Making a wormery

Posted: Friday 23 December 2011
by Kate Bradbury

My garden is too small to have two compost bins, so I’ve fashioned a temporary wormery using a large bucket.

Compost worms on kitchen waste

I’ve had enough of my compost bin. It’s too small, too dry, and the decomposition process has virtually ground to a halt in this cold weather, meaning there is very little space left for Christmas dinner veg peelings.

On top of that, the mouse is causing havoc. Every time I go to empty my kitchen caddy, I find the existing waste in the bin has been transformed into a network of tunnels. The well-rotted compost at the bottom is obviously surplus to the mouse’s requirements – I find it in little mounds at the top of the heap. It spills over the back and sides, feeding the soil for self-sown tomato and courgette seedlings. Helpful? No.

Now is not the time to empty it and start all over again (my usual solution to a full bin). Any warm spots in the centre of the heap (where the bacteria and fungi necessary for decomposition may still be flourishing) will quickly cool down, slowing decomposition even further – and there are hoverfly larvae, worms, beetles and slugs to think of. I don’t want to harm them.

So I’m just going to leave the heap alone and take my kitchen waste elsewhere.

My garden is too small to have two compost bins, so I’ve fashioned a temporary wormery using a large bucket. It's not very high-tech. I’ve simply placed egg cartons at the bottom of the bucket to absorb any liquid produced, and added compost, composting worms and kitchen waste. The lid is an old jute bag tied with string (ensuring the waste is well ventilated).

A wormery makes a great complement to a conventional compost bin. Rather than decomposing, the waste is eaten by the worms, and is transformed into a nutritious organic matter and liquid feed. Virtually any container can be used to make a wormery, providing there is adequate drainage material. Sophisticated models involving drainage taps and slotted trays make the process easier, but I'm happy to just empty the bin once the worms have had their fill.

Finding the worms was easy. There’s some cardboard at the top of my compost bin, which the worms had turned into a sort of winter duvet. I took it and placed it on top of the egg cartons. Hey presto: bedding. I then brought the wormery inside, as worms eat food at a faster rate in warm conditions (it’s in the spare room, I hope it doesn't offend my Christmas guests).

I added a few chopped up scraps to start with, so as not to overload the worms with food. But they took to it straight away and have already started producing worm casts.

As wormeries go, mine won’t win any prizes. Permanent wormery composters need drainage holes to allow liquid to drain away, but there's sufficient cardboard at the bottom of the bucket to absorb excess moisture over the coming weeks (I'll be regularly checking the bin to make sure conditions don't get too damp). Luckily, this is only a temporary measure. As soon as temperatures rise, I'll be booting the mouse, hoverfly larvae and other critters out of the existing compost bin, to give it a much-needed MOT.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year.

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Talkback: Making a wormery
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oldchippy 23/12/2011 at 16:12

Hi Kate, Happy Christmas,One of my compost bin is almost full and the worms are still active, When I lift the lid to put more waist in there is always a lot round the lid and rim at the top,One bin is almost empty now so I can start to refill it with pruning,s from the border and kitchen waist mixed together,Have a Peaceful New Year.

GRACELAND 23/12/2011 at 17:41

well you going to tell us how ?

oldchippy 27/12/2011 at 21:07

Graceland,Click on Making a wormery for full details,Happy New Year.

Pauline Gardens Weekly 27/12/2011 at 23:18

What an outstanding idea Kate! I could not be without my worm juice (as I call it). The speed with which worms turn peelings into the amazing brown stuff has to be tried by all... What would we do without cardboard egg boxes eh? (Wormeries, spud chitting, seed trays....) Great post as always!

Kate Bradbury 29/12/2011 at 08:22

@oldhippy Happy Christmas to you too. I envy you having more than one bin!

@GRACELAND if you click on the link to making a wormery in the blog above, there's a video demonstration of how to make one.

@Pauline Gardens Weekly thanks very much! It's working really well. I'm now on the scrounge for more containers to make a more permanent wormey!


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