What is a wormery?
In a nutshell, a wormery is a sealed, multi layered container. It is home to thousands and thousands of hungry worms who love to eat your organic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill.
They are also marvellous little ecosystems, encompassing nature to turn kitchen scraps into gardening gold. And the star of the show that takes centre stage in this process is the humble little worm.
Meet the residents
Your shiny new wormery, also known as a worm bin or worm composter, will eventually be jam packed with worms. But not any old worm, these are composting worms, the specialists! The worms for our wormery are known as red or tiger worms (Eisenia fetida). With a huge appetite and an eagerness to breed, they are the most efficient worm to have in your wormery.
One single tiger worm can consume half of it’s own bodyweight per day, meaning if you had 1kg of worms, they would eat through 500g of waste a day. You can also expect them to double their population within 60 to 90 days. Using ordinary garden earthworms just won’t cut it. They are too happy languishing around deep underground to be up to our task.
What’s on the menu
A lot of us are guilty of it, we may be preparing a salad and just unceremoniously toss the non tasty bits into the bin. Those potato peelings? Yep, chuck ‘em in the bin.
All across the country this act is being duplicated. Each year mountains of kitchen food scraps go to landfill, where it rots down and releases methane into the atmosphere. That’s bad news for our planet as it is a damaging greenhouse gas.
By using a suitably sized wormery for your household, you can pretty much eliminate the need to throw away most of your organic household waste.
What CAN I put in my wormery?
Worms will be happy munching through many organic things, but there are a few things that should be avoided.
- All cooked vegetables
- All raw vegetables, but only add onion or garlic in very small amounts
- Fruit, except citrus fruit which can only be added in small quantities
- Tea bags
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds
- Bread in small amounts
- Newspaper, card and shredded paper
- Small amounts of garden waste such as soft leaves and annual weeds
- Hair cuttings or brushed off dog fur
What should I NOT put in my wormery?
- Raw or cooked meat
- Large amounts of citrus fruit or peel
- Grass cuttings
- Dairy products, fat or grease
- Large amounts of garden waste, especially sticks or tough leaves
- Dog poop
The important thing to remember is to not overload the wormery with too much waste.
How does a wormery work?
A regular wormery will have a series of trays with lots of small holes at their base.
With your new wormery you will begin with one tray, filled with your worms and your kitchen waste. The more the worms consume, the more organic scraps you can add.
When the first tray gets full, you will add another tray on top. The organic scraps are now added to the second tray.
Because the worms are surface dwellers, they will now move upward through the holes on the bottom of the second tray, leaving behind nothing other than worm poo in the first tray. YUCK! WORM POO?!? Yep, you read that correctly, it can also be called worm castings but let’s call it something else from now on. In the industry it is named vermicompost, so I’ll stick to calling it that from now on.
Vermicompost is really good stuff, trust me. But I’ll get onto that in a moment.
A good wormery can accommodate three trays or more, so once the second tray gets full of vermicompost, add the third tray along with more organic or green waste. All the worms will now move upwards to the third tray. You can now safely remove the first tray and empty it of this valuable, black, earthy vermicompost. DO NOT THROW IT AWAY and be sure to keep it for later on!
And that’s it, just carry on repeating this process with all your trays.
What’s so special about vermicompost and what can I do with it?
After a few months of owning your wormery, your worms would have chomped through a tray load of waste kitchen scraps and digested them into something else. A dark, earthy, nutrient packed organic fertiliser for your garden plants.
This vermicompost has often been called black gold as it is so revered by gardeners and anybody remotely green fingered.
It can be mixed with regular compost to give your soil a boost. Or mix it with potting soil and use it in hanging baskets or growing pots.
Here are some of the benefits that your garden could have by introducing vermicompost to it.
- Adds nutrients to the soil such a potassium, magnesium, phosphates and calcium
- Introduces beneficial bacteria and microorganisms to the soil
- Helps provide a better structure to the soil
- Improves the aeration and drainage of some clay soils
- Helps sandy soils retain water
Wormery liquid plant food
If helping our landfill sites out and making your own organic fertiliser and soil conditioner isn’t enough, your wormery will provide you with yet another useful benefit. And this is liquid plant food.
Most decent wormeries have a tap attached on the bottom which will drain from an inner sump. All of the organic juices and the excess moisture in the wormery will sink down through the vermicompost and gather in the bottom sump.
This liquid (leachate) is also infused with nutrients and microorganisms and will give your plants a real boost. I highly recommend you dilute it with ten parts water as it will be highly concentrated stuff. It’s not just ourselves that can have too much of a good thing.
Are they difficult to care for?
As long as you don’t overfeed a wormery you probably won’t encounter any problems. The worms are pretty hardy critters and take care of themselves.
Do not site your wormery in the direct sun as they can overheat and die. A nice shaded spot will be ideal.
Although wormeries can be situated outside all year long, the worms will slow their rate of consumption in the winter.
Some companies are making indoor wormeries now, which are more aesthetically pleasing, ensuring they won’t look out of place in your kitchen.
A healthy wormery that is not overfed will not emit any smell so there is no reason to have any concerns about stinking your home out.
Where can I buy a wormery or worm bin?
I’m quite surprised that I don’t often see them for sale in garden centres. The biggest choice of wormeries can be found online. Many of the outlets that sell them also supply the worms too, which makes it easy and convenient to order. Alternatively, if you fancy a mini DIY project, you can easily make one that will do it’s job. I’m sure the worms wont mind if it’s less than perfect.
I hope this has helped you in making the decision to buy a wormery. They serve a very good purpose and can be beneficial in so many ways. It’s also quite satisfying to see the process of nature at work each time you lift the lid off. But don’t just take my word for it, get online and buy one.