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Compost Life and Worm Farming


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April 3, 2024

The addition of compost builds a healthy soil and so boosts the microbial activity, which provides food for hundreds of thousands of different species of fungi, bacteria and other organisms; these microorganisms are also food for a whole range of other organisms, which in turn are fed off by predators.

These largely unseen soil microbes feed your plants and protect them from pests and diseases. There are over 600 million beneficial bacteria in just one gram of healthy soil (about a level teaspoonful). Of all the soil organisms, the worm is the one that we all recognise as invaluable for creating a healthy soil.

Worm Farming  

Worms will appear naturally in compost heaps and are especially visible during the maturation phase of the process. However, you can also farm worms and feed them with your kitchen scraps and they can eat pretty much anything coming from the kitchen. Its good to add some tougher materials to help with aeration, tougher plant stems, wood chip etc and some cardboard to soak up excess moisture.

Separate out your materials so that fresh vegetable trimmings mostly go in your compost heap and the kitchen scraps go in the wormery. Their manure, called ‘worm casts’, is very beneficial for all soils and plants. It is used more as a fertiliser than as a bulky soil improver.  

Starting off with worm farming

• When you are starting from scratch, you have to provide a suitable living environment.  

• Containers can be home-made or bought, but whichever kind you use you must start the worms off with a generous bedding layer.

• This can be leafmould, finished compost (preferably sieved), shredded-up newspaper and/or cardboard, well-rotted sawdust or woodchip, or a mixture of any or all of these.  

• Whatever it is, it must be thoroughly wetted, especially paper and cardboard, as worms will die if they dry out.

• After you introduce the worms into the container, let them settle down for a day or two. They will be quite happy eating what’s in there.

• Only feed them small amounts at a time: try and only feed them what they can eat, they don’t want a great pile of stuff dumped on them as it can compost and generate heat—and they like it cool!

• Worms can eat about half their own weight in food each day.

Wormeries should ideally have a large surface area, but most of them are designed to look like wheelie bins with a very small surface area. The main advantages of these bins are that you can tap off the liquid that’s produced to water down as a liquid feed for plants, and they take up less space.  However, if you don’t regularly tap off the liquid, the container will gradually fill up with it and drown all your worms—and knock you out with the odour!

Many large containers (such as old dustbins and barrels) can be adapted to become worm bins.

By Nicky Scott

Want to learn how to develop a community composting site or convert a brown bin for composting?

'Dr Compost' Nicky Scott and Compost Expert Ben Bryant will be offering a deep dive for all those interested in developing a community composting site on a two-day masterclass this Spring (27th & 28th April). For more information click here.

SusSH mentors and compost experts Ben Bryant and Stuart Saunders will be demonstrating the best methods for repurposing redundant brown bins into wormeries, rainwater butts and compost bins on a two-day masterclass this Spring (4th May & 8th June). For more information click here.

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