Wormery - by Susie

Aug 4 2020

Winter 2020

I have begun trialling using plant based plastic from magazines – tearing it up first.
Susie's wormery 1

There's a good steady amount of worm tea in the watering can. Slows down in winter but a watering can of worm tea every 2 or 3 weeks – I put onto the plants growing in the greenhouse.

The main challenges have been too many worms and keeping the wormery from going anaerobic. Too many worms for the wormery and they start finding a way out...so I put some worms on the compost heap and then stabilized conditions by adding leaf mould.

Susie's wormery 3

However I'm trying to find a solution for the ever increasing number of worms. I tried making another wormery to address this problem - used an old rubbish bin, drilling some air holes and drainage holes and insulating it with garden bags we had (from buying compost etc) and tying them on.

After some weeks there now seem to be too many worms in this bin too. I seem to have enough food waste for my wormery and this bin, but my problem of too many worms has not been solved. I will now think of buying a compost bin and replace this second bin as the worms are also getting out through the lid.
Susie's wormery 5
A plastic compost bin may be a solution to put the worm compost so it can break down even more as well as housing some of the excess worms

Anyone wanting to use a wormery, my advice would be to: 
1. be aware that you will need to change the bottom layer at least every 2 months…put it on the top and then just leave it with the lid off for 48 hours. Most worms should leave this layer, making it ok for you to put in used empty compost bag until you have enough to then add to your other compost, sieving it for seedlings and adding some sand.
2. Keep taking out worms when there are too many.
3. Add leaves perhaps that you have in a leaf mould, or torn newspaper to the top with the food to keep the conditions from going anaerobic. 
Susie's wormery 7

May 2018

I have added a cardboard layer on top and cutting up veggies into smaller pieces now. The wormery looks very healthy and the worms are breading at a very good rate. I have learnt to just leave the worms in the compost when it is removed to keep the population down.

Wormery bin with vegetables and card 

After only a month I have been emptying the compost layer after onto the bed outside. I began cleaning it again, keeping the tap open and mixing the layers to finally made the conditions right.

This month I have had no May fruit flies which makes a nice contrast to last year. Perhaps it was the cardboard layers...

Wormert bin with mixed layers

I demonstrated the wormery at an event in Nursling with Test Valley Borough Council during Compost Awareness Week on 7 May at the recreational centre. I took a jar of worms, and a sample of what they make - both the compost and the worm tea. This successfully created considerable interest in keeping a wormery for food waste.

February 2018

I decided to get more trays and luckily I found a 4 tier wormery on EBay straight away - so now I have two wormeries!

Worms in a compost bin

Another suggestion I was given was to use vacuum bag contents – which you can see in the photo nicely mixed in.

Worms in a compost bin

This photo shows the sump layer at the bottom to take the waste which drains through as worm tea. Mine had too many worms here.

I had to remember to break up my tea bags and cut up the banana skins.

January 2018

I’m worried about the large number of worms! They seem to want to escape with some of the worms getting out through the air holes on the top and then falling to the ground.

Worms in compost

I have been reminded to keep a damp surface on the top, and a moisture mat like shredded newspaper might stop them getting out. This meant that there was less space for the worms, but it slowed them getting out a bit.

My watering can has been filling up every other week with worm tea.

Worms in a compost bin

Worms in a compost bin

Winter 2017

The weather was starting to get colder and I was concerned about the worms. I read online that they don’t like conditions below five degrees so I placed some blankets on top of the wormery to keep them warm.

I was continuing to ‘feed’ the wormery around once a week and watering it every so often, and even managed to draw off some ‘worm tea’ from the tap. I noticed the worms starting to huddle at the top of the matting cover however, and on closer inspection I could see the bottom of the wormery had become anaerobic, in other words far too wet.

I visited my friend with the established wormery to see what I could learn. Wow – so many worms! It had a wonderful rich layer of compost at the bottom which can be mixed with leaf mould to make a potting compost. My friend said she never waters hers, and neither does she break up the larger pieces of raw veg.

I headed home with renewed enthusiasm and carefully extracted the worms from the coir matting. I found more worms underneath in a small seam of compost that was more like I was expecting but I couldn’t seem to access it as my wormery doesn’t have a separate retractable layer like my friend’s. This was a bit disappointing but I’ll have to try to find out more as it doesn’t make sense. Nonetheless I was able to add the second layer at last, and also mix some fresh waste into the rotting anaerobic stuff (which really smelt…), and everything now looked drier so it might recover.

The worms have now headed back towards the top again and seem to be trying to nest in the matting. They look healthy though so I’m not too worried, and I’ll wait a week or two and see if the waste becomes more aerobic.

Wormery bin with paper

Autumn 2016

I was very excited when my new wormery was delivered. We decided we would keep it in our greenhouse and took all the bits out there. The instructions were fairly easy to follow, although some of the steps, particularly attaching the bolt, could have perhaps been better labelled.

The kit included some coir matting which required soaking for 15 minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t spot this until later so the coir soaked for too long and I had to sieve it. Again, the instructions could’ve been a little clearer.

The coir makes up the first layer above the sump where the liquid collects from the worm composting process. After adding a layer of compost above the matting, it was time to introduce the worms that were supplied by the manufacturer. We then placed a layer of food waste on top and left the lid open for a while to encourage the worms to start burrowing down as they are sensitive to light.

I left the wormery to settle for a few days as I was concerned after looking for advice online about overfeeding the worms while it established. I kept a bucket handy with leftovers to gradually add waste, while using another to separate acidic food waste such as citrus fruit and onions as it can be harmful to the worms, and also bread which goes mouldy too quickly. Tea bags need to be split open. Whenever possible I chopped up the food waste to make it easier for the worms to eat, and put a sprinkling on earth on top each time.

I continued to feed them sparingly and added some acid regulator, but despite the worms appearing to be healthy, very little food was being eaten. Some of the food waste was starting to go mouldy so I removed it. I added some water once a week as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and tried to make sure the food was chopped and varied (I even included some decaying comfrey leaves), although I was still not really sure how much to give them. A friend who has had a wormery for years told me to relax and just let nature take its course…

Wormery bin