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Watching Worms at Work

By: Kelly-Rose Bradford - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Organic Gardening Kitchen Waste

Children are naturally fascinated by worms – few can resist picking them up and examining them in the garden or squealing with delight when they see them on the pavement after rainfall. But as well as being a source of wonder, worms can play a very important part in our eco-friendly or organic lifestyles.

What is a Worm Farm?

A worm farm is basically a box full of kitchen waste with worms in it! The worms eat all the food scraps, digest it and then produce (via their poo and waste) a rich compost (or fertiliser) for your plants! Worms are prolific eaters and breeders – it is said that they can eat up to half their own body weight every day, and their breeding cycles can enable them to double their population every 60-90 days, so your wormery could become very productive very quickly!

Making a Worm Bin at Home

If you intend to keep your wormery indoors (and a warm, insulated place makes for better compost) then a small, ready-made container will be necessary, but if you plan to have your wormery in the garden then there's no need to buy an expensive ready-made worm farm unless you particularly want to. A basic wormery can be made at home from materials that you probably already have, or could source easily and cheaply.

You will need:

  • An old compost bin or dustbin
  • Newspapers
  • Kitchen waste (vegetable matter only)
  • Compost
  • Sand or gravel for drainage
  • Wood - pre-drilled with drainage holes
Fill your bin with the sand or gravel, then place your wood on the top of it. Add a thick layer of compost (moisten it well before adding). Put your worms on top of the compost – you will need a lot! One hundred is usually the suggested minimum! Add your well-chopped vegetable scraps to the bin, and cover with well-dampened newspaper. Replace the bin's lid, and leave undisturbed for at least a fortnight.

To remove your compost once it is ready you will need to encourage the worms to the top of the bin – you can do this by adding in a fresh layer of tempting treats – then shovel them out, tip out your compost and start again!

What Sort of Worms Should I Use?

Not all worms are suited to wormeries – indeed, the long, wriggly worms we most commonly see in the garden should not be used at all as they are not 'composting' worms – only worms that thrive and live near the surface of the garden are suitable for wormeries.

Suitable Worms

  • The Brandling Worm: very stripy in appearance and will be found in compost heaps and manure – this particular species is perfect for your worm bin!

  • Dendrobaena or European Nightcrawler: stripy, with a browny-red body and a coloured tip (usually cream or yellow) to its tail, this variety of worm is also ideal for your wormery and can be farmed alongside the Brandling worm.
Top Tips
  • Do not overfeed your worms
  • Use only vegetable or plant scraps – no meat or dairy
  • Make sure your bin or bucket has good drainage holes at the bottom and air holes at the top.
  • Don't allow your bin to dry out or become too wet
  • Give your worms a variety of foods

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