Wormery composters

by Adam Pasco

What wonderful creatures composting worms are. I first set up my wormery compost container about 15 years ago, and it has been converting kitchen waste into compost ever since.

Adam Pasco assembling a wormery composterWhat wonderful creatures composting worms are. I first set up my wormery compost container about 15 years ago, and it has been converting kitchen waste into compost ever since. 

Unlike traditional compost bins where you simply pile in and mix-up your garden waste, worm bins harness the feeding habits of brandling or tiger worms. These fast-moving worms occur naturally in leaf litter and compost bins, and are different from earthworms. 

They feed on the kitchen waste my family generate, converting it into a compost (sometimes called vermipeat) and liquid feed. However, to keep the worms contained, and prevent too many of them escaping into the garden, you need a proper worm compost bin. 

My worm composter forms a tower, with three trays on legs and with a lid, and each tray has small holes in its base through which worms can crawl. 

You start by just putting kitchen waste in the bottom tray, and bit-by-bit it fills up. Brandling worms are added from the start to feed on this waste. Once the bottom tray is full you start adding kitchen waste a little at a time to the next tray up, and worms crawl through the holes into this new food source. 

Over time this will be filled, and so will the top tier above it. By now the material in the bottom tray will have been turned into worm compost, and all the worms will have moved onwards and upwards. Compost from the bottom tray can be emptied out onto the garden or used in potting compost or other ways, and the empty tray can be put back at the top of the tower for the process to continue. 

This cycle has continued in my bin for 15 years, and still goes on, producing tray after tray of worm compost. 

It's so simple, and in addition to producing worm compost you can collect liquid from a tap in the base to use as liquid feed.

Every gardener should try and make all the compost they can, and I currently have six compost bins (including a 3-bay New Zealand bin) and three worm bins on the go. Every scrap of kitchen waste is composted, and by this I mean vegetable waste like potato and carrot peelings, banana skins, tea bags, fruit skins, and so on (and NOT cooked food waste). I'm also experimenting with composting cooked waste in a bokashi bin, but haven't quite mastered this yet - a topic for a future blog, perhaps.

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Gardeners' World Web User 30/11/2009 at 20:13

Funny this post came up today. We are having unseasonably warm weather, and decided to clean out the worm composter we made this spring. We used an old garbage can that had the bottom broken. We cut the bottom out, drilled a few holes around the bottom edge so we could "pin" the can to the ground and just started adding food waste - and we use cooked food waste (no meats or fat though) too. After a few months, we could tell that there wasn't much worm action (and the can was about half full of ook), so I posted to Craigslist looking for someone who had some worms to spare and a nice couple let me come to their rabbit farm and take as many as I could shovel (and each shovel had hundreds of worms!). We only took about half of a 5g bucket worth and added it. After a few months we could tell that stuff was happening as we had finally filled the garbage can, but each time we needed to empty the kitchen can, there was always room. Anyway, today we took a look to see what was happening and we had a garbage can full of "vermipeat". We forked it over to the open compost bin (made from pallets) and now this spring we will have some nice fertile loamy stuff to add to our beds! I LOVE worms!!!

Gardeners' World Web User 01/12/2009 at 11:15

Me too! I have had my wormery for many years and compost my kitchen waste and that of my neighbours. My worms don't care for onion skins or citrus fruit but process everything else and I crumble up eggshells to give them some grit. I feed them and the birds before myself. The productivity in my garden is amazing and all due to vermipeat and worm wee!

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2009 at 15:29

On the subject of egg shells. I put them in an old plastic container with a few golf balls and shake. Produces nicely ground egg shells which I add to my wormery.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2009 at 18:42

I have a conventional green compost bin with a lid and little sliding door at the base. I added a few worms when starting out a couple of years ago and now keep two bins on the go, rotating waste between them as the levels drop. I occasionally turn the compost with a fork and it now resembles spaghetti under the surface with thousands of worms which seem to live and feed happily under this environment. It is really rewarding and encouraging to see this wonderful compost being made for free!! Love it.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2009 at 20:12

I would so love to keep worms going but I have failed miserably. I am coming to the conclusion that they do ned to be kept in a shed over the Winter - a protected place outdoors is insufficient (in our part of Wiltshire anyway). They became another mouth to feed and we were always surprised at how little waste they can deal with. The three bin tower is brilliant for making comfrey fertiliser though!

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