to harden and dry out over time.  Now is the time to put the worms and medium back into the wormery and start the process off again and give yourself a pat on the back for helping to create a natural organic compost.

 

When is the best time to startup a wormery?

The best thing about a wormery is that it can be done anytime of the year, in really cold weather there will be a tendency for the worms to slow down possibly not eat as much on these occasions, help protect your wormery by covering it or moving it to a place that it can be protected by deep frosts and on the opposite end to cold – very hot weather, move the wormery to a shaded place.

 

What do I need to do to the wormery when I go on holiday?

Tear loads of cardboard and paper, make sure it is moist/damp, add it to the wormery (you can use plenty of it so this is the time to not use the ruler ‘little and often’, this time use plenty and ensure it is moist.

 

My worms keeping escaping from the wormery?

Tear loads of cardboard and paper, make sure it is moist/damp, add it to the wormery (you can use plenty of it so this is the time to not use the ruler ‘little and often’, this time use plenty and ensure it is moist.

 

Worms keep gathering in the wormery lid?

Worms are very sensitive to pressure changes, for example, before it rains you will quite often find the worms in the lid trying to get out and away from the soil to avoid drowning.  This is quite normal and the worms should move back to the bedding over a period of time, if not, just remove the worms from the lid, allow them to drop back onto the surface, keep the lid off for half an hour and with the worms being sensitive to light, they will burrow back into the bedding as normal.

 

Where do worms live in the wild?

Worms in the wild live near the surface of the soil, usually within the first two to three inches of the surface. If you lift the rotting leaves on the floor surface you will normally find a few there.  Wormeries are great places to see what work worms really do, often referred to as ‘natures engineers’ or ‘natures miners’, worms munch happily away on most organic products, these organic products work there natural way through the worm finishing up as worm poop – don’t be put off! This product (vermicast or worm cast) is what most gardeners use as a natural fertiliser for their gardens and is so rich in nutrients is often called ‘black gold’.

 

Wormy Facts

Worms are hermaphrodites (male and females), worms reach maturity at about 10 weeks and once they have grown their saddle (the lump on their backs) they can produce cocoons, worms reproduce rapidly and lay a ‘worm egg’ every 7-10 days, this cocoon is formed in the saddle, when conditions are right the cocoon hatches and sometimes you can get around 4 baby worms in a single cocoon.  When a cocoon is freshly laid the colour is bright green and about the size of a small ball bearing, the closer to the cocoon hatching the darker brown the cocoon becomes.  Worms grow rapidly, starting off like a thin thread as small as your smallest fingernail to within a few months becoming thick and about 10cms long.

 

Now Try Our Young Persons Yorkshire Wiggly Wormy Quizical Quiz….

Fill in the missing letters…

  1. Worms make c _ mp _ _ t out of your kitchen waste.
  2. Another word for worm egg is c _ c _ _ n.
  3. Worms are not adults until they form a  s _ d _ _ e.
  4. The saddle is where c _ c _ _ _ s are formed.
  5. Worms like c _ _ l and d _ _ p conditions.
  6. The colour of a newly laid worm cocoon is  _ e _ _ _ w.
  7. I can use k _ t _ _ e _   sc _ _ _ s  on my wormery.

More Yorkshire Wormy quizicals…

  1. What do worms make out of your waste kitchen scraps ? [clue – swotrmca]
  2. What forms on the backs of worms when they become adults ? [clue – esladd]
  3. What do worms lay every week or so ? [clue – sooncco]
  4. Where is the liquid stored in the wormery ? [clue – pums]
  5. What do I need to do to paper and cardboard [clue – sentmoi]
  6. How do I protect my worms from frosty weather [clue – vroce]
  7. Where is the best place to put my wormery [clue – eadsh]

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