Posts Tagged ‘worms’

Worms Re-visited

It is time to revisit the wormary.   I am more than pleased with how things are going, ever since I got hold of an old plastic dustbin lid to put on the top (and so to keep the rain out) everything inside has started to run really well.  For the worms this means no more sudden downpours and a deadly bath when they venture into the sump.  For the compost it has given it a good time to dry out and start to work properly instead of constantly fighting the incoming water.

This must be about the 9th year we have had the Can-O-Worms.  I had a bit of a gap for some years when time didn’t allow doing anything in the garden, but I restocked it with new worms the other year and we are now up to the top layer.   I now have a fly-less and nice smelling composter which is something I believe to be quite cheerfull about.  Within the next months I believe it will be time for me to empty the bottom layer of the vermicompost and put it back at the top empty and ready to receive rubbish.

The whole idea of composting with worms makes a lot of sense as it is the worms that help condition our soil and keep it managed.   In this contained environment you are getting the worms to speed up the natural decay of organic waste so such a degree that in theory they eat the organic waste before it attracts flys and starts to smell.  Ideal then for a small garden or if you are really brave there are stories of people who have wormaries in their house living with them!  It takes time even for an army of worms to chomp away at everything and a number of wormary friends tell me their stories of flys and smells and a soggy mess that has put them off.    I have had this too in the past and it has really been down to mismanagement of the composter than the poor worms who are just trying to do their best.

The idea is that worms like it where it is warm and dark and there is food.   The wormary I use (Can-O-Worms) has three layers.  You start on the bottom one, adding your worms and waste and as the waste passes through the worms it becomes the dark moist vermicompost.   The worms pop up and grab the waste and then dig it down in the existing vermicompost in order to digest it.  They keep on doing that until no more food, and as they do the amount of vermicompost builds up until you have filled a layer and you are ready for the next (each layer has holes to allow easy movement of worms).  The worms like the dark, but they like food too, so by the time you have filled up the three layers, the bottom layer should be mostly empty of worms, allowing you to empty it and use on your garden with the knowing that you will not lose many if any worms.

Worms do not like old manky moldy food, and that is where a lot of people go wrong.  If you put too much into your wormary then the worms will not be able to eat it quick enough (plus also they tend to be a lot less active in the colder winter) and they will not take kindly to moldy food and just leave it to mold even more.  That is where the flies and the smell come into it.  There is nothing worse than opening the lid to be hit by millions of flies and a bad smell.   The best thing here is to remove some of the rotting food and to keep the lid off for a little while (if you believe it will  not rain).

The wormary is fantastic for our small garden, taking a mixture of kitchen waste, a little tiny bit of garden waste, and quite a lot of our junk mail and conditional waste all shredded up.   The result being very good vermicompost that normally just put on the surface of beds and allow the garden worms to do the rest, and a large quantity of liquid feed that is tapped off at the bottom which makes great plant food is diluted.

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Dust bin lid Can-o-Worms

Forget the “shower cap” you can buy from Wiggly Wigglers, it is hard to put on and it doesn’t stay on for long, and it doesn’t seem to keep any water out!   Instead, I was at Woods Mill and noticed that they had put a dustbin lid on their Can-o-Worm.  Why didn’t I think of that?  A quick WANTED on Freecycle and I now have the lid on top of the Can-o-Worms.   Now… we need rain.

Worms keep chomping on the scraps

I am quite happy with how the worms are going.  They are on the second layer and are looking after themselves very well.

On the top layer I have a number of cardboard pieces to keep it dark, keep off the rain a bit, and to soak up any extra moisture.  It is a lot better, for me, than a standard moisture mat as I found the worms eat the mat too quickly.  Maybe that is showing a slight failing somewhere if the worms prefer my mat instead of the food.

I am putting in mostly vegitable peelings, tea/coffee, eggs, and things like that.  A lot of stuff from the garden went in at the beginning of the year and they have managed to chomp their way through that, but it did put it all out of action for adding new stuff for a number of months, so not a good idea really.    At least once a month I add a load of ripped up paper made up of various credit card bills and other confidential things.  These worms let no secrets go, so no identity theft going on here!

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Can-O-Worms – up to level two

Infact, level one was a bit high, so we scooped a whole lot out of it and put it onto level two – this should get the worms interested to go up to the next one.

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Hello worms, this is your new home

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The worms then spent a couple of days and nights in their bag in the cool dark garage, until Saturday morning.  It was a typical summers day on the Saturday, which going by this year’s weather is quite something, and so T&J were more than ready to help with the worms as soon as they got up and had had breakfast!

It was years ago since we started the original worms off, I remember we ‘dissolved’ the bedding block in a bucket in the kitchen and were amazed that from the small dry bedding block came out a huge huge amount of wet bedding when you added water!   So, we did the same again (although this time outside), and I explained to T&J as I added the water how over the next 10 minutes the ‘brick’ (as it looks like in its dry form) would grow and grow and grow into a nice big bed for the worms.    It did too, but took a good 20 minutes which was well over their attention span so instead I called them over to have a look at interesting points while they helped the time go by rushing up and down the garden in their Little Tikes cars.

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The idea of the bedding is to give something for the worms to live in, no-one really wants to live in just a pot of rubbish!  It keeps them warm or cool depending on the outside temperature, and allows moisture to I suppose both be captured and to escape from the worms.  It’s a nice cosy place to be, if you are a worm.  According to the book (Worms Eat My Garbage) you can use all sorts of things as bedding, including things like shredded paper.

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Eventually, the bedding block turned into wet bedding and the fun was all ready to begin.  I called T&J out from their cars and over they came to see the bedding go into the worm bin.  We did all agree that it looked like a nice place to live if you were a worm which then prompted for the excitement of unpacking the worms from their bag.   Both T&J had a quick handle of the bag, but always eager that maybe they didn’t quite relise that there were life worms in the bag and ever conscious that at any minute one of them might squeeze it to see what happens, I took over and cut open the bag of worms and tipped them into their new home.  They seemed all quite happy after their two days of sitting in the garage (I saw one or two of them smiling I’m sure) and they seemed even happier once on their new bedding.   We all watched as they quickly all started burrowing down into the bedding to get away from the bright sunlight and within minutes they were all gone again in their new home under the bedding and out of sight.   Everyone did have time though to quickly touch the worms as they wiggled about, and one or two of them were given pet names (not too sure about the one named after their teacher!).

It all seemed a bit of an anti-climax after the great build up, but had taken us a good hour and everyone was all excited about what we could feed the worms later on in the day.  In the meantime, we put the lid on and let them get used to things.

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Rain cap for worms

I forgot all about this when I ordered the worms.  I always said next time when we have worms we would have to make sure we were able to cover the Can-o-worms as when it rains things get wet.  Before, we had it under a bit of a makeshift shed thing but it was never perfect and so we spent a lot of the time opening the tap at the bottom to let all the water out.  At times, we would just leave the tap open just incase it rained so much that the water filled the bottom and started to seep into the bottom layer and drown the worms.  That then, was a bit of a waste of the liquid worm fertilizer (worm wee!) which was most of the time just running out of the open tap.

It was good then that a while back I noticed in the Wiggly Wigglers catalogue a breathable rain cover for the Can-o-Worms.  Certainly something I was going to include in my order for new worms, but I forgot!  So, a second order was made on the internet and within a couple of days a new cover was delivered.  I took the opportunity to order some Lime Mix too.  It’s all coming back to me know all the things we used to do.  Before, we had a bag of Worm Treat and a bag of Lime Mix.   The idea to try to keep the ph value of the bedding to something that the worms liked, if it gets too acidity then just add some of the Lime Mix.  In order to further aid with this, I ordered a ph tester off ebay!

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The Worms Have Arrived

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The worms arrived, in a little box with air holes, they all looked quite cosy in there.  Fizz was not as convinced as me and the boys and she refused to touch the box, so it sat and waited for me to come home, where the courier man had left the box, on the hallway floor.   I was in a bit of a dilemma as while it was all quite exciting that they had arrived, the timing was not great as for the next two days I had a couple of late nights arranged at work and I really wanted T&J to help me with setting the whole wormary up.    Would the worms be fine for an extra two or three days in their little bag in the box?  After some thinking I decided that they were in a bag which was in a box with air holes, and they were probably mixed up with a load of bedding too which, if they became hungry, they could start nibbling on that.   If I put them in the cool garage for a couple of days they would be fine.  So, in they went, resting on top of the Trabant (which is under ‘restoration’, I promise) and the dark and cool garage.

The last time we had the worms we didn’t really put too much thought into anything or attempt to understant what was going on.   For a number of reasons, this time I want to do things a bit different, I want to actualy do it all properly.  Not only would this make me a ‘worm expert’ around friends (much to their delight) but it would also allow me to get the most out of the wormary.   Last time, we had flys and all sorts of things in and around it, this time I want to prevent this and by doing things the correct way and having worms eating the waste at just the right rate, all we should have is a lot of happy worms and an earthy smell instead of a swarm of flys and a smell similar to a blocked drain!   Another aim here too, with two four year old boys who would, being boys, be excited about worms and creepy crawlys, I want to get them involved.  Last time, we didn’t have any four year old boys, infact we had no boys at all to share my excitement about worms!

In order to aid my understanding I decided to splash out and buy a book that I have had my eye on for years and I see mentioned and recommended all over the place.   Mary Appelhof seems to be a bit of a ‘worm woman’ and her book ‘Worms Eat My Garbage’ seems to be the book you must read.   I have to say, I’m reading it very fast at the moment, learning what I can and it is all of great interest.