Composting with worms

Revamp your wormery. Dendrobaena worms are ideally suited to home composting, being able to eat half of their body weight in waste each day leaving nutrient rich wormcast after them; the worlds richest fertiliser. When composting with worms, not only do you get to recycle your kitchen waste in an environmental way, you are left with a natural fertiliser that way outstrips any commercial fertiliser. The wormcasts are full of micro organisms, plant growth regulators and enzymes. Below we have provided some guidlines on how to make a diy wormery and information on how to look after your worms.  We supply our composting worms with some worm cocoons or hatchlings in their bedding to ensure that you have young stock coming on immediately. The worms are carefully mixed with a special mix of up to 4 different types of worm bedding and placed carefully in a 5 litre bucket on the same day as they are sent. 


Our homemade wormery of plywood

A diy wormery for home composting or fishing is fairly easy to make. To build a wormery, you could follow the plan of the first wormery we made (the one pictured) which was simply constructed with untreated plywood, 2 feet high, 2 feet deep and 4 feet wide, with a lid and a perforated floor to allow for drainage. In order to prevent small rodents from gnawing their way into the wormery it is a good idea to attach some light wire mesh to the underside of the floor of the wormery. The wormery should ideally be placed on 2 pieces of wood (batons ideal) 25-50mm high to allow moisture to drain out. Drill plenty (approx. 20) of holes in the floor, approx. 12mm in diameter. The sides and bottom were made with 12mm plywood, while the lid and partitions were made with 8mm plywood in order to reduce weight.
When we made our wormery we divided it into three sections, each partition had plenty of holes of about 8mm diameter drilled into them, allowing lateral movement of your worms. The advantage of partitioning your wormery is that when a section is getting full you can stop feeding it for 3-4 weeks. As the wormery worms run out of food they will migrate into the other sections. This allows you to remove the finished compost from the rested section without taking all the composting worms with it.

 

Inside the wormery, showing the partitions with compost at different stagesIf you are placing worms into an empty wormery, line the bottom of the wormery with 2-3 sheets of newspaper. This helps prevent the worms from crawling out the bottom before they have got stuck into their new supply of food.The number of worms living in a wormery is governed by the surface area available to them. As long as you have enough worms initially, in general a kilo will be sufficient, they will soon breed up to the correct numbers for their living space.

Therefore the more food waste you want to compost the greater the surface area you need.


Many wormeries available for sale are in the shape of a wheelie bin or dustbin. We would strongly recommend that you DO NOT adapt a bin for use as a wormery . The shape is not helpful for composting worms who only work in the top few inches of material. The surface area available to them in proportion to the total available area is minimal reducing their effectiveness and increasing the chances of the wormery failing. If you look at any wormery created by worm farmers, who naturally know from experience what design works the best for the worms, you will see that they attach greater importance to the surface area rather than to the height of the construction.

Once you have built your wormery, our Wormery Start-up Pack will supply you with everything you need to establish and maintain your wormery. Other worm care products are also available.


Some basic pointers for taking care of worms:

 

· Place your worm composting bin in a shaded area. Worms will die at high temperatures, however you will notice that they get through more food in the summer when their metabolism increases with the warmth.


· Once you have set up a wormery, your worms will be happy in the medium provided in the 'bucket of worms'. Start by adding smaller amounts of food, do not smother the worms for the first 3 months. They need to be able to get back to their "safe medium" and have a chance to breed up to the numbers needed to deal with all your waste food. You will soon see the worms amongst the food waste you have added.


· The best food for worms is dead organic matter, e.g. vegetables, fruit, paper products, coffee grounds and even dog poo. Avoid feeding them dairy products, oils and meat. Like us humans they have their likes and dislikes, a major dislike being onions, leeks and garlic. You will find that stray pieces of raw garlic or shallots will soon grow in your wormery. Worms for composting are also not very keen on citrus fruit, as they do not like the acidity. If you do insist on feeding them small amounts of citrus fruit, make sure that you use lime to neutralise the acidity. The smaller you can cut up your scraps the better for the worms. It is amazing how pieces of potato can soon sprout out in the comfort of your wormery, some people even microwave scraps to prevent this happening. We have found that a worm's favourite food type is root vegetables.


· Composting worms like to have some roughage occasionally. Good sources are shredded damp newspaper, crushed egg shells and even a sprinkling of sand to aid their digestion.


· Worms need to be fed a balance of food scraps and fibre (about 60/40 split). Why not recycle your newspapers, shredded documents and empty egg cartons? Worms love them when torn into narrow strips and small pieces respectively. Dampen the paper products before feeding to your composting worms. Make sure that any paper products fed to your worms are not plastic coated.


· If your worm composting bin is looking too wet or is getting a bit smelly, try adding dry cardboard, or if very wet add small lumps of coir. Alternatively, if things are drying up, add wet shredded paper or lightly spray water over the wormery surface. It is best to use rain water or any non chlorinated water.


· Place 2-3 sheets of newspaper or a cut to size plastic sheet, e.g. from an old compost bag, over the compost. This allows the worms to work happily on the surface of the food.


· Worms need oxygen to live and work. If you have a non-stacking tray wormery you will need to gently fork through the material in your wormery every 3-6 weeks to maintain oxygen flow.


· Composting worms like a PH level between 7 and 8, however your worm composting bin may get too acidic during the composting process. A good way to reduce the acidity of your wormery is to sprinkle lime into it e.g.crushed limestone, or ensure that they get a good supply of crushed egg shells.If you have any questions, see our FAQs at the bottom of our home page or feel free to contact us.


The above worm care guidlines are also appropriate for red worm composting, general facts on worms for composting can be found on our worm facts page.


If you have limited time for making a wormery and wish to buy one, see our wormery page where we sell what we believe to be the best wormery of its type on the market.




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