Many urban gardens either aren’t large enough to have a compost, or there are concerns surrounding rats and other vermin being attracted. If you have the possibility of including some kind of compost system into your garden I would fully recommend it. It is best to try and use/recycle waste wherever possible. Lessen the outputs leaving your home, and this will lessen the pressure on municipal waste and recycling centres, and will also lessen the amount of fuel used in these industries.
The great thing about having a compost system is that it will save you money. You won’t need to buy as many inputs, like compost and organic materials to enrich your garden.
If you are unable to compost your food waste in a conventional hot or cold composting method, you could try a wormery instead. They aren’t a substitute, but something is better than nothing, as the saying goes, and being able to process your food waste is certainly a positive thing to do.
A wormery is a stack of tiered compartments, with a lower collection sump for the liquid and an upper section where the food waste goes in to be processed by Tiger Worms. These worms are different to earthworms who are soil dwellers. Tiger Worms live off decaying matter and are smaller and a darker red colour. Earthworms are not suitable for wormeries. Most wormery kits include the worms when you buy them, making it very easy to start.
Different composting systems – Image copyright RHS Wisley
Worms are most active in a warm, moist environment, between 18-25 degrees C. Therefore it is best to place your wormery in a sheltered part of the garden, or in a shed or outhouse. They dislike being waterlogged as this restricts air flow, so keep an eye on this aspect.
There are so many great wormeries to buy online (plastic and wooden), or you could make your own by recycling plastic tubs, building with wood or even stacking tyres. You could even recycle an old bee hive into a wormery. Many companies supply Coir (fibres from the outer husk of the Coconut) with their kits. This is used as a base layer, as bedding for the worms. The bedding creates a humid layer where the worms can begin to digest food. Add a maximum 10cm layer of kitchen waste, and leave the worms to settle into their new environment for a week.
For best results, add small amounts of chopped up food waste frequently. Place the waste into the top of the wormery. As you progress with the system you can also bury the waste into the compost that is being produced by the worms, so that they get little feeding pockets. Don’t add more waste than the worms can cope with.
Worms enjoy a varied diet. You can add:
All raw vegetables – except onions, shallots, leeks and garlic – which should only go in small quantities or as cooked waste.
All cooked vegetables are fine.
All fruit – except citrus peel – which should be small quantities or added as cooked waste.
Teabags, coffee grounds, eggshells, bread.
Limited amounts of newspaper.
Small amounts of soft garden waste.
Don’t add dairy or meat products, or woody garden waste.
Organic waste has a high water content, so you shouldn’t need to add water. If it is a hot summer and the wormery conditions appear dry then add a small amount of water.
Established wormeries can be left for 4 weeks without the addition of food, so you can go on holiday and not worry about it! You can occasionaly turn the compost with a fork, to create air flow. The liquid fertiliser created (which is released via a tap at the bottom) can be diluted with water 1:10 and used on garden plants. The compost created can be used as a soil conditioner in the garden and will be high in nitrogen and potassium. It generally takes worms 8-12 months to fill the wormery with compost.
https://www.wormery.co.uk – ‘the home of wormeries’ offer a good selection of wormeries in different colours, with wormery accessory kits. There are many suppliers offering different styles of wormeries to fit any garden. If you prefer to make your own wormery have a look online at one of the many guides!
Wormeries are great for the whole family, and especially for children who can learn about the compost process in a fun way.
Graphic copyright wildlifewatch.org.uk