Many people know what composting is and most gardeners I know have a compost pile. Sometimes it's simply a heap of garden refuse left on the ground to break down and sometimes it's a bit fancier and employs the use of a steel drum or specialised compost compartments. But when I mention the term 'Wormery' I often get a few confused looks. I imagine that what runs through their minds is that their own compost piles have worms so what makes my 'Wormery' any different?
I would have fallen in with that group myself eighteen months ago but fortunately I had some friends who happily introduced me to the benefits of becoming a worm-keeper! While having a compost pile is a fantastic thing to have in the garden (I have two myself), having a wormery is far easier and more efficient at breaking down organic household waste - including cooked food. The end products of a wormery are a nutrient-rich worm cast compost and a liquid feed that is in my opinion as good as anything you can purchase in the shop. Not least because it's absolutely free.
The idea of a wormery is simple: you keep a rather large colony of worms in a relatively closed container consisting of a series of levels. There's a bottom level, where the liquid drops down into and which is accessed via a tap on the outside. Then trays which are stacked one on top of each other as you add organic material for the worms to eat. The worms move up the trays themselves and by the time you stack on the third tray the bottom one is pretty much ready to be emptied in your garden. The structure is then topped with a perforated lid that allows both air and rain water to filter in. If you're interested in learning more about using a wormery I recommend that you look at the Original Organic website.
Living in an area with a cold season I've noticed that my worms shut down much of their activity in the winter. They curl up in the compost and seem to hibernate until they sense warmer days approaching. It's now in early spring that they begin revving up their wriggling and start breaking down organic matter at a quicker pace. It's also when they begin reproducing - I went out earlier this week to have a poke through my top tray and found balls of baby worms munching on broken down vegetable mush. If you don't like seeing worms or wriggly beasties then I warn you to not scroll down any further!
I'm pleased to see my worms happily living and multiplying in their container and producing such lush compost for my garden. Upon lifting up the top-most tray I had a look at the bottom one and found pure black goodness which will be perfect in any type of outdoor planting. Egg shells don't break down completely as you can see, but by putting them in your wormery they help lower the acidity of the compost and create a better habitat for the worms.
I've kept the wormery tap open over the winter so that it isn't flooded by the rain. But a month ago I closed it up again and so was able to harvest a good cup of the feed this week. There is some conjecture into how nutrient rich it really is but my plants put out new green growth when I give it to them - indicating to me that it must have quite a bit of nitrogen.
I really appreciate my wormery and have it conveniently sitting outside the back door. Placing it here makes it handy for me to walk out to and toss in potato peelings, bits of greens or sometimes even leftover cooked food that we'd otherwise have to throw out. I see it as a useful way to recycle kitchen waste which also happens to produce some lovely by-products for the garden.
If you're interested having a wormery yourself, please have a look at them online or at your local garden centre. And if you have one already, I'd love to hear of your experiences and any tips you'd like to share!