3 Cantray Square
Cantraybridge was established in 1994 and is a company limited by guarantee and a registered Scottish charity. Company registration number 149774, charity number SCO 22419.
TRY IT OUT
Britain has about 16 species of earthworms that are likely to be found in gardens. They vary in size and colour, but all play an important role in creating good soil structure and fertility. By helping to improve and keep our soils healthy , we are also helping to keep our worms happy!
Worm composting or vermiculture is an efficient method of turning kitchen waste and small amounts of garden waste into a nutrient-rich compost that contains 5 to 11 times the quantity of the 3 main plant mineral nutrients N, P and K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) than the soil the worms consume. It also produces a concentrated liquid fertiliser that can increase plant growth , increase crop yield and help to boost a plants natural immune system .
The best way to get worm compost is to have your own wormery. You can buy ready made wormeries or you can have a go at building your own. Here at Cantray Park we have two , one that our woodwork department built for us and one that we have made out of recycled plastic crates.
There are certain types of worm that you need to use in your wormery and these can be bought from specialist companies . The main ones commonly available are brandling, or tiger worms as they are often called, and Dendrobaena.
Where can I get hold of worms -
Inside a Worm Bin
Creating the right conditions for your wormery is fundemental to its success. As we have discovered here at Cantray Park our worms are actually quite particular about their accomodation ! So learning from our experiences (and failures!) I decided to write a guide to help any budding vermiculturists out there who would like to give it a go.
Firstly you need to provide a suitable home, this can be bought ready made from one of the many worm compost suppliers out there or our preferred method is to recycle materials available to you and build your own.
It is better to use timber/wood - untreated as treated wood can be toxic for worms and other soil bacteria - as this is a more breathable product than plastic which can hold moisture and create anaerobic conditions which will result in a bin full of wet (and smelly) contents due to the lack of oxygen and will ultimately kill your worms.
It is also best to have as large a size as possible as this will retain the most heat , helping to keep your little wrigglers warm.Too small a size can cause problems during the winter in regards to keeping a stable temperature. We have found we need to insulate our bin - we use lots of bubble wrap - we also put it inside our polytunnel to capture some extra warmth.
A guide for the ideal size is approx 2ft square in surface area per household member.
Next you need to add some bedding , there are many different types you can use such as shredded paper, leaf mould and manure. It is also important to add a few handfuls of soil /rockdust as this adds the nessecary grit to the mix. Worms use this grit in their digestive process to help break down waste. Adding a few handfuls from your compost heap can be helpful as this already contains lots of beneficial soil microbes and bacteria which help create a healthy ecosystem within your bin.
Now for the residents! The types of worm you need differ from your ordinary earthworm. The most common type available are tiger/brandling worms or Eisenia fetida to give it is proper name , these worms have evolved and adapted to thrive in decaying matter and unlike earthworms which burrow into soil, tiger worms are surface dwellers. They also have a rather smelly anti predator trick in that they can secrete a pungent liquid to deter being eaten - hence the fetida (foul smelling) species name - so handle them gently!
Dinner time! You,ve got your worms they are cosy and happy in their new home but they're hungry - what do you need to feed them? Well worms can digest pretty much anything organic but there are a few things that are best kept to a minium. Check out the table below to see what is best.
It is also a good idea to add some ground up eggshells on occassion to help to keep the ph of your soil from becoming too acidic. A worm can consume its own body weight each day so as a rough guide you should feed the same weight of food as the weight of the worms you put in . This process slows down when the weather turns colder but it is easy to have a look and see if they how much they have been eating and if you need to add more or reduce the quantity.
The Right Enviroment
Providing the correct enviromental conditions is the best way to ensure that your worms remain active and healthy.
Worms function at their optimum within a temperature range of 12c - 24c. Extremes of temperature will cause stress and eventually will result in the death of your little wrigglers. Stressed worms can often be found huddled together in a 'ball' - they can do this for a number of reasons by it is mainly caused by an unfavourable enviroment.
If your compost is too cold you can add more leafy greens - as they breakdown they release heat - or you can insulate the outside of your worm home with bubble wrap or cardboard. Make sure that you do not wrap it up too tightly as this can restrict the airflow and cause a moisture build up.
Placing your wormery in a sheltered position can also help.
Discovering your compost is too hot can easily be solved by increasing the airflow into the wormery. Never place your wormery in direct sunlight where it can easily overheat.
Moisture levels within your worm residence are extremley important. Instead of breathing through their mouths worms breathe through their skin - oxygen dissolves on the mucus that covers them and is then absorbed via the skin - so if your worms dry out they will suffocate, it is therefore vital that the moisture is is kept at an adequate level. If required the simplest way to increase the moisture level is to add some drops of water or some high moisture foods.
A bin that is too wet can also cause problems, it lowers the temperature and can also create acidic pH or anerobic conditions which deprive your worms of oxygen.
If your bin is too wet you can add shredded paper,carboard or straw to help dry it out , increasing aeration can also help.