Worm composting all year round

by Adam Pasco

I'm a great fan of wormeries. I feed all my kitchen waste to the hungry brandling worms inside the wormery bins, which turn it into wonderful compost.

Adding kitchen waste to the wormeryI'm a great fan of wormeries. I feed all my kitchen waste to the hungry brandling worms inside the wormery bins, which turn it into wonderful compost.

There's been a definite chill in the air for the past few days, so I'll move the bins into my unheated greenhouse before the temperature drops too much. In winter the worms can die of cold and the contents of the bins can even freeze solid. Wormeries don’t need to be put in a heated place; it’s enough to avoid freezing conditions. Some gardeners just wrap their wormeries with insulation, such as bubble polythene, to keep out the cold.

I've always added small quantities of newspaper to my worm bins, usually by wrapping peelings in a few pages before adding them to the bin. However, cardboard egg cartons and toilet roll tubes can be torn up and mixed into worm bins, too. One wormery manufacturer recommends adding up to 30 per cent dry cardboard or newspaper to help absorb moisture as the kitchen waste is broken down.

When I wrote a blog on worm bin composters a couple of years ago it was great hearing from other wormery fans. One person wrote in the comments section that she wanted to start using the technique to grow worms for her angling husband to use as bait.

For me it's all about recycling, and turning waste into useful compost. By keeping my worms warm over winter, they'll continue feeding on the peelings, banana skins and vegetable waste I add each week – along with the paper and cardboard, too.

When it’s fully broken down I'll use the new compost to improve my soil, sprinkling it around newly planted bulbs and divided perennials. And with the cost of gardening forever on the increase I'll save a small fortune on bags of soil improvers and compost from the garden centre.

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Gardeners' World Web User 17/10/2011 at 16:08

I've got 6 large compost bays that are filled to the top with hemp horse bedding, manure, cuttings weeds etc... Is it best to cover them over the winter with old carpet or tarp? I'd really like to speed up the breakdown of the material so I can use it next spring.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/10/2011 at 19:02

I'd cover the bays with tarpaulin, avoiding the carpet unless it's made of biodegradable material. I've learned from experience that it's important not to use the compost until its well rotted. It's worth waiting for. Don't rush it.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/10/2011 at 09:34

Thanks will do... off to tuck the worms into bed now!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/10/2011 at 09:57

Yes, always cover compost heaps. This does keep in heat on freshly-made heaps, holds in moisture to stop material drying out, but also keeps out heavy rain that can make everything very soggy. I agree with Henrik – don't use old man-made carpets in the garden, particularly those with foamy underlay. This can decompose to pollute your compost and soil.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/10/2011 at 11:46

We just got ourselves a second hand wormery and are keen to start composting soon. One other thing I'm looking forward to doing in the spring is making worm tea from fresh casting off the wormery. Plants love worm tea and restores some essential bacteria into the garden that may lessen in time.

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